How Kid Koala Turned Kevin Spacey's Voice Into Sick Beats for 'Baby Driver'

"I was raised on a steady diet of Monty Python and Muppet Show songs. So the idea of making a song funny isn't foreign to me," Eric San, aka Kid Koala, says.EXPAND
"I was raised on a steady diet of Monty Python and Muppet Show songs. So the idea of making a song funny isn't foreign to me," Eric San, aka Kid Koala, says.
Courtesy of Kid Koala
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Kid Koala performs at the Alamo Drafthouse Cedars on Thursday, June 29  .

Even if you're not a house music enthusiast or connoisseur of clubs, chances are you've still heard some of Kid Koala's sick tracks.

The Canadian DJ, also known as Eric San, has built an impressive musical resume for video games, animation and movies. He has a particularly close relationship with cult film director Edgar Wright's beloved Blood and Ice Cream trilogy.

San one-ups himself by exploring new genres of music like blues and kiddie tunes and relying on old and outdated music-making technology to produce his tracks. He uses old school vinyl scratching and analog sound equipment — and even more unorthodox instruments like a manual credit card machine and the smooth timbre of Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey's voice.

"I think all those machines have ghosts in them," he says. "What I like about using different kinds of tools and equipment in the studio is that you almost have to argue with the designers. And it's sort of a quantum argument because some of those designers aren't around anymore," San says from his hotel room in New York City.

He has a thing for making music with dead tech.

"These were state of the art when they came out and now my watch can run circles around them," he says.

Kid Koala's latest work appears in Wright's new action comedy, Baby Driver, a hyperactive homage to the heist film genre in which the film's music drives the action on the screen instead of the other way around. Kid Koala will perform two live sets at the Alamo Drafthouse Cedars on Thursday, followed by screenings of Wright's latest film.

The title character, Baby (Ansel Elgort), reluctantly rejoins a crime syndicate helmed by a kingpin named Doc (Spacey) as a hot-shot wheelman for one last big score. Baby is a hardcore music buff who's constantly listening to his old-fashioned iPod Classic to focus his getaway driving skills and shut out the constant ringing in his ears following a childhood car accident that killed both of his parents.

The film's soundtrack features a mix of memorable rock and blues tunes from names like Barry White, Sam & Dave, Danger Mouse and — yes, Shaun of the Dead fans, Wright didn't forget about you — Queen.

"They actually wanted to have all the music locked down before they started shooting everything," San says. "They had it all cleared and laid out beforehand, which is very different from my other experiences doing film stuff where they would shoot everything and cut it all together and just want you to do things for certain scenes and certain moments."

San and Wright's professional and personal relationship dates to 2003, when they first met in London while San was performing his Short Attention Span Theater show and Wright was shooting the cult comedy zombie film Shaun of the Dead. That film cemented Wright's moviemaking relationship with actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost; all three first gained notoriety on the British TV series Spaced.

Wright hired San to cut a track for his British rom-com zombie flick using "The Gonk," an iconic, innocent-sounding tune made creepy by horror director George Romero. It runs during the closing credits of his groundbreaking film Dawn of the Dead as a zombie horde shuffles around an abandoned shopping mall.

Shaun of the Dead made Wright one of Hollywood's hottest new directors, and he and San have been working together ever since.

"We've kept in touch since then the whole time," San says. "I'm a big fan of his work. Whenever he's in town in Montreal, we'll get together and just talk music and film the whole time."

For Baby Driver, San constructed a kicking track called "Was He Slow?" that uses Spacey's voice as the beat driver. The film also features the title character mixing tracks  — using the voices of the other characters and sounds produced by low-tech gadgets and doodads — and loading them onto his iPod before his next wheel job.

"That's the fun thing about it," San says. "I was raised on a steady diet of Monty Python and Muppet Show songs. So the idea of making a song funny isn't foreign to me, but working on the "Was He Slow?" track, all the stuff [Baby] gets is off the grid, so it has to be stuff he'd find at a pawn shop that's outdated technology."

San says he hasn't yet seen a final cut of the film but expects to be impressed.

"Edgar knows the music so well and choreographed the lifts to it, and it's just so intricately put together," he says. "I've never really seen a movie that took it this far and already maximized the exciting parts of the music. So when it's lock-stepped together, it gives you chills."

Kid Koala, 7 and 10:30 p.m. Thursday, June 29, Alamo Drafthouse Cedars,1005 S. Lamar St. Screenings of Baby Driver will follow. Tickets are $30.31 at drafthouse.com/dfw.

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