I’m Mark Ronson, and this is the FADER Uncovered podcast. In this interview series, I’ll be speaking with some of the most influential and groundbreaking musicians in the world, from genre-defining stars to avant-garde trailblazers about their lives and careers. Each episode will be rooted in these musicians’ iconic FADER cover stories, an institution that over the past two decades has told artists’ stories like no other.
The podcast is a chance for us to talk about the past, present and future reflecting on their breakthroughs, diving into their lives when their covers hit shelves, and discussing what the future might hold now. And it’s an opportunity for me to speak to some of the artists that I most admire. This is The FADER Uncovered with Mark Ronson.
Today, I’m talking to my good friend and a frequent collaborator of mine, Kevin Parker of Tame Impala. Tame Impala graced the cover of The FADER 82 in the fall of 2012 right before dropping their now classic breakthrough record, Lonerism. I first discovered Tame Impala in the summer of 2009 with their very first EP. I was absolutely transfixed from day one.
Kevin’s bewitching falsetto vocals drenched in reverb singing these wonderful yet somehow insolent melodies, swirly psychedelic guitars, and live drums that sounded like they came right off a boom bap hip-hop record. They basically combined all of my favorite things in music in a way that no one was doing at that time. Plus, they had song titles like “41 Mosquitoes Flying in Formation,” which made you wonder where this dude’s head was at.
If I was transfixed on EP1, when their debut album, Innerspeaker dropped, I was a full-on fan. We were booked to share a festival stage in Australia in 2010 and I remember thinking to myself on the flight to Oz, “Please don’t let these guys be dicks because I like their music too much.” Well, they weren’t dicks at all. They were lovely dudes and a friendship and a musical bond evolved from that trip.
Kevin brought a ton of grit, groove, and depth to my next album, Uptown Special, even taking a 37 hour trip from Perth to Memphis in the process. That’s about seven planes. Sometimes the jet lag was so insane, he would curl up and fall asleep in front of the speakers while they were blasting at almost ear-splitting levels.
Being close friends with Kevin during this time, I also got firsthand glimpse of how the world fell for the music of Tame Impala, how they went from being your favorite band’s favorite band … See the Arctic Monkeys covering “Backwards …” to your favorite rapper’s favorite band … See ASAP Rocky sampling “Backwards …” to just about being everyone’s favorite band.
They’ve done everything from headlining Coachella to recently passing the billion stream mark for “The Less I Know the Better,” a song recorded in a bedroom in Perth that Kevin actually nearly accidentally gave to me one time. I was extremely excited to catch up with Kevin the day after they had just live streamed a performance of their flawless debut album, Innerspeaker, from start to finish.
Mark Ronson: How are you, dude? You good?
Kevin Parker: I'm good. I'm in great pain, actually.
I rolled my ankle this afternoon.
I just didn't put any ice on it.
And now it's really starting to kick in.
Really? Can you take some fucking Advil or something?
I think it's too late for that.
It's also giving me a lot of after school nostalgia. The same time that I went, "Ow," I went like, "I haven't rolled my ankle in years."
What were you doing? You weren't playing basketball. Were you skateboarding?
I was kicking the football.
Okay. Classic afterschool pastime in Australia.
It's Australian rules football, which is unfamiliar to anyone outside of Australia.
But it's a pretty exciting game that I recommend.
Well, I appreciate you going through this painful thing to pursue this interview.
This is actually helping.
I put it up there with 17 hour flights from Perth to Memphis, grimacing through the pain for this interview.
Just to start, how was the moment house? How was the Innerspeaker live thing? Were you happy with it?
Yeah. Yeah. It went off without a hitch in the end. As with all these kinds of things, it ends up just being a whole lot more work than I anticipated. The idea was I was like, "Oh yeah, we're just going to go down to Wave House and we're going to set up and just play through the whole Innerspeaker and get our friends to film it." Easy, right?
That's where you made Innerspeaker, at this house.
Yeah. It's the ramshackle beach mansion that we rented 10 years ago. And yeah, we've gone back there to exhume the spirits of that album.
Yeah. And was it still available? I wonder, is that also because you have such crazy fans, has that become a weird stop on this Tame Impala mythology tour of Perth or something?
I've been told that a lot of people go to take photos there in the ... It's the living room. You can kind of see the ocean. I've been told that a lot of bands go and do photo shoots there.
But no longer because I bought the house last year.
