We've had those New Years Eve nights out that have crumbled under the weight of their own expectation, where the carefully laid plans to throw the best party in the history of New Years Eve parties go to pot and you end up in a darkened room with three other people, gathered around an overly watered down bowl of punch. Thankfully this year the people behind Soundcrash have given you an option which cannot fail, a night with Kid Koala.
For those of you unfamiliar with one of alternative hip-hop's most talented DJs he's produced a body of work that can rival the likes of Coldcut and Q-Bert, creating some of the most exciting DJ music for the legendary Ninja Tunes label. The young Canadian also operates as one third of the supergroup Deltron 3030 (alongside producer Dan the Automator and Del The Funkee Homosapien) which have recently reformed for their 2nd album "The Event II", which features guest spots from a diverse group of people, including RATM's Zach De Le Roscha and the Actor Joseph Gordon Levitt (doing a William Shatner impression you simply have to hear).
It's not just Hip-Hop that piques the Koala's interest, he's veered off into the world of movie's (cameoing in Looper as a club DJ) penned two graphic novels, and was recently nominated for a Polaris Award (patronisingly referred to as the Canadian Grammys) for his album "12 Bit Blues".
I caught up with the Kid ahead of his New Year's Eve party at Village Underground.
Daniel Cadwallader: You've got a lot going on at the moment, Including playing at Soundcrash's new year's eve party at London's Village Underground, are you looking forward to it?
Kid Koala: I always have a great time with the Soundcrash kids. They bring in such a wonderful audience full of fun-loving concert goers who are up for adventure! Last time I played Village Underground we installed our Space Cadet Headphone Concert there with inflatable seating pods for the audience. It was a "quiet time" chill out event and I had a wicked time there! So this time it will be quite different to do a show for a crowd that's not lying down on the floor.
DC: What makes a great New Year 's Eve party set? Is it about tunes or performance?
KK: 30 versions of 'Auld Lang Syne' and lotsa champagne! I'm not a club DJ. I'm going to get up there and do a show and to try to find a way to connect with people in the silliest way possible! We're ringing in the NEW YEAR y'know, LET'S DO THIS!!!!
DC: You've also recently got back together with Dan the Automator and Del the Funkee Homosapian for a 2nd Deltron 3030 album, how did that come about again after over a decade?
KK: We were all busy on other projects and tours for several years after the first album. Del spent a lot of time researching and reading before he felt he was able to write Event II. He's written one of the most evocative future rap psych-rock/operas out there.
DC: You've all collaborated with a diverse group of artists on this album, everyone from Mike Patton and Zach De LaRocha, to the actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Did that particular one come about from your associations with the Scott Pilgrim movie?
KK: Yes, both Dan and I had done a little work on the score for the Scott Pilgrim film and met all those kids through director Edgar Wright's introduction. I met Joseph Gordon Levitt on the set of the film Looper. Rian Johnson, the director, asked me to go to New Orleans and play the DJ in a future/past night club. That's where I met Joe and found out he was a fan of the first Deltron album. He said he'd be down to do something on the new album. I love his Captain Kirk-esque 'Stardate' narration. It's the perfect way to open the record. Mike Patton and Zach de la Rocha have both worked with Dan on a number of projects.
DC: I know you've also authored two Graphic novels yourself, Nufonia Must Fall (2003) and Space Cadet (2011), how did those come about? Who would you say where your comic influences?
KK: I was approached by a publisher to write a 100 page, 10 000 word book on a topic of my choosing. It ended up being a 350 graphic novel with almost no words. Still, they really enjoyed the manuscript and published it and allowed me to package it with a 10 song soundtrack that I recorded to underscore certain scenes in the book. That was 'Nufonia Must Fall' a story about a robot who wants to write love songs but couldn't sing. So it's an adventure story about how he had to find other ways to get the attention of a lady.
