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In celebration of our surprise release of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Live at Levitation, we've gathered a collection of images from photographer Jamie Wdziekonski, who has been documenting the band's story on the stage and off since the early days. Jamie was in Austin for both the 2014 and 2016 shows, and his iconic photos are featured on the album cover and gatefold, 2xLP, available here:
Jamie! Thank you for the rad photos and letting us collect them here for everyone to see. How have you been? A few shows here and there, but no international travel for Australia yet, and as someone who seems to thrive on live music, that has to be weird. I've seen some of your work for various studio projects for Gizz and Amyl. How have you been keeping busy through this time?
Thank you Rob for allowing me to come photograph your festival all those years ago. I’ve been as good as anyone else could be right now. I quit my day job of 7 years and moved into my first studio space at the start of 2020 before the pandemics/lockdowns hit. I was working mainly on the King Gizzard ‘Chunky’ book that I put out in July this year. There are also a few more books currently in the works. Now that I’m free from the stress of a day job I can put a lot more energy into my photography and publishing.
I was looking back in old emails in preparation for this release, and found our first correspondence. Christian Bland put us together on an email, and you sent a pitch to cover Austin Psych Fest 2014. At that point you had photographed a ton of bands - the Angels, Tame Impala, BJM, Black Rebel, and the work you sent was incredible. Obviously we approved your request!
But what strikes me looking back is that in your email, you mention a turning point from your old career in fashion to finding psychedelic music and deciding to follow and document that instead. I had a similar turning point, when The Black Angels formed, I had never heard anything like it. It was a really exciting time for music, and to see my friends emerge with this fully formed aesthetic and purpose, and then seeing their careers take off (going viral on MySpace!)... for me it proved that anything was possible. We didn't have to get corporate jobs, we could make our own jobs if what we had was special enough - if we could pull it off. That's what Levitation became.
I imagine that something similar happened in Australia around Gizz. Was there a point that you knew the band had what they needed to reach an international audience? Did you know them in the early days of the band? How did it all go down as far as you working with them?
Yeah – for me the message of ‘think for yourself – question authority - create other methods of survival’ that The Black Angels had on their records and tshirts really resonated with me – and is one of the main reasons I decided to quit my career in fashion.
With regards to Gizz and all my music photography really – my main inspiration behind that has been ‘Dig!’ by Ondi Timoner. Her document of BJM and Dandy Warhols over 7-8 years was mind blowing to me – and watching that in 2012 gave me the inspiration to pick bands that I liked and follow them endlessly.
I first started photographing Gizzard towards the end of 2013. I met Ambrose first and photographed his band The Murlocs a couple times before he’d asked me if I wanted to do photos of Gizzard. It all happened pretty naturally – as in there wasn’t really a discussion had where I said ‘I want to follow and document everything that you do’ – I would just show up to gigs and take photos including interstate and international gigs. What was tricky about funding your own way is you often miss out on a lot of things because you either can’t get the time off work or you don’t have the money. But I did what I could, when I could.
If I had to pick a moment where I thought to myself ‘they’re going to get big’ I guess was around the time Nonagon came out. But I’ve got some nice memories of Ambrose coming around to my apartment showing me their new stuff like ‘I’m In Your Mind Fuzz’ and ‘The River’ for the first time – and I’d be all like ‘wait – is this the same song?!’.Those were some good times.
One of the things I'm always looking for is bands like Gizz, when they're new. They sort of seem to appear out of nowhere - people just start talking about a new band, and it's clear to me there's something special. The same thing happened with Tame Impala and Kikagaku Moyo. There's some magic, and it's our job to bring it to the people.
So at some point in 2013, Michelle Cable (Panache) hit me up and mentioned Gizz were interested in playing APF 2014, and of course it was an immediate yes, absolutely yes.
You were on that tour with them - for their first time in the U.S. What was it like being on tour with Gizz in those early days, and what do you remember from Austin Psych Fest 2014?
