Interview: Kid Koala

DJ / turntablist / musician / artist Kid Koala is one of Canada’s most renowned musicians. He first made his name as an impressive scratch DJ who amazed listeners with his unique scratch style and interesting use of samples (including things such as Charlie Brown’s voice, Cantonese Dim Sum conversations, etc.). Besides music, Kid Koala is also a passionate visual artist who enjoys drawing graphic arts novels and design work.

Kid Koala has worked, played, and toured with some of the biggest names in music, including Radiohead, Gorillaz, Bjork, Deltron 3030, Jack Johnson, and DJ Shadow. These days, when he’s not making his own music or touring, he’s playing on electronic music projects with Chris Ross, Myles Heskett (of Wolfmother fame), and American musician Dynomite D as a part of The Slew. He also organizes special listenings for his album Space Cadet at special locations around the world that lend to the lullaby-style tracks found on the CD. We’re glad he was able to find time in his busy schedule to chat with us and answer some questions!

Your Music beginnings come from Public Enemy, Coldcut, and De La Soul and you’ve DJ-ed and turntabled with the Gorillaz, Radiohead, and the Beastie Boys. Technology has changed, styles have changed… how do you feel the DJ culture or turntable culture has evolved?

Kid Koala: Music is music.  It’s a form of communication.  The technologies can change but underneath it all the motivation stays the same.   I think most people who make music are just trying to tell their stories and to find a way to express how they hear the world.

How does illustration feed into your music and vice-versa?

Kid Koala: Music and Visual art are very linked to me.  Whenever I draw I hear soundtracks in my mind.  Whenever I record music I usually envision some form of narrative scene that I’m writing the music for.

Blues and Jazz is at the forefront of your album 12-bit blues, but you did study classical piano as a kid. Do you ever plan to do a classical piano album?

Kid Koala: Yes, both soundtracks for Nufonia Must Fall and Space Cadet were composed on piano.  Much of the film scoring work I’m doing these days is piano based.

The concept for your Space Cadet Headphone Concert is awesome, how did you come up with that?

Kid Koala: The Space Cadet album was recorded as a collection of lullabies for my then newborn daughter.  I wanted to perform the music live but still maintain that quiet time lullaby feel.  I decided the best way to hear all the detail in the music would be to have everyone sitting around listening to the performance on headphones.  It’s among the quietest and coziest shows I’ve done.

You’re into all this older technology for musical equipment – I’ve heard you use floppy disks for musical purposes, and you recently collected recordings from the National Music Centre collection. What is your connection with older technology and is that enjoyment exclusive? Are there any new techniques, equipment that you enjoy?

Kid Koala: I use all technologies old and new.  It all depends on what musical tool you need to get the feeling you need. They all have different tones and user interfaces and I think it greatly affects the music that you create.  I write totally differently depending on what equipment I’m using.

You tour all over Europe, I know you’ve done some shows in Asia, and you’re always back home in Canada and North America. Where are some of your favourite places to perform, or where do you get the best vibes from? Favourite concert moments?

Kid Koala: I like audiences that are up for adventure and there seems to be one in every city I’ve visited.  I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to do such a wide variety of  concerts and actually find an audience for them.  In 4 tours we can go from playing sit down turntable cabaret gigs, lie down headphone concerts, to the jump up vinyl vaudeville puppet shows, to rocking out with mosh pit crowds at The Slew shows.

What can we expect to hear from you in the future?

Kid Koala: I worked on a little music for Baz Luhrman’s The Great Gatsby film which is opening next month.  I’m also working on a score for my new book about a jazz playing mosquito.  Deltron 3030 will be releasing it’s second album this year.  And I have begun work on a new album for The Slew.

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*This is an abridged interview originally written for AX3 Battery. Read the original version here.

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