Eric San has been utilizing the moniker Kid Koala for the better half of his 20-plus years in electronic music. He’s develop into considerably of a renaissance man, tackling multiple tasks that immerse the listener in music, a graphic novel or even a puppet present–really anything that strikes his artistic fancy at the time. His collaborations with Del the Funky Homosapien and Dan the Automator as Deltron 3030, in addition to his solo work with all kinds of artists, have turn out to be points of influence for teenagers trying to grow to be scratch DJs.
Kid Koala’s music shouldn’t be easily defined. He’s run the gamut from funk to straight-up hip-hop to blues. His latest report is the second of a trio of ambient albums entitled Music To Draw To: IO. The album is full of lovely, surreal landscapes and collaborations with vocalist Trixie Whitley whose otherworldly singing pairs perfectly with the ambient music. mxdwn had the alternative to talk with Kid Koala about his constant musical collaborations, the present from Radiohead’s Colin Greenwood that assisted his ambient intentions and the rumblings of new music from Deltron 3030.
mxdwn: You’ve gotten had such a various career in digital music, however what introduced you thus far of eager to make a collection of ambient albums?
Kid Koala: I feel my interest in the music began really rolling in 2001. I might say that this one document, Isan’s Lucky Cat, was gifted to me by Colin Greenwood. We have been on tour, I used to be on tour with Radiohead for Kid A and Amnesiac, and we have been in a store. Prior to that, I had huge funk assortment, jazz collection, even digital collection however more on the beach-y aspect. And we have been in this store Different Music and Colin stated, ‘Have you heard this Isan record?’ And I hadn’t, I wasn’t conversant in them. And he says, “Oh, you gotta hear this,” and he went and truly purchased it for me and just handed it to me.
And I don’t find out about you, but when Colin Greenwood buys you a document, you take heed to it. And so, I listened to it, and it was a direct thing the place for the rest of the tour it just turned my, type of, wind-down music after the exhibits and stuff. I liked how layered it was, and it was truly the first ambient document I really spent lots, rather a lot, lots of time, simply biking, simply making an attempt to dissect, research the way it was… I mean, I’ve other ambient data and stuff, even in all probability courting back to the ’70s, but I feel that document, for no matter purpose, it simply turned the soundtrack of my entire tour. And since then I’ve variety of studied and gone ahead and backward with the ambient scene, simply making an attempt to discover and study extra about it. So, I might say that kind of kicked it off.
The other factor was the winters right here in Montreal are like 5 months long. And after a few decade of making an attempt to make social gathering music in January, I made a decision it just didn’t appear pure. It’s virtually such as you’re preventing your pure animal intuition to hibernate. It’s like, you’re making an attempt to conserve power, it’s a more restorative time of the yr I feel. For whatever cause, I assume I have just a little bit more of a quiet aspect, all the time had. Whether it was drawing comedian books, I didn’t all the time should be in the center of a celebration all the time. So, I just decided to embrace the incontrovertible fact that these winters aren’t gonna change. They’re all the time gonna be 5 months, and they’re all the time gonna be a bit bit extra downtempo, for lack of a better word, and so that was it. And then once I did that I used to be like, okay, it feels proper right now of yr to be making this type of music right here, fairly than just pretending that there’s a celebration happening. As a result of there’s not.
I imply, and you see it, you see everybody making an attempt to flee, everybody’s like going to South by Southwest or right down to Winter Music Convention. You need to escape it. However for those who don’t try to escape it, and you truly embrace what’s occurring with every thing, the timber, the incontrovertible fact that there’s no tourists right here proper now. It’s just a little calmer, it’s just received that chill vibe. So that’s once I started deciding to see if I was alone in considering that approach, understanding that rather a lot of my actual artist associates or studio buddies have been working, whether it was an animated film and their animating, or their writing or whatever, no one was leaving their houses because it was so chilly.