Oh, you did? I'm sort of embarrassed to say, I bought my ticket like of fan because even though we're friends and we work together, I am a Tame Impala fan. It's kind of funny to me, because I know guys in bands. I know you. I know Albert from The Strokes, but occasionally I will just get the email because you're on a fan mailing list, that's like, "Check out this new t-shirt from Tame Impala," but I saw the thing, "Buy a ticket to see Tame Impala play their first record." I love that first record. It's one of my first records of all time.
But of course, I didn't realize that you had to see it at the exact time. I guess that was the point, right? It's like to make it like a real concert, so I missed it.
Yeah. I think it did. I think it was confusing for a few people. I mean hey, if I wasn't on the other end, it would have been confusing for me too. But yeah. Yeah. I mean, with all these kinds of things, there's different ways of doing it and different times zones to take into account.
It makes sense, especially in this era of COVID, to make a concert that you have to see at a certain time, because then it makes it feel most like a real concert, like you had to go at the thing, but I was just an idiot and I didn't really think about it.
Oh shit. Well, I think it's on YouTube now.
Have you done any other things during ... because you put out The Slow Rush. I imagine you're about to go on the craziest, the biggest tour you've been on and then lockdown, corona happened. Was that the first thing? Was that the first show that you guys did?
Not really. I mean, we did a whole bunch of filmed, just recording ourselves playing a song for different TV shows. We did one for ... We did Tiny Desk in here actually.
And a few kinds of things like that, which were cool.
I saw too, you did something in Perth. You did the Tame Impala sound system.
Well, yeah, yeah, then that happened. That was cool.
Yeah. Tell me about that because obviously you and I have DJ'ed together. You have a huge love for dance music and different ways to bring music live when it's not necessarily just a band. Tell me what that was, the evolution.
Well, that was just this idea that I had while we were doing a bunch of these ... I call them sound system performances where it's like, we're performing the songs, but it's all electronic. It's all sequenced and samplers. It's like living out my fantasy of performing the songs as though we were an electronic group. All the machines are hooked in. It's satisfying an urge for me basically.
And we've had a lot of fun DJing as well. Do you play other people's music when you do the Tame Impala sound system gig or you just play Tame Impala?
No, we do a couple homages. I mix in ... There's a sample from "I Like the Way You Move" by Outkast, which I kind of just bleed into "Reality In Motion," which actually reminded me a lot of your approach to DJing, kind of like I felt like I was you for a second.
Right. Well, whenever I DJ "Apocalypse Dreams," I always pretend I'm you.
I don't know if you checked out this article, if you ever look back. I don't picture you as a guy who reads old press yet, but what we're doing is talking about ... because it's for The FADER and talking about that cover story from 2012 just before Lonerism came out.
Yeah. I just had to read through it actually. It was kind of a trip.
Yeah. I thought it's amazing because that is about probably just about after when I met you. And I was thinking that Innerspeaker ... Just to talk about Innerspeaker for a second, that must've performed beyond your wildest dreams just as far as the international recognition. I imagine at that point you were like, "Wow, this is it. We've made it." And obviously it was successful in its own way, but where you went after that is next level. But tell me about just that thing, coming off making Lonerism. Did you feel pressure? Were you psyched about the success of Innerspeaker?
I guess deep down, I was kind of satisfied, fulfilled, let's say, but my brain always finds a way to doubt it and get bummed out by it. It's funny. Just reading that article back, I think that must've been just after I'd finished the album. I don't know if it had come out yet, but I just remember being really frustrated.
With the record?
No, just the record, I was probably ... It was done and I was happy that it was done. It's funny reading myself expressing thoughts that I'm experiencing for the first time, that kind of pressure. The pressure that I put on myself for Lonerism was immense. And I remember when I finished it, I was like, "Well, it's done. It's not as good as Innerspeaker, but it's done."
There's a song called "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" and if people like that song, then I'll be happy. Anyway, yeah, there was just a lot more working out my role and working out just really insignificant interpersonal stuff that frustrated me, just like how we operated as a band and as a solo thing, obviously. I think during that interview, I remember the guy came to Perth for a few days and hung out with us. It was that thing where I was telling the guys, "A guy from a magazine is going to come and hang out with us for a couple of days." I just remember their kind of eye rolls.
They're just like, "Lame."
And they probably weren't even. It was probably just massive interpretation of their like, "Yeah, cool. Whatever."
Yeah. It's actually a really beautifully written article. The guy writes about Perth, because I've been to Perth a bit for shows and come to see you. And there's a very unique thing about Perth. It is this feeling of this town that's literally the most remote city in the world as far as it's the furthest from another city. But yet it's like there's money. There's culture. There's these things, but it's also a small town. He keeps saying it's a small town trying to be a big city and the way he talks even about it is like this really beautiful, how Graham Greene and these English authors write about the middle-class in the '50s and shit, but what did you think about the way ... Did you think he got Perth right?
