Kevin Richard Parker is an Australian multi-instrumentalist and psychedelic rock musician, singer, songwriter and record producer. He is best known as the leader of the band Tame Impala, for which he writes and records the majority of the music.
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Hey, I'm Kevin Parker. Pretty excited to be doing this! (have been wanting to for a long time).
I record music under the name Tame Impala. When you add 4 of my friends we're a band that tours the world together.
I've made 3 albums, 1 yet to be released. Ummmm not sure what else to add. We've won some WAMIs, some ARIAs and got nominated for a grammy, whatever that counts for. Once Danny de Vito watched us from side of stage.
I am painting my wall pink, check it out:
Here is proof it is me https://www.facebook.com/tameimpala/posts/10152896471795777
And photographic proof http://imgur.com/TNtMSt4
I want to tell you all about the new album, but I don't want to spoil it!!!! So ask whatever you like but I'm going to have to restrain myself.
Ask me anything, nothing is taboo, or too dumb or too intellectual.
I'll try and get through as much as I can, sorry if I take ages to type answers, I type with like, 2 and a half fingers.
OK hit me!
Well I have to go now....Thanks so much for being here and making me feel important. I have to go and do some interviews that will almost certainly not be as fun as this. I wish all press could be AMAs! Alas this is not the case.
A man can dream though..... A man can dream.
Hey Kev! The guys at /r/tameimpala are very excited about this opportunity to ask you some questions and we decided to vote for them, this were some of the best that came out of it. Hope you can answer some and check out /r/tameimpala and give us a shout out there!
>Who is your favorite Ninja Turtle?
>If you could go back and remake one song from the pre-Lonerism days, what would it be and what would you do to it?
>What song do you believe to be your best?
>As an aspiring young recording artist and audio engineer I'd like to ask you
What is your best advice for getting started in a DIY fashion?
What can I do to make the recording process unique to me while also keeping it professional sounding? Thank you.
wow ok, I'll try and answer all of these but I might have to come back to them
I've been trying for 20 years to decide which is my favourite turtle and I still cannot. They each have qualities I really admire and to pick one would be discounting the rest!
Resisting the urge to say all of them.. haha nah but seriously I guess none of them. There's always a certain amount of regret after you finish a song, like Oh I wish I made the drums sound cooler, Oh I wish I added in this genius lyric that I thought of RIGHT after I finished the song. But that's just the beauty of makin musak i guess.
To give you some kind of real answer... I probably could make Desire Be more of a feel good hit of the summer!
sorry guys had to switch computers as the one I was using has a virus or something annoying. back on track now though!
Backwards has the most effortless charm I guess, and was the easiest to write. And I can still listen to it now without wanting to skip!
Runway Houses is one I'm kind of impressed by in retrospect. The way all the parts fit together and the movement of it. Did you know it almost didn't make the album?
Music to walk home by is probably a secret fav. It's like the kid that get's picked last on the football team am I'm secretly like "Go get em champ! ;)
I have to say though, there's a song on the new album called Eventually that is still very moving for me to listen to even after 951520974 listens and mixes. Oh but I mentioned a song and not the others!! weirdly enough I can still listen to each of these new songs and not feel the need to skip. Which is rare for me after 2 years of working on them.
edit: it keeps changing the number to "1."....?
In terms of getting started? I guess an interface that doesn't cost a million dollars but can do a few different things. I had a MOTU ultralite mk3 for a while that does heeaaps of stuff and you can use outboard gear with it too as it has a bunch of ins and outs.
Also, don't be afraid to treat gear badly. I don't mean throw it on the floor but use it in ways that weren't intended. thats when interesting stuff starts happening. that's how distortion was born right?
If you weren't a musician, what would you be, and why is it a scarf designer?
Because a well designed scarf is hard to come by.
Hey kevin! I really dig a lot of your chord progressions that you use for your music, Apocalypse dreams being especially awesome. When you're composing a song, do you have any music theory knowledge that goes behind it or do you just kinda, Let It Happen... I'll exit myself out. Do you have any tips for writing for an aspiring* songwriter? Thanks dude!
Thanks dude. I don't know any hardcore music theory, but I've picked up some things along the way. Like when I hear something pretty or a chord change makes me feel a certain way, I find myself NEEDING to know why that made me feel that way. And then i keep asking questions (sometimes needlessly) like why does a major 7th chord feel so melancholy? what is it about it?
But at the end of the day you know what, music theory is based around what makes us feel good, so as long as it feels good it's correct!