Space Cadet was a book that took me about 8 years to complete. It was all done on "Carte a Grattez" or "scratch board" which I found out a later, is possibly one of the most tedious ways to draw ever. I had the main story boards mapped out many years ago. The problem was I couldn't find any of the Canson scratch boards in Canada. I basically had to raid all the paper shops in France whenever I was there on tour and buy 4-10 boards at a time. So it took me several tours before I even had enough boards to finish the book. The musical score I wrote for the book was all recorded shortly after my first child was born. They are a collection of piano/turntable lullabies for her, and it fit very well with the theme of the story which is about generations and the close bonds between parents and children.
As for comic influences, both of these books/soundtracks are probably more informed by cinema than the comic world. I'm a huge fan of Charlie Chaplin and Wong Kar Wai films. These first two books owe a lot to their influence.
DC: Let's go back to the beginning, you started out as a turntablist while you were studying at McGill University (or so I believe) who inspired you to get started?
KK: Actually I started scratching and DJing when I was 12. At the time I thought it would be a good way to get invited to parties! When you're that age, most kids just try to find something to get obsessive about. For some, it's skateboards, for some it's Chess club, for me it was turntables. I would just lock myself in the house and practice all the time.
DC: I understand you were DJing quite an eclectic mix of stuff, any particular curve balls you were fond of throwing in the old days?
KK: I had a very silly version of the big band number "In the Mood" all sung by an orchestra of chickens. It sounded like it was lost archive recording of The Muppet Show extras or something.
DC: Was it this eclecticism that drew you to the Ninja Tunes label (home of Mr Scruff, Amon Tobin and TheHerbaliser)? Did it feel like a natural home?
KK: Coldcut (who started the label) were actually one of the main reasons I started getting into the craft of scratching and deejaying. Their first album 'What's That Noise?' was a HUGE influence on me.
DC: Your recent 12 Bit Blues (2013) was quite a revolutionary album mixing sampling with traditional blues music, what's the story their?
KK: I had done a project a while back called The Slew. It was collaboration with Dynomite D in Seattle. We wanted to make a record that all of our skateboard friends in Seattle would enjoy. It ended up sounding like mutant form of the blues. Dylan kept referring to it as 'Grungelism' meets 'Sludge Blues' That was when we started plugging the turntables into amps and overdriving them for the sake of tone. And I started getting really in to bending notes on the turntables. When we toured we had 6 turntables and Chris Ross and Myles Heskett (formerly of Wolfmother) on bass and drums. That tour was so much fun. We had mosh pits going every night and we broke a lot of equipment. As I started to connect the dots between all the music in my collection I began to realize that a lot of the music I love (from hip hop to rock to soul to jazz) all had these historical roads that led back to the Delta Blues. Mario Caldato, who mixed The Slew record, told me I should try to find a machine called an SP1200. It is a 12 bit drum sampler and an iconic hip hop production tool. When I finally got one to the studio the first thing I punched out of it was slow 6/8 blues beat. At that moment I decided I would use this hip hop machine to make a blues album.
DC: That album's seen you get fantastic reviews and a long list place in the Polaris Music Awards, what's your next big project going to be?
KK: I don't really know about reviews but I did hear that David Lynch put it on his playlist of records that inspired some of his new music. I almost peed myself when I found out he liked the record! I had no idea how I even got on his music radar. But I've been a fan of his since Twin Peaks. My French teacher in high school Mme Lynch introduced me to that show. She was also one of those influential adults in my life who pulled me aside and said "Eric, promise me when you finish school, that you pursue something in the arts. I think you're destined to do something wonderful there." That comment really affected me. And I always hold that encouragement close to heart. I don't think I've achieved what she had in mind at all but I'm still working on it. I should tell her about the David Lynch thing. I know she would totally freak out about that.
As for future projects... I'm very excited to be working with Art Director KK Barrett on a new theatre production of Nufonia Must Fall. It's going to be a scene for scene "live movie" of the book filmed and edited on miniature sets and scored lived with me on piano and turntables playing with the Afiara String Quartet. We are also going to be working with London's Mikey Please who is a phenomenal talent! We've been in development for a few months and I am so excited to start the set building phase in the new year. So let's ring it in!