I actually didn’t continue onto that tour in 2014 that they did with White Fence. In hindsight it would have been so good – Tim Presley is one of my favourite musicians/artists. It was collectively our first time in the U.S. so it was extremely exciting and everything was so new for us.
I remember so much about APF 2014 – it’s still one of my favourite festival experiences. I was stoked to see Flamin’ Groovies play at Red 7 the night before the festival.
I remember on the first day meeting and getting a polaroid of Anton Newcombe and Courtney Taylor together in what seemed like the first time since ‘Dig!’ came out? They also played ‘Oh Lord’ on stage together that night. I had lost gizzard by this point and they were my ride back into Austin town so I remember hitchhiking for a bit after the first night was over. Thanks to the girl and her brother that picked me up!
It was the first time I had properly met Kikagaku Moyo – their set during the afternoon by the creek was magic! I met them later on in LA after the festival finished to do a few shows with them there.
I got pictures of Acid Mothers Temple selling their tshirts out of a suitcase by the creek – I also got a shirt.
I also learnt on this trip not to put your 35mm film into your check in luggage unless you’re specifically chasing xray streaks on your undeveloped photos.
It was such an incredible time – before this, travel seemed so unattainable through fashion and then all of the sudden with one decision I’m on the other side of the world on a ranch with friends listening to some of the best bands going around.
Check out Jaime's photos from 2014, scanned from film:
By the time the band came back to the U.S. in 2016, Gizz were absolutely on fire. While the show we had planned at the ranch didn't happen because of hte storm the band ended up playing 2 shows at Barracuda. Of all the great make-up shows that happened (Slowdive + BJM, Sleep + Boris + Sunn O to name a few!) the Gizz shows stand out to me as the iconic shows. Saved the weekend for a lot of fans and really put Barracuda (RIP) on the map. The band were also going to celebrate the release of Nonagon Infinity at the ranch, which was out that Friday.
I was dealing with a mountain of worries, issues and paperwork due to the cancellation - I was stuck on phone calls and emails all weekend and didn't make it to any shows. Worst weekend of my life I'm sure.
But at the clubs it really looked like things were salvaged for a lot of people. What was the scene like? What was it like being with the band as Nonagon Infinity dropped? Do you remember anything from the 2016 shows?
Hats off to you for keeping that ship afloat. Can’t even imagine how stressful that would have been for you. We just landed Austin and found out it was potentially cancelled as we were collecting our bags. That was shattering but you did a great job at rebooking everything last minute.
Being with the band when Nonagon Infinity came out felt really exciting. There was a bigger buzz around this one compared to their other releases. They first started playing those songs on their 2015 USA tour with Mild High Club. That tour finished in NYC where they recorded the songs at Daptone. So it’s one of the only records I was around for, for the entire process.
The Barracuda shows were great - Quintron had that whack weather machine/synthesizer – I had photos of that show but I think they’ve been lost. Christian Bland and The Revelators played inside I really love his music and the band that plays with him.
We went on to tour the USA after Austin (that coloured group photo of everyone outside the back of the van was taken in Austin the morning we drove to New Orleans) – I was in The Murlocs van for that tour – our good friend Nate was driving us – so many good memories!
Looking forward to 2022 - Gizz is back on tour, will you be on the road with them? What other plans do you have?
We’ll have to see. I’ve got another world tour booked for next year, which I’m really excited for and probably not allowed to mention yet. I’m also considering moving to the Netherlands where Go and Tomo (Guruguru Brain) live –I want to base myself in Europe for 6-12 months, which would make it easier for me to hop on/off tours.
Apart from that there are quite a few books in the works – the next one coming out will be an Amyl and The Sniffers ‘Comfort To Me recording sessions’. That’s probably all I can say for now.
I'm pretty damn excited about some of the projects we have coming up together. Thanks for sharing all these photos - looking forward to sharing the rest of your Austin Psych Fest and Levitation archive with the world soon, and hopefully seeing you in 2022!
Yeah I’m stoked for what we’ve got coming out soon :) Thanks again Rob. See you soon.
Check out Jaime's photos from 2016, scanned from film: