King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard on making the world’s first release-your-own album

Fans can print, press and sell CDs and vinyl of ‘Polygondwanaland’

This Friday (November 17) sees the release of psychedelic, Australian studio magnets King Gizzard & the Wizard Lizard’s fourth album in the space of 11 months. No rest for the wicked, they’ve promised another record before 2017 finishes. Blimey.

There’s one thing setting ‘Polygondwanaland’ apart from the band’s other, ridiculously-titled releases this year – ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’, ‘Murder of the Universe’ and ‘Sketches of Brunswick East’. Technically, it will be King Gizzard’s own fans who release the album. On Friday, the band will share digital, CD and vinyl masters of each song for free. From there, fans can technically press their own copies and if they want, sell for profit. “We do not own this record. You do. Go forth, share, enjoy,” the group said earlier this week.

Already, plenty of King Gizzard fans – and some opportunistic entrepreneurs – are committing to pressing ‘Polygondwanaland’. Some established and newly-birthed labels have put up pre-orders.

From a distance, this looks like a completely novel way of releasing music. Cynics, on the other hand, will claim it’s a convenient way for the band to save a few pennies. NME spoke to Stu Mackenzie, frontman and guitarist of the ambitious seven-piece, to find out the real motive behind ‘Polygondwanaland’.

People are comparing this release to Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’, in that it’s a new release method nobody’s tried before. Although I suppose the difference here is you won’t be making any money.

Stu: “To be completely honest with you, I don’t think we really thought this through. Or a lot of aspects of it, at least. We just thought, ‘Yeah, wouldn’t it be interesting if we did that?’ And we did it. Now it seems weird that we did it. It felt right. I suppose with releasing a fair amount of other music this year, it felt like we owed people a present for being so generous and coming to shows. But it also felt like a fascinating experiment for us to do, on a purely selfish level, just to see what would happen.”

The artwork for King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s ‘Polygondwanaland’, out Friday November 17

You’ve committed to releasing five albums in 2017. And now your fans can help with doing the painstaking release bit. Is that partly your motivation?

“It’s a pain in the arse to press vinyl sometimes. It’s a big process. We’ve got some kind of commune going. [But] it was the opposite of a really thought-out thing.”

How much does it actually cost to press a record in Australia?

“It’s hard to quantify because it obviously depends on how much you’re pressing, the economies of scale, that kind of stuff. We press records in Europe because they sound a lot better. And then they get posted back, which is really expensive ‘cause they’re fucking heavy. There’s a lot of expenses. That doesn’t include the expenses put into making a record, although for us that’s usually very slim.”

Some fans, for example, are asking other people to help chip in and split the costs of pressing vinyl.

“There’s quite a few ways you can press records badly, as well. When we talked about doing this, I was super adamant about giving people a vinyl master. That’s what people are getting on Friday. An actual master copy to give to a vinyl plant, where everything is done and ready to go. It’s still fuck-up-able! But it’s a lot harder to fuck up when the guy who we always work with has done a vinyl master. It’s more or less good to go.”

How could someone still manage to fuck it up? Pressing the record in the wrong plant?

“The main thing: people should definitely check their test pressings. You get a test pressing and all manner of things can be wrong with it. But if you trust your ears, and it sounds fine, you can usually go ahead. We also thought it’d be funny to not give people any other art aside from the front cover. They can make their own back cover and spine. We’ll give people the info and the lyrics if they want to put together other bits and pieces, but that’s open to interpretation too. I don’t know what people are gonna do, or if people have thought through that part yet. Good luck to them. I hope it turns into a creative thing. My main hope was that it would help form some things… I mean, the whole world’s probably gonna end soon anyway. But it’s nice to connect with people, and I hope this release can do that.”

Also, you might end up encouraging people to start their own label. Once they know how to print your record, they may want to do the same for other bands.

“I mean, why not? If it’s somehow a bridge for even one person to do that, then that’s good. They also might ruin their life by started a label. But there’s risks involved in anything!”

When you first committed to releasing five albums, did you have a big clear plan of what would happen? And do you regret your ambitious decision yet?

“Looking back on this time last year, we had a couple of songs for each record. We had this random batch of songs. It was not a cohesive record at all. So we thought we’d split it up, and split again until it became five. We worked on ‘Nonagon Infinity’ pretty intensely in 2015 and 2016. We came close to burning ourselves out, or at least wringing each other’s necks. We took a break, and then all these random, disparate song ideas came out of that void of not recording for a little while. Then we worked on everything one album at a time. I hope we finish this fifth record.”

Is releasing the fifth album in 2017 going to be touch and go? Can fans expect a Christmas album?

“No, but it will definitely be some time around Christmas. That one’s still in the works. We’ve still got a heck of shows to do between now and the end of the year. We’ll do our best, but if it doesn’t come out in 2017 it’ll come out early next year. We’re just putting one foot in front of the other.”

Catch King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard on tour next year:

FEBRUARY 2018

Wednesday 21 – LONDON Brixton Academy
Thursday 22 – MANCHESTER Academy
Friday 23 – DUBLIN Olympia Theatre
Sunday 25 – GLASGOW ABC