Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Shawn Biggs
You know how there are some people who pooh-pooh the very idea of going out and paying money to see a DJ or turntablist perform? Most of it is justified, but the same arguments can be made for not going out to see any hip-hop show because those greedy old boys never give you your money's worth and they're typically just there for themselves. With turntablists, the gripe is the standing around, maybe some token head-bobbing and arm-pumping, but usually, the artist is pushed back on the stage, up on an even more raised platform and you're unable to see any of the handiwork. You're just there for the dance party, but you're deprived of all the spectacular artistry. They're up there in their grand geekdom, twiddling and thinking about a thousand things at once, manipulating and rifling through their prized vinyl collections, matching up starting arrows and ending arrows and being as intellectually, physically and emotionally stimulated as they can be while a bunch of raging strangers on drugs are staring at them like they want to eat them. Eric San, better known as Kid Koala, is arguably one of the world's greatest DJs and turntablists, creating and performing provocative and insightful pieces of music that are completely new works of art when he's done with them - if he ever is really done with the living and breathing passages that he works with. Without a full view of San's hands as he's working, we're missing out on so much. It's an enthralling dexterity and the dance that he does with his hands and eyes is a wild scamper. It makes him sweat. It's his running laps. It's heart-pounding and you feel yourself wanting to give him standing ovations when you've seen and heard that - once again, as if there was ever any doubt - he's pulled off the unthinkable or the improbable. Well, it feels unthinkable and improbable to us, but it's not for San, whose work is dynamic and speaks on countless levels, as it's not just meant to bring about a dance party. It's music that you listen to and you think about. It's contemplative music and it's right that way, because it's all been delightfully constructed by a man who likely has the world's biggest collection of koala bear references on wax. The 37-year-old Canadian splices in dusty anecdotes from old call-in shows and spoken word records. He uses a relic from what sounds like a BBC piece, at the beginning of his famous reworking of the classic, "Moon River," with the snippet offering a description of the little animal: "And then there are those soft, cuddly creatures - the koala bears. They sleep by day and make love by night, as we do, mostly." These are like his signatures, the way he might think of himself - in ways that he'd never verbalize. If only we all had our own alter-egos that we could point to as our true selves. San works the way Banksy works, in a way, making new street art out of iconoclastic references, forgotten thoughts and forgotten art. Hearing, "We're after the same rainbows end, waiting round the bend, my huckleberry friend, moon river and me," with koala sex in the air, Dan the Automator in the corner checking email on his phone and San frantically tying all of the strands together, it all felt like a brick wall that's been there in the alleyway for decades, that's now been tagged and has never looked so good.
Kid Koala Official Site