Published on May 9th, 2016 | by Judie Vegh2
Interview with King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard
Since the band’s inception in 2010, the Australian psych-rock septet have not ceased creating music or experimenting with sounds. Looking back on their discography, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard have released a record every year; each having its own unique sound and theme. The band always looks to exploring and developing new music, and continue to challenge themselves. 2015’s Quarters! was made up of 4 songs, but each was timed perfectly at 10 minutes and 10 seconds each. However, in the same year, they released Paper Mâché Dream Balloon, a folk-driven record that was saturated with downtempo, acoustic rhythms and jazz flute solos.
Now in 2016, their eighth album, Nonagon Infinity, is in stark contrast. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizards have invoked the four horsemen of the apocalypse to deliver Nonagon Infinity, the first infinitely looping album, meaning the end of the last song connect to the beginning of the first song. With nine songs, the heavy guitar riffs will melt your face, make your ears ring, and the lyrics will rocket you into another world entirely – only to do it all over again when the album loops.
I got to speak with lead singer, Stu Mackenzie, while he and the band were travelling through the mountains to their next show in Asheville, North Carolina. We chatted about the music making process behind the band’s numerous albums, including their most recent, Nonagon Infinity, as well as their first visit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. They’ll be playing a show there today, May 9 at 8:00 p.m. as part of the museum’s Sonic Sessions series sponsored by Magic Hat Brewing Company.
Judie: You’ve been releasing an album a year essentially since 2010. How taxing is that on you and your creativity? Do some of the songs you write just carry over from previous projects? How do you keep from burning out?
Stu: I think it’s completely integrating to creativity. I think if we hadn’t have worked at that pace, we wouldn’t be working on what we are now. We haven’t been crafting these years-long pop/commercial records, though I understand how it can take such a long time to make a record like that. We love recording and being creative and making new music. It’s always been a big recording project with the band.
Judie: How do you collaborate with the rest of the band to incorporate their creative input?
Stu: It’s been different for every record. I guess every record had a bit of a theme and how it was written. Thinking back on the last few, when Quarters! was made, there were only 4 songs and it was very improvised. The initial idea was that it would loop. It was very free to interpret those in anyway you felt fit. The record was constructed out of these improvised sort of pieces.
Paper Mâché Dream Balloon was more a singer/songwriter style. Joe wrote 2 songs, Cook wrote 1 song, Ambrose and I wrote a song together. For each of those songs, it kind of belonged to that person and it was shaped by them. It wasn’t everyone playing on every song on that record. It was done in stages where people played different kind of instruments, or swapped instruments. Then on Nonagon Infinity, that was a more traditional record in the way that I was bringing rough ideas to the table and then they got flushed out. They were all quite different to each other.
Judie: What prompted the decision to make Nonagon Infinity an infinite loop album?
Stu: Originally the concept was to make a record which flowed sort of like one piece and was like non-interwoven parts that made more sense as a whole. There were recurring motifs and musical parts that sort of blur the lines of the traditional song structure of a record. I think seeing the writing process, we thought we should loop it back up. It made more sense as a loop than as a start and an end point. Linking the final song to the first was no harder than making the other songs.
Judie: Nonagon Infinity… Is there significance behind the number 9?
Stu: No [laughing]. It had 9 songs, it doesn’t deviate from there. 9 parts, 9 chapters, whatever. That’s the significance. It’s a world you can enter.
Judie Is there a resounding theme behind Nonagon Infinity?
Stu: We were exploring a bunch of different ideas we hadn’t taken on before On a musical level, We wanted to explore unusual and shifting time signatures throughout the record, but also make sure it was rhythmically straight that something you could bob along to and sing along to. Something that made sense. We wanted to make music we hadn’t done on the couple past records. We had a bunch of musical concepts tied in there. Lyrically, it’s supposed to be fantasy. A world you’re thrown into which links up to reality but doesn’t necessarily. The idea of looping and being stuck in this warped science fiction dark fantasy world is alluring to me. That’s the direction that it took.
Stu: I can’t take any credit for the video. That was mostly created by Jason Galea and Danny Cohen. Jason is someone we’ve worked with throughout the band’s whole history. He made all of our album art, poster art. He’s the visual element of the band. That video was them. They drew from the record and interpreted it in their own way. They created their own narrative out of it.
Judie: You’re learning a new instrument every year for the rest of your life. What are you learning now?
Stu: I’ve been getting into a few things at the moment. I’ve been trying to learn microtonal instruments/music. I’m learning a Turkish instrument called a zurna right now. I also got a friend to modify a few guitars for us so we can play some extra notes on the fretboard. I would call them “secret notes” but that’s probably musically incorrect.
Judie: You’re touring A LOT. How do you drum up energy every night to match the intensity of your music?
Stu: The thing is, with touring, it’s really boring all day. You just sit in the car. By the time the show comes around, you’re really excited to play. If you can find a way to sleep enough too, that helps.
Judie: Do you get homesick?
Stu: Yeah. A little bit. I think we all kind of do. Dealing with it… I just try to continue to be a normal human being.
Judie: Have you ever been to the Rock Hall? What are you most interested in seeing?
Stu: I’ve never been there before. I’m excited for it. I am not sure specifically what I want to see, but I’m really looking forward to it.
Judie: In five words or less, describe what the show is going to be like Monday night at the Rock Hall.
Stu: Fun, funny, exciting, confusing, um… cool.