Now Dig This: Chatting with Tess Parks about I Declare Nothing
I Declare Nothing Is the heavy transcendent album of the year. This album combines the brilliant composition of Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Anton Newcombe and Tess Parks’ definitive whiskey soaked vocals, something like a lethal combination of Patti Smith and Lydia Lunch. So, to get the ins and outs of these solid ten tracks, and more, Heatwave sat down and chatted with Tess Parks.
So sit back, pour a glass of wine and dig this.
Heatwave: I checked out I Declare Nothing, and I really dig it. What sparked the collaboration between you and Anton Newcombe?
Tess Parks: I messaged Anton on Twitter and said I was coming to Berlin in February 2014, and he suggested we do some songs together while I was there!
Heatwave: I read in the interview, “The Voice Comes Out Of Me”, in Stereo Embers Magazine, that Alan McGee was excited to record your first album Blood Hot. How did that come about and what’s it like working with McGee?
Tess Parks: Alan McGee is a rock and roll legend. I met him at 12 Bar (may it rest in peace) on Denmark Street, on the set of ‘Svengali’. I just went up to him in between takes and handed him a CD of my demos, back in April 2012. It was a really special, chance meeting. He wasn’t doing a label anymore or managing bands at the time, so it was really just a case of meeting one of my heroes and thinking nothing would come out of it. But, he started 359 Music a year later and I became one of the six signings. He’s a real genius, he’s the coolest.
Heatwave: What do you find influences your songwriting? For example what’s the story behind “Mama”?
Tess Parks: It really depends, it could be a painting or something that someone says, someone I know very well or not at all, something I see on the train, a news story, something that happens to me personally, whether it’s good or bad… Everything is inspiration if you let it be, but you have to pay attention to everything and be open to everything, I think. I can’t really talk about “Mama”. It’s an ode to happiness, if anything.
Heatwave: I read in an interview, published in Stereo Embers Magazine, that track “Cocaine Cat” was written when you were 17. What’s the story behind that number?
Tess Parks: I wrote “Cocaine Cat” on a trip to London in 2008. I had just arrived and was sitting by the window in a hotel. It was 6am and I couldn’t sleep. It was written in about two minutes.
When you’re 17, you’re excited by everything. I was excited to be in London. I try to let the songs speak for themselves though. I don’t want to give everything too much definition. I want the songs to mean whatever they end up meaning to people, if they mean anything to people at all.
Heatwave: Also for lasting curiosity sake what’s going on behind “Peace Defrost”?
Tess Parks: “Peace Defrost” was the first song we recorded during our second session of recording, in September 2014. I could hear the music coming from inside as I approached the studio… Anton had basically just finished the instrumentation on the song and asked me if I had any words for it. I just bunched a few different lines from different poems/songs I had in my notebook and we recorded the vocals.
Heatwave: What has the general reaction been to I Declare Nothing?
Tess Parks: I’m trying not to pay attention to reviews… I’m so proud of this record. I’m so happy to have worked with Anton and I feel so good about the record. I think it will appreciate over time. Anton says it will “find its ears”. I agree with this.
Heatwave: You’ve been described as quite the fan of Brian Jones Town Massacre. After collaborating with Anton Newcombe and producing this brilliant record, I was wondering if there are any other artists you’d like to work with?
Tess Parks: I’m always looking to collaborate with people… Honestly, no one in particular. I’ll see what comes my way. I’ve done songs with the Auras, Velvet Morning, Bad Bad Not Good, River Tiber, Lost Dawn… I’d love to write songs for people too.
Heatwave: I glanced at your Twitter and saw you’re re-releasing Blood Hot on vinyl, through Optic Nerve Recordings on October 23rd. Do you find that releasing material on vinyl is still an important medium?
Tess Parks: Yeah, definitely. People who love music buy music, and I think having the physical product in your hand makes it sound better, almost? Listening to music on Spotify or downloading it from iTunes or YouTube just isn’t as good, you know?
Heatwave: You’ve also just completed a UK tour in July, how was it?
Tess Parks: It was amazing. I had been looking forward to it for a while, and it happened really fast… I just want to tour forever.
Heatwave: What can fans look forward to hearing from you next? Is there another album in the works?
Tess Parks: I’ve got another album’s worth of material that I recorded with my friend Anthony, but those songs are very different. Definitely want to get those out into the world at some point. Anton and I have some other really great unreleased songs that we’re excited about… Definitely talking about doing another full record.