We recently were blessed to speak to author, producer and turntablist Eric San aka Kid Koala. This man needs no introduction, but to those of you who don’t know his stuff he’s one third of rap super-group Deltron 3030 and has worked along side the Gorillaz and Arcade Fire. He’s truly an artist that’s broken through genre stereotypes and creative mediums having opened for the likes of Radiohead and Björk.
Radd : Hi Eric, thank for meeting up with us! What’s the journey been like rolling with Ninja Tune?
Kid Koala: It’s been great, they’re pretty much a dream label for me. I’ve been following Coldcut and their career since they started and their album What’s that Noise? was one of the reasons I got heavily into DJing and scratching. It was an honour to be invited to record for them and it’s been a great trip.
Radd: How many years has it been to date?
KK: I signed in 1996.
Radd : You must have had offers from other labels, how come you stayed true to Ninja tune?
KK: They took a chance on me, I was just in Canada at the time doing my thing, they’d heard a cassette I’d done called Scratchcratchratchatch which I think is heavily inspired by the Coldcut aesthetic. I guess they were passing that cassette around the office and everyone was talking about it. I got a call from them about six months later, and right after that happened I started touring with them. I didn’t get any calls from other labels until after I started touring so really Ninja were always the first, and for me it was the perfect fit because of the whole Coldcut lineage anyway.
Radd: Do Ninja give you the freedom to do whatever?
KK: Absolutely, yeah! I think that was one of the mandates that Jonathan and Matt set when they started the label, because of their own experiences with major labels – they were telling me a lot of horror stories. When they started Ninja Tune they said they wanted it to be a forum for the artist to do stuff they were really passionate about, even if it’s left of centre.
Radd: What’s your creative process like?
KK: Umm, as fantastical or eccentric as some of these recordings might have been, it does all come from real life as far as my take on it goes! I know that if you spend most of your teenage years and half of your twenties locked in a room trying to find your voice, playing with spinning record machines, you have a weird, distorted outlook on reality!
As I’ve grown with turntables, seen more of the world and been exposed to different things, I’ve tried to bring that into the music as well. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome for example was kind of a like a punk record in scope – I didn’t really have any equipment to work with, but I wanted to do something that I hadn’t heard yet.
I wanted to see if I could open some other doors through scratching, but I gave myself the limitation of doing the whole record on turntables. In terms of it developing this style of storytelling, my humour, trying to find a way of expressing myself through layering little snippets of scratched up sounds – that’s basically what it ended up being. That really hasn’t changed. Talking about Mosquito that I’m working on now, or Space Cadet – it was just what was happening in my life and how that resonated in the studio. Space Cadet was kind of [inspired by] the birth of my daughter and the passing of our grandparents and the cycle of life, everything filtered in. It didn’t make sense to hook up a banging beat and scratch over it. Instead what did make me feel better was to make some quiet music, to build a series of lullabies for my daughter, but scratch at the same time. I tried to see how I could use the turntable to put an infant in a state of calm [laughs].
Radd: How do you collaborators fit into your mould?
KK: It’s all about striking a balance. At it’s root I think DJing is quite a solitary, lone wolf craft…! Like on New Year’s Eve when you’ve flown to all of these exotic places but then at midnight everyone is clinking champagne glasses and you’re there frantically trying to decided what record to play next…But I’ve also played in bands since I was a kid, and I realize that playing music with other people is equally rewarding, so I try to balance the two. I don’t want to get too lost in my own universe.
Radd: You have had many amazing projects, how do you measure each one’s success?
KK: It’s never been the reach of a project that makes it’s successful in my mind. I think more than anything [that] if we’re really surprised ourselves and do something that really gets us going, then that’s great. One of the perfect examples would have been The Slew, which was a project that started as a record between myself and Dynamite D in Seattle. It was just going to be a record for our skateboard friends, we didn’t know how we were going to translate it live.
Radd: How do you want your music to be remembered?
KK: [laughs] How ‘bout this, one person heard one of the recording, and smiled once [laughs].