And I stated okay, I’m gonna host this occasion Music To Draw To. This was ten years ago now, 2009, because at the time I was working on the Area Cadet guide and I knew I had at the very least seven months of isolation, like solitary drawing time forward of me. And that’s sort of miserable, it’s virtually like sentencing your self to isolation. For me to finish this challenge that I’ve began, I’m gonna have to attract by myself for seven months. And so, I stated, properly let’s do an occasion the place I can draw whereas also being close to individuals. We don’t need to be truly interacting, just the concept of, virtually like a studio hive variety of mentality. I might just play music that I like to draw to. And this turned a very, really fashionable occasion here–and still is, in the winter. And I didn’t know whether anybody would show up the first week, but everyone got here and favored the idea that there was sort of, this Monday night time occasion where you would unwind, unplug and just be artistic for a couple of hours and take a look at some tunes.
I’ll say, the first time I was buzzing at the finish of the night time. Like the similar sort of adrenaline rush that I may need from rocking a celebration and having a mosh pit going. It was the similar sort of synchronicity, solely it was on a more targeted, artistic degree. So, imagine the room was type of packed full of individuals, however no one’s speaking. The truth is, everybody’s simply of their beta zones or whatever, and really just cranking out their work. And some individuals would say ‘Hey, I finished a whole sketchbook tonight. I haven’t carried out that since highschool.’ The concept there was this, type of, different perform for music that I had in my very own collection like I’ve my go-to drawing data. However the concept that, yeah, there’s a area for this sort of music to work for individuals, and it does have that perform. Like one thing you do to, type of, sluggish time down as opposed to velocity it up.
mxdwn: IO is a completely lovely document and on a number of of my favorites, “All For You” and “Lost At Sea,” Trixie Whitley brings alongside a very delicate rigidity. How did you find yourself with that collaboration on the report?
Kid Koala: Nicely, here’s the factor, I didn’t know the way it was gonna work. I had met her a number of years ago by means of a mutual pal, and I checked out her work. I was really into her entire type and every part. I went to see her, we hung out in Montreal. I went to see her play when she was here. Yeah, she’s an outstanding talent. Once I was starting work on IO, I didn’t even have anyone in mind for vocals just but as a result of I used to be still doing the instrumental. But she texted me variety of out of the blue, I feel in late summer time, and she had just come off of some whirlwind tour and she was like, ‘Hey, I finally got a chance to listen to that Satellite record, and I just wanted to say that I’m really into it and it’s been on repeat right here’, and [it’d been] serving to her get into the zone and every part. And I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s really cool.’ Because I had given her the report many months prior to that, so I had just type of forgot about it.
And then she type of reached out and stated that she really appreciated the report. And at that moment I used to be like, wow. I didn’t understand how she’d respond to it or something and I might have by no means guessed that even listening to her voice that ambient stuff was essentially her bag or anything, or on her radar. So, then I simply type of considered that for a second like, I’m variety of midway by means of the instrumentals for the subsequent chapter, do you wanna come guest on this one? And she or he agreed. And so, I had no concept what the end product would sound like, figuring out that she comes from extra of an virtually R&B background, I don’t assume either of this stuff are on these tracks.
I imply, I’ve accomplished like a blues document before. I’ve finished more funky stuff with breaks and issues like that, but for this one, I didn’t really know. I was like, is that this gonna be like ambient R&B, that feels like an oxymoron or something. But I performed her the monitor, and what’s nice about Trixie is that she has this uncanny capacity to only tap into no matter vibe it is and channel one thing from inside her world and her expertise, and deliver it in a approach that’s so purely Trixie Whitley, but at the similar time matches in the context. I feel the very first thing we recorded was “All For You.” And after that I used to be like, oh, wow, she actually turned it into this, virtually, like a stupendous lullaby or something, this type of soul lullaby, but there’s no drums. This ambient thing.
And yeah, she’s great. And it was comparable, like even with a monitor like “Hera’s Song” or one thing the place I stated, okay, properly, this is clearly a darker, moodier piece. She simply went in deep and channeled this type of anger or fueled that or hooked up to something there and went and sang by way of it. And it had this sinister vibe to it. Like she really received into the concept of taking over these characters that have been written into the lyrics and just type of singing for them in a method I feel that no other singer might have pulled off. That’s what I’m saying, she’s simply acquired this unimaginable vary.
mxdwn: Once I examine hints dropped by way of IO, you converse of a story guided by the Greek character Io. And I was hoping you would elaborate on that a bit. Is the document meant to be an idea, is it meant to have a story parallel it?
