Tame Impala: The 13th Floor Interview – Part 2

Yesterday we brought you the first half of our exclusive interview with Tame Impala main man Kevin Parker in which he addressed the rumours about the band’s demise and his collaboration with Lady Gaga. (Click here to read Pt 1).  Now, during the second half of the conversation between Parker and The 13th Floor’s Marty Duda, Kevin opens up about how music helped him while growing up and how he and his bandmates execute a “hot exit”.

But first, Kevin Parker is a bit cagey about revealing who he may be working with next…

Click here to listen to Part 2 of the interview with Kevin Parker of Tame Impala:

Or, read a transcription of the interview here:

MD: Are you able to reveal anything that’s coming up?

KP: Unfortunately not; and that’s only because – with collaborating with other artists; with the kind of artist that does it a lot – it can either grow into something monumental and amazing, and it’s the number one single, or it could just never come to fruition: it could never even exist. With me, I only finish a song if it’s going to go on an album. That’s why the B-sides come out so much later; because if the songs not finished, it’s because it’s not going on the album. I think, with a lot of other people, they collect songs; so, by the time they’ve come to release an album, they’ve got fifty to a hundred songs. If I said something and it didn’t come out, it’d be a bit of a disappointment…

I only feel good about myself if I’m working on something; whether it’s Tame Impala, or whether it’s something else, or whether it’s just imagining an invention.

MD: So, when Laneway is over – the tour is over – what is the plan? Is there a plan? Are you taking time off, just for yourself, or are you going back into the studio?

KP: I think if I planned to take time off, it would be kind of a disaster. For me, personally, the idea of planning to take time off is really depressing. If I said that to myself, I’d be like, “What? Come on, man! Why do you got to take time off? Don’t you have ideas? Don’t you have things to work on?” I only feel good about myself if I’m working on something; whether it’s Tame Impala, or whether it’s something else, or whether it’s just imagining an invention… I don’t know. I just think, for me, being creative is just something that I do.

MD: So, something’s got to be happening.

KP: Right.

MD: Well, it can be relaxing at the same time…

KP: Exactly! Yeah.

MD: … with nobody standing over you, waiting for something to happen…. I don’t know how you feel about the label of the kind of psychedelic thing that you’re doing, but Tame Impala was kind of the heart of that movement for a while – I would say that because there a lot of other bands that seem to be doing similar things around that – but I’m wondering what you would call the heart of Tame Impala music?

KP: I don’t know. I’ve heard a lot of people say stuff about a psychedelic movement, or a lot of people following, but I would never claim to be a starter of that; especially because I think that there’s been a lot of psychedelic music around forever. We were by no means the first ones of this era. The heart of Tame Impala music: again, I don’t know what it is. The only think I can say for sure is it’s just me; and when I say me, I mean the heart of my sense of emotion and music.

Music was a huge part of my emotion centre when I was a teenager. It was like music was the only thing that helped me explain why I felt a particular way.

MD: Where did that come from? Where did that start, do you think?

KP: When I was a kid. It’s grown; well, not even grown: kind of consolidated over the years, I guess; just finding what I like and what I don’t like.

MD Was there a germ or a seed, or something that flipped a switch in you, and said, “Hey, man! This is the thing”?

KP: Ever since I can remember – well, ever since I was an older kid – I’ve felt like music was a kind of therapy. I didn’t have a great childhood; so, music was what made me feel better….

MD: I think that’s why people get so worked up and emotionally affected when musicians pass away – like in the past year with Bowie and Prince, and all that – because, for a lot of people, music has come into their lives because of situations like that, and they form these attachments to the people that they listen to.

KP: Yeah, exactly! Music was a huge part of my emotion centre when I was a teenager. It was like music was the only thing that helped me explain why I felt a particular way, or could soothe me, or give it closure; there was nothing else. I don’t know if that’s the same for everyone.

MD: What were the records that you were listening to?

I only feel good about myself for the last good thing I’ve done. Maybe one day, when I’m a lot older…

KP: Everything, really. I was one of those kids that just soaked up everything. It didn’t matter what it was, as long as it had that feeling. Everything from my dad’s albums – like Supertramp, Beach Boys – to grunge – Nirvana, Silverchair, Smashing Pumpkins, even some Korn.

MD: that’s alright. We all have our guilty pleasures.

KP: Yeah! Yeah!

