Tunnel Vision

Bullfrog and Kid Koala look to bridge the band-DJ divide

Koala's vinyl crates famously include a plethora of unusual thrift-store finds, everything from instructional LPs to celebrity vocal curios to platters full of animal noises. These collages of found-sound oddities grace cuts like the record-industry satire "Extra Track II," and the bizarre running conversation of "Massimo's Wild Wilderness." Elsewhere, blurum13 takes a page from Del Tha Funky Homosapien's book for the ironic "Reverse Psychology" -- and its cheeky anti-dancing refrain -- while he infuses the lazy beats of "Nice Try" with a litany of pointed comic raps.

Viewed from a distance, Bullfrog's efforts are clearly part of a larger movement toward redefining the parameters of what constitutes a funk or R&B band in a post hip-hop, post-DJ world. It's a concept similarly being explored by groups like L.A.'s Breakestra, New York's Antibalas and even experimental endeavors like DJ Logic's recent turn fronting a six-piece band.

"I don't know if it's a trend or whatever, but for me it goes back to an organic style of playing," says Robertson, "which is one of the great musical innovations of the 20th century. It's something that started with blues and jazz and has gone all the way through to hip-hop. I think it's good that there are a lot of live bands who are dabbling and bringing in some modern elements, but at the same time staying true to the roots of where they're coming from."

Turntable master Kid Koala, extreme right, with the band Bullfrog.
Turntable master Kid Koala, extreme right, with the band Bullfrog.


Scheduled to perform on Sunday, March 10. Showtime is 8 p.m.
Nita's Hideaway in Tempe

With the release of Bullfrog, 2001 proved to be a breakthrough for the group. It also turned out to be an equally memorable period for San -- beginning with his scratch work gracing the smash Gorillaz album and ending with the DJ being tapped to play a series of sold-out arena shows with Radiohead. "It was so bizarre," recalls San of the high-profile opening slot. "I had to keep pinching myself. I mean, when else are you going to be able to play records at Madison Square Garden?"

As to his upcoming projects, San remains busy on a number of artistic fronts. Along with plans for a follow-up to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (slated for early 2003 on Ninja Tune), the turntablist is hard at work on a graphic novel for ECW Press. Described as a "romantic tragedy involving a robot," San says the book's release will be accompanied by a soundtrack of "non-DJ" music that he's composed.

As to the immediate future, however, San is dedicating himself to spreading Bullfrog's sound worldwide. In addition to prepping material for its sophomore album, the band will devote the bulk of 2002 to an extended tour, beginning with a cross-country U.S. jaunt before moving on to Canada, Europe and beyond.

As Robertson and San both note, the Bullfrog/Koala road show, which hits Tempe this week, proudly boasts an eclectic menu of music, with the band's headlining slot preceded by a warm-up DJ set from Koala. The revue format is clearly an attempt to bring the spirit of the group's early Canadian club nights to a wider audience.

"It's taking the whole thing that we did almost a decade ago at Club Voltaire and taking it to different cities and letting people in on it," enthuses San. "As an evening it's almost cabaret-like -- both musically speaking and what happens on stage. For me it's fun and demanding. I need to bring more records to a Bullfrog gig than any other show I do."

Eclecticism aside, San says the motive behind the show is ultimately about taking a party on the road.

"The nature of the band means that the show is going to be a real journey; you're going to be taken to a lot of places. But the goal of it all is simple: It's about having a good time and playing some good music."

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