Kid Koala Talks Losing Bets, Growing Up on Vinyl, and His Favorite Muppet

Categories: Hey, DJ!
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Kid Koala
There's not much more endearing than a DJ who loves music and muppets. Hailing from Montreal, Kid Koala is known for his whimsical personality and ability to take listeners on a journey with music fit for psychedelic hip hop dreams, sans the acid. Currently on the Ninja Tune label and producing soundtracks as well as graphic novels, his eyes and ears stretch the imaginations of fans. We spoke with Koala about the two very different shows he's playing for Noise Pop: Catch him Friday scratching records in his trademark Koala suit at Mighty, or at Culture Club on Saturday spinning records while fans make art to the music.

How did you get the nickname Kid Koala?

It was a nickname given to me in high school. It was an actual drink that my mom used to buy, and it was an equivalent of a soda, and if you came to my house you were offered it. If you came to my studio in high school, I mean my bedroom, it was one turntable, one mixer, and two tape decks and pile of records and koala drinks.

Now sometimes you wear animal suits. Why?

I actually lost a bet, so I have to wear a koala suit to wear the next 100 shows. I'm at around 20. I lost a bet with some people at my record label. We're not going to get into that, but you will be seeing it at Mighty, because it's still under the contracts of that bet.

What about DJing made you want to make a career out of it?

The central idea of scratch DJing, at least when I was exposed to it in the late 80s. It just seemed to be this really kind of infinite scene. It just seemed to be completely open to everything; it encouraged expression. It encouraged taking your influence and adding your own spices into the mix. I hold that philosophy very close to heart. It allows just about anything to happen. Turntables have brought me to the weirdest places and weirdest scenarios. That's still what keeps me interested.

Since you got started in the late '80s, what do you think about the culture slowly fading due to a focus on the quickest way to make a mix or transition?

Well, at its root every generation is still trying to find some way to tell their story through whatever machines or technology they can get their hands on. I don't associate the scene with an actual turntable, just the philosophy. Whether it goes digital or in the future people are scratching with light waves, it will still be about controlling it to warp into your own voice. The holy grail is if you can actually if you could speak through a machine. At its root, the thing that never goes stale is stuff done with heart.

Do you mostly play vinyl during your live sets?

Yeah I only play vinyl. I actually have a record cutter now, so if it's something new that's not on vinyl, I'll cut it to vinyl.

That seems convenient. Recently I read that vinyl sales had a 14% increase in 2010, what's your opinion on that? 

 I don't really know. I notice this at shows too, and I ask if they have a turntable playlist and they say no. Maybe they like to look at the artwork? Personally I grew up listening to records, so it was like a ceremony. It was just too much of a headache to jump and switch the tone arm. And music is music, so people are going to listen to whatever context they need to.

Going through your singles, your song titles are really whimsical, as your musical range manages to appeal to all ages. How do you keep on that youthful feel?

I think you have to know the first three records I've done for Ninja Tune. These were heavily reformed by records I got obsessively into when I was a kid, and those records were like The Muppet Show records, Monty Python, Cheech and Chong... just heavily produced narrative/musical comedy records. I think being raised on The Muppet Show records skewed my reality of what's legal --

Legal?

I mean what's allowed. If you grew up on Monty Python albums, anything is possible and that's what I liked about it. Like the scratch scene, everything is possible as long as when you hit the turntables something new happens. Those records things push the envelope. Like the Muppet Show, there's a frog singing, and a pig singing in space, and that's all one side of a record. In some sort of demented way, it perfectly made sense. That still inspires me for the most part. Overall, I'm never going to do two records that sound completely alike. The range for turntables are wider than that. I mean if you watch The Muppet Show you'll understand in terms of pacing and segues that stuff is completely based on being raised listening to records.

And when you're older you realize that there's a rhythm to those noises.

A method to that measure. I wasn't a teenager in the '80s and heard some hit song and decided this is what I wanted to do, but what got me excited are things like The Muppet Show. When I saw that, I was like, 'These people have the ultimate license to ill, and every episode they could take it further and further.' And that was the career path I wanted to get into.

And who is your favorite Muppet?

I think Grover. Cause he's got two sides. First of all, he put out a blues record, and so am I next year, and secondly, he had a job, he was a waiter. He had perspective.

What can we expect from your set in SF?

Well there are two shows. We're kinda doing a yin/yang of my approach to DJing. It's a weekend we call the loud-quiet weekend. Basically I'm known to do the short attention-span upbeat sets, and that's what's at Mighty. So it's just me, a big stack of wax, three turntables and cut up records. That one is more for dancing and goofing off.

The next day at Culture Club, we're doing music to draw to, and I'm excited to bring it to S.F. I don't scratch at all, nobody talks, and everyone brings something to work on. It's more about drawing, and for me it's more about playing records I draw to when I'm writing books. I wanted to share these records to people that don't want to go to clubs. I've been doing it for two years in Montreal, but I'm excited to bring it to San Francisco.

What else will you be doing?

Because of music of draw to, my wife will have a bakesale. And we'll be baking at Dan the Automator's house and we'll be using his kitchen. Just hanging there and in the studio doing some scratching. I'm looking forward to seeing all those people, and S.F. always has a great crowd.

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Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown, follow Christina Li @ChrisxtinaLi, and like us at Facebook.com/SFAllShookDown.

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The Knockout

3223 Mission, San Francisco, CA

Category: Music

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