Interview: King Gizzard talks touring, bandmates, new record and more

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By Zev Citron, Senior Editor. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, or simply King Gizzard if you’re in a rush to be somewhere, are a seven-piece rock band from Melbourne, Australia and are currently considered to be one of the most prolific bands coming from Down Under. It’s somewhat difficult to classify them to a specific genre since almost every album tackles a different one. 2015’s Quarters! was a psychedelic jazz piece with four songs each recorded at 10 minutes and 10 seconds, while Paper Mâché Dream Balloon from late last year was an entirely acoustic folk rock album. On their newest and eighth LP, Nonagon Infinity, King Gizzard takes you on a 42-minute non-stop adrenaline-fueled thrill ride at 100mph that loops back to the beginning making an infinitely long musical experience. I had the pleasure of speaking with lead songwriter, singer, and guitarist, Stu Mackenzie before their raging set at the Velvet Underground on May 10th in Toronto to talk about the new record, their upcoming album video, and to play a little game of F**k, Marry, Kill.

Firstly, congratulations on your new LP! How’s the tour going so far?

S: It’s going pretty good. We’re getting used to being on the road and going to places we’ve never been to before.

Last night you performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. How was that?

S: It was cool to wonder around and check out some cool stuff. It wasn’t the typical show since most shows are in a smallish kind of bar setting. Instead we were in this museum with really high ceilings so it was definitely a lot of fun.

There are seven members in King Gizzard, which is quite a lot of people. You don’t see too many seven piece rock bands touring around the world. Is it difficult to get everyone together to rehearse?

S: Yeah, definitely. It’s tricky sometimes. I feel like as everyone gets older and has more things happening in their individual worlds, it gets even harder. But we always find a way to make it work. There are also some guys in the band that are part of other bands so I’m not even sure how it comes together but it manages to work itself somehow.

What are the pros and cons of having two drummers in your band?

S: It wasn’t really a planned thing. The early days of the band was very improvised and the lineup was revolving with people coming in and out. The seven we have now are the seven that stuck around so it wasn’t a lineup of instrumentation that we deliberately came up with so we were left with this awkward two drummers situation. Eric (Moore) used to play theremin and keyboard and a bunch of other percussion instruments which was why there was a quite a bit of theremin on some of the early records. At some point along the lines, we told him that he’s not a theremin player but a drummer so we got him on the kit. It was originally a way for us to jam and try something different but it sort of stuck. Mainly the biggest pro is that it makes everything feel real loud.

What is Nonagon Infinity?king gizzard live show photo zev

S: Well it’s pretty straightforward. It’s nine different parts that revolve back to the start in a sort of circle type shape.

What kind of concepts and themes did you want to explore with this record?

S: Thematically, there are a lot of musical themes. We wanted to experiment with different time signatures and shifting rhythms more than we ever had before. We also wanted to musically link all of the tracks and chuck different parts into different songs sort of like a film soundtrack where there’s are motifs and melodic refrains that remind you of different parts of the film. But lyrically, it’s not autobiographical. It’s more of a fantasy. Its some kind of surreal world which is half real about us and half about a kind of “nonagon infinity.”

You recently released the music video for the “People Vultures” single. There are a lot of cultish vibes in the video and you actually announced that you are making a short film for the entire album. How does this music video tie in to the overall film?

S: Firstly, I cannot take credit for this sort of thing. We have a guy called Jason Galea who has designed all of our album covers and most of our videos. He collaborated with another guy from Melbourne named Danny Cohen for the video along with the “Gamma Knife” video. Jason has this vision of everything. He’s the first person we show what I’m working on and has a visual concept to link with all the music. We talk about how everything should look like but at the end of the day he is the visual element of the band. With this project, we thought early on that we should make a film where the film is also an infinite loop like the album. Jason constructed a narrative out of the songs and extrapolated from the lyrics. So it’s not something that we dreamed up; it’s an extra veil of fantasy.

You started recording the album after your 2014 album, I’m in Your Mind Fuzz and you’ve recorded two other records since then where you explored different genres. Why did you sit on this album for so long?

