Music to Draw To: Io

Music to Draw To: Io

For those who haven’t experienced it, winter in Montreal is no joke. “It feels like the last thing you should be making is party music in the middle of January here,” Kid Koala, a.k.a. Eric San, tells Apple Music. “It’s minus 40 Celsius outside. The machines in your studio won't even turn on.” Instead, the transcendently skilled scratch DJ, producer, visual artist, and Gorillaz collaborator tends to rein it in during those months, switching from propulsive, uptempo beats and quick-fingered turntablism to focus on both listening to and creating what he calls “music to draw to.” “I try to find records that leave some space for your head to wander off and find its own zone,” he says of his favorite songs to play while illustrating graphic novels (he’s got two), cover art (he’s done tons), and characters for his multimedia projects (like the puppet-featuring Nufonia Must Fall live tour). That slate-clearing approach has spawned a series of international events, soundtrack work, and two ambient concept albums: 2017’s space-themed LP Music to Draw To: Satellite, and this second installment, inspired by the Greek myth of Io, featuring singer-songwriter Trixie Whitley. Kid Koala tells us, in his own words, about what else influenced the making of Music to Draw To: Io apart from the nasty weather. Shopping with Radiohead “In 2001, I was invited on tour with Radiohead—a real dream. We were in New York, at a record store called Other Music. Colin Greenwood asked me if I'd heard this Isan record, Lucky Cat. He said, 'You need to hear this,' and went up to the counter and bought it for me. It became the soundtrack of my travel time on that tour. My waiting-at-the-airport music. It just became that record for me, and I started drawing to it. That record is so subtly layered in the way the elements come in and out. It was leaving that space for me to get into a more creative zone. Now, it's almost a Pavlovian response where, if you put that record on, I'll immediately look for a sketch book.” Playing music for others to draw to “In 2009, I was working on my book Space Cadet, and I realized I had nine months of just drawing ahead. I said, 'I'm gonna host an event called Music To Draw To. I'm just gonna play a four, five-hour set of the records that I love drawing to, and then people can come and they can draw, or code, or write a screenplay, or knit. Let's do this on Monday nights in the middle of winter in Montreal!' By the end of the third Monday, there were 600 people trying to get into this 150-person space. People were coming up to me after and saying, 'I finished an entire sketchbook tonight. I haven't done that since high school.' I would just go rogue and come out of a record and start creating a little ambient piece from scratch using that equipment. And that became the skeletal versions of what ended up on Satellite.” Studying up on space and Greek mythology “I think every musician at one point will go to a space theme. I went to one in 2009, and part of me has never left. I was reading about the moons of Galileo, Io and Europa. When I studied a little bit more about them, one that jumped out was the Greek myth of Io [Zeus’ lover, whom he turns into a cow to protect her from his wife, Hera]. I said, 'Hey, let's dig into this a bit. We could write from Hera's perspective. We can write from Io's perspective.'” Visiting Calgary’s National Music Centre “Their keyboard and synthesizer collection is unparalleled, especially because all of it works—calibrated to spec as if it just came off the assembly line. I was literally a kid in an audio candy store. Trixie does such a powerful performance on 'Hera's Song'—it just has this slow burn, she keeps crescendoing—I had to really build it into something monstrous, in terms of layers. That was one of the tracks that really benefited from having access to such a great arsenal of tools.”

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