KK: Nicely, I mean, I feel these are very collaborative data. The concept was to collaborate, for me to get right into a state of affairs where it’s a must to work with someone, and study and navigate how everyone can work together and apply their talent sets to one thing that may be outdoors of each get together’s common type of music. So, it was one of those things the place there was some exploring into how you need to strategy it. At the end of the day I do assume they’re very personal songs, very private lyrics, but by having that diploma of separation of an outdoor narrative to catalyze it and characters by means of which we’re writing for I felt it was… It was the similar factor with Satellite tv for pc, simply type of permits it to unlock and help guide certain writing processes.
No less than for me lyrically, trying to find a strategy to write a personal track that Trixie might pull off, that relates to who I do know, the elements of her character that I’m aware of and some of the issues that I know she thinks and her outlook, but then do it by way of an precise third character. And it’s simply type of, virtually, a theatrical method of doing it. But I did write them for her, figuring out that she’s an unimaginable interpreter above all that also. So, at first it was quite simple. Satellite was set on Mars and we just decided, I simply determined, I’m gonna go further into area, so I used to be reading about other planets in the galaxy, yada yada.
And I was reading about the moons of Galileo, all of which I knew have been named after these Greek, mythical figures. However I wasn’t that accustomed to the intricacies of their stories. But once I acquired to Io, I began reading about the Io fable. And there was undoubtedly something there that reminded me of one thing that Trixie may have the ability to relate to, simply from hanging out together with her and even understanding things about myself, like the restlessness in terms of being a musician, virtually like a troubadour, in some instances. In the present age of being in music, typically you do really feel like you’re simply trekking continuous around the world and there’s connection and then there’s disconnection also, in that course of.
Anyhow, there was something that sort of compelled me to look into it further. After which once I was talking to Trixie when she acquired here, we have been just reviewing all the things, it was simply type of this more thorough getting-to-know-you interval of simply discussing the whole lot, from what’s occurring in the information, what’s occurring in your family life, what’s occurring in your music profession and simply the issues that have been on her thoughts. And I felt like ‘Hey, you know, what do you think of this Io storyline?’ And we went by way of and, yeah, it just appeared to suit. And so, yeah, under no circumstances is it a read-along, storybook soundtrack to the fable, however I feel there were sure key events in that fantasy and also key visuals in the fable that kind of triggered an concept, or a seed for a track. So, the characters themselves, she sings from both Io’s perspective and Hera’s perspective.
Under no circumstances am I an professional on Greek mythology, it was simply a place to begin. And I feel when individuals learn into if they select it, in the event that they wanna read the Io fable, they will type of hear some of that stuff that oddly, I assume this is with any fable, that’s nonetheless relevant at this time. The identical sort of stuff continues to be occurring at this time. The thought of individuals’s lives being derailed by another drive, then having to stay and study by means of that and in some methods just dealing with all of that on a metaphysical degree.
mxdwn: You even have a background in graphic novels as properly, do you assume that these data might match that mould?
KK: You understand what, I do not know. At this level in my life, I’m like, I don’t actually attempt to predict something. I mean, in this lifetime, there’s gonna be sure individuals, there’s gonna make sure inclinations to work with sure individuals, and that’s the factor. Such as you’re gonna study from that process and I really feel like, who is aware of. As an example, Nufonia, which is touring now, like we’re about to tour like 5 continents, it’s a reside model of a graphic novel that I wrote in my 20s. So, many years later I’m here doing a reside show, having a good time, with puppeteers and cinematographers and a string quartet. I might have never, ever, ever thought that it might have advanced into something like that. So, I don’t really know. For now, it’s simply the report comes out. If it leads to different things, nice.
mxdwn: You recorded some of the album in the Nationwide Music Middle in Calgary? I needed to listen to just a little extra about the place from your perspective.
