Singer and multi-instrumentalist Stu Mackenzie of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard was the guest on Full Metal Jackie’s weekend radio show, dropping by for a chat about the prolific band’s latest album, The Silver Cord.
Jackie spoke the multi-instrumentalist about the experimental band’s latest foray in electronic music with The Silver Cord and why the band decided to record two different versions of the album. The musician also delved into the influence that electronic music has had on them and helped to pinpoint where the sound for their latest record came from.
In addition, Mackenzie spoke about the band’s decision to use their platform to support things that they believe in. And the singer also reveals a little bit of what their 2024 plans look like. Check out more of the chat below.
On the show with us this week really excited to say we’ve got King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s Stu Mackenzie. So, happy to have you on the show for the very first time. I’m a huge fan and the band is once again keeping us on our toes with the electronic heavy new record The Silver Chord. Stu, coming off the more thrash metal PetroDragonic Apocalypse album, why was now the right time to go all in on an electronic music album?
Yeah, we’ve been talking about doing this kind of thing for a couple of years. We’ve made a few records that have been pretty electronic heavy, but I think it was a challenge that we wanted to do eventually was to see how far we could take it and then put the guitars down and the drum kits down and stuff and all these things that we love playing and always will but feel comfy and to kind of get out of that comfort zone and to just get freaky and kind of see what we could do.
Stu you’ve done something pretty awesome here in my opinion. Putting out two versions of The Silver Cord album – one which narrows the song to radio single versions, while the other offers all sorts of improvisations with each epic track. Why the decision to put the record out this way? And do you personally have a preference on which style you prefer? Are there any songs where you prefer the shorter versions to the epic jams?
I mean, we’ve done a lot of long form songs lately, and a lot of epic songs and done a lot of recording kind of based around improvisation lately for last few years and that’s been really sick. But anyway, when we were talking about making this record, the idea was always to actually keep it really short and considered and concise and trim the fat and we have made records like that before but not for quite a while. So, that was kind of enticing.
But as we started making it, it was pretty. The jams are just fun and kind of once we got in the zone with the new setup and the sound and everything we were just recording these like super long epic passages of improv and some kind of like real special moments that it was starting to feel bad to cut a lot of that stuff. I think the idea was thrown around very early kind of in the recording stages to just do both two versions.
So, it was kind of something that we thought about what we were recording a lot and it was liberating honestly in the end because it kind of let the song sort of go two places at once which is cool. So, yeah, it was fun to make it like that.
You guys have shown a knack for trying out different styles over the years and Stu admittedly, you’ve said you play the synth more like a guitar and are still leaning into it, though not fully versed. Having done this, do you have the bug? Would you like to incorporate more synths in the band’s music moving forward? And do you see this as something you want to refine more and possibly revisit again, when you feel more experienced at the instrument?
Yeah, I suppose a little of all those things. When it comes to writing songs and where the next few records and what we do next, it is truly pretty hard to say, I feel like we’ve got maybe a couple of years of foresight of what we’re interested in doing. The next record we’re kind of working on is guitar heavy again and so I don’t know. I think you sort of just got to be open to the universe. I think that’s my philosophy with it anyway, and whatever will be will be. We’ve been doing a lot of more electronic leaning stuff in the live sets lately. But you know, more or less we’re still kind of a band centered around guitars and that sort of thing. So, yeah, we’ll see. I think we just need to get out there and play and just be open to it.
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, “Theia / The Silver Chord / Set”
I’m loving the cover art. It calls to mind something like a ’70s or early ’80s Devo or Kraftwerk cover. Knowing this was the direction you were taking, how much did you immerse yourself in the history of electronic music and any influences on this record? Are there any current electronic artists you’d like to shout out for the work that they’ve done?
When we have made records that are sort of further away from what I would consider how our live shows sort of sound, we’ve always gone to a place where there was some familiarity. We have done a couple of pretty heavy records and they’ve always kind of been, for instance, have kind of always been around thrash metal. A lot of us grew up with that sound, and it didn’t feel like a stretch. It didn’t feel like we had to get the history books out and get our heads around it. That music’s kind of like in our DNA, and whether we’d actually kind of gone to that energy before we just had that feeling and kind of like just needed to tap into it.
I think the same goes for The Silver Cord. I don’t know. Dance music’s inescapable, for starters. You’ll love life and go into parties and go into raves and going out and stuff as a young person and that sort of thing. I think for me personally, it’s probably music that I ingested when I was young. So, I’m talking late 90s, kind of like early mid 2000s electronic music, because I’m born in 1990. That’s like what my brain consumed and that sort of thing and then on a probably more personal style kind of tip I am and have been very obsessed with a lot of kind of ’70s, especially German, kind of like early electronic artists.
