Although regarded as one of the finest scratch DJs in the world, 32-year-old Canadian Kid Koala (aka Eric San) isn't your typical turntable hip-hop artist. Scratching records, or DJing, might be one of hip hop's founding four pillars (with rapping, breaking and graffiti), but he's taken the craft into a different realm: his latest work,Nufonia Must Fall, is the tale of a robot looking for love, accompanied by a smudgy, graphic novel, while recently released album Your Mom's Favorite DJ is another story, that draws on anything from jazz, film scores and David Brent (The Office) as narrative devices.
There's a rumour that tonight's gig will feature puppets, but instead it's a standard set-up, the stage crammed with as many decks (four) - including one precariously perched on a rickety wooden stool - as fans. Kid Koala bounds on to the stage, beaming, and whips out a flip chart saying, "Welcome To Your Mum's Favourite DJ's Launch Party", with a scruffy scrawl pointing out the British spelling of "Favourite" and "Mum" - betraying his past life as a school teacher.
Air-raid sirens signal the start of the show, as he selects vinyl at a bewildering rate. He seems like a record-slinger, who licks his fingers for extra purchase on plastic, and distorts beats and rock through the cross-fader and levels on the mixer. Beats meet the blues, and film soundtracks referencing ninjas (his label is Ninja Tune), and then he settles into a crowd-pleasing medley of hip hop: the Jungle Brothers, Kanye West and A Tribe Called Quest.
It's the only part of the night that evokes a traditional hip-hop scratch-DJ set, when familiar tracks are reeled out one after the other to maintain audience interest between explosions of turntable wizardry.
Kid Koala, however, has the perspiring, surprisingly mixed audience either dancing, or laughing raucously. We're transfixed as the DJ sits on the stool, puts the turntable on his lap and starts jamming or riffing white noise as a guitarist might with feedback.He proceeds to introduce a moment of "Grungalism" (an "extra stupid word"), or Nirvana meets turntablism, and slips in a wildlife sample - "Koala's are cute and cuddly, they're small but very strong" (Eric's a little rotund, and less than 5ft 5ins tall) to more laughter.
Kid Koala transcends genres: hip-hop homeboys are headbanging, while rockers are nodding their heads like seasoned rap fans. Turntablism couldn't have a better, more accessible ambassador. Someone give this man a bigger stage.Reuse content