MD: So, you’re what, thirty years old now?

KP: Yeah, thirty one, as of last Friday.

MD: … oh, well, Happy birthday!

KP: Thanks, man.

MD: So, you’re thirty one years old, and you’re coming to the end of this album cycle – three albums into the Tame Impala thing. Do you look at it as a time of reflection, of looking back and seeing what you’ve accomplished? Is this something that’s part of what you do?

I think part of the secret to success – or one of the motivators to success – is not sitting back and seeing how good it is; it’s seeing how much better it can be.

KP: You know what? I don’t really do that. I find that a bit self indulgent: to sit down and just go, “You know what? I’ve achieved a lot.” I find that, on one side, kind of defeatist: To appreciate all I’ve achieved is assuming that I’m not going to achieve anymore; that’s the way I see it. But I’m one of these people that is extremely bad at appreciating what I’ve got, and appreciating what I’ve done. I only feel good about myself for the last good thing I’ve done. Maybe one day, when I’m a lot older…

MD: It’s probably what keeps so many performers on stage. Because I imaging that buzz that you get  – that feeling good about the feedback that you get from the audience – is a thing that you get nowhere else.

KP: Exactly, that too. I was talking to my girlfriend – she came on tour for the last few shows – and we walked into our hotel room – and it was quite a nice hotel room: we had a nice view – and she was like, “Don’t you ever think ‘Wow, look what I’ve got?’” and I was like, “You know what? I don’t.” I don’t because I think part of the secret to success – or one of the motivators to success – is not sitting back and seeing how good it is; it’s seeing how much better it can be, or seeing what else you can achieve. Not to say that I want a massive hotel room, bigger than the one I’ve got, and having my own terrace…. It’s like a double edged sword – it’s a good thing and a bad thing – because on one side: you keep striving to get better; you keep striving for new things; but on the other hand: you’re never satisfied. It’s a blessing and a curse. Sometimes I listen to a song of mine, and I’m like, “Hey, I did a good thing there,” that I wasn’t able to appreciate at the time, but now I can listen back to it and say, “That’s a good song;” but it’s never on a grand scale; never like, “You know what? I did it!”

MD: Well, speaking of doing good things: there’s other ways that you can channel what you do: I think you took part in a protest concert a couple of weeks ago, in the beginning of January. Are you a political animal?

KP: I’m generally not. I mean, I care about things that are important to me…

MD: This was an environmental issue, wasn’t it?

KP: It was environmental. There’s a conservation area south of Perth that is one of the last remaining wetlands of that area, where a lot of species of birds thrive, and they want to put a highway through the middle. And there’s all kinds of debate about it: like the Australian government is pushing ahead with it, and people are protesting; it’s getting quite ugly. There’s all kinds of mixed up facts: People are saying that it’s going to destroy the entire wetlands, and the governments saying it’s only taking up two percent; so, it’s all very confusing, but at the same time, people need to have their voices heard. People like us, that care about it, we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do. And so, there was a benefit concert, and I just DJ’d at it; so many other people have done so much more than me…. People have contributed so much more than me; I feel that for me to take credit as doing anything significant would be claiming too much…

MD: Do you feel there’s a responsibility… when you get to a certain level of attention?

KP: Maybe. I don’t know if it’s a responsibility, more like an opportunity, to make a difference.

MD: Do you see yourself doing more of that, or just as things come up?

KP: I never planned for it; then again, I don’t plan for a lot. I don’t know. We’ll see what terrible thing the government does next.

MD: Well, there are other terrible governments… the whole Trump thing weighs over everything these days. Do you see that affecting the way musicians are working, when travel is being restricted, and people can’t get back and forth?

KP: I hadn’t even thought about that, to be honest; I’d just been thinking about people in general. I’m not sure, but yeah, it’s pretty scary.

MD: But the most important thing is: what did you DJ, what kind of records did you play?

KP: That’s a good question, actually, because the kind of DJ set I do is – I’ve always been doing clubs at midnight, and stuff, just for whoever’s there – so… I just do an R&B fettish – ‘90s R&B – and hip hop; and suddenly, I was like, “Oh, yeah, I’ll do a DJ set.” And I got there, and I was like, “Oh, wait a minute. All the music I have is like Gettin’ Money;” so, I was like, “Oh shit! I don’t know if I have anything to play!” But lucky I had some ‘60s, ‘70s, just generally cool music.