I mean, that is kind of ... Not to discredit the article or him in any way, but that is kind of a narrative that I think people like to push, especially in the context of me.
They come to Perth and they're like, "Oh, what's this isolated big country town trying to be a big city?"
And they try to pair it with me.
And like, they try to sort of pair it with me as being isolated artist, the music sounding isolated. So that is a thing. And for someone from Perth reading it, it can be a bit kind of like, kind of cringe a bit. But, here's the thing, as I was reading it just then the more he spoke about it, I was like, "God damn it, he's right."
Right. He talks about Canyons a bit, but was there a scene in Perth before you... Was there anyone that you could look to? Was there a godfather, like somebody who gave you an old drum machine or some shit? Or did you really just pull it together yourself and with Jan, or whoever else your peers were at that time?
Yeah. I mean, as far as I'm concerned, the scene I was involved with was about 10 people. Six of whom lived together. There was definitely a Perth scene, like a really strong scene, arguably more than there is now. It was really thriving. We'd play three, four nights a week, maybe three nights a week. I think we always felt like we were a bit removed from that, but we just did our own thing. But it meant there were opportunities to play all the time.
I remember when we met on that Future music tour and I was really a big fan of Innerspeaker and I came over and I was like, "Oh, is it going to play on this festival?" And it was you, me, MGMT and then-
Dizzee Rascal and Kesha on the main stage, big artists, big guys on the main stage. And then there was the little indie stage. I don't know how the fuck I ended up on an indie stage, but it was you, then us, then MGMT. Now that order would be completely flipped around, but I thought, "Oh man, I'm going all the way over to Australia. I've never been over there before. I'm going to meet these guys whose music I love, who I know nothing about. Like, I just kind of hope they're not dickheads."
There's nothing worse. I don't want to meet these guys, and then it's ruined some music. And the first thing I meet is Jay bounding around on a golf cart backstage. He's like, "Mate. Yeah. Oh, it's so good to meet you. Like da-da, you got to come say hi to Kevin." I was like, "Oh man, these guys are just like so lovely." But I remember that tour, and I think at the very end you played me some demos, but I was so wasted. You played me some demos, I remember thinking like, "Oh man, I'm privy. I'm hearing the next record." And you must've played me some of the things of Lonerism, but I just always hate the fact that I was so wasted that night, that I don't remember anything that you played.
Well, man, I remember that night. I felt insanely privy because I was in Mark Ronson's hotel room at 4:00 in the morning with a bunch of other people. That was great. That was a great night.
It was cool though because I felt like you felt like finally you trusted me enough or something, you're like, "You know what, I'm going to get the fucking hard drive out." And then Lonerism came out and I fucking loved it. I feel like the evolution... Because you're my friend, I don't want to talk about all these tropes about you and the isolated music, and you're coming out as a person... But I do feel like the albums actually do that. Like Innerspeaker, I think of lyrics of "Solitude Is Bliss" and stuff. It's such an insular record, it's like a headphone record. And you're really by yourself having these thoughts when you're listening to it.
Lonerism is the same thing, but it's a little more joyous, and the way the album opens almost with a mantra, and then you have the big "Apocalypse Dreams," which is pretty euphoric. But I still was very much by myself with that record too. I loved it. I remember walking on the beach in Vietnam... It's so fucking random... But listening to the record over and over again. Is Lonerism even more... Were you even more isolated making that record than you were with Innerspeaker?
Yeah. Because with that album, I'd kind of finally discovered the confidence to go, "All right, fuck you guys, this is how I'm doing it." Leading up to then I was doing it the way that I felt that I should do it, like how it would look on the outside kind of thing. Instead of wanting to be inclusive and wanting to tick boxes, but Lonerism, I'd gotten closer to finding myself as an artist. And so I had these grandiose ideas and had the confidence to go through with them. So Lonerism at that point, I saw it as my Pet Sounds or whatever.
You said that you knew that you had one song, "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards," and obviously that was such a festival smash and that is a really big moment in the set when you play it, and Arctic Monkeys have covered in whatever else. But did you know that you had an idea while making the record, you're like, "Okay, this is a jam. I got this, no matter what."
I think it's more of a case of, by the time you finish an album, all the production and everything boils away, and that stuff doesn't really impress you, like amazing song structures or chord changes or whatever. So the things you end up liking the most are just the simplest. That song is one of the only songs I've written where I've loved it from the start to the finish, where I've not doubted it, in any way.