Leif Podhajsky (who designed the Tame Impala album covers) has some amazing ones on his site.
really?? fuck yeah i'm going there after this.
Hi Kevin! How do you feel about people downloading and streaming your music for free?
Eh.... I feel like music will be free sooner or later, and i think I'm all for it. There's all this talk of music needing a monetary value, this ownership of music, even that it needs a physical form. But intrinsically... it's MUSIC, it should be better than that. Some of my most important musical experiences were from a burnt CD with songs my friend downloaded for me at a terrible digital quality... I didn't care... it changed my life all the same. For me the value of music is the value you extract from it.
You want to know a story? Up until recently, from all of tame impala's record sales outside of australia I had received.... zero dollars. Someone high up spent the money before it got to me. I may never get that money. Then Blackberry and some tequila brand or something put my song in an ad. Then I bought a house and set up a studio.
I know what you're thinking... "wait so...when I bought an album I was helping some businessman pay for his mansion on an island somewhere, and when some dude bought a mobile phone he was helping to pay an artist? WHHHYY?" I'll tell you why, IT'S MONEY. It doesn't always go where you want it to go. It's like a shopping trolley with a bung wheel. As far as I'm concerned the best thing you can do for an artist is LISTEN to the music...fall in love with it.......talk about it.........get it however you can get it....Let the corporations pay for.
This is just my brain rambling remember, I'm sure there are holes in my theories... for example I realise not everyone's music is suited to a mobile phone ad, and it would be lame if artists tailored their music for that purpose.
Can I hear a new song?!!!! Link me something!!!!
OK well... since you asked...
Do you feel different artistically after becoming popular with your music?
Hmmmmmmm. Yes, i guess I do. It's weird though... I wouldn't say i feel any BETTER as an artist. It's like a cross between more confident and more self-critical at the same time....
Hii kevinn. Since I'm too slow to think of anything, whats a question that you would like to be asked and have been wanting to answer?
Also how was touring with MGMT like? I wish I could've seen a show with you guys together. You both are my two favorite bands of all time.
I'm waiting for someone to ask me if they can hear a new song...!
the MGMT guys a rad dudes. good sense of humour, passionate about what they stand for but don't take themselves too seriously.
Guitar pedals have a certain "recommended" order for them do be in (fuzz before phasers, reverbs last, etc). What are some of your favorite non-typical routes to use?
I think a good place to start is to reverse it entirely...!
I love putting reverb first... squashed and mangled reverb can really screw with your perception of space and ambience etc... and sound pretty awesome.
KEVIN is it true that joe drunkenly broke the boat in your backyard and if so on a scale of 1 to 10 how angry were you (he told us you were v angry)?
Joe didn't break the boat he jumped FROM the boat and sumo slammed this chair I had just bought, into about 5 bits. He still claims it was an accident but personally I can't see how that is possible. I also know him when he's drunk....
Hey Kevin, I discovered your music in 2010 when I was in high school. Your music defined a very rough period of my life, and it really helped me grow up and deal with a depression. Through your music releases I discovered the artist that created the artwork for Innerspeaker, and it inspired me to create similar style of artwork, and I have been making artwork for years now because of your music. I am a really big fan of your sound and I really love where you are taking your sound with Let it Happen and Cause I'm A Man.
My question for you is, how to you think of ideas for your release artwork? What goes into that process that has in my opinion very effectively captured the essence of the music?
Awesome dude. That really gives meaning to what I do and makes it all worthwhile.
with album art, It's so hard to put into words (naturally...). I think it has to do with imagining you're "seeing" the music. what colours would it be? Whats a concept or an object or a physical entity that springs to mind when you think about the music? the sentiment of the music... it's personality... what the music is saying, lyrically or just instrumentally...
It's not always easy to cross that over into the real world but as long as it comes from the same place as the music you can be pretty sure it will bond with the music, and be equally as .... unique i guess.
Hey Kevin, thanks for doing this AMA. Tame Impala has been my favorite band for a few years now (as noted by my username) and has gotten me through some tough times, inspiring me to pursue music myself.
On that note, my question has to do with making it in the modern music industry, a task which is notoriously difficult to do.
My band (a very new one), The California Death, is heavily influenced by you guys as we embrace the do-it-yourself mentality that you are known for employing when making music. But even with this, our dreams to make it in the industry are unclear as we are not really sure what steps we should take to get there. This early on in the game, we are sort of just throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks.
