Interview: Psychedelic Chameleons King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard on What Makes Them Unique


lyrics by sidonie bird of the heart

Australian psychedelic rock legends King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are known for their fast-paced work ethic, with the release of ‘Omnium Gatherum’ marking their 20th studio album – and the band’s first double album.

Meaning a collection of various people or things, Omnium Gatherum is a two-hour journey through tracks ranging from prog-rock jams to rubber-legged hip-hop to the abandonment of pure thrash-metal – capturing the variety of styles the band is capable of, as well as the varied recording methods they used throughout the album creation process.

Omnium really goes – the whole gamut – from all of us in one room to one person doing it all,” says King Gizz bassist Lucas Harwood. “It just depends on what’s going on at the time…we don’t put any pressure on each other, it’s like whoever is there, whoever wants to get involved to record songs. There’s no There aren’t really any rules, and that’s the best thing about Gizzard.

“The first track ‘The Dripping Tap’ was created when we were all in a room jamming together, I guess that’s something that happens less and less these days – well, especially these two last years with the confinements.”

Their last three outings before Omnium Gatherum – 2020s KG and 2021 L.W. and Butterfly 3000 – were all recorded under the constraints of Melbourne’s many lockdowns, with band members recording their parts separately onto a grid track. I asked if creating these albums in isolation changed Gizz’s perspective on the recording process.

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“We just learned a lot of new things – we just experimented with a lot of new instruments and tricks and became more familiar with this computer world. Now we’re slowly using modular synths on stage with sequencers and stuff. , which naturally seeps into everything we do.

“The three previous albums Omnium were largely all done in isolation, each of us working on our own individual parts and sending them back and sending. I guess this one was a combination of all these different writing styles – from all of us jamming in a room, to the Cookie song ‘Garden Goblin’ which was pretty much him. I think he liked it, all about it, and some of the other guys did some little overdubs.

Known for his endless experimentation across genres, King Gizzard’s sound has morphed and evolved with each album – from Butterfly 3000from new age pop trance to a barrage of heavy metal with Infest the rat’s nest.

“You can see a pattern of that throughout our albums – there will be a song on our albums that’s kind of an outlier and it’s kind of a seed, that idea that influences the concept of the next one.”

“Stu was working on some of these Omnium songs before Butterfly 3000 songs, so some of these sequencing and arpeggiators on songs like “Evilest Man” actually predated Butterfly and influenced those modular sounds that appeared Butterfly.

“It’s just the constant journey of trying to learn and do new things and pushing ourselves creatively…you can even pick up a shitty $20 Casio keyboard from an Op-Shop and it has sound random that’s just a lot more inspiring than a $2000 Nord organ. It just shifts something in your brain to do something different.

Currently in the United States, the band are in the midst of a massive world tour that will see them play shows across Europe, the United States and Mexico. “It was awesome, it’s so good to be on the road again. It’s so satisfying to come here and pick up the pace. »

“It’s been two and a half years since we’ve done this type of tour, playing four, five, six nights a week, and getting back into shape – becoming a tight band. You lose that pretty quickly if you don’t play often.

Playing a different set-list every night of their nearly year-long tour, one of the best parts of King Gizzard’s consistently high-energy shows is their constant variety.

“From that tour until now, we’ve played about 88 different songs. We’re trying to get to 100 by the end of the tour, which I think we’ll do, but I think that’s about the ceiling of what your brain capacity can hold, without practicing for hours a day. day. That’s what makes us unique, and what I think makes fans come to shows – and come to multiple shows – because it’s not the same every night.

Not only famous in their home country, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have a wild international reception, with die-hard fans scattered all over the world. “We are so, so lucky to have this. We’ve been touring internationally since 2014, we’ve done about three trips a year since 2014, with the exception of the pandemic for those two years,” he laughs. “We just didn’t stop.”

“Crowds [overseas] are just like, crazy. They’re like football fans, they do chants and stuff. The people in Mexico in particular are so, so lovely. So I appreciate if you try to speak some Spanish, which we are all terrible at, but try what we can. It’s really good to be back on the road and playing a lot of shows.

Recent dads frontman Stu Mackenzie and drummer Michael “Cavs” Cavanagh bought their kids on tour with them. “We’re all in our 30s now, we’ve all grown up, and it kind of feels like the natural progression,” Lucas says of the shifting dynamic of the tour. “We now register prams, buggies and cribs on top of guitars and car seats – but that’s all that’s changed, really. The partners have certainly come on the road for short stays, so this is no different. It’s just more people on the road – the more the better, it’s fun.

“I have three children, so it’s a little more difficult…I love having the children on the road, I’m a little jealous that mine aren’t there too.”

If you caught King Gizz at their marathon Back to the Curse of Timeland show earlier this year, you’re probably as impressed as I am that the band managed to sustain such energy in their live performance for three sweaty hours. “For the Cavs, the drummer is is really crazy training – I’m a little jealous of him for that. For us though, I don’t think it’s really a physical workout, because we don’t go crazy like him, but you really have to pump yourself up mentally.

“It really feels like this huge, arduous task, like Shit we’re going to play for three hours – but yeah, you enter that area probably about an hour later, and you feel like you could play for six hours. It would probably be a bit similar to what athletes go through – just getting into that mental zone and not really thinking about mental or physical exhaustion anymore. You’re at that stage where you’re feeding off the crowd and you’ve got all that adrenaline and it gets you through.

The show saw the release of their album timeland, a 30-minute electronic EP, where each member of the group created extracts at 120 bpm, which will then be assembled by Stu Mackenzie. “We actually made this album in 2019 – which was always intended for the Red Rocks 2020 shows which are now scheduled for later this year. We always wanted to release it with a live show – to use as music interstitial.

This isn’t their first foray into a more electronic sound, with electronic elements creeping into albums like murder of the universe and Fishing for fish. “We’re not big gear buffs, we don’t have all the expensive stuff, but just gear like a synth can really inspire you. With ‘Cyboogie’ we had just bought this new, well – not new, this old Roland Juno Synth, which we use quite a bit. The sound of it – the arpeggiator, inspired by ‘Cyboogie’. Just another opportunity to push us in different directions.

“With Butterfly it was a new synthesizer that Stu got that inspired all those songs – it’s just a random sequencer, in that it randomly orders the notes you play on the Moog Grandmother. He just made the song based on all those little bits.

Omnium Gatherum is now available through KGLW. Check out their website under here.

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