Kid Koala

Scris pe 30.11.-0001 de Doru649

În incinta unei rotiserii de lânga Casa Poporului, ticluiam sovaitor, printre îmbucaturi de shaorma si mult fum de tigara, câteva întrebari pentru maestrul Eric San. O ora mai târziu, ne-a cucerit instant si a trebuit sa renuntam la jumatate dintre ele. Întins în fata noastra pe o perna de nisip, se juca necontenit cu pretiosul fader, tinut (chiar si atunci!) strâns între degete: "tzac-pac, tzac-pac"… Atmosfera degajata, amiabila, si o experienta nu mai putin memorabila decât cea a nebuniei instalate apoi, când avea sa treaca la platane…

We're gonna start with a simple question, I think… How are you?
Pretty delirious!

Really? Why?
Because I haven't really slept in a… Actually I'm totally lying (laughs). I sleep a lot on tours – probably too much – but I feel weird, like I'm never really awake. Somewhere in between pain and painkillers.

Speaking of tours, is this one any different from others you made? What should we expect today, in terms of the show?
Umm, expect… the unexpected! (laughs). Well here's what it comes down to: I don't come from club culture, so if you expect to hear one tempo and one style of music all night, then… this might not be the show for you. I just try to make a little more adventure out of it. I dunno, it's hard to describe. I basically take you to a trip through my record collection, and my record collection is very random. Because part of it is records that I bought and part of it is just records that were given to me from my older sister, friends and stuff… I always try to find a line between all these tracks.

How about the visual part?
Well tonight I think we're just using spy cameras on the turntables and projecting them…

Trying to obtain… ?
Well I think it's more engaging for people if they can actually see how it's all being put together. Some people might not care, some people are just there to dance, and that's cool too. But other people are there to whatch, especially if they're short. So it's mostly for the benefit of short people. See, I'm a short person myself. If you're a short person and you're not in the first two rows, then you're just shit out of luck. And that's too bad, you know, cause sometimes you're actually in the front row but then you have to go to the bathroom, and then it gets too packed and there's no way for you to get back in the front and then – baah! – you miss the rest of the show…

Oh nevermind, we're pretty tall but really need to see your "handwork" too…
Well you can always close your eyes and just… listen. Cause at the end, even if you're just listening, I want that to be kind of like an interesting thing, some constantly mutating stuff… But yeah, it is a performance and people do look for something. So instead of them looking at a… you know, a star spinning around on the screen and tripping out or something… (laughs). For me it's not about losing people, not about flying over their heads or being all "magic" about it. It's about demystifying it all, breaking it down and saying: "This is what it is. If you can understand, it usually makes it more enjoyable". Otherwise it might be just too fluid: flying through that many records in such a short period of time.

Do you have any routines or special tricks that you use to do in your sets?
My set is kind of an organic little monster that grows with me, you know. I started doing sets when I was 13, so they're 13 years younger than me. At this point, my set is 17 years old, and within it there are bits that I've been doing since I was 13. There's records in that box that I know backwards and forwards and I don't even need to listen – I could just count rotations, I know them. But also it's growing, because it's influenced by records that I hear or I pick up on tours, things that I've just bought a week before, etc… If I hear it and it catches me, I find a way to put it in the set. So what you hear is actually a bunch of records that I've known since my childhood, mixed with live performances of my own songs, mixed with songs that I just love and I wanna hear loud, but for some reason no deejay will play them except me (laughs), mixed with songs that are more oriented towards the dancefloor, just so they can get people's groove on. I just try to keep it moving through it all…

We were gonna ask you if it's hard being a ninja… How's your everyday life?
Ahhh!… I'm not a ACTUAL ninja, you know. Guess my everyday life involves laundry, groceries, the cinema, hanging with my girlfriend… That's about it… Umm, drawing, practicing… push-ups… one arm (laughs). I try to do like 5000 crunches a day… No, not true. I wish, but haven't found the time! (laughs)

Any musical projects you're involved in at the moment?
I'm working on this kinda rock record with a producer named Dynomite D from Seattle. I'm playing some of our stuff tonight – some test pressings that we've worked on.

I remember you collaborating with him before…
Yeah, same thing, same concept, but it's in the rock vein, like you can hear all the drums and stuff. It's hard.

Anything else?
Well there's that and there's a new graphic novel about a misquito playing clarinet in a jazz band. We moved from robots to misquitos.

Is this gonna come up with a new cd?
New soundtrack, yes. It's set on a sort of story in New Orleans, so it's kind of a Dixieland style…

Any name for this project?
Not yet, really. We don't try to name until at the end, I think. We've just built like all the sets and all the characters, so now we're gonna go into shooting it, cause it's a photograph book. After that's all done, we're gonna lay out and put it all together. Hope that gets done by the end of next year.

Cool. We wanna talk a bit about "crate digging" now. Guess you don't mind, cause you do that a lot.
Okay!

For starters, what would be your best memory about lucky finds or sounds? Any experience you wanna share to help us understand the way you work through it?
I'm just fascinated with story, you know. So I think one of the most mindblowing records that I've discovered was this one that teaches you how to date.