With this in mind:
Do you have any advice for myself and any others who are attempting to make a living in the music industry?
Thanks man, glad to know I helped out.
You know what is so exciting about the music biz these days? NO ONE KNOWS HOW TO MAKE IT. Even major labels are like... errr what do we do?
To me it seems there are no rules, and so many possibilities.
I guess the more you get it out there the better (is that too obvious?). When you're starting out you've got nothing to lose.. so don't be precious about who get's to listen to it. Up until we got signed to Modular, I just made all the tame songs on myspace downloadable, for free. I just wanted people to have them and listen to them.
I guess what I'm saying is, keep and open mind!
How many songs get birth from thoughts in your head, and how many come from noodling with instruments? (for /u/Blade686)
Hmmmmm... let's see. At this point I would say the tally is at 90% sudden brain spasm of musical emotion, 10% accidental guitar phrase.. keys motif... drum beat that made me go "oh what was that??!"
hope that answers it!
How do you feel when people say your voice sounds like John Lennon's? Have you gotten sick of hearing that, honestly?
Honestly, I NEVER heard it myself. For a long time I assumed it was just something someone said and then people ran with it.
Then i was travelling in the car with my brother who I hadn't seen in a long time, and he was playing me one of his recordings. and I went "dude you sound like john lennon!"
and he said "yeah didn't you ever hear dad sing? he totally sounded like him"
suddenly it made more sense.
to add: i'm not sick of hearing it, i just go along with it.
funny story though: we were playing a show with Sean Lennons band and we decided it'd be fun for him to come and sing backups for Desire Be. I said it'd work because we have the similar voices.
He smiled and said "yeah. you sound like my dad!"
Huge fan. First of all, thanks for all the amazing work and effort you put into your music. Innerspeaker and Lonerism are brilliant masterpieces that I will listen to probably forever.
My question is, do you have a preference when it comes to small shows or large festivals? Having seen you live a few times in different settings, nothing beats the intimacy of a small show and I love the vibe that I get from the band and the crowd.
btw any chance we might get to hear some oldies like "My Lover Mother Nature" or "Runway Houses City Clouds" ever again?
at the end of the day it's apples and oranges! small sweaty noisey shows make you feel like you're the sex pistols, and huge festival shows make you feel like you're U2. Either role is fun to play...!
I have a question that's sort of been torturing me for a while now. I remember you said in an interview long ago something in the lines of your father tried to deter you from becoming a musician, that if you did that music would lose its magic. Well I was really puzzled by the fact that you didn't reflect about it during the interview. So that's my question: how do you feel about it now? Do you actually feel it has lost its romantic appeal it had during your first years of recording or do you still have the same passion going on, a few years down the road? Like how do you feel about the whole thing of making great music, but at the expense of yourself. I'd love more than anything to know your answer, as a sometimes idealistic young lad.
Oh and by the way, thank you very obviously for all the music you've made, it has meant a lot to me and I will forever look back at the last summer I spent listening on repeat to Lonerism and Innerspeaker with very fond memories. Thank you!
Obviously It hasn't lost it's magic. He was wrong. It doesn't stay the same though. It evolves and changes form. So he was half right I guess..
I guess in the beginning it's very simple. you love what you love and you hate what you hate. But after a while boundaries a blurred... things aren't as the seem.
You trade in the mystery of something for the ability to recreate it. For example very basically, when you hear a happy chord you know it's a major, and when you hear a sad chord you know it's minor. those kind of things... But it just makes you search for NEW mysteries. NEW things to wow and confuse you... ways of making a major chord sound sad, and vice versa. making it sound like something else all together.
hope that helps!
Kevin, I'm a huge huge fan. Can you tell me about your experience with Mac Demarco? What do you know about him as a musician and how do you two get along? I consider you two the biggest influences on my music but you're both fairly different in your methods. You seem to be meticulous and hyper detailed, where as Mac has a "I don't care, just record" kind of vibe. I'm loosely speaking of course, you're both genius's in your own right. Both of these mindsets have a ying-yang to them though, and I try to apply both philosophies when I record.
If you have time for another question, what music released in the last few years inspire you to grow as a musician? Thanks for your time and hope to hear back.
LASTLY, I worked too hard on this pedalboard to not want to show you - http://i.imgur.com/sC44l1M.jpg
lookin good man! nice use of real estate there!
Mac is a great guy. He and his croneys are loose units. i left coachella in their van and they were waving HUGE dildo out the window at passerbys. then we ended up in his jacuzzi somehow.
