DJ Eric San, aka “Kid Koala,” stresses the importance of DIY style in producing his latest album, 12 bit Blues.
“It’s kind of like if you’re a chef and you’re growing your own vegetables,” says the Canadian beat chopper and ‘turntablist’ of his latest project.
While Kid Koala constructed the album almost entirely from samples, it sounds incredibly cohesive. Besides sourcing old blues recordings, Kid Koala has been making good use of his vinyl cutter: recording sounds, pressing them, and squeezing them into the limited memory of his beloved SP-1200 sampler—a relic of hip-hop’s golden age. He appreciates the “human groove” that the machine is able to reproduce, even if that kind of groove was traditionally used for old-school beats of artists like Public Enemy and Cypress Hill.
“When I finally got my hands on one in the studio, the interface was very fluid and natural,” he says. “But instead of using this kind of iconic hip-hop machine to make a hip-hop record, I decided to make a blues record.”
San’s homemade mentality permeates almost every aspect of his work—from the build-your-own cardboard turntable that is packaged with the 12 bit Blues CD, to his insistence on mixing everything live with no safety net.
“I like the feeling of balancing the shows on three needles,” he says, a strategy that is intended to keep both the audience and him on their toes. On his Vinyl Vaudeville Tour, which stops in Montreal this Thursday, he comes armed with three turntables and a mixer, as well as a host of other “sideshows” that include giant cardboard gramophones, a popcorn popper, a magnetic dartboard, dancing girls, and puppets. New ideas for segments of the show come to Kid Koala after every city, or even during a concert.
“It starts in one place, and then with every subsequent song there’s this different act, and we have to kind of transform what’s happening on stage every time, and it keeps getting bigger and weirder,” San says.
The ‘old-school spectacle’ is aimed at both turntable heads and people who might not have a preconceived notion of what a ‘turntablist’ does, especially in a modern era of DJs using digital tools. Projectors aimed at Kid Koala will highlight his scratching talent while other segments interact with the live music, including vaudeville dancers that swing to the slow, bluesy tunes. Since the music on 12 bit Blues naturally has a slow tempo and a 6/8 swing, which isn’t exactly conducive to a big, lively concert, Kid Koala wanted to include something that would add to the energy of the show.
The new tour and album will, perhaps, quell the appetite of chef Koala’s fans, who have been eagerly anticipating rapper Del the Funkee Homosapien’s Deltron Event II—a sequel to the classic Deltron 3030, on which Kid Koala was a collaborator. The album has been in the works for 10 years, plagued by delays and missed release dates, but San says that he’s “been listening to it for a month now,” and that it will be released by EMI this spring, adding that “It does laps around the first record, for sure.” Hip-hop heads in LA got to see an exclusive preview of Event II when the Vinyl Vaudeville tour kicked off with special guest producer Dan the Automator earlier this month, but no such thing is planned for later dates. Nevertheless, Kid Koala has something special up his sleeve for the stop in his native Montreal, which he didn’t want to give away. Whatever it is, seeing a true vinyl master loop and sample blues live should in itself be worth the price of admission.
The Vinyl Vaudeville Tour comes to Montreal Nov. 19th at Corona Theatre (2490 Notre-Dame West). Admission is $31.