Chinese-Canadian turntablist Kid Koala was born Eric San in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1975. Classically trained on the piano, San instead put his fingers to work on a pair of Technics 1200s starting in the late '80s. He was a college pub DJ and bedroom turntable manipulator for nearly a decade before landing a recording deal with U.K. experimental hip-hop duo Coldcut’s Ninja Tune imprint in 1997.
San’s eclectic approach to sound collage is actually closer to the latter’s far-flung beat experiments than the old-school New York and L.A. references that most often form the canon of the scratch DJ’s art. It’s also a circle-closer of sorts: San’s nascent mixing aesthetic was influenced early on by classic Coldcut records such as “What Time Is It?” and their “7 Minutes of Madness” massacre of Eric B. & Rakim’s “Paid in Full.” In fact, the coincidence of Koala signing to his heroes' label was less a coincidence than it would at first appear; San managed to arrange an “inadvertent” car ride with the group when their label’s Stealth tour passed through Montreal in 1996, making sure his mixtape, Scratchappyland, was in the car stereo well beforehand. Excerpts from that tape doubled as Kid Koala’s identically titled solo debut when Ninja Tune, duly impressed, released it as a 10" in July 1997.
Koala also appeared on the second volume of The Bomb’s Return of the DJ compilation with his track “Static's Waltz,” another excerpt from his mixtape. Subsequent Ninja Tune releases included Kid Koala remixes of DJ Food’s “Scratch Yer Head” and (fittingly) Coldcut’s classic “Beats and Pieces,” plus the 2000 full-length Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The follow-up, Some of My Best Friends Are DJ’s, appeared in 2003. Two years later Live from the Short Attention Span Audio Theater, a CD/DVD set, came out, followed by Your Mom’s Favorite DJ in 2006. - Sean Cooper