Hey Kevin! Gauging from 'cause im a man & let it happen, it seems that that currents will be a lot more pop based. Is the rest of the album in the same direction?
Also any chance for some shows in melbourne this year? Would be awesome to see tame live again :)
Pop you say..... That's a broad word... I've always thought all Tame Impala was total pop (whatever pop is these days) (I guess because I don't hear the oceans of reverb and distortion... which can influence ones perception of the "genre" of a song no doubt...). Like I heard this full on piano ballad R&B cover of Backwards once, and I was like woah! is that my song??
There's a lot of different stuff on the new album, It definitely has the most variation of any album I've done in the past.
Kevin, who are some contemporary artists that you're really into at the moment?
I have to say I am very inspired by Kanye West. There's something about his overt confidence in the face of judgement and doubt, that for someone as self-questioning as me to break off a bit of that and ingest it, it only propels you forward as an artist... and gives you confidence to go forth with something you believe in.
Second guessing and hesitation and doubt are such inhibitors for artists, especially these days. I can't help but think that Kayne has found the antidote.
umm who else.. Tyler the Creator? plays by his own rules, which is amazing.
Caribou? Nerds can win at life too! Sorry Dan.
Are you a vinyl guy? How do you like listening to music?
Funny enough, I'm not a vinyl guy, and never really have been. I love the romance of it, like everyone else, but I would never argue that it's superior to any other way of experiencing music. I've never listened to a vinyl record and though "ok THIS SOUNDS BETTER than a CD, or itunes etc etc etc"
Honestly, Australia right now is just ridiculous. You've genuinely created a dynasty between you all and it's so inspiring to see the sheer genius you're spreading through your music. Honestly, it's like God is music, you Kevin Parker are Jesus and your disciples are Pond and King Gizzard and Peter Bibby and D.D Dumbo and Gum and the Legendary Microwave Man Shiny Joe and lordy so many of you honestly my go-to playlist is simply called 'Australia' because you're all incomprehensibly great and I needed you to maybe read this to thank you in any way possible.
I guess my question is, how does it feel to be Australia's answer to Jesus?
I hope you don't actually think that haha!
hah can you imagine if i just agreed with you? like "Oh yeah it feels pretty good, lot of responsibility though."
How have you tried to develop your singing voice over the years? I remember the first time I listened to Lonerism, and when Sun's Coming Up came on, it sounded like a completely different person!
I've never really consciously tried to "develop" my voice, I've always thought if I took singing lessons and became a total pro, I'd lose a quality about my crass/untrained voice.
That said I like to think I'm slowly getting better, like pitch-wise and.. energy-wise? Touring and singing every night really makes you see your voice as a muscle that needs to be trained... not that I actually end up training it!
Kevin I freaking love you man! I'm of the belief that everything you touch is gold and if you could just ask me "what's poppin homie" it would be like in the top 3 things anyone's ever said to me!
Lol I'm exaggerating but you get the idea!
what's poppin homie? \m/
Hi Kevin! Your hair always looks wonderful, what kind of shampoo do you use?
thanksss but you don't have to lie!
I use what ever's in the shower!
What's your all time favourite album?
HHHMMMMMMM. i Have no number 1. any of
Air - Talkie Walkie
Supertramp - breakfast in America
Michael Jackson - thriller
QOTSA - rated R
probably some others...
Which do you prefer: delayed reverb, or reverbed delay?
they'd sound pretty similar right?
i reckon delayed reverb would be more mind altering, as the delay is replicating the ambiance and repeating it, making your brain go "woah why am i hearing the the same spacial reflections over and over?!?!"
What's your favourite movie?
Kill Bill Vol 2....... Eraserhead........TMNT the movie
Come on man, link me that shit, I wanna hear it
youtube bro. it's all there.
Whats up man..can you teach me how to make epiphany pop?
If I could teach you I'd teach myself first!!
what would your rap name be if you became a rapper?
Watch out he's a comin.
(He's not a comin).
How often do you smoke?
only when i'm drinking
Hey Kevin ! What is your height ? They need you in wikipedia
I don't know!!
about 6 ft i think. I'll find out for you.
Kevin what happened to the reggae jam in Elephant during the Lonerism tour?? That was monsterous
i know right??!
the guys got tired of it and found it cringey, i just loved looking at peoples faces going "what the fuck are they doing now?"
