In some ways, this reminds me of the Moog series where artists use the just Moog equipment to reproduce their songs:
In their new versions, all three songs take on shades of early-’90s house music, as well as the early-’90s pop that carried that influence.
Rick Rubin talks to Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker about his newest release, The Slow Rush, and his creative process. Kevin shares key influences on some Tame Impala songs and also plays Rick a demo for an unrealized song from his voice memos. Then Kevin turns the tables on Rick, asking about his work on Californication and Yeezus, which yields sage advice on record making.
Towards the end of the conversation, Parker reflects on unintentional influences. He touches on the link between of Beach House’s Walk in the Park and Tame Impala’s Feels Like We Only Go Backwards. This moves into a conversation about interpretation and making a song your own.
Kevin Parker on A-list collabs, pale imitations, & loving acoustic covers of his songs
STEREOGUM: When you’re programming drums for a rap record, do you approach it differently than if you’re working on a Tame Impala record? Does it just differ from song to song? What’s the determining factor on how you approach it?
PARKER: At the end of the day, it’s the same. It’s this dance between making a rhythm — it’s hard to explain. It’s about making the choice of where to put a beat. It’s just choosing where to put beats and where not to put them. Not like a beat like a rhythm, but like where to hit and where not to hit. Which at the end of the day is the same whether you’re playing drums or programming them. That’s the difference it comes down to. The Tame Impala stuff I’m playing the drums, and with hip-hop I’m programming them. Which is different in how you go about it, but mentally it’s exactly the same. Choosing what rhythms to play. For me it’s everything in a song. It’s everything. I spend by far the most amount of time on drums and rhythms of my songs than any other part.
My friend Mocky always talks about drumming. He says, “Drumming is easy. It’s actually quite simple. You just have to know what to hit and how hard.” In a way that means that with one single note, or a single chord, you can really give off a lot of attitude. [plays piano] Same chord. Those are two very different emotions. What you put into it, I’m pretty sure if you do it right, the audience will know what that is. Even if they can’t put the name on it, they know that one was like gangsta and the other one was kind of like sad sad.
Parker talks about calling out a ‘soundalike’ and subsequently getting paid royalties on a track:
A soundalike is a thing. You hear it all the time. I heard a soundalike of “Someday” by the Strokes on the new Ricky Gervais After Life trailer. If you play that, there’s a soundalike of “Someday” in there. So if I were the Strokes I might go, “Hey.” But the reason it sounded like me is because it’s the art form, making a knockoff of the song and making it sound as much like the song you’re trying to knock off as you can without it being a copyright infringement. That’s just what this was. But I felt like they overstepped. I wasn’t posting it because I was like flagging it for everyone, like trying to rally up support. I just thought it was hilarious. Like I honestly thought it was hilarious. I wanted people to hear this hilarious version.
Reflecting on Rihanna’s request to cover his music, Parker talks about the idea of ‘stems’ and the fact that there are different qualities depending on the effort put in.
STEREOGUM: I don’t know that much about the art of production. I know producers release their stems and say, “OK, remix my shit,” but when you talk about “stems printing” — I didn’t realize that’s something that could be high or low quality. Is there an art to printing stems?
PARKER: It’s kind of just the amount of care you put into it, really. I hate doing stems because you have to send the song out in pieces, basically. Which takes a lot of work, and you have to have high attention to detail. And usually you just kind of press a couple buttons and give them whole sections, but I gave them every little bit of it.
Discussing covers, Parker spoke about his own limitations and how he really likes listening to different interpretations, especially from good singers.
I love it when someone’s reinterpreted them as kind of barebones. And if they have a nice voice, it’s nice to hear what my songs would sound like if I was a good singer. ‘Cause I’m not. I’m honestly not a great singer, but I do what I have to do to make it sound good.
Tame Impala is the project of Kevin Parker, a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer from Perth, Australia. Since putting his first EP in 2008, Tame Impala has been nominated for two Grammys and won eight of Australia’s ARIA Awards. Multiple albums of his have been named best of the year. As a producer, he has collaborated with Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, The Weeknd, and more. The most recent Tame Impala album is The Slow Rush, which came out in February 2020. For this episode, Kevin chose to take apart the song, “It Might Be Time.”
The album and this remix are great examples of music and the.
Parker may want to be a Max Martin type in another facet of his career, but in his own band, he’s still a sonic-maximalist introvert searching for inner peace. He seems to locate it in the quietest moments of the album’s show-stopping seven-minute closer, “One More Hour.” “As long as I can, as long as I can spend some time alone,” he sings atop steady piano chords, the barest he’s sounded all record (and still drowning in echo). Suddenly there are tense, fluttering strings and an apocalyptic, heavily phased guitar, then another gnarly riff, crashing drums, and Moog synths firing in all directions. The effect is something like multiple YouTube videos accidentally playing at once, a restless mind making gorgeous chaos—the work of a true perfectionist.
Place between Yeasayer and Primal Scream
As a producer, Parker has more moving parts to balance this time, but he arrives at a deft auteur-pop synergy in which every last decision, down to the assorted cathedral-like reverb effects that lend his voice an otherworldly aura, become as intrinsic to the music as the melodies or the words. Though there’s a lot going on in the latticework of the music — springy analog synthesizer arpeggios, guitars doing unguitarlike things, layers upon layers of pastel lushness — the post-psychedelic swirl of The Slow Rush registers as an organic blend, with the songs never feeling cluttered or too tightly scripted.
To create music that fits this mood, he recasts the sounds of yacht rock, early ’80s R&B, French touch, experimental synth music from the ’70s, Italo house, prog, trip-hop, his own back catalog, and much more. You can hear the Moog synths doing filter sweeps, the steady backbeat of drums with a phaser effect on them, and a big obvious nod to “The Logical Song” by Supertramp.
Kevin Parker breaks down Tame Impala’s ‘The Slow Rush’ album
Tame Impala – Zane Lowe and Apple Music ’The Slow Rush’ Interview
Way back in 2010, a little band from Perth had just released their debut album Innerspeaker. It would get attention worldwide, and win the J Award for Australian Album of the Year. Two months shy of that gong, Kevin Parker and Jay Watson came in to Take 5 with Zan and share five songs that we might be surprised to find in their record collection. Kev’s love of pop music is well known today, but at the time these choices got quite the reaction when they came in to co-host, and giggle, with Zan. Justin Timberlake – “Rock Your Body” The Presidents of The United States of America – “Peaches” S.O.A.P. – “This Is How We Party” Boris – “Heavy Friends” Mark Ronson and the Business Intl. – “Bang Bang Bang” (feat. Q-Tip and MNDR)