Whenever we go to a show nowadays, the performance tends to resemble a well-oiled machine, calculated and controlled, yet safe; especially when it comes to DJs. With an influx of new DJs mixing mp3s by simply pushing the play button, it’s imperative that Eric San keeps doing his thing. San is a DJ, turntablist and producer more commonly known as Kid Koala.
Though he is renowned for being one-third of hip hop supergroup Deltron 3030, Koala’s visionary approach to the one’s and two’s, coupled with his seemingly endless library of source material has defined him as an individual. For his latest album, 12 Bit Blues Koala chose to strip away all of the modern production amenities to take on a genre that, though unbeknownst to him, was at the root of his musical taste.
San remembers, “When I started to connect the dots in historical music time, I realized that much of the music that I like led back to the blues.” However, there was one more critical piece of the puzzle: the SP1200 sampler.
“It’s this really gritty-sounding hip hop production drum sampler from the 80’s. I just decided to use it to make a blues album.” Building off of the SP1200, San adopted other outdated equipment to reinterpret the blues.
“Most of the equipment I used to make this record was older than I am. I used a lot of orphaned, lost, forgotten and obsolete technologies; old oil cans and tape delays, magnetic tape effects, record lathes, vintage synths and organs… All of those machines have ghosts in them.”
But the album wasn’t the only thing that the Kid wanted to inject with a heavy dose of nostalgia. When conceptualizing the tour, San had the idea to create a throwback vaudeville show, complete with dancers, comedic interludes, audience participation and, of course, puppets. San explains the reasoning for the Vinyl Vaudeville Tour, “Just as the music was made with old forms of technology, I thought it would be fitting to use older technology for the spectacle in this show rather than some really high-tech light show.”
Indeed, the show was a surreal display of vintage showmanship. The puppets were reminiscent of an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba! from the ‘30s and San’s master of ceremonies, Adira Amram, kept the night moving at a brisk pace. Through a blend of playful comedy and cringe-worthy (in a good way) involvement from the audience, Amram helped the night feel as though it was a snapshot from a different time; or at least a parallel universe where steampunk caught on like wildfire.
At one point, I was trapped on a figurative island, surrounded by a conga line on all sides, looking at my friend in horror as I attempted to stave off participating. Since I knew I was covering the show, I resisted the urge to jump in (*cough, cough). I’m not one of those gonzo types. Maybe physically I was holding back, but mentally I was on the same page. As I watched San emerge from behind his turntables in his signature koala suit motioning and instructing the audience to, “Reach up! Reach high!” I started to get it. Yes, the album and show are high concept, but this is just Koala flexing his fun muscles, not that the costume is trying to convince you otherwise.