MD: Do you have a big record collection?

KP: I don’t, really. I don’t DJ with vinyl; so, the songs I need to get, I just download them – iTunes, or whatever.

MD: Now, getting back to Laneway: so, you’ve been touring with Laneway for a couple of…and you’re kind of in the middle of it now. Have [there been] any other artists on the roster that you’ve been checking out? Do you get to see much of it?

We all look at each other for those last few seconds, and we’re like, “Alright boys! Let’s take her home!”…Again, that’s one of the things that we do as a joke, but it has a serious side as well.

KP: We haven’t yet. We’ve been doing the old ‘hot entrance’ and ‘hot exit’. It’s this hilarious thing that we just started doing; more just to have a laugh. A ‘hot exit’ is basically – if you’ve ever been back stage of a festival – it’s when a band steps off stage and gets into a van, and disappears off.

MD: Chuck Berry was the one who started that.

KP: Really?

Rock ‘n roll pioneer Chuck Berry performing in St. Louis, Missouri at The Duck Room on January 19, 2011.

MD: He’s classic – well, he’s still doing it: he’s ninety years old. He would always use a pick-up band; so, he’d never travel with a band. He’d rock up in his station wagon, get out, find the promoter, make sure the promoter paid him right there, walk on stage, play the thing – Roll Over Beethoven, or whatever – get off the stage, hop in the car; and he was gone, and that was it!

KP: The first time I had even heard of that word – I think Cam mentioned it, “Oh, we should do a ‘hot exit’!” – we all laughed, because all that stuff is, we immediately think is Spinal Tap. We’re like, “Oh, come on! We’re not going to do that, are we?” But then you do it, and you’re like, “Aw, that was actually really fun!” You can still hear the feedback, and the gig coming to a close as you’re driving off. We’re probably not going to do it for the rest of the tour, because we realised that as soon as we do that, we leave, and then we’re like, “Oh, wait. All our friends are back at the festival;” So, we’re probably not going to do that from now on.

MD: you have to make this embarrassing turn around, and slink back in.

KP: Yeah, or you go back to the hotel, and just sit at the hotel until the after party starts; which is a long time, because everyone else is slowly making their way out of the festival. Anyway, so, we haven’t really seen any other bands yet.

MD: Does it take you a while to come down from playing?

KP: At the start of a tour, it does, because it’s like a new thing again: we haven’t played for a while; so, it takes a while to warm up, and then it takes a while for the adrenaline to die down afterwards. But at the end of a twenty show tour, or a thirty show tour, you get really good at being elastic: you can pump yourself up in five minutes before the set. It’s like being an athlete – your heart rate – they can do a huge run, and then two minutes after, their heart rate is down to zero; it’s kind of like that.

MD: So, when it comes down to closing everything out, at the end of the Laneway thing, what’s the vibe going to be like between you and your other band mates?

KP: I think, at this point, it’s going to be like the end of any album cycle we’ve done. We probably won’t see each other for a few months. We’ve got another show booked in July, in New York. It’s always a bit sentimental: we usually have a bit of a moment in the closing minutes of the last song, if it’s the end of a tour. Because with most of our songs, that we play last: there’s always a main song, and a song that’s kind of ‘break-down’, and then the song builds up again for the last little bit. And we all look at each other for those last few seconds, and we’re like, “Alright boys! Let’s take her home!” You know what I mean? It’s that kind of cheesy moment; kind of like a salute. Again, that’s one of the things that we do as a joke, but it has a serious side as well. We have a laugh about it…

MD: That’s fantastic! Well, thank you very much for taking time to talk to me; this has been fantastic. I can’t wait to see what you come up with next. It seems like things are happening; we’ll just have to wait and see.

KP: Me too.

MD: And I’m sure you’ll be back at Laneway, at some point. You seem to be associated with the festival.

KP: Yeah! I’ve just been jealous of my friends that have been playing it all the years since we did it ages ago. Because it’s one of the last great Australian festivals, and in the rest of the world, they don’t really have these travelling festivals the same way that we do in Australia; so, with this one, you get to know people along the way – you make friends, and stuff like that. Festivals in the rest of the world – this is one of them – you don’t really get a chance to meet anyone; but these ones, you start to make friends along the way; it’s really cool.

Click here to read Part one of our interview with Kevin Parker.