Gear Rundown: Stu Mackenzie

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Gear Rundown: Stu Mackenzie

stu mackenzie
Words by Eli Duxson

“I’m kind of just drawn to things that are a bit cooked”

Those are the words of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard polymath Stu Mackenzie as he rides his bike on the way to his Melbourne studio.

King Gizz has produced a whopping 20 albums in a little over a decade and has garnered a reputation for churning out albums prolifically, but they’ve still managed to supersede their notoriety with an omnipresent October stacked with three albums (!) on top of a US tour.

Read all the latest features, columns and more here.

For the first album, in true Gizz fashion the group didn’t bring any pre-written songs or ideas but instead, they worked off seven song titles, assigned a scale and BPM, and made it up on the spot.

“My philosophy when I’m making an album is I kinda wanna feel like I have no fucking idea what I’m doing. That’s when I feel the most creative when I’m winging it and learning on the job.”

But when it comes to gear, keeping it simple is the way he operates. “It’s because I like to play music,” he laughs. 

“I’d rather not spend all my time tweaking knobs, although I do love that too, my first love was recording stuff. I want to focus on writing, the interplay between musicians, being there in the room and capturing that spark. I don’t want to stop that whole process because the hi-hat mic has moved three millimetres to the left.”

“When people come to our studio they’re like, ‘Holy shit, you made the records on these?’ We use pretty cheap shit, the most expensive mic I own is the Electro-Voice RE20.”

Before Stu jetted off to Los Angeles, we were able to chat all things gear on the new records, as well as some of the gear that can be heard on previous Gizz works!


Yamaha 1967 Flying Samurai

Stu Mackenzie Yamaha 1967 Flying Samurai

“It’s the guitar I’ve probably played the most on King Gizzard recordings, it definitely sounds and plays like no other guitar I’ve ever played. I wouldn’t say that it sounds better than anything and I wouldn’t say that it plays better than anything. It’s kind of weird in a lot of ways, it’s got a super thin neck, it badly needs new frets – they’re tiny, you can’t bend the strings too much, it’s super old, it’s got heaps of problems.

“But the pickups are pretty unique, they sound pretty cool, I just feel really at home on it to be honest. It’s usually the first guitar that I’ll pick up – and it’s got a whammy bar on it too which is kind of cool. I find it to be an inspiring guitar, you know, I’ve played ‘good guitars’ a lot in my life and I’ve never bought them. Maybe it’s because I’m not into shredding, I’m kind of just drawn to things that are a bit cooked!”

The Flying Banana

King Gizzard The flying banana

Whichever of the 11 released Gizz projects you may choose to peruse, one thing that there is bound to be an abundance of is guitars. Mackenzie has used a variety of guitars over the years, but perhaps the most eye catching of them all is the one from which their latest album, Flying Microtonal Banana, takes its name.

“My guitar of choice is always kind of changing,” told Mackenzie to Tone Deaf. “At the moment, I’ve got this one that this guy called Zack built for me in Melbourne. It’s called the Flying Banana and it’s this yellow, sort of like a bent Flying V shape sort of thing, which he modified with microtonal frets in there. There’s some extra frets in between the frets, which unlocks some secret notes. That’s my guitar at the moment that I’ve been playing everything with, but I haven’t worked it into the live set just yet. I’ve been playing it a little on stage.”

Mackenzie can be seen playing the Flying Banana in the following video.

The below video provides both an insight into Mackenzie’s recording setup as well as an explanation of the special instruments and tunings used by the band to fit the microtonal compositions. Mackenzie can be seen playing the Flying Banana throughout the clip, and he takes some time to explain it at the 1:55 mark.

“We had the idea of adding some secret notes, sort of out of tune, like out of tune half, quarter-tones,” said Mackenzie. “So we’ve kinda been making this record to be quarter tone.”

Hagstrom F-12S

Mackenzie’s 12-string Hagstrom has featured largely in their live shows over the years. “It’s probably my favourite ever guitar,” he said to ToneDeaf. “But it’s old and it’s got old pickups and I’ve tried to replace the wiring before. It’s kind of perpetually shitting me. It’s a nuisance to restring. It’s got 12 strings, with these weird nuts, which sit really close to the tuning pegs, so it takes quite a lot longer than twice as long to restring.

