Even in the year 2022, when every possible combination of genre, format and concept has been done, exhausted, reinvented and exhausted again, there’s no band quite like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. That’s impressive enough on its own, but even more so is the fact that on their 20th album in ten years, the Melbourne-native trip-rockers are still finding new ways to re-invent even themselves.
So far this year, they’ve dropped two full-length efforts: the long-teased (and vinyl-exclusive) Made In Timeland, consisting of two 15-minute acid house jams; and Omnium Gatherum, a two-disc, 80-minute journey through all the peaks and valleys – then up into the skies, then deep underground – of King Gizzard’s kaleidoscopic artistry. Beginning with their most expansive song to date – the 18-minute ‘Dripping Tap’ – the record explores everything from synthpop, hip-hop, prog and metal to psych-rock, jazz, funk and folk. It is indeed so colourful and eclectic that in this inexplicable, paradoxical kind of way, it is perfectly cohesive and instantly approachable.
In a rare spot of downtime in-between tour dates and sessions for their 23rd album – the next two have been done and dusted for weeks – Australian Guitar caught up with King Gizzard’s guitarist, vocalist, bassist, keyboardist, pianist, setarist and percussionist, Joey Walker.
How does a song like ‘The Dripping Tap’ come to life? Is it a very meticulous thing, where you’re just continuously adding to that structure, or is it more like a jam session that just got way out of hand?
That song is the complete product of a jam, where every single element in there was improvised. We went into the studio for a day, and Ambrose [Kenny-Smith] had that soul-y kind of melody section, so we were like “Alright, let’s play that, and just jam through it for as long as it feels right.” And then we did that about five times, and we ended up with about six hours of music. And then Stu [Mackenzie] distilled it all down into the best parts from the whole session, and then wrote the words and other melodies over it.
With all the various projects you’ve got kicking around at any one time, and the massive dissonance in sound from one of them to the next, I’m curious: do you all have the same level of input on every project?
It does differ, but at no point will there ever be a project where there’s any deliberate exclusion, or anything like that, Anyone can be as involved as they want to be, or feel like they need to be. Sometimes there are certain albums that might not gel with some of the members; Infest The Rats’ Nest, for example – one of the more metal-y, thrashy ones – that was literally just me, Stu and [Michael Cavanagh], because we kind of identified with that music a bit more. It’s a part of our DNA – we grew up listening to it and playing it, and we learned how to play music with that style.
But then with Omnium, Ambrose had more input than he’s ever had in King Gizzard, just because of the nature of the songs, they were kind of more suited to him. It’s such a good model that we’ve just kind of fallen into, in terms of how we operate. It keeps things feeling really fresh, y’know? Like with how Butterfly 3000 was a lot more like electro-centric – some of the guys don’t really f*** with that style of music, or have an understanding of how to make it. But to be involved, you kind of have to immerse yourself in it and learn about it. We all try to prioritise growing as musicians, and as a band, with every project we do.
You don’t worry about ever hitting a creative wall or reaching burnout?
Not yet [laughs]. It’s never a chore for us, and it never has been chore for us, to make the amount of music we have. It’s always been more like a necessity, because it’s like, that’s all we do. It’s kind of a compulsion, y’know? The moment that it doesn’t come easy, that’ll be the moment where we don’t do it anymore. But I think the obvious difference [between King Gizzard and other bands] is the template we have for how albums are made. The “traditional” album cycle concept, that doesn’t really apply to Gizzard, and we don’t apply it to ourselves. We just like try to keep as stimulated as we can, and we just like to keep changing stuff up.
What’s your go-to guitar at the moment?
I love my Flying V. It’s like a 2002, half-moon inlay, cherry red Flying V, which Stu bought for me when he was in New York just before the pandemic. It’s just the best guitar I’ve ever played. We use that for the heavier songs, so it’s tuned a step and a half down.
What is it about the Flying V that makes it so great for those tunes?
I don’t know – I’ve played guitar my whole life, but I’m not like a guitar nerd. I couldn’t tell you the difference between two sets of P-90 pickups. But for some reason, whatever it is about that guitar... It’s like butter to play. It’s quite a hot guitar, but it’s not too hot. My other go-to guitar is just like an absolute off-the-shelf, “straight from Allans Music” SG, which... It’s good, but I’m thinking about maybe looking around for a different guitar. It might end up being another SG – I really like them, but if I compare the Flying V to the SG, it’s just like... The Flying V shits all over on the SG.
What about in the way of pedals and effects?
We keep it really streamlined. I feel like Cook [Craig] might have the most pedals going on – he really f***s with the vibratos and all of those chorus-y, lo-fi vibes. But even so, I feel like the current iteration of his setup is very chilled-out. I run a JHS Superbolt, which I always have on when I have my guitar on a clean channel – that’ll just give it a boost and some nice kind of tonal warmth. And then for the metal stuff, I literally just have my Fender Hot Rod DeVille switched to the overdrive channel, and that’s it. That’s what Stu does as well.
I also have a Wampler Faux Analog delay, which I really like. That’s my only delay pedal. And annoyingly, the one I’ve had since, like, even before King Gizzard started, it just recently broke – and I don’t think they make them anymore. So I have a temporary analog delay, which is one of the new Supro delays. It looks really good, but I haven’t had a chance to fiddle with it yet. But that’s effectively everything – and maybe, like, a Cry Baby or something. It’s a very skeleton-crew kind of pedal setup that we have, all things considered [laughs].