The ever-talented and creative Kid Koala has given you a pretty damn good reason to grab a hard copy of his latest record, Creatures of the Late Afternoon. Featuring 20 brand new tracks, the album drops on April 14th via Envision Records. If you pony up for the double vinyl copy, you’ll not only get the actual records, but also eight vinyl-only board game tracks. Moreover, the package boasts inserts with game pieces, dice, and 150 game cards. That’s right, there is a built-in board game that goes along with the album, constructed skillfully into the vinyl gatefold jacket. Calling this a unique release would be a gross understatement for the thought and effort that has gone into its preparation.
It’s been a long, dynamic career for Kid Koala, and yet, he feels that Creatures of the Late Afternoon is the most fun album he’s ever recorded. Combining energy, emotion, and a whole range of different moods, it doesn’t take long to realize that this is a very special release. Conceptually, the record and game revolve around a group of creatures who must unite through the power of music to save their habitat from disaster. While he has always been regarded as a charismatic and compelling artist, this release and its many components really emphasize Kid Koala’s immense ability to bring to you a true, multimedia experience that will satisfy fans in many more ways than one.
In considering the new album and he as an artist and performer, there was no better guest for our latest Level Up interview. We chatted with Kid Koala about early video games, getting interested in board games, and gaming as inspiration.
What video game introduced you to the world of gaming?
Kid Koala: “I remember being on a family trip once and we stopped in this diner somewhere where they had a full-size arcade console in the front room. I must have been five or six years old. I could barely see the screen, but was enchanted by all the blink lights and sounds the machine was making. My mother wouldn’t give me a quarter to try the game because she said it was a ‘waste of money.’
“So instead, I would just push the buttons and move the joystick around during the demo. At one point someone walked up and threw a quarter into the machine and played for a bit. They left but they had one ship left. I was stoked! I grabbed the controls and crashed the ship almost immediately.”
What are your favourite types of games to play?
“I dig co-op games like Overcooked, Unravel 2, or old-school side scrollers like Castlevania. It would be fun to work on the music to that type of game someday! I remember playing a lot of golf games on the Sega Nomad on the tour bus. We would set up a console in the front lounge of the bus and just chill, eat pizza, and golf. It was a nice way to wind down from all the adrenalin after each show.”
Which video game have you logged the most hours in?
“Galaga. Mainly because I could spend almost an hour on just one quarter. Plus I would actually start using the crab technique on the button, because it kind of reminded me of practicing scratching on the crossfader.”
If there’s one video game you think everyone should play, what is it?
“Totally biased here because I got to work on the music, but everyone should play Floor Kids mostly because of Jon Ng’s (JonJonAnimation) insane hand-drawn 2D animated break moves. He’s a b-boy/breaker himself and an amazing animator and possibly the only one crazy enough to even try doing this. I think he had to draw over 10,000 drawings to accurately animate each character’s set of dance moves. So wild to witness and see it in action!”
Have you ever been inspired by any video game music?
“My uncle had an Atari 2600. I clocked a lot of hours on that machine as a kid playing games on it whenever we would visit. Those sounds are part of my audio DNA. I just love those old low-bit rate sounds. I have an instrument in the studio that uses an old Atari 2600 console as a brain called Synthcart which allows you to play your own melodies using the Atari’s audio engine! It’s the perfect tool if you’re looking for that chiptune sound or playing grimy synth leads.”
Which board games did you grow up playing?
“I remember playing a lot of RISK and Battleship. I have a synthesizer in the studio that uses a matrix board similar to a Battleship board to patch modules while sound designing. It can create the wildest noises. I’ve used it on a few albums and also on several video game scores.”
What was the first board game you played that made you fall in love with the medium?
“Chess. I always loved that game. I enjoy how it’s a different experience every time you play. I included a cutout chess board with my second album that you could cut out and play while you were listening to the album.”
Have you ever ‘levelled up’ your board games or game table setups (e.g., buying custom dice or pieces, upgrading game components, customizing aspects of the table you play on, etc)?
“No, but sometimes we’ve lost a chess piece or two. And had to replace it with some hand-sculpted version made out of wood or something.”
What was the last board game you played?
“Not coincidentally, it would have to be the Creatures of the Late Afternoon board game which will be released in April along with my new album. We’ve been play-testing it for the last couple of years. It has gone through several iterations since its inception but is finished now! I had a lot of fun painting all the art assets for it. The game is part of the double vinyl album package. The gatefold jacket cover folds out to become the gameboard. There are inserts included with the packaging that include game pieces, dice and 150+ game cards including creature character cards, song genre cards, studio time cards, flea market instrument cards, etc.
“In the game, you tour around the board meeting and collecting cards to start your own ‘creature bands’ that then go on to record and release songs in different genres.
“There’s also an interactive vinyl component. At certain moments in the game, you play specific ‘board game tracks’ that I’ve cut onto the vinyl close to the center label. These act as timers and underscores for specific moments of the game. There are a selection of 90-second grooves that play while you match cards from memory, or an eerie evolving drone during the battle moments where you can win cards off the other players by challenging them to a staring contest (with music). Can’t wait until the album is released and people can finally play it!”