Kid Koala is an extraordinary turntablist, an artist of the decks. He operates the turntable like a melodic instrument, wreaking pro- tracted notes from under the needle at varying speeds to create pitches that waver, twist, and soar in swaths of sonic color. He's also a pro at juggling samples and reimagining tracks into compositions all his own.
He's served as guest or collaborator in a range of projects—including Gorillaz in their early years, Deltron 3030, Lovage, and the Slew. The Slew's first (and so far only, but they're working on a second) album was recorded in Seattle with Dynomite D, described laughingly as "the Paul's Boutique of skateboard instrumental turntable records."
Plus, there's Kid Koala's solo output—from 2000 studio debut Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (an adventure through his record collection and home to one of his most memorable note-bending experiments, "Drunk Trumpet"), to the fusion of old Delta and 1980s-era hiphop in 2012's 12 Bit Blues, to his just dropped double-vinyl outing entitled Floor Kids Original Video Game Soundtrack, created entirely for a game that he helped conceive.
"Floor Kids is the first 2-D animated hand-drawn breakdance-battle video game," Kid Koala said recently by phone. He produced all the music that goes with the drawings by his friend and animator JonJon, which took more than five years to complete. "Each character in the game has 16 moves, and Jon had to animate, or draw, thousands of frames for each character and more than 100 transitions between every move." Floor Kids launched in December on Nintendo Switch, and it will be available on PlayStation, Xbox, and stream later this year.
Kid Koala's new Vinyl Vaudeville stage show (coming to Neumos on Thurs May 3) will be a display of infectious human energy and power—a big ol' party celebrating the relief of finally completing a five-years-in-the-making video game. It will also be a retrospective of his material from Carpal Tunnel through Floor Kids.
As he put it, it's the chance to "run through the gamut of a lot of different music, different projects, different eras of my own work but also thread it together through this variety show." The trick was bringing the distinctive themes of each record together into one cohesive presentation. So instead of Kid Koala just up there spinning three turntables live (which he is), "every portion or every 'act' will be animated on stage by a team of puppeteers and dancers that have different costumes and different choreographies and different puppets for every part of the show."
He references The Muppet Show and The Mighty Boosh as inspirations, the idea being to "create a demented universe on stage and score to that." A universe that includes, among other things, puppet ants playing trumpets, dancing robots, and a nine-foot ogre dancing through the crowd. "It gets progressively stranger and more out-there and bizarre and hilarious as we push toward the peak of the show."
Also featured on the tour: video game consoles cued up with Floor Kids. Kid Koala suggests showing up early for those who want to get in a few battles before the show—because a bombastic feast for the senses isn't quite enough. "It's about delivering the maximum fun in the shortest amount of time—or everything we can fit on one tour bus."