What about "Elephant" dude, come on? "Elephant," you must have known you'd be like, "I got this riff and it's going to kill Glastonbury."
If only I'd known. That song almost didn't make it on the album. I tacked it on because I thought that the album was too wishy-washy without it. I was like, "It needs a strong rock moment." I made it with that. Well, I already had the riff, actually from a few years ago and the motif. I guess the strength of that song, "Elephant," is that I wasn't precious about it. I was making this comically glam rock, I didn't feel the need to fit it into the template of the rest of the album.
There's all these great stories about like, "The whole record's done." And then the last minute they're like, "We need one more thing like that." There's like "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys. It's always like a Dumb Rock number two, right? Which one?
"Paranoid" by Black Sabbath.
There's all those stories, it's cool-
When you just don't give a fuck and you just go on and you're like, bam, bam, bam.
That's it. It's a really powerful freedom of mind, isn't it?
One of the things that always attracted me to Innerspeaker, and we talked about it, is the drums and we both have this same obsession with drums and the sounds of breaks, and that's what ties your music to hip hop, and obviously through the years is why hip hop has been drawn to your music. I guess "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards," it seems like, to me, really stands out. It's like, "Oh, that's when you had the confidence to do a slow tempo, cool fucking song", the same way that "Brand New Person..." And for me, I'm always thinking like a DJ, "You got to speed shit up."
You just started this whole new sound in this wave of like, "No shit can be 75 beats a minute, bob your head and people are going to love this shit anyway." And it just has this feel and that was like the first shit when... Didn't ASAP Rocky sample "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" and there were all these things happening.
I think so, for a random off-cut thing, I think. That song was the first of a lot of songs for that, with that kind of groove for me.
Were you listening to anything while you were making Lonerism, or were you always just... When you're making a record, are you just completely shut out of the outside world, like Prince style and you're just only about what you're working on.
Yeah, I guess probably that the latter. Definitely. Leading up to getting really into the album, I'm allowing things to come in, but yeah, I'm one of those artists that by the time I'm kind of deep in it, other music is just nails on the blackboard. Either that or the opposite, it's so gorgeous and fresh and unfamiliar that it sounds better than what I'm working on. Can't stand it. It makes me depressed, basically.
I've always been admiring, even envious of people who can craft a classic by themselves from start to finish. You think of Sly and There's A Riot Goin' On. Any Prince album, Stevie, et cetera. There are those who can do it all. They write the song, play the song, arrange and produce it perfectly. There's a feeling of this sign on the studio door that probably says, "Genius at work do not enter." But the flip side of that I imagine is that it's also a very lonely place to be. You're always by yourself. You have to rely on your own and only your own creative instincts at all times, which can be especially maddening at times of creative insecurity. Plus there's also no one to high-five when you play a hot bass lick.
When I think of my own favorite moments in the studio, it's finding that perfect chord on a guitar and watching Lady Gaga's face light up as she spurts out some golden melody. It's Jeff Bhasker playing some insane synth line that makes me and Bruno look at each other in amazement. It's those moments of shared euphoria. That's what I live for. But I also adore the introverted music of Tame Impala. And I realized that the insecurities that nearly pushed him to the brink of sanity while making Lonerism.... I mean, that album is so good because of the intense isolation of its creator.
So Lonerism comes out and obviously it's not this huge failure. In fact, it takes you up to the next level. When that shit came out and you're touring, it must have felt pretty good to be, "Okay, cool, it's not over, I didn't fuck it up"?
I wish I could say, yes, like, "Yeah, and that's when it felt good. That's when I was like...", you know? I wish I had that moment, but I don't know. Put it this way. I only recently with the last album, I've forced myself to appreciate the good things that happen with it. Because this one, I was just like, "Fuck it, fuck it, I'm going to enjoy it this time." Because every album that I've done, has been good, it has been success, but I haven't enjoyed it. I haven't enjoyed releasing it. I haven't enjoyed the idea of people listening to it. I haven't enjoyed playing it live. Until years after, by which point it's too late. So it's only recently where I've just made a pact with myself to enjoy it and appreciate it.
And what about... I think of all those amazing shows... I was at that show during Lonerism at Brixton Academy... And it's like the real anointing of a new rock God arriving when you look backstage, and it's Kate Moss and dah- dah-dah... It really was the fucking storybook cliche thing of, you're backstage and it was The Kills and the Arctic Monkeys, and everyone's just high-fiving, and everyone's just standing with enwrapped adoration through the whole show. Those things still you'd come off stage and there wasn't any kind of validation from that stuff either.