KK: I feel the approach a scratch DJ may hear the world is in very, very microscopic slivers of sound, typically. Like my ears are variety of actually tuned to the most minute things that I feel lots of individuals won’t even hear or register. Like, oh, no, those things sound the similar and I’m like ‘No, actually they don’t.’ So, not to be like, oh, get all ‘wine tasting’ about it or anything, however primarily in terms of the scratch DJ culture, like even if you’re making breaks and the way you’re stacking snare drums that have a sure type of hit, it’s such as you may toil quite a bit over making an attempt to only stack the good break or get into that swing the method you want.
That sort of microscopic approach of working on music typically, it’s like once I’m applying it to more ambient stuff, it’s about tone and it’s about palette. Having a palette of tones that can be complementary otherwise you may wanna toss stuff in to add just a little sizzle or slightly coldness or use a extra trendy tone to juxtapose towards a bit extra previous, fuzzy, old-school tones. It sounds unusual, nevertheless it’s variety of like the strategy to the Music To Draw To data is a little more like, you’re just painting in layers. So, what Nationwide Music Middle has and homes is one of the most in depth keyboard and synthesizer collections in the world that go all the approach back to centuries-old harpsichords and things like that, all the approach up to the most trendy synthesizers. And every thing is tuned and up-to-spec and every part. So, it literally is a dream playground for anyone who’s curious about the subtleties of all the totally different tones which you can get from that place.
So, letting me unfastened in the synth room is just pretty much like, I’m good. Oh, yeah, you guys need to close tonight, it’s cool. I gained’t even sleep, I’ll simply work. However yeah, they did should kick me out once they closed. Nevertheless it was one of those issues the place I might have been fantastic if they hadn’t. And, once more, time simply ends if you’re in there looking for tones and making an attempt to get these machines to play together. How they will add to a monitor? What’s distinctive about every keyboard? And making an attempt to get it to work with the mood of the monitor or something like that. It was nice, it’s simply, I don’t know. I think about it’s like being a chef and then all of a sudden, for the first time, going to some market that has like 50 spices you’ve by no means heard or tasted before. Like okay, this modifications the whole lot.
mxdwn: You’re working on trekking around North America working with visible artist Karina Bleau. Did you type of let her unfastened on the visuals for the movies and the present?
KK: Right, because it’s not cold sufficient there. No, I’m kidding. Yeah, properly, I’m truly on the West coast with the Nufonia exhibits, but I am internet hosting Music To Draw To events, extra conventional, simply low-key events. For the launches in Montreal, we determined to do something special for the hometown. So principally, she’s just very intuitive also. And I feel the first time round, once we had been working together, she was truly one of our puppeteers on the show, Nufonia, so at the time that was on tour I stated, ‘Oh, I’ve been engaged on this new report collection that I’m gonna launch in the wintertime.’ And she or he stated, ‘That sounds interesting,’ and I performed her some of it. And she or he stated ‘This is cool, you know what, what might look nice with this music is this other thing that I’m doing, chemical puppetry.’
And I was like, ‘What is that?’ I had by no means heard of it. And I stated, clarify your self. And she or he showed me some still frames of some of it, mixtures and crystallizations that she might do reside. And I seemed and I stated wow, it actually seems to be like NASA pictures or Mars touchdown or one thing. And I asked her, are you able to do that in actual time? How long does it take so that you can create or get this image? She stated it depends upon what the process is, some crystallizations take a few minutes, some may take a half hour, however there’s sure issues that you are able to do in real time. To the point where she will truly play virtually like she’s in the band. Like she will truly hit a chord change, or once we received to the chords, or if there’s something that happens in the bridge, she will time sure reactions to occur.
So, it turned this fun thing the place I used to be like okay, let’s attempt and do this. So yeah, she’s undoubtedly… Properly not in the California exhibits, but she’s with me on Turntable Orchestra exhibits which are later in the spring. And so, she’s doing these visuals reside and those, primarily like the videos that you simply see that she’s achieved for the albums. Doing all that reside, with just a couple lit glass tabletops, a pair fish tanks and a bunch of bizarre components. And she or he makes all of it happen, and it’s actually quite beautiful
This was undoubtedly slightly extra brain massage-y, what we have been doing. But I had been there earlier than to see other more, sort of, digital, visible, sort of motion graphic stuff there. But to see Karina work there it’s an entire totally different factor. It’s virtually like she had control of the sky, you understand what I mean? Otherwise you hear like, oh, okay, there’s gonna be an eclipse or one thing and it can have this type of visceral effect on everyone on the planet. It was virtually like she had that, sort of, management over the visual area, the mild, primarily. And typically what she was doing appeared like Aurora Borealis. Other occasions it was a chemical reaction the place you’re watching certain issues dissolve and how the bubbles are reacting, and how the crystals are coming out of it. And it’s just so fascinating to observe.
