If you think the UK hip hop scene gets a
bad rap (hahaha) then spare a thought for our scratchy and
rhymey brothers over the ocean in Canadia. Home of my ancestors,
certainly, but home of the real hip hop? Apart from the Dream Warriors
who could you name? Nobody for years, and then Boom! as Westwood
say, here comes Kid Koala (Eric to his mom), leading the
idiot's avant garde of novelty record-obsessed turntablists. We
skipped down to Cambridge a while back to meet the little fella
behind the Ninja Tune album Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (which explains
our hilarious net-found medical equipment jokes below) and made
a tiny friend. We gave him a T-shirt with a koala on it, he gave
us a tape of Scratch-Cratch-Ratch-Atch we're nice
(we open up by showing our Champ
Carpal Tunnel Wrap info)
Oh my god, where'd you find
On the interweb. The funny thing
was... you know The Champ, that tune?
The Mohawks? "Champ! Da-daa-da...etc"
We were searching for a midi/ringtone
version of that and came up with this instead.
"Carpal tunnel wraps hold a re-usable
cold pack of non-toxic gel, compressed against the wrist to provide...
P relief from carpal tunnel syndrome..." I don't know what "P
Pain. It printed off the edge
of the page.
Pain relief!! Right, of course.
So presumably you've suffered from carpal
Yes. No actually I don't think I
have carpal tunnel syndrome. I just sound like I do when I scratch.
You're just trying to be funny?
Yeah. We're racing towards it though
at an alarming rate. And things like this (he says whilst doing
his finger exercises) will help to warm up so I don't like go
up there and break all my fingers off in the first five minutes.
Look! There's tons of stuff they're just trying to sell you
That's OK, we're not buying.
I'm not exactly sure about this.
It's like "let's just invent something to scare people and then
sell them something to cure them". Theraputty?? Maybe it also
tells you little stories to make you feel better, listens to all
Anyway questions! We're interested
to know what the Kid Koala "live" experience is sometimes
it's just you; then there's you and a mate...
And then there's Bullfrog (a
merry band of jazz/latin fusioneers). And the whole spoken word
section of the show where I just stand there and give shout outs,
and nobody leaves. Nah, it's crazy, it's like The Muppet Show,
You've got Bullfrog with you tonight,
so is this a Bullfrog show, or have you got them promoting your
It's a Kid Koala show, but before when
I was on tour I had the opportunity to do mostly opening sets, like
a 20 minute showcase and get the hell out before the main act came
on. But now we're like equal billing I'm able to enter the headlining
area and give people more than they bargained for.
So you're not using your popularity
over here to treat your mates to a busman's holiday?
Oh no you'll see I'm like the youngest
one in the whole band. They'll let you know how comfortable they
are! There are a number of reasons I do it one of which is
if I just do straight turntables there's only so much information
before you're numb. What I do with the band changes with whatever
song we're doing, but my role on decks changes. When I'm playing
solo it's more like you're responsible for everything, but when
you're playing with a band it actually opens up it's organic
you can actually lay into a musical part, and I think it's
important to show that side to it rather than just me up there like
it was say six months ago.
Integrating as an instrument
Yeah. Solo sets are mainly geared around
tricks, right? You have certain tricks, some of them might be musical,
some of them might not be. But your set consists of getting from
this trick to the next trick, and then the transitions in between.
When you play with a band it's more like what is it you're doing
and how is that actually affecting and interacting with the others?
I think that's a pretty heady testament to it. People might see
the band at first and not get it.
How heavy is your record collection?
It's too heavy.
Is it mostly made up of beats and spoken
word stuff? How did you get into it?
Not that many beats actually. I started
just making wack tapes with a tape deck that had a broken erase
head. So it was a multitrack in that it wouldn't erase what was
there so you could just keep layering. The only problem was that
when you went into 'record' mode you wouldn't hear what was already
there, so you wouldn't know whether anything was in synch or not
until the end. It was a lot of layering, pause tapes, and stuff
like that. That's how I started collecting a lot of weird records
for that. That's what I'd say the majority of my collection is
wack old stuff that I just get a kick out of.
When you produce your tracks how much
of it is live on the decks? Do you sample?