I had a huge fight with my girlfriend that night. But no, there were a lot of good times, like backstage and meeting some of my idols. They were great times and I found some way to enjoy them.
I mean, we all have the same anxieties and neurosis and things that don't let us enjoy records, and as they're coming out of successes, it's happening of course, that's a very human thing. But I have a theory... You come off the stage and you've had the best gig that you've ever had, and you think it was the worst ever, and I think that the adrenaline rush of when you go on stage and all those things... When it's completely depleted, when you come off, your brain confuses that adrenaline crash. So it is a genuine depression. So your first thought is to go to, "That was a terrible show." And then you come off stage and then somebody high-fives you, and then a few more people say that didn't suck. But then you just get so wasted to carry this sort of high, and then obliterate any of the thoughts of... By the time you're doing your sixth line in the bathroom and your fifth beer you're like, that was the fucking best show, right? There's like a weird...
Yeah, totally. The crash of anticipation and energy and yeah. 100%.
And then that night is really etched in my brain. I don't know if you remember this, but there was some house party after, after party in east London after that. And we had always talked about maybe making some music together, but it was the end of the night and I remember sitting down next to you, and you were like, "Yo, if we do some music, we should put it down for the funk." And I remember you said the word funk, and I was like...I mean, I love funk, my first love was The Meters or these kinds of music. But to me, funk could become a word hijacked by jam bands and, all respect to the Chili Peppers, I love them, but that's what funk had could become.
I remember that exact conversation.
Do you remember it? Do you remember saying...
It's one of those weird things where I have no reason to remember it because I don't know what time in the morning it was. I was like, "Hey Mark, what about if we did funk music?" I remember you said, "You had me at what about it?"
Oh yeah. Yeah, because I just wanted to make music with you anyway. You said something like, "Yeah, because nobody's really putting it down for straight funk." And I kind of know what you meant, like just grooves for the sake of grooves. Do some good shit, get some good drum sounds, give it a killer bass line. And we started jamming. Then we worked a lot on my Uptown Special record. You helped out and contributed so much to that, and that was the album with "Uptown Funk." And there's a weird correlation, even though you didn't work on that song, between you saying that, because I think that I never would have thought that the word funk was okay to use in a song if there wasn't some moment at that after-party where you said funk. And I was like, if Kevin says the word funk, maybe it's cool again, who the fuck knows?
And then we did do some extremely funky, shit. "Daffodils" was an incredible song that you had the whole groove and bassline. You brought some serious funk. I remember Q-Tip being like, "you should put that out as a single, man. Not that "Uptown Fuck" shit." I remember that was Q-Tip's fucking jam was "Daffodils," but the groove is so fucking heavy in the music. Do you start sometimes with the bassline with the drums or is that, how does that start with the songs on something like Currents or Lonerism.
It's pretty rare that I'll start with a drum beat and then just sort of try and see where it goes. As you know, from kind of working with me, I like there to be kind of like a spark.
You know, that came from somewhere else other than the desire to make a cool beat.
Or a cool baseline. They just sort of, rather than wanting to do it, it wanted you to do it, you know?
Yeah, definitely. Is that a lyric sometimes? Or is that just an accidental, you play a chord that you never heard before and you're like, Ooh. And then you're sort of off to the races or how do those sparks come to you?
I call it, like flicking on the radio. You know, sometimes when I walk out of a room, there's lots of noise, lots of people and going from a loud place to a quiet place really quickly, I feel like my brain needs a way to sort of transition and so I kind of just...music starts playing in my head. Or more broadly, any time I'm kind of tense or nervous or anything like tension for me creates music. I think, I probably started doing it when I was a kid, about really young. If there was a tense situation or environment around me, I kind of just sort of played music in my head, you know?
Really? That's fucking cool.
Well, that's kind of what I've traced it back to. I think.
Yeah. I would have this crazy thing, when I'd have tense moments as a kid, I would actually hallucinate aurally. And if I would turn on the radio, it would sound like the weatherman was yelling at me. I knew somehow it wasn't, but in return it was like, it was 76 degrees in Manhattan today and quite scary and yelling. And I couldn't break it until, I'd have to go wake up my mom. I try and call a friend and it would sound like the same shit. It's crazy how a brain does that. Yeah. I feel like that's for another episode.
It's the mind with Mark Ronson.
Yeah. Do you remember any specific highlights off of the Lonerism? Like just the tour at that record being out and I'm sure there was some awards and stuff like that that came with it.
Weirdly. I think Coachella was really fun. I mean, not weirdly. Well I guess weirdly. Only because Coachella isn't always fun as everyone who's played Coachella knows. You know? They call it the Coachella curse.