Hey Kevin, I first heard tame impala when I was working at Just Jeans as a student. Lucidity would come on the store radio and I would rush to try and write down whatever of the lyrics I could understand. After a few weeks of feverish google searching I finally found the music video to Lucidity and from then on I have been a massive fan!
Anyways, I'm really digging Cause I'm a Man, it has a really good baby makin' groove to it.
So my question is, what songs do you like to get down and dirty to?
frank ocean springs to mind....
Hey Kev, what's your favorite guitar pedal and why?
probably good old holy grail reverb!
I also loooove my purple vibrato pedal. aah! whats it called again? someone help me out?
it just seems so much more woosey than other vibratos and choruses.
Hi Kevin. Is ableton live still your preferred recording program?
Sup brah. I have a few questions regarding those holy drum sounds of yours. I was curious as to what kind of distortion you use on the drums. It doesn't sound like peakstop limiter on the DBX165A, but perhaps some digital distortion. Also, are tracking drums through your outboard compressors/distortion, or do you send it out afterwards?
My last question is in regards to your growth as an engineer. It is quite clear from listening to the new tracks that your mixes are much more massive, clear, and "professional" for lack of a better word. Do you attribute that to better methods of recording or a better understanding of sound in general?
I've never really used the peakstop part of the 165, I feel like it flattens it out before you get to do more juicey stuff to it. I just use whatever overdrive is around, even the Ableton standard overdrive... don't over think it!
I've also got a pair of Neve 1073s that I use just for mixing. they can get pretty crunchy.
Will you be playing with Mark Ronson at his Splendour side-show in Perth?
OOOOHHH I DON"T KNOWWW MAYBEEE.
srsly though... maybe.
Hi Kevin! Just wanted to start out by saying I’m a big fan—been listening to Tame Impala since Innerspeaker, can’t wait for Currents! I have two questions:
I love the picture of your crowded recording space on the back of Lonerism—do you find it hard to settle on a given tone/sound when you have so many tools to manipulate them? Any favorite instruments or gear?
Your album covers are always fantastic. To what extent do visuals inform the music you make? What was the idea behind the amazing Currents cover?
It's true, too many options can be stifling.
For me it's all about going with what feels good at the time and trying not to dwell or second guess about how good a sound is or how "appropriate" it is.
I guess it's the "looking back" part that slows you down...
the currents album cover was inspired by this type of diagram i remember seeing a few times, that popped in my head when trying to visualize the albums ...themes i guess.
I think it's called vortex shedding?
basically it's what happens when an object is moving through fluid or air etc, the fluid in front of it is calm and flat, as the object moves through it warps and mangles and leaves this trail of twisted and disrupted fluid. Thats a terrible explanation, I'm sure an actual scientist could do it better...
Hi Kevin! I've seen Tame Impala twice now and am always blown away by how you are on stage. You interact with the crowd and make jokes at some points and lay on the floor at others, getting super into the music in a way not many musicians do. It's awesome to be able to have such great experiences at one of my favorite bands concerts! So my question is what's going through your head during a performance? Thanks!
"don't fuck up, don't fuck up, don't fuck up, don't fuck up..."
haha nah just kidding, that's only when we're doing TV shows.
Most of the time i'm amazed i'm/we're actually doing it! like we're tight rope walking or something. I'm always turning around to julien and smiling, but i guess you don't see that.
Do you like to draw?
I used to draw ALL the time when I was a kid. My mum has boxes of my drawings. 50% are dinosaurs and ninja turtles collectively.
What important principles of music theory do you apply and I should learn as a musician to create weird an beautiful progressions and melodies like the ones in ‘Endors Toi’, ‘Apocalypse dreams’, ‘Sestri Levante’ and even some songs you cover like ‘Stranger in Moscow’ or ‘Prototype’??
maybe you already know this but, major 7ths and minor 7ths are good place to start. that's a normal chord with an extra note to make it feel DiFfEReNtttt
Ta Det Lugnt isn't up there?
sorry. Dungen - Ta Det Lugnt
also Dungen - 4
Will we ever get to see a AAA Aardvark & Letdown Sessions album?
Probably not.. the whole idea was that it was a spontaneous performance that wouldn't have any "studio" or "recorded" version to go with it. Like it's all about the moment and being there in the room.
I'm not ruling anything out though!
If you could speak to a past you, what advice would you give yourself about the future?
I would say "Go with your gut feeling!"
Some of my only regrets are when I let "sensibleness" and other people's opinions govern my decisions....
I would also say CHILL OUT MAN.