Where so many DJ's are out looking for the most unorthodox records to scratch with, Eric San (a.k.a. Kid Koala) is content to let his hands do the talking.
As much a storyteller as a musician, San endows his records with speaking voices, producing humanity from the smallest and most incidental musical scraps. "I got into scratch because I could always feel the human element behind it," he says.
San came to the turntables as an outsider, and we have his years of trial and error to thank for his current experimental approach and latest album, Some of My Best Friends Are DJ's (Ninja Tune).
Growing up in Vancouver, B.C., in the '80s, San didn't have a hip-hop and turntable community to help guide him. "I didn't know any DJs there," he says. "I didn't have a mentor or anyone who could just tell me things as basic as what a mixer was. I had to bring an album cover into a Radio Shack and point at it and go, 'You know this box in between the record players, I think I need one of those.'"
San's first album, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (Ninja Tune) was the most original turntable record in years when it was released in 2000. On the album's "Drunk Trumpet," San constructs the bassline by patching together individual bass guitar notes from records and scratches inebriated trumpet playing on top of it.
On Some of My Best Friends Are DJ's, which San describes as a "more refined" version of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, he fleshes out his earlier experimentation with more layers and a fuller sound. His new single "Basin Street Blues" features a chorus of somber and less than coherent trumpets plodding along to what sounds like a funeral procession. The track conveys a vivid scene from the character sketch of "Drunk Trumpet."
Kid Koala plays with DJ P-Love, DJ Jester and Lederhosen Lucil Tuesday, Oct. 21, at Aladdin Theater, 3017 SE Milwaukie Ave., 233-1994. 8 pm. $12 advance, $14 door. All ages.