Is it really? No, I don't know. I played it once in 2008, but what is it? Just that it's always kind of like a gig that you're so excited to be playing and then it just kind of fucks up?
Oh, everything. I think there's so much anticipation from you, the artist, and your record label. Everyone wants you to have that perfect Coachella show.
Because it exists in their imagination somewhere.
Obviously, I guess people like Beyonce, Daft Punk, have had that show.
Where it's game-changing, but the pressure on artists to deliver that. I think Billie Eilish kind of experienced that. I watched the documentary the other day. It's kind of like, everyone wanted to have that perfect show. Yeah. So they call it the Coachella curse because it never works out. It's always like you get bummed out and the crowd is always like a quarter into it.
I went to the Billie Eilish show and I didn't really know much about it. I thought it was amazing. I was like, there's fucking 80,000 people here, jumping up and down pogoing. But that's also that thing, right? Everybody is else having the best time that you think it's a shitty show. It just completely depends on your fucking brain chemistry on that day. And then that was the same year that you guys headlined, right?
Yeah. That's it, we headlined a bit later. The year we played Coachella after Lonerism, I didn't even really care that it was Coachella. It still hadn't even really caught on on to what Coachella was and what it meant to people and that kind of scene. And so we just played a gig like any other, and it was really amazing. Tyler, the Creator was watching which blew my mind. Tyler, the Creator and Danny DeVito were both watching.
That's fucking cool.
It was. That was always a great day.
Were you playing that perfect sun down set? Like the storied 5:00 PM. I think I can picture a press shot from that gig with Palm trees and that's the best time to play when you're the band on the way up.
Totally. Totally. That's the time to do Coachella, not headlining. Everyone's cooked by the time the headliner comes on.
David Hasselhoff watched our Coachella set, our one Coachella set in 2008. I remember. There's a theme, I guess, because it's near LA you get just wild celebrities that you wouldn't get at other festivals or something. Because it's just LA.
Fucking LA. And then did you enjoy your headline set? I thought that was incredible. The fucking lights and laser show. I thought you really, it showed that you were like, okay, we want to really deliver that shit that everyone will have to talk about the next day.
Yeah. I think it was just a concerted effort to just, let's just blow the budget. Well, no, let's spend the budget. The budget was to spend significantly less than what we were getting paid, which we didn't, we spent everything of what we got paid. And so that was that. But you know, it was cool. You We bought the ticket, we rode the ride.
I was like, all right, we're getting three mil or whatever for Coachella, lets just spend it all. Well weren't like, let's spend it all. We just ended up spending it all.
I've seen Tame Impala played countless times and I've probably see most of their Glastonbury and Coachella performances. I've seen them slowly move up the bill over the course of 10 years until they headline the fuckers. And it really is amazing to watch a band. You love do it the right way. I guess, the old school way just by continually proving yourself, putting out amazing music and winning more and more people over and for whatever Instagram, floral crown parade Coachella has become to get that headline slot on the poster is still a big deal, even if just superficially. I know I was even psyched for them when I saw that poster the first time.
And don't let Kevin's low-key demeanor, fool you, he knew he had to kill it. From the insane spaceship, laser lighting scheme that gave Daft Punk a run for its money to the ASAP Rocky guest verse. I'm sure they could have killed it without all those things. But Kevin realized the gargantuaness of headlining that festival. But I also remember going backstage after the show and it was pizza and beer and just another show in the can dude, what'd you think?
So are you going to still tour The Slow Rush? The world's starting to open back up. Even in Australia and New Zealand, I guess they've all the restrictions loosened. Are you going to be able to go and start doing some shows for this tour already?
I think so. I think it's going to happen. I mean, our first show is in America. I guess it's kind of been the case of we've been sort of booking shows the whole time and then just sort of postponing them or canceling or whatever. Because it's obviously not going to happen, but I think these ones might actually just happen.
When are they for?
I think it'...oh we got Bonneroo.
Bonnaroo is going to happen. Which, is crazy to think that's going to happen. Which is September.
You are like a lot of people's last concert that I spoken to because you played the Forum on what, March 13th or something?
Some shit like that. And even Jimmy Jam, fucking legend. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, that was his last show. A lot of other people I spoke to. And then I saw you March 9th, just before you did San Diego.
I remember flying the next day and being like, should I wear a mask? There's this weird thing going on I don't know. I remember buying some blankets in a mall like, maybe I'll just bring my own blankets on the plane. No one knew what the fuck was going on. It was so fucking wild.
