I am re-printing this today (originally published in The Skinny) because it’s one of the all-time best interviews I’ve conducted. Eric San, aka Kid Koala, is just one hell of a funny guy. I’m interviewing him again today for his new project, ‘Space Cadet’ - check out a preview here:
Dance Like A 2-Year Old: Kid Koala’s Back!
Kid Koala has a theory about his record collection. “Records are kind of like people. Very silly, spinning, flat people. They kind of have personalities, y’know? Some are loud, some are quiet, some are obnoxious, some are sentimental, some are fast, some are slow. But whatever the case, they probably don’t want to be stuck in some stuffy jacket somewhere and forgotten about. I always thought they’d probably want to meet other records and kick it. So I like to match them up and record them. It’s kind of like I’m running this strange dating service for vinyl and my studio is like the cheesiest club ever.”
Scratching with hands aflame, standing on your head may be impressive, but where does it lead? Canada’s Eric San, AKA Kid Koala, is an entirely different type of turntablist. Often eschewing music in favour of bizarre sonic collage, he draws disparate hilarious fragments of noise, speech and melody together, accompanying his music with comic strips of his own design. Fans will recognise the inhabitants of Nufonia as they pass through his new LP, ‘Your Mom’s Favourite DJ,’ but Kid Koala himself is also a central character. It’s hilarious, moving, and odd as hell. But is it hip-hop?
“Cutting up records this way is definitely a craft that spawned from hip-hop music,” replies San. “All the DJs that inspired me to start scratching had a desire to try new things sonically. That mentality is definitely something I hold quite close to heart when I’m playing records. It’s like when you go to the market and someone is trying to sell you some embroidered mat that has all these awful shapes and colours hand-stitched in to it. At first you may say, that’s horrible. I would never wear that or hang it on my wall. But when you look carefully you can feel that person’s vibe and energy, and you think: ‘Actually, it’s kind of beautiful.’ It’s like that with my records. People listen to them and say, ‘What the
hell was he thinking?’ And then after closer investigation, they realize it was put together with a lot of love. Sometimes people get pissy because I don’t make 3 minute radio hits, 70 minute albums, or jams for the dancefloor. Why would I? I’m a scratch DJ. If they don’t like it, they can listen to the radio or go to a rave or something.”
I ask if ‘Your Mom’s…’ was intentionally childlike in it’s sonic palette, and San agrees that second track Stoppin’ Traffic might appeal to a 2-year old: “Just because the sounds are kind of fun and odd. Either that or everyone at the clubs is going to dance like 2-year-olds. Y’know, the bend-your-knees-and-don’t-lose-your-balance kind of dance. It would be funny to see a dancefloor full of adults pull that one off.”
With production work on the new Deltron album in the bag, another graphic novel on the way, and new band Slew (“The Nirvana of turntablism,” San says with a laugh) Koala still refuses to be pigeonholed, aware he is not the average scratch DJ. “Scratching can make you laugh, it can make you cry, it can make you shake your ass, it can make you crash your bike. Often they will put my records in the dance section or the rap section. I can understand why, but I still think it’s funny. I think I’ll make an album completely out of classical records and see if I could get in to that section too.”
No ambitions to release a Q-Bert-style custom deck, though: “It just doesn’t sound like something kids would think is cool. Like; ‘Yo, check out my new pair of Koalas.’ Or: ‘Dude, he’s using that new Koala up there.’ Or: ‘Hey, he’s really fucking it up on those Koalas.’ I may be working on a new mixer that actually flies to the other country and does the show for you.” If Kid Koala is your Mum’s favourite DJ, she has a sense of humour, and extremely good taste.
‘Your Mom’s Favourite DJ’ is on Ninja Tune.