No. It's all on vinyl, on Carpal Tunnel
it's all vinyl, except for Bar Hopper which has the band
on. On everything else if you hear a loop it's actually two copies
of the record, and everything's just layered. So it's not "live"
in that it's not one tape and two turntables and everything you
hear is on two turntables, it's actually layers but within each
layer it's live. What you hear is what I heard when it happened.
So to what extent can you recreate
tracks from the album when you play out?
I can quote from it. With the band I can
do a couple of renditions of songs off the album that might not
have been that convincing on the record for some reason, plus I've
got other tricks that seem to work better. I wish I'd known that
before I recorded the record. You can get themes or certain hooks
from the record that might have been the main spot on the track;
where there's a chicken or duck call or somebody being really hyper
and you can take these sounds and put them into the show
somehow. And of course DJ P Love's also here (manning the threes
and fours, hahaha) so we can do that tape (Scratch...)
live, which is a four track recording which I can't do because I
don't have enough arms. But when he's there and we have four decks
set up we can do pretty much all of that tape live so that's
When and why did you start collecting
all these funny little records?
Why did I do it? I don't
know if I collect, it's just something stupid where I thought "I
must have it, it's only 50 cents!" Eventually it starts accumulating
and then you become an expert! This is scary because I'm like "well
if you want spoken word this year is good, but this label: they
changed the narrator on this. His voice is just not as catchy".
There's just tons of stuff that they pressed to vinyl, it's silly.
I got records that teach you how to make kites, or clip your nose
hair or how to date, how to groom yourself. How to keep people on
the phone to make a sale or something. They're quite didactic in
the way they're put together and the fact that it's pressed to vinyl
has that formality about it. It's sorta like "well they must
know what they're talking about".
Most things like that are on cassette
these days though. I have a great one about how to complain to HM
Customs & Excise (and we're waiting for one about hair growth).
You can sample from them though.
We usually just mix them into
stuff live through a dictaphone.
Are you the only representative of
the Canadian hip hop scene? Name names...
No I'm not... DJ A Trak, P Love...
there's tons of DJs in Canada Turn Styles, Turntable Monks...
Is Canadian hip hop anything like the
I'm not sure. It is quite independent and
there's a huge graffiti and breakdance scene in Canada. Really good,
What about the emcees? Is it generally
people whinging about America?
Whinging about America?
Oh, complaining about America. I
don't know really. Most of the people I know are breakdancers and
DJs. I'm not the right person to ask because I don't actually go
When you're on stage with your records
how do you get them all back in the right sleeves?
We don't we just throw them on the
floor and pick them up afterwards.
Why did you sign with Ninja Tune? Are
there any labels closer to home doing anything similar?
Well, Ninja... I'm like a bastard
child of Coldcut really (aren't we all?). when I first started
getting into scratching, that What's That Noise? album was
one of the soundtracks to my high school years. That, and a couple
of other albums that really twisted my head around, so there's a
strange kinship there somehow.
Is there any truth in your album's cartoon
strip, where they throw your tape out?
I don't know how autobiographical that
really is. To answer that question we'll find out in about a year!
I'll leave you hanging on that one but if we do speak again in a
year I will answer that question, because that is actually a story
that is yet to happen.
Do you do all the drawings yourself?
Your website has a lovely design, but
it's very lo-tech because it's just scans of your drawings.
That's because I don't have a computer,
so what happens is there's a friend of mine who has a scanner. I
basically mail him whatever news I have, so this is the reason why
I update every six months or something. They didn't sign me because
I was hi-tech.
Have you ever accidentally scratched
yourself with a needle?
With the needle? Like cut
myself open?? No he says today, as he loses his finger.
You did some work on the Handsome Boy
Modelling School album, but we noticed you didn't attend the class.
Can you do any of the standard poses?
No, because I was more like a correspondence
student, so they sent me the textbook and I did it myself.
At this point the interview is brought to
a close, as Eric has to go on stage and get into his marvellous
"fr-fr-fresshhh!!" routine. Our questions seemed to confuse
the poor lad a bit, and it wouldn't have been fair to send him away
any confuseder. So that's how you do it kids, what are you waiting
for? Get digging in the crates!! You never know what treasures you