A few years ago Eric San found himself juggling multiple roles at the same time -- musician, illustrator and father being just the three most prominent.
He'd always been good with his hands, and after eight years he had finally finished Space Cadet, his second graphic novel. It tells the story of a young girl who becomes an astronaut, and was finished right around the time its inspiration -- his first daughter-- was born. When it came time to work on the soundtrack, San, better known to the world as turntablist maestro Kid Koala, found a way to combine all three of his jobs.
His daughter was often sleeping in the studio, so San had to "record most of the soundtrack without waking her up. I would use headphones and played very quietly," he says. "In a way, the Space Cadet soundtrack is like a collection of piano and turntable lullabies for her."
The Space Cadet book and accompanying score were greeted enthusiastically by the hip-hop heads and comic book enthusiasts who have long been following the influential producer, known for his elegant scratches and whimsical cut-and-paste aesthetic.
He debuted with the underground release of his 1996 mixtape Scratchcratchratchatch and has gone on to collaborate with Gorillaz, Mike Patton and Deltron 3030, opened for Radiohead (including their first appearance at Madison Square Garden) and released his first graphic novel, Nufonia Must Fall, in 2003.
San is bringing Space Cadet on tour with an interactive experience this spring, and will drop by Brooklyn's Irondale Center on April 3 and April 4; the second date was added after the first show quickly sold out.
This will be the Space Cadet Headphone Experience tour's American debut after a sold out European leg. The show features a gallery with artwork from the book, and audience members can play games and mess around with vintage analogue music equipment like tape delays and vocoders, and even make their own space cookies before the performance begins.
"I'm so overwhelmed and excited about the response to the Space Cadet show. We basically build a pop up planetarium everywhere we go. It's by far the biggest touring production we have undertaken and it was quite a gamble for us since it's such a departure from the sweaty club and loud rock venue environment I'm more known to play," says San. "The event was designed this way because it was the type of thing that my friends and I would want to experience at a gig. It is a nice feeling to find out that we aren't alone."
The Space Cadet Headphone Experience was designed not just for the usual fans of San's largely instrumental hip-hop, but for the young readers of his book. He also threw a few bones to the parents who don't always have the energy for the traditional concert experience anymore.
"I was kind of tired of going to see shows where I had to stand for three hours. I'm not very tall, either, so I barely ever get a good view of the band when I go see concerts," San says. "We are bringing inflatable space pods for everyone to sit on. Also, each audience member gets a pair of Sennheiser wireless headphones so they can hear the show perfectly. It's a very cozy atmosphere that lends itself to the more quiet and downtempo tunes that I made for the Space Cadet book."
Space Cadet Headphone Experience Trailer