Did we hear it on "Barhopper"?
Yeah, parts of it were used on "Barhopper". But this record I think was probably aimed at high school or college students that were too nervous or too shy. It's kind of an instruction, cause it basically broke everything down, saying: "Go to the door; make sure your hair looks like this; ring the doorbell; give her father a firm handshake", you know. "When you're at the restaurant, talk about A, B or C, and then, when you finish, make sure you pull the seat out" and all of that. And it's really funny because, you know, even though a lot of those ideas are very dated, the one thing that stayed the same was the fact that everyone has gone through this experience before. I found this record in some charity shop. It always had records someone was too embarrased to want to know and just dumped. Well I found it and, all of a sudden, there's this connection between me and this unknown person from the 1950's, probably about my age, going through the trials and tribulations (laughs) of understanding the whole thing about dating. I found that was just really… intriguing and inspiring to me. And that's the type of stuff that I go for.

Do you see crate digging as a ludic artform?
Yeah, it's like… When I hear something, I try to make the weirdest studio sessions happen: the drummer from this band mixed with this person coughing on this record, mixed with this chicken over here, or whatever. Like, if you had the opportunity to bring this chicken and this horn player from the 60's, and this bass player from the 30's, what kind of music would they make? That's always the question, you know what I mean? (laughs).

Like a travel into time?
That's the thing… It's like those things are always the same, you know… Generations come and go and there's always the same sentiments. People try to find ways to express themselves, situate themselves, connect themselves with the rest of it. So for me the challenge is like: all this music that's come before me, all this music that'll come after me… All these deejays that came before me, all this deejays that'll come after me…

Trying to figure out your…
My place in the universe! (laughs) That might be too cosmic or something, but it's really strange, cause… there's stories in everything. If you really think about it, everything has a story, everybody has a story… Like I had a record that you play for your… umm… plants. You play it for your plants, because there's a study that said "If you talk to your plants, they grow". So somebody decided to capitalize on this idea: "We're gonna make a record for people who are too busy to talk to their plants!". And also on this record there's this guy, and he's talking kind of… kind of a bit too sexy to your plants. It's kinda odd actually. (laughs) You listen to him talking to your plants, trying to course them to grow, be all that they can be… It's very inspirational. You can just listen to that as a record and be like "Ok, that's very odd" and stuff, or you can listen to it for its potential for stories. For me, when I hear that, it's like "Ohh… there's so many ways this could go". Think about it for a second! Just imagine: this guy is in the studio probably standing in front of some, you know, annoying microphone, pretending to talk to some plants. And all of a sudden, it's like this record has a whole world around it… that is intriguing to me. That's the stuff I dig for, you know…

Intriguing, for sure…
I have one about venereal disease!!! And I'm not that curious about venereal disease, although it's always good to educate yourself on those type of things… But this record was called "Medical Aspects of Venereal Disease", done by CBC or some company, I dunno. They had five "experts" on like gonorrhea, syphilis, genital herpes, etc., and they were all on a panel, arguing on both sides of this record, for almost an hour, about… venereal disease. I listened to this record and I wasn't, you know, "just trying to learn about venereal disease". I was listening trying to find bits that would inspire me. And I listened to the thing, I listened to the thing, and what ended up inspiring me most was the fact that… someone made a record about venereal disease!… Again, I thought about when this was being recorded: these five people are in a room in front of five microphones, arguing about venereal disease… And then my mind starts going: "What do you think happenned after that session?". Do they go for lunch? Do they keep talking about venereal disease? Do two of them start winking at each other in the studio? (laughs) And after that: "Hey, I like what you said about discharges", you know what I mean? It's weird, right? Sometimes I just try to see where it can go…

You've talked earlier about "demystifying it all". In terms of production, couldn't the fact of revealing all this obscure material hurt some producers? See, crate diggers usually have this "complex" about their sources and stuff…
I say, you know… If for some reason there's this weird bomb that hits and destroys all the records in the world except for five… and let's just say everyone is given five records. I'm convinced that if you give them to ten different deejays, they're gonna come up and make ten completely different tapes. You can't escape how you listen and how you arrange… and how you filter through it. So for me it's really about that "communication", know what I mean? I don't try to just get all crazy with it and say "Oh, you don't know where this is coming from, bla bla bla bla"… Nah, where it's coming from is… a person… trying to use his machine to make some sounds, to express the way he hears something. Like when I first heard scratching, that was it! I didn't know where the sounds were coming from, I didn't know how they were being made… I was just listening to them in a store and I could tell there's a person behind it, just cause of the flow: someone's stuttering this word and cutting up the sentence, making a new rhythm out of it, a new melody. Wow, someone practiced to do that! And that was the compelling part to me. Like "Why would someone do that?!"… "That's crazy!!"… (laughs)

