Published Aug 24, 2009One of the most respected turntablists in hip-hop, even Kid Koala gets itches he needs to scratch sometimes. The Montreal native is embarking on a unique fall tour, exploring his affinity for heavier rock with his new group, the Slew — the only known by-product of soundtrack collaboration between Koala and Dynomite D (Dylan Frombach) for an as-yet-unreleased documentary.
"We wanted to make a something our skater friends in Seattle would dig," Koala explains. "We asked ourselves, 'What would it sound like if the Bomb Squad produced a Black Sabbath record?' 'What if everything was assembled by hand on turntables?' Four years later, and here we are."
Live, the Slew consists of Koala and D, as well as ex-Wolfmother rhythm section Chris Ross and Myles Heskett. The Slew's record will only be available on tour; it's called 100% and lives up to the vision of its creators. "The show will be two DJs on six turntables with Chris and Myles on bass and drums," Kid Koala enthuses. "It's going to be loud."
What are you up to?
The Slew rehearsals: cutting 80 custom records for the show and playing turntables through overdriven amps and Marshall stacks. Also building some shockproof turntable stands so we can rock out and not have to worry about needles skipping.
What are your current fixations?
Thelonious Monk live recordings. He reinvented piano playing; I could watch that guy play for hours. Goodnight Moon; my daughter wants me to read that book to her all the time. It's actually quite trippy. What's up with that bowl full of mush? Who says good night to mush? Monet and Seurat: been going through a pointillism phase recently. The Mighty Boosh is one of the most advanced shows on the boob: totally on a whole other level. And rice; I grew up with it. Kind of "pointillistic" visually, it's a staple yet it can be very versatile. I've seen it reinvented like crazy. It's like the Thelonious Monk of starches.
Why do you live where you do?
I live in Montreal because it's a wonderful town where you can have a job as strange as mine and it's okay.
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
Adira Amram's live act; she's one of the world's last real entertainers. She did a gig with me in New York earlier this year and totally murdered it. I was standing at the side of the stage watching her set and the security guy says to me, "Whoa man, how are you going to go on after this?!" To which I really didn't have an answer. She had absolutely everyone in the place smiling and jumping up and down within seconds of taking the stage. It was a no-brainer when it came time to pick someone to support us on this tour.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
Playing Madison Square Garden with Radiohead. I got to play for 25 minutes, which is more than most pro basketball players get. Crazy.
What have been your career highs and lows?
Highs: The Slew just started, so we'll see. It's been pretty interesting so far. Lows: The time I was playing in Europe at some "performance art" festival. I had to play a DJ set between Orlan and Annie Sprinkle. The stage tech wouldn't lay off the fog machine so my eyes got really dry and eventually my contact lens fell out and landed on the record that was playing. So there I was in this thick cloud of smoke, strobe lights flashing non-stop, desperately trying to pick up the contact lens each time it spun around, while scratching the other record. That was definitely one of those "What am I doing here?" moments.
What's the meanest thing ever said to you before, during, or after a gig?
"Nice shirt." That's always such a weird, condescending thing to say to someone. I mean, how do you respond to that?
What should everyone shut up about?
How amazing the Slew album is.
What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
I have a very keen sense of smell. I like that. It comes in really handy when you lose your keys. Dislikes? I wish I wasn't so damn tall.
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
Hanging out in the studio, making dub turntable tracks with my baby daughter — me on the turntables and her on the Space Echo dials.
What advice should you have taken, but did not?
"Play the guitar, chicks dig it." Someone told me that back in high school. I decided to go the turntable/electronics route thinking it was more "futuristic" and chicks would dig that too. I was wrong.
What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?
Definitely tardiness. And no.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
Psychedelic turntable rock.
What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
Public Enemy's "Night of the Living Baseheads" twelve-inch single. I had never heard anything like it. I remember thinking, "This is the craziest music ever, but I like it!"
What was your most memorable day job?
I had a paper route when I was 12. The world is super quiet at five in the morning. I'd make enough to buy a couple of records every week. Those were the days. Sort of.
How do you spoil yourself?
If I wasn't playing music I would be…
A chef. It's all timing, fresh ingredients, and flavour. Come to think of it, it's a lot like being a scratch DJ.
What do you fear most?
Mummies. And being cast in a film about mummies. Gauze is creepy.
What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
Once I saw Zooey Deschanel at a restaurant in New York. I called the waiter over and paid for her dinner. Upon hearing that the bill was paid by "that gentleman across the room," she looked over, smiled, and did the obligatory "thank you" head tilt. She left the restaurant shortly after that. I later found out that it wasn't her.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
It'd be cool to have Beethoven over for dinner. We could hang out and he could tell me about "the one that got away." I'd probably boil up some edamame.
What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
"Movin' Right Along" by Kermit and Fozzie. Kermit was a pretty enlightened amphibian. A lot of those Muppet Show tunes had this oddly profound, metaphysical side to them.