KID KOALA at the Rivoli (332 Queen West), Wednesday (March 19). 6 and 10 pm. $20. 416-870-8000.
When Kid Koala is nestled behind his turntables rifling through stacks of thrift-store vinyl, there's a cartoonish element to the Montreal DJ's music .
Sketching out surreal storylines chopped-up to fit his short attention span, Koala's cut creations are decidedly filmic. He's much more than just someone wanking behind the decks.
Nufonia Must Fall is Koala's new, lavish 340-page graphic novel, which reads like an extension of his DJ work. A wordless story of robot love in the big city, the novel, published by ECW Press, began as a joke and quickly developed into a year-long obsession.
"For me, this was a pretty ulcer-free project," Koala laughs from Montreal. "I was on the road doing a couple of tours and it was during that time that a lot of placemats started being collected. We'd be at Denny's or Waffle House and I'd just start doodling, sketching out ideas focused around a bunch of robots.
"Drawing has the same energy for me that working on music does. You're doing something and it makes you crack up. That's the same feeling I get when I'm putting records together. It's just storytelling, whether I'm using records or ink."
Nufonia Must Die offered Koala the chance to bring the two media together. The book comes with a 16-minute soundtrack, but it's not Koala's typical chop-chop beats.
In it, the DJ moves from turntables to Wurlitzer to piano (his first instrument). The mini-album also gave the soundtrack-mad Koala the opportunity to make his own style of film music.
"We actually tried to do a one-song flexi-disc, but the one company in the world who made those paper-thin plastic records discontinued them four months before we asked," he explains. "What we ended up with was something that works nicely in the background while you read.
"The book feels like a silent movie, and we were watching a lot of black-and-white films at the time, stuff like The Man Who Wasn't There. I listen to a lot of soundtrack music -- Ennio Morricone, Michael Nyman -- and this is a low-rent version of that. We didn't have access to a symphony orchestra, we just had a bunch of records with violins on them and a clunky piano I found at a garage sale."
Koala's current tour is just as unorthodox. In bookstores, theatres and seated clubs, the DJ is bringing together four turntables, piano and projections to help bring the book alive. He's also hoping to bring the romance of the novel to the room itself.
"We've put together a medley of the hiphop love songs we all know and love," he laughs, "as well as some other nice surprises. If we do what we need to do correctly, no one will go home alone."