slow magazine the revolution will be photocopied
     

slow #5/winter 2001

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 like that...

(we open up by showing our Champ Carpal Tunnel Wrap info)
Oh my god, where'd you find that?
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 relief" is.
Pain. It printed off the edge of the page.
Pain relief!! Right, of course.
So presumably you've suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome?
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 shit here...
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 your problems...

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, vinyl vaudeville.
You've got Bullfrog with you tonight, so is this a Bullfrog show, or have you got them promoting your album?
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 our challenge.

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 UK scene?
I'm not sure. It is quite independent and there's a huge graffiti and breakdance scene in Canada. Really good, actually.
What about the emcees? Is it generally people whinging about America?
Whinging about America?
Complaining.
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 to clubs.

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?
Yeah.
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 might find.

 

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