“It’s a problem creator, for sure, but I still manage to always use it. I use it live more than any guitar now and it’s the guitar I played on the whole of the new record. I just keep coming back to it. I can’t think of any problem solvers.”

Mackenzie can be seen playing the Hagstrom in the following clip.

American Standard Stratocaster

As stated earlier, Mackenzie is something of an equipment fan and it would go beyond the scope of this article to be list all of the guitars that he has used in King Gizzard over the years, though a brief peruse of YouTube easily shows a variety of other models, such as the American Standard Stratocaster in the following clip.


Devi Ever Torn’s Peaker

“My pedalboard is more or less pretty standard and it’s been pretty similar except for one or two things over the years. The Fuzz pedal is probably the most far out, it’s a Torn’s Peaker made by Devi Ever, the new ones you can buy are different, that’s my thing that I tell everyone, ‘You gotta play one of the old ones, they sound really different!’. 

“I’m using a standard Boss tuner, delay-wise, my go-to these days is the DD-3, they’re sick, they do everything I need and they’re ultra replaceable. I kind of believe in keeping it simple, you don’t want to spend half a show battling with your pedals because something’s broken, you spend the whole time on your knees pulling out every patch cable trying to figure out what the fucking problem is while everyone’s just stopped and staring at you! It’s like, ‘Alright, I’m going to keep this as light as possible and focus on the music’.”


Fender Hot Rod Deluxe

“I’ve got the also-very-stock-standard Fender Hot Rod Deluxes, I’ve always just made my sound with my guitar and plugged it right in to one of them. If I don’t have any pedals and I just have a little bit of drive from the amp, it kind of just sounds like me!

“I’m pretty sure the Hot Rod Deluxe that I play is one of the most manufactured guitar amps ever, maybe don’t quote me on that (sorry Stu, any fact checkers out there?), but it’s ubiquitous they’re just everywhere, it kind of goes against my weird stuff ethos! But with the nature of touring, I just want something that I can replace easily, same goes with all my pedals except the fuzz one, you can just walk into any music store and buy a replacement if i have to. Which I do!”


Electro-Voice RE20

“I know this isn’t conventional but I use them as a mono overhead on a drum kit, there’s heaps of that across King Gizz’s whole discography, that’s what I most like to use it for. It’s drum overheads or vocals. Two pretty different things but they work pretty well for both of them! They’re great for vocals with kind of super intimate, in your ear, quiet singing kind of style. If I’m singing something a bit louder I’m probably less likely to use one, although if it’s already set up and it’s just sitting there, I’ll probably just use it!”

Electro-Voice 635A

“We’re using one on hi-hats these days for our live shows, they’ve got a cool EQ curve that suits a hi-hat in my opinion. It’s getting a fair bit of compression live, but on most of the Gizz records I have a lot less compression on them in the mix.”



“I have a really sick Soundcraft desk now which I used for the preamps for everything, that’s kind of just giving a lot of flavour. I’m also using the EQ and printing that. But there’s not stacks of outboard gear anymore. I used to have a lot more but I just keep it a bit simpler now.”


“I have a TASCAM 38, a half-inch, eight-track machine which I’ve had since about the microtonal Flying Banana days. It’s a sick little machine, it definitely has a lot of problems. Usually if I print stuff from that there’s always little glitches or weird sections where you lose a bit of top end, getting super wobbly, tape’s rolling or whatever. It’s a bit of a nightmare but you always get happy accidents and I leave a lot of that stuff in. It feels real (or reel?).”

King Gizzard tascam

Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms & Laminated Denim & Changes are all out now!

If you want to see King Gizz in action, don’t miss your chance to see them at the wonderful Palace Foreshore Saturday December 10 with special guest Stella Donnelly and CIVIC. The atom-splitting polymaths will bring new music from their recent three studio albums to the open-air venue on what’s forecast to be a beautiful Saturday night in St Kilda.

Head to Live Nation for ticket information.