From Cream to Serge Gainsbourg: Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker picks his favourite records
Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker is a one-of-a-kind indie-pop genius, a creative who has single handily created one of the most dynamic repertoires of music over the last decade. The multi-instrumentalist has a wide span of influences which is evident from listening to any piece of work by Tame Impala, work which encapsulates an eclectic range of sounds whilst having a contemporary edge to it.
The debut Tame Impala album, which was released back in 2010, offers up the first taste of how the psychedelic rock from the 1960s influenced Parker. This era of music is something that Parker has continuously drawn from throughout his career without ever sounding like he locked in a nostalgia shaped trap. Each Tame Impala album has seen Parker progress as a musician by expanding his sonic horizons, experimenting more and more with every release.
Previously speaking about his songwriting process, Parker once said: “Once I’ve got something that I feel is strong, if I get long enough to think about it, it’ll turn into something. I’ll start thinking about the drums – what the drums are doing, what the bass is doing. Then, if I can remember it by the time I get to a recording device, it’ll turn into a song. Songwriting has become such a big part of what I do that emotions and the melodies that accompany them blur into one.”
We’ve previously looked at the singer’s favourite drum tracks and how that is such a key component of how the Tame Impala man makes music, but now we are looking at the records that shaped him into the man he is today. Reflecting on a past interview with The Guardian, we get to see Parker detailing the tracks which have soundtracked pivotal moments across his life.
It’s a fascinating insight which provides a look behind the curtain at what makes one of the most influential musicians of the modern age tick. From learning about the tracks which played a role in his musical awakening, it paints a picture of how these sounds stuck with him and how he eventually amalgamated the influences into Tame Impala.
Parker grew up around music at home, and it was down to his father’s influence, which seduced him into rock ‘n’ roll. “Listening to my dad playing guitar along to ‘Sleepwalk’ by The Shadows was probably the first time I discovered emotion in music,” Parker vividly recalled.
“He had backing track versions of a few Shadows albums with the lead guitar cut out, and he’d just play along to them. It really got inside me, the melancholic emotion in the music. It was like I was watching a movie or something. I didn’t really know what was going on or why I was feeling these feelings,” the Tame Impala maestro added.
Another poignant moment is offered by Parker when he reveals that Silverchair’s Freak Show spellbound him to such a degree that he began making music. “I got into this album because my brothers were into it – they listened to a lot of grunge. That time – I was 10 or 11 – was all about discovering rock music and realising how bad-ass it was,” Parker lovingly remembered.
He then added: “Grunge gave me a sense of identity and I remember really associating with Silverchair, who were these chilled-out Australian teenagers. The fact that they were teenagers was a big deal for me. It was like: Oh man, you don’t have to be a 30-year-old to do this.”
Parker has never tried to hide his love of old-school psychedelic rock, but this type of music didn’t play a part in his life until he was a bit older and hearing Cream’s Disraeli Gears for the first time is a moment that he’ll never forget. “It wasn’t until I was 20 and met all the guys I’m friends with now – the rest of the guys in the band – that I started listening to psych rock,” Parker admitted.
“I listened to the Doors, Colour Haze, Black Sabbath and stuff like that, but the album that really got me into it was Disraeli Gears. I loved that rumbling, fuzzed-out sound. I picked it up in a record store one day and it just blew my mind,” he added.
Paris is the location in which large part of Parker’s heart lies. He lived in the city for a period whilst in a relationship with Melody Prochet from Melody’s Echo Chamber, and Serge Gainsbourg’s Histoire de Melody Nelson transports him back to the French capital. “I was living in Paris last year while the new Tame Impala album was coming together, and I was listening to a lot of Serge Gainsbourg – which I know is a really cheesy thing for someone living in Paris to do,” Parker confessed.
“Anyway, I used to hire a bike and ride around a lot with headphones on, listening to the Melody Nelson album. One day I was going through a cemetery, looking for Jim Morrison’s grave [it turned out Parker was in the wrong cemetery], when suddenly I stumbled across Serge Gainsbourg’s grave. It was really unexpected and pretty weird because I had him on the headphones at that exact moment. I knew it was his grave because there were all these empty packets of cigarettes and liquor bottles left around in tribute.”
This eclectic mix of records from contrasting eras is a beautiful way of Parker looking back at how he has become the mercurial artist he is. The Australian’s music taste has continuously evolved and changed with age. Even if these records are not ones that he still regularly listens to, they still have a special place in his heart which will never erode.