Young Guns: Kevin Parker's New-School Psychedelia Swirls And Spews - Rolling Stone
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Kevin Parker’s New-School Psychedelia Swirls and Spews

Aussie acid-rock mastermind behind Tame Impala explains his technique in our Young Guns series

Tame Impala

Kevin Parker of Tame Impala

Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Welcome to Young Guns, our series exploring the most notable guitarists from the next generation of six-string legends. For more interviews with the guitarists inspiring us right now, click here.

WHO: Tame Impala’s arrays of psychedelic echo, astral-projecting percussion and chilly singing have established the Australian group as acid-rock heirs apparent. Their second album, 2012’s Lonerism, opened doors for the group to collaborate with the Flaming Lips, Kendrick Lamar and Seventies rock icon Todd Rundgren, who remixed the bouncy track “Elephant.” Kevin Parker, who records Tame Impala’s albums mostly by himself, stumbled upon the band’s signature swirl by trying to expand his primary instrument’s vocabulary. “I had this weird fetish for making the guitar sound like it wasn’t a guitar to try and trick people into actually thinking it was a keyboard,” he explains. “I don’t know why that was such an obsession, why I didn’t just get a keyboard. I guess it was because I had no money.”

WELL DONE: Lonerism, a favorite among artists ranging from Deftones’ Chino Moreno to Arctic Monkeys, was nominated for the Best Alternative Music Album Grammy. But the followup – which Parker has begun working on between gigs and during his time off – is still in a blurry state of disarray. “I never know how far away the light at the end of the tunnel is,” he admits. “I write songs every day, but only a few of them get finished. I never know when a record is finished until it’s almost finished.”

TECHNICOLOR YAWN: Success isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, and, when Tame Impala had to play a private concert for radio contest winners in Portland, Oregon, the night after the final gig of a Flaming Lips tour, Parker realized he had partied too hard to perform. “It was like 2 in the afternoon, and I was so hung over that I had to keep pulling away from the mic because I was about to vomit,” he remembers. “I only sang about half the gig because I kept doing those spew-convulsions. I would just have them in the microphone because I was trying to sing at volume. After the last song, I just threw my guitar and ran backstage and vomited powerfully into this rubbish bin. It was about a meter from the actual stage.” Worse yet, he had to do a meet-and-greet after. “I had spew breath and everything,” he says. “So I had to do photos and hug people and do autographs and stuff, and my mouth just smelt like booze and vomit.”

MAIMED IMPALA: Parker’s most stomach-churning musical experience, however, came from recording “Children of the Moon” with the Flaming Lips for the latter’s 2012 Heady Fwends album. Head Lip Wayne Coyne requested all of the collaborators on the record, including Ke$ha and Nick Cave, provide samples of their blood to be mixed into the LP vinyl. “I got a safety pin and punctured the top of my hand where I saw a vein and I just pushed in as hard as I could and it just instantly puffed up to about an inch across,” Parker says. “I was like, ‘Oh fuck, I’ve fucked it. I’m going to lose my hand.'” The worst part was, not much blood even came out. “The swelling was instant and terrifying and blue,” he recalls. “Then a week later, I got a nurse to come down to my apartment, and she took a vial.”

In This Article: Tame Impala


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