Volume 95, Issue 8
Thursday, September 13, 2001
ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Bullfrog: The Beatles with a turntable
Kid Koala and his fellow frogs make the Office a zoo
By Andrea Chiu
Gazette file photo
July 1994 was an interesting time in music.
Even while the Crash Test Dummies were "Mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm"-ing their way to popularity and Ace of Base were in high rotation, an exciting acid jazz scene was emerging in Montreal.
"It started out when there were a lot of acid jazz jam sessions in Montreal and it sometimes included a DJ and stuff. A lot of it was pretty chaotic," reminisces Bullfrog's frontman, Mark Robertson.
At one of these acid jazz jam sessions, Robertson discovered Bullfrog's newest addition, Eric San, better known as Kid Koala.
"I saw Kid Koala playing this other jam session and I thought, 'Well shit, our rhythm session could do better,'" Robertson boasts. "So I invited him out to check out the band, we met and he fell in love [with the band] and brought his turntables the next time. After we had done a few jams and we got along well, we started writing stuff together."
Besides Mark Robertson on guitar and vocals and Kid Koala on turntables, Bullfrog includes Peter Santiago (bass), Massimo Sansalone (drums), Joanna Peters (percussion and vocals) and Blu Rum (vocals and rap).
Since the group's conception, Bullfrog has been working non-stop.
"We started out as a jam session and continued as a house band. We just went from bar to bar and played weekly. I think we celebrated our thousandth show last year," Robertson recalls.
"We did like a hundred shows a year, on average. It helped us learn a common repertoire. We would mess around with all sorts of stuff, like James Brown, along with our own compositions."
The sound Bullfrog produces is not easily defined because it's not restricted to one distinct musical genre.
"To describe our sound is hard because if I say anything, it conjures up certain images. We do a lot of different stuff. We have to say we're a pop band cause some of the stuff on the second album could almost be Beatles music if one of them played a turntable," he jokes.
"It's funk, definitely, in the sense we all try to remain true to the groove. All the tracks are recorded live with all of us in the room. There's no sequence, or drum machine holding the time down. It's all organic. There's a whole bunch of R&B, blues and Latin jazz influences."
The name "Bullfrog" comes from the early stages of the band's life. It's a testament to the turntable talents of Kid Koala.
"[During the making of] our first composition, we were messing around with a beat and Eric started making this sound out of two records that made me think of a bullfrog," Robertson remembers. "It just stuck and started to be our theme song. It was the first groove we came up with that we were so sneaky and cool about."
Although Kid Koala has been doing his own solo touring with the likes of Money Mark and Radiohead, Bullfrog's music hasn't skipped a beat.
"You just gotta ignore that not everybody gets it right away, but the minute we play the show, it's understood that there's this project that's sort of a collective and not just a 'featuring Kid Koala only' thing," Roberston explains.
"It's not the same show he does when he goes out as a solo artist, but it's every bit as entertaining. It's bizarre because when we started off playing, people would come see our band and go, 'Wow, I've never seen a guy play turntables, and now I think it's actually an instrument.' When we went on his tour, people were like, 'Wow, we've never seen a band back up a DJ and be funky like that.'"
Although Bullfrog may not have the mainstream radio support Ace of Bace once had, Robertson promises a live show better than those Swedes could ever pull off.
Bullfrog hops into town tonight for a show at Call the Office with special guests, Yaqui Mystic.
Copyright © The Gazette 2001