I remember that. Man that's so weird. That was like four days before we played our last show. And then we had to cancel the tour. I remember I saw you open a door with your T-shirt with your hand. And I was like, Man, Mark's really worried about this whole Coronavirus thing. What's the deal? And then like four days later, the world shut down. That's how quick it happened. Yeah. But, I mean the LA shows were great. They were part of my renewed enjoyment in playing live and releasing music and playing it live the first time I was like, fuck it. I'm going to enjoy playing one more year and singing the lyrics to these people.
I saw an Instagram comment a week later or whatever, Coronavirus was happening. And the caption was like, "Man, doing stuff really went out with a bang." Oh that was amazing.
And one more year has even more poignancy. Right? Because it was just like a whole year it got put on hold as well.
Yeah. I mean, it's freaky. It's freaky. I was thinking about those lyrics now. Obviously, I kind of had something else in mind, but the way they kind of just line up with...
Yeah. Talking about Instagram, social media posts, once a month, someone just writes, release the Tame Impala-SZA song. Obviously you and I worked on a song way, way back before Ctrl even came out, with SZA, and it was kind of wild. And she came into the studio, and we thought she was just maybe coming to write a song. And then she was just so amazing. And did this song together, you had the beat and then she just was like, oh, do you mind if I listened to my album, it's about to come out. It just came from mastering. And we just sat there for like 53 minutes like, 'This person's about to be the biggest pop star on the planet.' Have you been in touch with SZA or do you have any plans to release that song or anything?
Yes. It's looking good.
It was you that told me don't worry about that kind of a trio producer, singer, artist, sort of arrangement we're going to have. Why don't you just do it. I don't know. Maybe this is all top secret, but yeah. I'd kind of just stumbled across that song the other day, again, like I was just going through old sessions and I was like, "Fuck."
She's so good on it. She's just so fucking amazing, that beat. I remember you and me working Vox and I left early, and you sent me this voice and you're like, "I just started on this thing" and I'm like, "Oh, that shit is fucking tasty."
Yeah. I just remember she went in and did these just ad-libs, spoken word ad-libs, and I remember we were just mesmerized by what she was conjuring up on the fly. It was so evocative and kind of amazing. Everyone has that studio story of something that happened on the fly, something that happened spontaneously. And they were like, man, everyone in the studio, their jaws were on the floor. I feel like that was my studio moment like that.
And have you been producing any stuff? I know you keep stuff kind of close to the chest, so we don't have to talk about anything that you don't want to, but obviously you've come up with this really, really not so prolific, but every single thing that you do as a sort of outside producer or writer is pretty special. So have you been doing that a little bit more? Obviously you worked with Travis Scott, helped me out on a lot of my records, there's the Gaga stuff, there's you, have you been working on any stuff like that during the lockdown?
Not as much as I want. I mean, weirdly with the whole lockdown year, I've never been busier but it was just with different stuff, like the sound system performances. And then recently the Innerspeaker 10 year thing, I just haven't really given myself time and dedication to just producing and songwriting, which is what I want to do lots of in the coming months.
I think most people really look back on this period and feel like they didn't do enough or like, "Oh, this was this time I should have done this. And I had all this time or what." But it was fucking weird. And I don't know if, I mean, you're a little bit more of an island when it comes to making music, but I miss being in a room with people. I'm just sitting here by myself all day. I don't know if I'm going to really get to the hot fire. Could we kind of gloss over it in the beginning, but revisiting Innerspeaker with that much detail to really have to recreate the entire thing live, where these songs, looking back on them, they're almost like young kids, kind of underdeveloped. Or all right, I see, I wasn't quite there yet, but this one is good. Was there an affinity for Innerspeaker while you were doing that?
Yeah, totally. It was a trip. It was kind of more of a trip than I expected. Just kind of relearning some of the chords that I haven't thought about in 10 years because they're songs that we didn't decide to do live. And then it was really kind of quite emotional and fulfilling just to sort of go over old ground like that, and then put it all together at the same time. The first run through we did, we got to the end, the last night "bring" and I was kind of like, "Wow, that's it." You know? Cause you never really think about your albums so intimately from start to finish after you finish them. You know you said piece them together, one song that's sort of halfway through the album might get finished months before the first song or whatever, you never sort of have to think about it start to finish unless you're listening to it, but that's just listening to it.
Yeah. Like actually relearning all the chords and lyrics and singing every lyric from start to finish was kind of like, "Wow, that's it?" That was more than a year of my life. Just a time of my life, of a snapshot of who I was. So, that kind of hit me just as we finished the first run through. So it was very special.
