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Three Questions With King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard consists of Stu Mackenzie, Ambrose Kenny-Smith, Cook Craig, Joey Walker, Lucas Harwood and Michael Cavanagh. Below, Lucas, Stu and Joey answer Three Q's (plus a few extras) about their favorite synths and more.

Their album, The Silver Cord, is out October 27th [link].

Photos of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard by Simoen van der Meent.

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard at Silver Chord studios by Simoen van der Meent.
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard studio photos by Simoen van der Meent.

Synth History: What are some synths you currently have in your studio? Any favorites or go-tos?

Lucas: I’m loving the Yamaha reface DX at the moment. I'm not a huge, deep diving synth head, so the out of box tones of this are great for me. The recreations of those original 80s FM tones are on point, but it has way more modern functionality and an easier user interface. The Dynalead patch has become a quick stalwart for me, such a tasty tone and sounds great as a mono lead synth with huge pitch bends, but also reacts nicely to chord stabs in polyphony. For the Silver Cord sessions, I had the DX going through the Moog Matriarch, utilizing it's filter but also mixing the DX with the Matriarchs' oscillators which had some great results. I also used the Moog Sub 37 a lot in those sessions for tasty sub basslines. Most of the lines were sequenced, so it was really cool to focus solely on sound sculpting. I've been using this live, very sparingly, and I feel like I'm only scratching the surface. It's hard to pull a bad sound from it.

Stu: We’ve bought and sold a lot of synths over the years but one thats stuck around since the beginning is the Juno-60. It’s been my go-to since around the time of Float Along - Fill Your Lungs. I know how to work it and get the sounds I want out of it without re-patching or menu-diving or anything, that’s my kinda synth.

Synth History: Can you tell me about the transition to modular synths and what inspired you to include them on your new album?

Joey: I have been using modular for my solo project for a few years now and when we decided to make an all-in electronic album, it just made sense to incorporate it. Modular syntheses was always a final frontier for me. I had been making electronic music for years solely in the box using VST’s and soft synths, but I was becoming really frustrated and bored with my workflow and not feeling creatively stimulated. Modular is literally the perfect antidote to this.

I tend to prioritize modules that are generative and allow for quick bursts of inspiration. My most used module would have to be the Music Thing “Turing Machine” purely for this reason. Generative modules like this are perfect in the context of an album like the Silver Cord because the album was made from a series of long-form improvisational jams. The ephemerality and immediacy of modular really suited this project and when used in tandem with the Boss RC 505 looper which is clocked via MIDI, the possibilities become really exciting. This combo has really unlocked the full potential of my system because it allows me to layer and loop any element of the modular into what can become a cohesive piece of music. It’s the bridge between having just a synth and a fully fledged music making machine.

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard at Silver Chord studios by Simoen van der Meent.
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard studio photos by Simoen van der Meent.

Synth History: Modular synths are known for being kind of a rabbit hole of gear! How do you know when you’ve gotten enough modules and is a modular set up ever truly complete?

Joey: You’re telling me! Everyone who uses modular says it’s not about how many modules you have, it’s about what you can do with a handful of them. It took me a while to realise this, which I do think is fine because you have to work that stuff out for yourself to grow and get better. I do still have a fair amount of modules, but the more I practice and experiment, the more often I sell the ones I don’t need. So I guess I agree with that statement.

Long story short, I think a modular setup can never fully be complete. It’s in its very nature to be completely dynamic and malleable, it all just depends on what you want to get from your music.

Synth History: What’s one record you think everyone should listen to at least once in their lifetime (apart from your own)?

Lucas: One record, if we're talking synths, it's hard to go past Dark Side of the Moon. A huge cliché I know, but my dad cranked this and it opened my eyes to what synths could do.

Joey: Mica Levi’s score to Under The Skin. Both the film and score are perfect.

Synth History: Are there any techniques in the studio (or live) you’ve found useful when it comes to blending synths with acoustic instruments?

Stu: Jamming stuff live. When you’re tuned in to everyone else in the room and what they’re playing, you have a way of finding your sonic niche.

A variation on King Gizzard's The Silver Cord album cover, by Jason Galea.
A variation on King Gizzard's The Silver Cord album cover, by Jason Galea.

Joey: Get a stable MIDI clock [laughs].

Synth History: What’s one instrument you think everyone should try playing at least once in their lifetime, doesn't have to be a synth?

Stu: Theremin. It breaks down pitch and volume in such a simple physical way that you might never look at music the same way again.

Synth History: What’s one piece of advice for getting over stage fright?

Stu: Make fear your friend.

Synth History Exclusive.

Photos by by Simoen van der Meent, last photo Jason Galea.


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