Interview Tame for Heroes: Mark Ronson on the legacy of Tame Impala’s ‘Innerspeaker’

To mark the 10th anniversary reissue, friend and long-term fan Mark Ronson waxes lyrical on the enduring appeal of the record that first introduced us to Kevin Parker and his box of sonic tricks.

I first heard of Tame Impala when I was working with an Australian musician and he told me to check them out. I felt like he was saying it sort of dismissively like, “Oh you’re into some things that sound old, right?”, but I was just blown away from the first EP. Then ‘InnerSpeaker’ came out and every song on there is kind of a classic to me.

Kevin’s switched up his style so many times that he kind of influences a whole lane of music each time he puts a record out. His influence is everywhere; I’m sure he’s influenced me in some ways. He made it cool again to make breakbeat-y psych records, and then on ‘Currents’, he brings this heavy synth sound and these dusted, smokey vocals. And then you get people like Travis Scott and people on the forefront of hip hop who are fans of his stuff, and somehow that intersects and becomes really exciting as well.

Wanting to work with him was this instinctual thing I have. There are people I think are great, but I might not think that it’s a marriage made in heaven, but with Kevin I heard the first record, we went on tour together in Australia and we just got on. We were into each other’s shit, and from then on the seeds were sown.

“Kevin Parker’s influence is everywhere; I’m sure he’s influenced me in some ways.”

Before I wrote ‘Uptown Funk’, I remember seeing him on tour in London and hanging out at some party. We were just sitting there and he was like, “You know what we should do if we ever do a record? We should put it down for the funk because funk’s become this bad word and we could do something cool”. So I’m not saying there was a direct correlation between that conversation and ‘Uptown Funk’ but [maybe]. He came out to Memphis twice while I was making that album, and you can’t even get a direct flight from Los Angeles to Memphis so obviously coming from Perth is no joke - it’s probably six flights. He must have spent three days in the air just to spend three days in the studio with us, but his contribution to that record - ‘Daffodils’ and the other tunes - make the album what it is.

‘InnerSpeaker’ is a classic because it hasn’t dated. It still sounds incredible; the intro to each song still makes my pulse race. It’s cohesive, it has incredible bass lines, drums, vocals - it’s conceptually mysterious, but the groove and the feel rhythmically is so direct. And it has the luck of the fact that every album he’s made since then has got better and better, building on it. So you listen back to that album and you hear, as much as the sound has evolved, the seeds of all the things you might love [from later] all there. It’s great because sometimes you have a band where you love the first album and everything they make after that is kind of disappointing so it’s hard to still ride with that first record, but in this case the first album’s a 10 and yet he still managed to get better after that.

‘InnerSpeaker: 10th Anniversary Reissue’ is out 26th March via Fiction.

Tags: Mark Ronson, Tame Impala, From The Magazine, Features, Interviews

As featured in the March 2021 issue of DIY, out now.

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