There were some old videos that you're putting up around that time when you were originally making Innerspeaker, and that whole story around "Jeremy's Storm." And there was this crazy storm, and I guess because it really looks like a cabin on the edge of the earth, it's even more like, "Holy shit if some storm comes in, this shit is going to get blown away." But I highly recommend going and watching that. And was it the same personnel who played on, what did you play everything on Innerspeaker? No?
Pretty much, yeah. Jay played drums on a couple of songs, and then there's one song we played as a three-piece, we just recorded it live. I was determined to put one song on it we played as a band, but the rest is just me.
Yeah. And recorded on a digital 8-track you told me once, it blew my fucking mind.
Well, 16-track, actually. It's funny, that album sounds different, well it's the structures are different than the rest of my albums, because I didn't write those songs kind of as a electronic producer. I think from Lonerism onwards, I was a producer making music instead of piecing together music. But with Innerspeaker, I had no choice, I just had to write the songs from start to finish.
On my guitar I kind of, sketch out a demo. And then before I started recording the real song I had to just work out how it was all going to happen and play through the whole song, and then sort of stop the guitar, put it down, go and pick up the drums and record over the top of that start to finish and then everything else that's in it. Overdubbing guitars and...
Stevie Wonder shit, man.
Well I mean Stevie Wonder did the drums first. I've never done that. Stevie Wonder would just like write the song, had the song in his head and just go and play drums and just play the whole song and nothing else in it. He just laid down the drums first and then put all the instruments over that, and apparently do weird stuff. He would sing the harmonies, the backing vocals before he'd go and lay down the lead one. Yeah, just weird shit like that.
I got engaged last weekend. And I remember our first kiss, Innerspeaker was playing in the background. We go home, we went to dinner-
Congrats man. Congrats on Innerspeaker playing in the background. No, I'm just joking. Yeah. Congrats.
Yeah. There's a plaque for that somewhere. There's a first kiss, very corny hallmark first kiss plaque. But no, it was forever, it will be etched. It's still my record. If I'm like, "I really don't know what to listen to." It's just like, fucking pull that shit out.
Oh wow man. Thanks.
It's weird talking to you, my friend. And I'm trying to be respectful of the things that I know that we don't want to talk about either, but.
Thinking about that era Lonerism, that FADER cover. Did you know what The FADER was?
Yeah, I would have heard of it. Definitely. Yeah. I hadn't heard it a lot back then.
Yeah. I guess it was kind of a bit, was it a big deal? American magazine cover.
Oh I know I cared, definitely. Oh, I'm just starting to remember that whole kind of week. Not that it was particularly traumatic or anything. But you know what? That was an exciting time. I was frustrated with who I was, but it was an exciting time. We had just flown Julian over from France, rehearse with us. Yeah. So Julian, he's our drummer. Met him in a bar in Paris and I said, "Hey, do you want to play drums for us?" And he flew over from Perth. It was his first time in Fremantle. Bless him. He must've just been like, "What am I doing here?" The first morning he woke up, we have Magpies. There is Magpies in the rest of the world, right?
Yeah. But in England they call it a Magpie. Yeah. It's almost like a pigeon of the sea. It's just a nasty loud bird that kind of just eats anything.
Yeah. They make kind of weird noises in Australia anyway. And he woke up and there was one outside his window. He thought it was me just playing a synthesizer.
Because a Magpie sounds like a synth.
It does. I mean, I never really thought of it like that, but they do make kind of just weird all over the place noises, oscillating kind of sounds. But yeah, that was a really different time.
Got my model D-
I've been staring at it the whole time.
It's great. I imagine you have a Moog model D.
I do, I've got one of the reissues. I haven't played it in a while. Oh, that's a reissue, cool. You've got the Prophet-5 up there.
I also like the fact that you always take these synthesizers that should be not necessarily cool. It's not the oldest thing that you could repurpose, like a brand new, whatever, Korg or something that I would see in a and go like, "Oh, you're not supposed to use that." And just turn it into some amazing shit, and then I have to go and buy it because I'm like, "Oh, what was that thing that you used on cards?" But yeah.
Yeah. I mean, that's kind of just one of the things I love doing, is finding something that no one cares about and exploiting its uniqueness. Which to be honest, I've kind of stopped using my MiniMoog. I don't even know where it is. I got it because it was that classic bass synth, it's that bass synth sound. And I started using it and I was like, "Oh yeah, it's that sound." So the reason I stopped using it was the reason I got it in the first place.
Cool. All right, dude, I think, should we call it? What time is it over there?
It's 10 past 10 at night.