Posted by: daaavid | November 9, 2008

the Art of Turntablism: Kid Koala

Kid Koala was less about scratch-nerd showmanship and more about creating a good-time, party atmosphere that catered to those who couldn’t dance, but loved dancing.  His live shows were like an impromptu robot/jungle-themed party, set in a thrift store, with all of your wackiest friend’s friends. His choice of records includes jazz solos, obscure hip hop, funk drums, mediocre pop gems, cartoon dialogue, and movie soundtracks. In addition to this seemingly random assortment of records, he also toured with his jam-band, Bullfrog, which added to the junkyard party vibe. And as with all great stories… it started with a mixtape!

Scratchcratchratchatch

Scratchcratchratchatch

Scratchcratchratchatch got his name out, before he even recorded his first album. It’s only a precursor of the genius to come, but you should note that portions of this tape are recreated live in the following set I am posting. Skip around if you need to, and see what he’s got going on here… There is some Yoda wisdom in there, as well as dialogue from It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and even the theme song from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The record that follows in his musical discography was entirely his project, much like a mixtape would be, in that he drew the cover art, the included comic book, and CD image (complete with mini-game and music files). Now,  to me, the albums were never the great appeal of Kid Koala. There was always one song that really stood out, and he made a cartoon video to go along with it, but it was definately more of a studio piece than turntable wizardry, which is rare, considering he is pretty much a DJ.

It’s a good example of his style though, in that he’s not really about making scratch sounds; he’s about using scratching to make new sounds, or his own sounds. I originally discovered this when I found a video feed from a Canadian website, broadcasting this epic live set.  Since then, I have managed to find a bootleg recording of the same set, or at least the same routine in it’s entirety.

It begins with him thanking the audience for coming out to see the show, and then he announces that is he going to start “playing records incorrectly” as he usually does. He’s a great host – he chimes in at the right times, staying connected with the audience so that it’s more friendly, and less a showing off of his skills AT the audience, but WITH the audience. It feels like you’re his friend at this weird party that he’s hosting, by introducing his band members, telling you when it’s time to dance like a robot, or saying stuff like “We’re going to be doing a lotta weirrrd shit on this stage, so I hope you’re into it, because that’s we’re all about…”

He’s got some cool tricks up his sleeve, with routines like the “drunk trumpet” where he plays a record with a trumpet solo and proceeds to bend and stretch the notes, so it sounds like, well, a drunk trumpet player, instead of scribbling a new sound out of it. He’s so adept at playing records that he does something you won’t notice from listening, so I’ve got this really cool video of him using it in part of this routine.  He manipulates the tone-arm, rather than the record, as if he was dropping ink dots on a piece or paper, or meticulously poking holes with a pin, playing the record grooves laterally, instead of back-and-forth scratching… here’s an example, take a look:

Quite a refreshing and subtle take on playing records incorrectly, no?

Anyways, the live set is amazing! It plucks my musical nerd heart strings oh so pleasantly.  The first portion is him warming up  on the decks and warming up the crowd. Then, since the man is no octopus, he eventually calls his deejay pal P-Love out to help man the four turntables he has been playing simultaneously. At this point, the sound gets much more layered and allows for the two DJ’s to play around more with the records, showing off their traditional DJ skills, helping each other out in keeping the beat going, etc. Then, if you thought things couldn’t get any more interesting,  for the third and final part, they raise the houselights a bit and reveal his band, Bullfrog, wielding congas, guitars, and percussion instruments! It really comes together to form this amazingly fun party, collaged from found-sound and live jamming – it’s truly a beautiful thing.

Of all the things I could ever talk about or post to download, or wish to recreate for live personal experience… hands down, this is it. Check it out for yourself.

Kid Koala live at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, Colorado – May 12th, 2000

Now, when you listen to this you really should turn off your tv, stop surfing the web, and sit back with a nice drink or some friends and really soak this up… not that this needs your full attention, it only deserves it. Short Attention-Span Theatre, as he calls it, is so jam-packed full of samples, sound, and texture, you’ll be overlapping smiles before you can figure out the where/what/how of the Kid Koala magic, and then he’ll switch it up on you again.  You won’t regret it.

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Responses

  1. When I saw him at Bonnaroo in 2003, I was a little too far away (and a little too fucked up) to really see what sort of physical antics he had going, but the sound was delightful.

    Dan is sleeping so I can’t really turn up the fox theater show and get down as much as I’d like, so that’ll have to wait.


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