I’m sitting in a cosy North Melbourne bar, nursing a few pints with King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard vocalist-guitarist-flutist Stu Mackenzie and guitarist Joe Walker, an hour away from this year’s AIR Independent Music Awards – last year’s ceremony saw the Gizz boys pick up a tidy $50,000 grant. We’re here to talk about I’m In Your Mind Fuzz, the fifth full-length LP released with dizzying proliferation. It’s the band’s final week in Australia for some time, with an extensive return to the US for the second time in 2014 looming on the weekend, backed up by a European expedition that will see out the majority of the remaining year.
Continuing their jack-knifing stylistic resolve, I’m In Your Mind Fuzz doesn’t sound like any other King Gizz album; its experimental elements more subtle than previous conceptual pursuits. “There are quite a few experiments in there,” Stu explains. “The first few tracks are based on the one thing, a sort of song cycle. That was an experiment putting that together, they were all recorded separately and pieced together. We experimented a lot with production more than anything,” he reasons.
“A lot of producers would say it’s the worst possible way to go about recording an album, traditionally,” Joe adds. “But this works with the aesthetic, you can hear all the weird out of phase, the clicks.”
“Specifically by themselves, it was unintentional. But we wanted to make it sound mashed up. I wanted to make this record sound like a band, more than anything we’ve done before. It’s hard to make it sound like that when you’re not listening to it loud. I think you need those random, loose elements,” says Stu. “Throughout the record, there are a lot of repetitive motifs. The same riff will come in on five of the songs, contextualised with a different timing or different key; reimaging these ideas.”
“It’s the most holistic thing we’ve done. Oddments, hence the name, was more of an idea and aesthetic. Float Along was ten songs, and that was the album. This is the longest we’ve worked on an album. We worked on our set, and then toured America with it. It’s sweet, we’re very happy with it,” Joe states.
With grant money in tow, King Gizzard set off for the US of A, not letting their geographical shift impede their prolific workflow. “We did half of the album before we left,” Stu says. “The songs weren’t finished. We did the rough outlines of half of them, and most of the other songs were vaguely written before we left. We did one half at the studio we always work at in Fairfield, then the other half at Daptone in Brooklyn.”
At a recent run of hometown shows, Stu brandished his newfound skills on the flute – an instrument that features throughout I’m In Your Mind Fuzz. “I made a pact with myself that I’d try and learn a new instrument every year till I’m dead,” Stu deadpans. “I learned flute for a while, and it kind of crept its way onto the album. When we were living in America, I was practising it every day. That was the thing I had to do every day to fulfil my pact and maintain my sanity. Then it just filtered its way onto pretty much every song on the album.”
History dictates that we shouldn’t be waiting too long for the next King Gizz offering. “Every time a record comes around, we’ve been talking about the record for six months. So when the time comes to put together songs, you know exactly what they’re going to sound like,” says Stu. “When we’re in America this time around we’re going to do some more recording. One of the songs is already done. It’ll be different again. I don’t want to give away anything, because we’ll probably change our minds 300 times before it comes out.”
With momentum still barrelling ahead for the mighty Gizz, Stu is pragmatic when it comes to long term ambition. “Personally, I just sometimes feel like I was more normal. Just to have a normal life. I’m a simple kind of guy. I want to do basic things with my life, as well as creative things with music. I feel that decision in every classic rock autobiography where they have to choose between two things in their life,” Stu says.
Throughout their rise and their current overseas traction, King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard are a band that operates on their own terms. “I think from really early on, we always wanted to be independent,” Joey says. “Then as time went along, we had these opportunities with labels, and we’ve decided to stick to our guns. Eric [Moore], our manager/drummer, has started his label, then we signed with Remote Control, and that’s been all on our own terms. Musicians can be doing really well, but they might not have the creative control that we have. There’s no external force or pressure other than within the band, and that’s purely musical. And that’s kind of great.”