Interview: Kid Koala Talks Space Cadet, Comedy, Parenthood, and Yo Gabba Gabba

Gabriel Arguelles / November 2, 2011

Kid Koala has, for many years, been a great musician. In 2003 he made his first official entry into the comic book/graphic novel realm with Nufonia Must Fall. This year saw the release of his new book/CD, Space Cadet.

He’s also a very, very nice guy. He laughed a lot, was extremely friendly and welcoming, and was generous with the amount of his time I spent gushing about the numerous times I’ve seen him. If/when he brings his Space Cadet project to Seattle, I insist you go see him. Any other time he comes to Seattle, regardless of whether or not he’s pushing a graphic novel or performing as part of a full band with members of Wolfmother, I insist you go see him.

Kid Koala, a Space Cadet

I’d read that Space Cadet had been in the works for a very long time. What was the process like?

I started Space Cadet in 2003, but the technique I used is this etch-board stuff I could only get in France. I had to pillage all the art stores while I was on tour over there. I had to keep telling the bookers to get me to the art stores, so that I could get these boards. I had all the panels in mind but I had to get these boards. It took me like 8 tours of France to get them all over here. They couldn’t ship them to me because even the stores couldn’t find much of it. I wouldn’t be able to find more than like… 15 pages per tour so it was no trouble at the airport.

It’s like this metal board with a needle– like a syringe that you scratch the ink off of. I’ve been doing it for like 8 years now and now I’m starting to draw with pens again and I’ve had to relearn how to do it. It’s like rewiring my brain.

Why would you choose what sounds like the hardest way possible to do the art?

This is a slightly more profound book. This one’s more inspired by like… mortality. I wanted it to come through by working on it more slowly, through the etchings. Nunfonia was more like, a romantic comedy about a robot writing love songs for a girl. There’s like this—galaxy-wide isolation with Space Cadet.

Does that mean that the CD will be a little longer with this one? Will it be another silent, dialogue-free book? I remember the Nufonia Must Fall album being about 16 minutes long.

The CD with this one will be about 34 minutes long, and yeah, I don’t do all that well with the words… they just kind of fail me. A lot of it is just inspired by Chaplin films. There’s all this drama and subtext and comedy and everything without using any words. It was all kind of powerful to experience as a child.

I can see the correlation between something like the little robot in Nufonia and and the Chaplin’s tramp silently trying to get with the blind girl at the flower shop in City Lights.

Definitely! That stuff really influenced me.

I saw on Twitter that you got to see Bill Burr recently. Was it awesome? Are you a big comedy fan?

Oh, my god. I’ve seen him 12 times. I’ve seen him in NY, at Caroline’s. He’s a genius. I listen to his podcast every week, too. Yeah, I’m a huge comedy fan. I love that with that craft, with minimal equipment, how far the energy goes in the room. The crowd gives back and it’s totally palpable and it’s like… wow. I saw Daniel Tosh this week—oh, and Hannibal Burress.

Burress’s My Name is Hannibal album is unbelievable. Do you get that kind of energy onstage? The give and take with the audience?

When I play something the audience recognizes, they just lose their minds and I feel it. There’ll be moments when I do something slower and ballad-ier—- the energy is totally different.  I don’t see that much of a distinction from the stage and the audience. I think it’s great to have that fourth wall smashed to bits. It’s so different from performing on one of those elevated stages—- and the audiences will be looking at the screens

What do you have planned in terms of touring Space Cadet? It looks like a massive undertaking.

In Montreal we had these inflatable space-pods for everyone to sit in and like 250 sets of headphones and again—trying to keep that context of the book in the actual live show—that isolation and being in a room full of people all experiencing the same thing. We’re trying to do that in every town we take the show to. We designed these custom inflatable space-pods and we could basically fit them into a mini-van.

There’s a gallery portion of the show too—with original portions of the book and an audio museum with all kinds of recording equipment and vocoders and all this stuff that is almost obsolete but is still kind of great in my mind. We’ve been doing multiple shows, too, Like matinees that everyone in Montreal brings their toddlers to.

Speaking of toddlers, is this the first album you’ve made since you’ve been a dad?

Yeah, lot of the music was written almost as lullabies for my daughter when she was born. I’ve had to tiptoe around her while recording and writing the album silently– and that to me just spelled headphone record right off the top. We were lucky Sennheiser actually sponsored us for those shows. I’ve been to silent discos before and the sound was just kind of atrocious but we’re trying to make it …. kind of a hi-fi experience.

Do you find yourself touring with the kid?

Oh yeah, sometimes! She likes being on the road. It’s funny because the first show she saw me do was with Yo Gabba Gabba. Now sometimes the tour will be complicated and she won’t come with me, but she’s convinced now that I’m always on tour with Yo Gabba Gabba.

Does that mean she’s into the beat of the day?

She’s all over the beat of the beat of the day. Yo Gabba Gabba’s like a Flaming Lips concert for kids.

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