You mentioned Kraftwerk and Devo, that type of thing definitely has influenced Gizz a lot over the years and I think found its way into the sound of this record. I think it was still trying to do an old fashioned thing. I mean, we recorded everything to type in and did a lot of non-sort of modern type of things to which, we’re just kind of audio nerds so that stuff’s fun.
While much is being made about it being the band’s first all in electronic music record and synths are a big part of that, this actually started out of a drum sound, correct? Can you talk about the process of getting aware that this is the direction you were going for the new album?
Yeah, I mean, yes and no and yes, and no. We’ve had since the backbone of songs since right near the start of the band and we have made records which have been built around synths too, obvious ones being Butterfly 3000 and Made in Timeland where there’s definitely a lot more synth in there then there are guitars on those records, but we’ve never done anything that was like what we would consider all in.
Butterfly 3000, for instance, still has acoustic guitars on it. It still has a regular drum kit, a quote unquote, regular drum kit, and acoustic drum kit, let’s call it and you know, organic sounds, and we were kind of leaning on those textures too and that sort of thing.
So, like I said, we were talking about doing something like this for literally for years. But yeah, it was a spark when Cavs [Michael Cavanagh] bought the Simmons kit, which I want to say is early 80s. I might be wrong about that, but I think it’s early’ 80s and it’s sort of like hexagonal drumheads. It’s very cool, very stylish and has this sort of like synthesizer brain that you plug the pads into and it’s kind of like early tech, electronic drum kit, like early versions and that sort of thing. I know a huge amount of parameters and all the sounds are kind of like based off you sort of got to find your sweet spot, but as soon as Cavs got plugged in and set it and hooked up to the speakers and we started messing around with it, it was just like, damn this thing is sick. This is gonna be the background of the record. We got to commit to this.
Though we definitely did commit to the Dinky sounds and there’s no sort of sequence drums on the record, there’s a drum machine that kind of comes in and out but it’s really not really not doing a lot like Cavs is holding down the drums, he’s playing the drums with sticks still and then the kit kind of allowed him to play like a drummer rather than a machine I suppose, which I think we were interested in doing, in a way to kind of like put like stamp on to our version of sort of like electronic music and figure out how we can still play as a band and record six of us in a room altogether. Just everything plugged in, hit the big red button start, record, go to the end so the Simmons kit was allowed us to kind of play like a band but very sick.
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Stu, checking out the band socials, the group recently voiced their support of adding an indigenous voice to Parliament in Australia. As stated in the message, there seems to be some misinformation on this matter. So, why was it important for the group to get involved to lend their support and provide some clarity?
Oh, I mean, we as six white dudes from Australia, we just want to be an ally, and stand up for what’s right. I feel as though we’ve tried to do that as much as we can, as a band in a very privileged position. So, yeah, that’s something we try and do as much as we possibly can.
While also on the political side, earlier this summer, the group took part in the time honored rock tradition of dressing in drag during a stop in Tennessee, where drag bans have been on the table by the state. How much fun was picking out your dresses and is it going to be a yearly tradition?
Yeah, you know what? It’s funny. You mentioned that today, because we were actually talking about that show just today. We have a show booked on the same day and we’ll talk about that show and it kind of became apparent that it was the same day and we just thought this should be traditional and this feels good. This feels like celebrations feel, really positive and that’s how it felt in Tennessee.
There was so much kind of talk leading up to the show about oh, you’re gonna piss people off. People are gonna be like, ‘This is Tennessee.’ A lot of conservative people there. But you know, I just think people should just be able to be free and express themselves and it was really not very much of a calculated decision. It was just like, oh, you know, if we can just even do the tiniest bit of helping people to just feel comfortable expressing who they are and we’re able to donate a bunch of money to a trans rights charity, U.S. baseball and I don’t know, for us just feels good to do the right thing and it will continue that sort of stuff as much as we can.
And with a band as prolific as King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, what’s on the horizon, early 2024?
We have a lot of shows. We like to separate U.S. tour to Europe to some South American dates, it’s stacks of dates, it’s going to keep us busy all year, which is right, and we’ll keep recording where we can, fill in the gaps, make music, write songs to what we do, basically, pretty much. Three of the six of us expecting little ones in the next couple of months, which is exciting and yeah, just kind of music and life and just keeping the train on the tracks.
Stu, thank you so much for taking the time and good luck on this new record cycle and all the things that you have in the works. Thanks for your time.
Thanks, Jackie. Appreciate it.
Our thanks to King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s Stu Mackenzie for the interview. The band’s latest album, The Silver Cord, is available in streaming and physical formats. You can look for the band returning to the concert stage in March with dates booked through to November. Stay up to date through their website, Facebook, X, Instagram, YouTube and Spotify accounts. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend radio show here.
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Gallery Credit: Chad Childers, Loudwire