One Lucky Son of A Marsupial

By: Bill Alexander

One Lucky Son of A Marsupial
Photo: courtesy of the artist
Kid Koala

October 1, 2009 – Toronto, Canada

Eric San has a big, fat, curvy, glistening horseshoe up his ass.

A brisk read of his biography and some simple deductive reasoning might shepherd one to this conclusion pretty quickly. Graced with ample talent for both art and music, the latter of which has seen him tour the world with the likes of Björk, The Beastie Boys and Radiohead, San has been able to make a living doing all of the things he loves best, including collaborating with some of his favourite artists and musicians, and has become somewhat of a household name in the process.

As Kid Koala, San is one of those rare musical entities—not a singular artist or band but more of a trusted brand. The name is synonymous with a unique sound, a masterful technique, unforgettable live experiences, puppets, comics, animation and an overall style that exists across all of his work, musical or otherwise. Maintaining his personal flavour while always gung-ho to try something new, it's no surprise the Kid is back with a tour and accompanying album, nearly five years in the making. Discarding an original intent to have the album available on the tour only, San is following the lead of his previous tour mates Radiohead and is giving the album, 100%, away for free.

Not a Kid Koala album per se, 100% is rather a collaboration between San and pal Dylan Frombach (Dynomite D), under the pseudonym The Slew. Begun as the soundtrack to a documentary that never saw the light of day, 100% brought Kid Koala and Dynomite D together after years of attempting to find the time to work together. Having first met in 1998 when San was on tour with The Beastie Boys, the two worked on a few remixes here and there, but never had the chance to tackle anything larger until now.

"We always thought it would be cool to do a fully realized collection of tracks," says San. "Something on the heavier side; something our skater friends would enjoy."

When Frombach was approached to record the film soundtrack, he thought it a perfect opportunity to finally work with his friend.

"It kind of acted as a catalyst for us," says San of the film. "But unfortunately (the film's producers) didn't have a budget. We started working anyways thinking it would get our asses in gear. There were a lot of politics around the film and it started to look like it wasn't going to work out. But we had already spent all this time on the music. So we decided we weren't going to wait around and would just go ahead with the record."

In the end, the film—details of which San seemed unwilling to divulge—did indeed fall through the cracks, but the two drudged on, musing on their influences and fantasizing about potential collaborators.

"While we were working on it we were saying to ourselves, ‘What would it sound like if Black Sabbath did a record with The Dust Brothers,'" says San. "That was our motivation.... When it came time to do the final mix, we were listening to (The Beastie Boys') ‘So What'cha Want' and said ‘It's gotta hit like this!' We thought, wouldn't it be rad if (Beastie Boys producer) Mario C did the final mix for us? He heard it and said bring the tracks down. Next thing you know we are on a plane to LA."


When all was said and done, San and Frombach knew they had something they were proud of on their hands. But how to present it?

"The opportunity to do a show came up and we were trying to figure out how to present it live," says San. "It seemed like we would need 14 turntables and seven DJs to make it happen. We started thinking, ‘Wouldn't it be cool to have some bad ass rock rhythm section like Chris and Myles?' ‘Well, who do we know who plays like that?' ‘Well how about Chris and Myles?'"

San and Frombach had seen Wolfmother's Chris Ross and Myles Heskett on tour and were smitten from the get go.

"The first time I saw Wolfmother they were all bobbing their heads like it was a hip hop show," says San, adding that the band was an inspiration for The Slew's rock-influenced sound. He recalls agreeing with Frombach that "it needs to sound heavy, like the way those guys play.... Whether they knew it or not, when we were in the studio, they were a bit like our spiritual advisors for heaviness!"

San had played some of the record for Ross and Heskett when it was coming together.

"They had come to my studio and listened to it and they liked it.... I was in Australia and met up with Chris at a restaurant and just kind of threw (the idea) out there. ‘I'll have the salad and what if Chris and Myles want to join us on this tour and then I'll have the...' (laughs)."

Ross told San to call him when the tour was actually going to happen and they would see if their schedules could align. It seemed they could.

"Our dream lineup happened.... I kind of have to pinch myself."

Big, fat horseshoe.

Everything fell nicely into place for San, but The Slew is indeed new territory, different than the work he has presented as Kid Koala, and was quite the tumultuous undertaking.

"For some masochistic reason or another we tried to hand-cut and do everything off of vinyl," says San. "If there is a drum loop going, it's not looped on the computer it's looped by two records. Everything is layered in by hand. It has this feel to it that we like."

At the time of the interview, San was still working out how the show would play out, noting that he was building turntables that were more skip-proof and had cut about 80 records in preparation for the set.

"We are trying to turn the turntables into an amp in overdrive," he says. "Whatever works. That's the real rule for rock!"

The Slew is indeed much more rock-oriented than typical Kid Koala fare, and San joked about trying to define what that sound is all about.

"We are trying to call this thing ‘grungalism'," he says. "This is like grunge but it's like all turntables. It's like grungalism!" he laughs. "I don't think that word is going to catch on at all. We just fused two of the dumbest media terms we could think of. But everyone is trying to bring the '80s back, and we are trying to bring back grunge, in our own kind of nerdy turntably (sic) kind of way."

The Slew will present 100% on a tour of just six cities, and San hopes fans old and new alike will come out to take in the show. Asked how he'd describe the event to someone who knew nothing about it, San kept things simple.

"It's just a heavy, heavy rock show. It's six turntables and the Wolfmother guys. If you don't know what that means, I don't know what to tell you. We want to try something different...take the best of both worlds—what we like about hip hop shows and what we like about rock shows—and put them together. It's gonna be really loud. This is the loudest thing I've ever done!"

When questioned whether members of The Slew would ever work together again, San laughs, thinking ahead to the upcoming tour.

"Hopefully. We'll see if everyone still likes each other!"

The Slew presents 100% in Montreal on Oct. 2 and in Toronto on the night of Nuit Blanche, Oct. 3.

Video: "It's All Over" by The Slew

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