I Know Karate rises above Parkinson's with full-length dance album Interdimensional Space Unicorn

    1 of 2 2 of 2

      (This article is sponsored by Average Unicorn Recordings.)

      The first thing you should know about Vancouver DJ and musician is that he laughs easily and doesn't take himself too seriously. This lighthearted approach to life is reflected in his name—I Know Karate—which isn't linked to any deep insights into martial arts.

      Rather, he adopted it to reflect something he used to do in his childhood in North Vancouver's Deep Cove neighbourhood in the 1980s. Like many five- and six-year-old kids, he would ward off threats by striking a menacing pose and declaring "I Know Karate!"

      "I thought it was funny," he says.

      The second thing you should know about I Know Karate is that he's releasing his debut full-length album next month, Interdimensional Space Unicorn. He was driven to complete it even though he's been living with young-onset Parkinson's disease for a decade.

      So for I Know Karate, his name has a different meaning.

      "Music is my karate," he says. "It's how I combat my day-to-day struggle."

      But don't mistake the 34-year-old's upbeat, easygoing nature for complacency or a casual work ethic. I Know Karate is up at 6 a.m. every day exercising in the gym and often doesn't stop working until well into the evening. His new album includes 18 tracks and comes after recording some 250 singles.

      The first song released from Interdimensional Space Unicorn is a cover of the Vancouver-based Payola$ Juno-winning "Eyes of a Stranger". It reached Number 22 on the Billboard chart in 1982.

      "It reminded me of a hook from the Police but sounded a little bit different," I Know Karate says. "I've always loved that song more than anything. It's been an earworm ever since I first heard it."

      I Know Karate's version retains the haunting mood of "Eyes of a Stranger". The addition of synthesizers and an EDM beat converts it into an eminently danceable track. It was released on Spotify on June 9 and will be available on other outlets (iTunes, Beatport, Google Play, etc.) on July 7.

      The second single released from the album, "Got Me Tripping Feat", was recorded with Vancouver recording artist Tonye. It's an upbeat, funky, discolike number. It became available on Spotify on June 23 and is available on other sites on July 7.

      When asked what he hopes to accomplish with Interdimensional Space Unicorn, I Know Karate replies: "To make as many people dance as I possibly can. This is my escape and I hope people enjoy it as much as I did making it."

      I Know Karate doesn't really know karate, but he can recognize a great hook when he hears it.
      J Chan Photography

      I Know Karate has been working as a DJ since he was in his late teens. But it was his diagnosis of young-onset Parkinson's that moved his music career into overdrive.

      "Music is kind of like my escape," he says. "I forget that I have Parkinson's. I forget about everything and I kind of get swept up in what I'm doing."

      At the age of 21, he noticed the first symptom of his disease: a leg that would start twitching uncontrollably. His family doctor told him he had a restless leg and not to worry about it.

      I Know Karate returned for more visits when it became clear to him that he was walking more slowly than his friends. A world-class Parkinson's disease expert at UBC, Dr. Jon Stoessl, eventually confirmed through genetic testing he had a double-recessive gene associated with young-onset form of the neurodegenerative disease.

      The musician is on medication. He exercises regularly because that can have a positive impact on the brain, which can influence how the disease progresses.

      "I can write music really, really easily," I Know Karate says. "I can program it. I can produce it."

      But he acknowledges that in the studio, the piano was a challenge.

      "I would play with one hand while holding it in my other hand so it wouldn't shake," he reveals. "You just do things differently. It's how I've adapted."

      He's still performing as a DJ and will be at the Electric Love Music Festival in Agassiz on July 28. He has dates scheduled in August and September at Avalon in Hollywood and at Maison in Miami. Later this year, he'll be in Tokyo.

      I Know Karate has been inspired by actor Michael J. Fox's optimistic response to his diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. It prompted I Know Karate to donate all of the profits from his 2016 EP to the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

      "I can sit around feeling sorry for myself, but what good is that?" I Know Karate says. "Sure, I'm symptomatic but I can still try to enjoy myself."

      Follow I Know Karate on , and . Visit his .