Do you have any ethics of sampling? Like, does vinyl necessarily have to be old or rare? Have you ever thought of sampling something other than vinyl, like… hell… MP3 for example?
Yeah, the technology doesn't really bother me. Vinyl is my medium of choice because it's what I've grown up with and stuff. But, I dunno, for instance in China they don't have access to those records. Not only that – they can't afford to get them, if they try to order off the web or whatever. Alotta these kids simply can't afford them and it doesn't mean that they should be denied even the ability to have something to say in "DJ culture" or whatever you wanna call it. So they're using Serato and finding new ways to mix it up… It's the same thing. As long as you can feel the spirit behind it, that's the key thing to me. I use this analogy about visual arts. It's like… you can make up a drawing using Photoshop with all these filters, taking collage and doing all this stuff with technology to make a statement visually… or you could just take a stick and write in the dirt. (laughs) As long as, when you look at it, you can still get an impression, then that's all that matters. So it doesn't matter to me if you use crayons or G4 MAC. It doesn't matter if they're original 7-inches or like AIFF files. To me it's what you do with them – that's where your choices are being made. Cause if it gets too much on that, it becomes like this weird "collectors" kind of elitist thing, you know…

How do you see this minimalistic trend in hip-hop nowadays, with people like The Neptunes, you know… selling their beats for millions of dollars. And then there's lots of other guys who just sample only the first 2 or 4 measures of the original piece… What do you think about it? Which is your vision of successful production?
I think the cool thing about music is that it doesn't take up any space. I mean, if you have like a thousand records, that's gonna take up some space, granted. But… SOUND is SOUND, right? So, if you don't like a certain sound, you shouldn't trip – you should just get with the next thing. The thing with styles of music is like: there's craft and there's art and there's reason behind all those things, whether someone's trying to make a pop record or a dancefloor jam. They've got different things they're trying to get going, know what I mean? So I believe everything diserves to exist and everything sort of has its reason and has its place. I'm with it, I'm with all that. Like, bring it on! Bring on every style of music – there's room for it.

Shit… Dunno what to ask you anymore…
(laughs)

How much time do you spend making a track?
The recording process usually happens very quickly – I try to get it done in one session; the accumulation of ingredients can take months though. So, for me, the production of an album can take about 3 years. The first 2 years I don't even go into the studio – it's just listening to stuff, trying to find bits that I like. And then, the next 6 months it's practicing with those bits.

Ok, but you probably hear thousands of sounds. How do you keep track of them?
Well there's definitely that "love at first sight" thing. There's always those ones that you know you don't even have to write down because you're like "That's awesome!". But there's also sounds that you're like: "It's interesting, but I dunno where to put it right now, so let's just put it in this little section", you know. If you go into my record room, there's shelves. Right now it's actually done more in projects, so it's stuff like for the Deltron new album, the mosquito soundtrack and the new Ninja Tune album, whatever. So it's the kind of things that I'm like "Oh, that might fit for that album", and then I just try to learn those records as well as I can before I go into recording. So there's that and then the rest of it I got in sections: bass, horns, tone records. I have records that are just feedback, records with people coughing… It makes sense to me but I dunno if your average record store owner would keep me on the job. (laughs)

Do you manage listening to records without even thinking of sampling?
Ohhh yea… That's a really weird switch that you hopefully learn to turn off every now and then… (laughs)

Any specific track or project you've worked on that you're most proud of?
I really enjoyed doing the "Nufonia Must Fall" project. It has that kind of naive freedom to it… You try to always get there, because that's where the creative stuff comes out, you know: you don't have anything on your mind, it's just all (snaps fingers) put together. So the challenges from that project were like all new muscles for me. You have to score music to these pages and these scenes of the book, you know. A lot of it was graviting to piano to do the bad tracks. And then you have to try and find the turntable parts to compliment that mood without making it too tiff, you know. They're just short 30 seconds to like 1 minute songs, but there were alotta moments when I was very happy with them. Actually, I was surprised and that's really the nice part: when you can surprise yourself doing something that you're doing since childhood…

What made you set aside the turntables and go back to piano?
The deeper I got into turntables, the more I realised that music has that connection with all of it. At the end of the day, it's about making something that works, that diserves the purpose of what that musical piece is supposed to do. Turntables is my primary instrument cause it's the one that I practiced most, on a daily basis. But you can never escape your influences, you can never escape your genetics, the music that your parents listen to when you're growing up. So all that time, from 4 to 13, when I was studying classical piano – when I first started deejaying I abandoned it. But as I got to know my turntables better, I was like "How can I find other ways to play this?", and it started circling back to melody and structure, harmony – things that I wasn't doing in turntablism but could be done conceivably. And all of a sudden I realised it sounds pretty good.

Musically speaking, is there anything that particularly impressed you lately?
Of recent memory I really like what Fog is doing… And, umm, there's a singer named Emiliana Torrini from Iceland who's very stripped down in the production on her latest record – very soulfully performed quiet ballads. It's just so sparse but so beautiful in its simplicity. I listen to a lot of soundtrack work, I like a lot of Carter Burwell's stuff – wonderful producer… And then there's, you know, Mark Mothersbaugh's stuff that he did for Wes Anderson – really lotta fun. And… yea! Other than that, I'm still a student of music, so I'm going backwards too, just trying to learn about jazz, learn about the blues, learn about, you know, where all that came from…