The whole ethos together with her work is that she focuses on what’s unimaginable about nature and the pure points of one thing. Okay, like, right here’s a liquid mixing with another liquid, as a result of you possibly can watch that and sort of stare at that for hours. You realize what I mean? And I’m not simply talking like a lava lamp. I’m speaking like stuff the place you’re simply endlessly intrigued by it. And I feel she was… She’s by no means had that sort of canvas to work with, the place actually your entire subject of vision is what she’s mixing collectively on there. So, yeah, it was a stunning shock. I’m gonna have to return there for positive.
mxdwn: You’re taking IO and Music to Draw to on tour. Do you foresee putting out any new music? Will we ever see any new Deltron 3030?
KK: Yeah, Deltron, I mean, there’s all these issues which are variety of in the cards proper now. I assume it is dependent upon everyone’s schedule, what ends up being on the entrance burner. This yr the major type of target is in November for us, because we’re gonna have a world premiere of a new show, type of like the Nufonia show. A new show referred to as the Storyville Mosquito that’s a narrative that I wrote, yeah, many years, perhaps over a decade ago. After which now we’re finally gonna present it as a first time as a reside, Nufonia-style, reside silent movie show. So that’s gonna be, we’re gonna be in production so much this yr. However that doesn’t imply, the other stuff… I’m out there, it simply actually comes down as to if I host a Music To Draw To or if we’re doing a Satellite show or one thing. It just comes down as to if the schedules align and the promoters, when they want the exhibits to occur.
On the Deltron news, I don’t really have anything official but. I imagine it’s actually extra on Del, when he’s able to do the subsequent one. There’s in all probability beats already cooking on Dan’s aspect. The truth is, I keep in mind having carried out some turntable work on a couple of beats already, nevertheless it’s nonetheless in its preliminary levels. I’m already working, began some on my next album and then additionally one other collaborative hip-hop document, which I can’t speak an excessive amount of about right now, so there’s that.
For me, again, it’s a stability truly with the seasons. Like, if I have been to do one report a yr any more, it will in all probability be like, that one will probably be a winter report and that one will probably be a summer time report like with beats and stuff. That just appears more balanced to me, however I feel, absolutely, I feel now the method the touring is structured, I’m not likely making an attempt to create stuff where I get burnt out on it. Which means, properly, we’re gonna put out a document and the entire touring cycle can be two years with just that document, and then you definitely’ll attempt and go back in the studio and not hear anything in your head because you’re just so in a loop.
And so now, it’s more like releasing stuff and truly having the exhibits type of reside on their own phrases. For example, Satellite Turntable Orchestra was initially developed for that first Music To Draw To document, to do a, quote, stay version of that document, interactively with the audience. So, anybody in the audience who’s acquired harmonized tone data that they play and sort of play together like a vinyl orchestra. And we’re doing songs from the first report. And now that IO is out, we’re gonna begin adding those songs into the set for Turntable Orchestra. So, it may evolve as the present, it could nonetheless be referred to love present releases, however it’s the extra downtempo show, whereas like, Vaudeville is more celebration show. And so that one we tailored for Flooring Youngsters, when the video came out final yr.
So, it’s the concept of simply continuously variety of evolving all of those concepts, all of those exhibits and type of growing them over time. Somewhat than just type of burning yourself out and being like, okay, if I never hear one other ambient monitor again I’m good. Or if I by no means hear one other beat I’m okay. You recognize what I mean? I don’t wanna take it to that restrict, simply maintain it in stability so that each one the tasks are type of occurring concurrently. It just relies upon which one is sort of being booked or is on the front burner.
All Photographs: Raymond Flotat
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