Interview with The Crystal Method

interview by RJ Cubarrubia

Electronic icons The Crystal Method are true pioneers still kicking in a genre and culture where new and fresh has taken an online and often blogged meaning marked by technophilia. Their newest effort, Divided by Night, features guest vocals from people you wouldn’t suspect, like Matisyahu, Emily Haines, and Jason Lytle, and may be their most diverse album to date. Before their USC 12 show with The Prodigy and LA Riots, I met with Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland in their dressing room at WaMu theater. Deceptively down to earth and extremely kind, they spoke with me about their latest album, their collaborations, their new Crystalwerks recording studio, the advent of blogs and internet culture, and an online fan chat they did while flying to their first gig of the tour.

At the beginning of this tour, on your first flight, you did a chat on Virgin Airlines. Who’s idea was that and how’d it go?

Ken: I’m not sure how that whole thing came together but there was somebody at Virgin America that was into the band and wanted to do some kind of promotion, you know? Also, I think our music is going to be on their flights.

Scott: Our first show was in Boston so they had a contest and it was pretty wild. We’ve flown quite a lot and to be able to stare at and have a live chat with someone was pretty crazy.

Ken: Yeah, it was actually fun. I’ve never been so busy on a flight.

Yeah, I bet it keeps you awake.

Ken: Yeah, it was great; everything is on the screens in front of you, you know, and one of the first things we saw on the screen was an advertisement for Absinthe. That was like our carrot, you know? As soon as we got done with the chats and interviews and stuff, we’re getting a bunch of Absinthe.

You got the good stuff?

Ken: Well, we were in the front row where they weren’t charging us for anything.

[laughter]

I’m from a different generation than you guys and something very big for us is the internet and remix culture and blog culture. With you guys being so established, what is your reaction to this new wave where mixtapes and tracks can be released and in an hour, it could be on someone else’s mix?

Scott: It’s pretty impressive. We always try to stay in tune with technology and the way things are going and I’ve been a fan of lots of blogs for quite some time. Yet, it’s amazing how well so many of them are doing and how much information you get from them. When we were DJing a lot, and when I had more time when we were working on the record and were at home more, I checked my various favorite blogs on a daily basis and you can see, “Oh, this band is coming out with a new single,” or “This person just remixed this artist.” It’s a whole different world than where we were at even 5 years ago.

When I think of The Crystal Method, the first things that come to mind are two huge records [1997’s Vegas and 2001’s Tweekend], not only for electronic music but music culture in general. Do you ever feel it’s a challenge with each new thing you release because you had those two enormously successful and important records?

Ken: Well, we’re always trying to make a better one, you know, so that’s always a challenge. It’s never a bad thing to have some success but we’re always trying to make a better record and that makes a good challenge for each record.

Scott: We’re also trying to not do the same thing twice. Tweekend was so much different than Vegas; we just wanted to make a different record and I remember reading a review that was like, “Oh, might as well call this one Vegas 2!” or something like that and I was like, “What?!” But at that point, people are going to have preconceived notions of what you’re going to do so we go on and just try to make something that we’re into that expands our sound and we try never to repeat ourselves. It’s amazing to find out how many people were turned onto electronic music by our music.

Your new record, Divided By Night, is very different and one thing you guys have been known for is awesome collaborations. This time, it looks like you reached out to some different people, like Emily Haines and Jason Lytle. What was your thought process going into this and saying, “Hey, we’re going to get some original vocal tracks from artists we may not be familiarly associated with”?

Ken: I think for collaborations we like working with people that other people wouldn’t think we would pair with. We like kind of going with opposite styles. Jason is just a really great songwriter with a great voice and it was a weird pick with Jason but we’re really happy with that track, “Slipstream”. But Emily, she could just sing over anybody’s track and it would sound great! Her voice is really good. That’s also one of the top tracks on the record; she’s just amazing.

With this new record, this is the first one you’ve recorded in your new studio, Crystalwerks? How was that? How was it to have that full studio in your house and how was recording this album different from The Bombshelter?

Scott: Well, The Bombshelter was actually a studio that was in a two-car garage that was attached to the house Ken and I first moved into years and years and years ago. Eventually both of us moved out and we kept it as a studio. This studio isn’t attached to any of our houses but it is the kind of place you feel comfortable going into every day. It’s very ergonomically friendly and there’s lots of natural light and creature comforts that allow you to show up every day and not worry about the little things. You just focus on making music. You can just go there and people will kick back and hang out.

Must be good for the collaborations.

Scott: Yeah, it really let us to not be embarrassed to bring people over to the studio. In our old studio, we used to have to record the vocals in this living room area. It was just bizarre what we used to put people through. I think people did appreciate the fact we did do all that in that studio and everything was self made. But Tom Morello’s amp in the kitchen, Rahzel in the other room… Just lots of weird stuff.

After this tour, what’s next?

Ken: We’ve got at least one remix we’re going to be doing at some point this year. We’re remixing another Doors track, so that should be fun. I don’t know; we really don’t want to take a big break from writing our own stuff so hopefully when we get right back home we can start working on the next album. But also, there might be some film stuff or video game stuff that we do as well.

Thanks y’all. I really appreciate it. It was a pleasure.

Scott: Thank you.

Ken: Oh yeah, no problem.

The Crystal Method’s latest album, Divided by Night, is out now on Tiny e Records. For more information on their album, their current tour, and more, visit their Myspace page.

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