S: For starters, this record was more challenging at a musical and rehearsing level. The songs were hard to play and weren’t the kind of songs that we can work in overdubs or anything like that. We wanted to make them feel live and get that energy with everyone in a room together. It took an unexpectedly long amount of time to put it together properly. We wrote a lot of it after Mind Fuzz but we canned a lot of ideas. There were songs we recorded that were in-between songs but we wanted all of them to link and it didn’t sound right. So it took a really long time build this bridge of songs with having to reconstruct it over and over again and fill these gaps. Also, I wanted to play these songs live. Our last two records had songs that were really hard to play live so I put a lot of focus on making it work live so we could take it on more tours and letting it sort of brew until it was ready. These songs are definitely my favourite to play live and have them evolve over time.

Did you do any notable covers earlier on?

We covered more Stooges songs than anything. I can recall doing “TVI”, “Wanna Be a Dog”, and “Shake Appeal.”

It’s great that you mentioned the Stooges because that brings me into my next question. What was it like to have Iggy Pop play your music on his BBC Radio show?

S: It was extremely unexpected and ridiculously cool!

What do you guys like to do for fun while on the road?

We’re pretty fortunate that we get along really well. Aside from being in a band, we’re also all best mates as well which helps. It’s pretty weird passing the time. Touring has been shows every night and drives everyday so there isn’t much downtime. The only downtime we get is sitting still in a bus. I like working on other people’s music and mixing it. We also have some good chats!

Acclaimed cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky has praised your “People Vultures” video and I’m sure he was a big influence for your director.  Do you have any influences that heavily get into your writing and recording process?

It’s always hard to pinpoint influences. With Nonagon Infinity, the thing I was listening to the most which made its way into the record was Hawkwind. I guess the classic era of Hawkwind if there was one, so like Space Ritual, Do-Re-Mi, and Halls of the Mountain Grill. I was just listening to heaves of Hawkwind at the time. If there is one point of reference it would be them.

Your band has released 3 LPs in the last 18 months. What can we expect next from King Gizzard?

N.I. was super challenging, mentally draining, fatiguing, and simply frustrating at some points, so we agreed to relax and take a step back after this one. We started working on some newer stuff but this record will probably be the only one we release this year. We’ve done a bunch of recording at our little studio back home but it’s in its very early days.

Well, those are all my questions! However, I would like to play a little game of F**k, Marry, Kill with you if that’s cool.

S: (Nervous) Alright.

I have three scenarios for you. First: Aragorn, Legolas, and Gandalf.

S: I like this one! I would marry Aragorn, kill Legolas and f**k Gandalf.

Amazing. No need to explore your reasoning! Next, since you guys are Australian: Chris Hemsworth, Hugh Jackman, and Nicole Kidman. I threw in a woman to make it a bit easier.

S: I would kill Chris Hemsworth. I’m pretty certain about that one. I think I would marry Nicole Kidman and f**k Hugh Jackman.

I have you on record for that!

S: (Laughs)

Finally, since you’ve toured with these guys before: Jay Watson (Tame Impala, GUM, Pond), Mac DeMarco, and Kevin Parker (Tame Impala)

S: Oh f**k. I’d kill Mac DeMarco, I’d f**k Kevin Parker and I’d marry Jay.

Thats probably the best case scenario.

S: (Laughs)

Well, thanks for your time and have an awesome show tonight!

S: Cheers, mate!

As for the show, it was one for the books. The Velvet Underground transformed into a sweaty cathedral to honour and celebrate the rock gods that are King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. They ripped through tracks off their new record along with older crowd favourites like the epic 16 minute “Head On/Pill” which concluded their set. Photographers were being pushed around in every direction while trying to snap some photos of the band in their element. People came straight from work dressed in their finest suits to ensure they didn’t a miss a beat of the show. If you didn’t catch them this time or are completely unaware of this band’s existence, be sure to listen to Nonagon Infinity.

Fave tracks: Robot Stop, Big Fig Wasp, Gamma Knife, Evil Death Roll.

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