Please allow The Crystal Method to Reintroduce Themselves
Words and interview by DJ Pangburn
It may be hard to believe, but it was twenty years that Las Vegas natives The Crystal Method first hit the electronic music scene. It was a time of unprecedented popularity for club music, when acts like The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy, Moby, Orbital, and Underworld were all knocking on the door of America’s consciousness. The beats were big, and so were the personas. The Crystal Method were no exception.
Like the above artists, Scott Kirkland and Ken Jordan have continued to release albums, while branching out into scoring for film, television, and video games. Hell, an entire generation of kids might know of The Crystal Method exclusively through such games as Need for Speed, the FIFA franchise, and League of Legends.
On January 14th, The Crystal Method released their latest album, The Crystal Method. Five years removed from their Grammy Award-nominated LP Divided by Night, it took shape in the same year that Kirkland underwent brain surgery, making it a vital project for the duo. The new record finds the pair retracing steps, conjuring old electronic ghosts, and absorbing the latest sounds from the American EDM explosion.
The feedback loop of influences won’t be lost on anyone who heard The Crystal Method the first go around. In a way, the duo were the Skrillex of the ’90s — loud in a near-industrial way, aggressive in their beatmaking, and always game for growling, belching synth lines. Allegiance was always paid to the low end of bass, while an undercurrent of melody — often dark — coursed just below the surface-level bombast.
For the new album, The Crystal Method dial up the intensity. Modern EDM sounds, especially those sketched out by Skrillex and Zedd, are there, but re-appropriated into the traditional Crystal Method sound. A number of vocalists appear on the album, including Dia Frampton and Miami’s Afrobeta. And, in a more left field move, Leanne Rimes sings on the track “Grace,” a collaboration which Ken Jordan said grew out of their involvement in the RE:GENERATION film, where singers were paired with electronic music producers.
In a recent chat, Jordan spoke of the duo’s planned re-entry into the current electronic music landscape, and how it’s all different from the ’90s. He also explained why the internet might just have been the best thing to happen to electronic music.
So, what’s happening?
The album came out last Tuesday, and it’s doing really well. We recently did a big concert with a full band at El Rey in Los Angeles. Something from that show is going to be on Carson Daly’s Last Call. We played Sundance last Friday, and now we’re going to New York next week to do some press. Then we’re going to play Cielo, a famous club in New York, then it’s back to doing Almost Human every week for Fox.
Oh, I didn’t know you had tracks on that show?
Yeah, when it says “music by,” it’s just us on the screen, but it’s at the end of the show and the credits go by like a million miles per hour. They’re crushed down on the bottom of the screen. [laughs] It’s all new music that we’ve written for the show.
That’s interesting because when electronic music was quite big in the mid-’90s, you guys had a track on the Spawn soundtrack. A remix of the track “Trip Like I Do.”
We’ve had a lot of music in films, and a couple of things on television, and then of course a lot of music in video games and on trailers. That’s part of getting our music out there. But, we love scoring for film, so we plan on doing a lot more of that.
Clearly, you guys have been busy, but you’ve noted that this new album is your reintroduction into electronic music because of its big resurgence.
When our first album came out there was this whole thing where Moby, Chemical Brothers, and others were new. Electronic music was going to take over the world. It sort of did, but it never really got big in the States. This second time around it’s way more popular than we ever could have imagined. So, we wanted to reintroduce ourselves to this whole new group of electronic music fans.
Have you noticed anything different between these two periods in electronic music’s popularity?
It’s a lot different this time because when we first came out, big record labels and radio stations controlled everything. The way people listen to music now is much more natural. They just listen to whatever they want from a million different sources. I think back in the ’90s, Skrillex’s song “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” would never have seen the light of day because it didn’t fit any traditional form of music, or it couldn’t have been on any radio station. It’s a better environment now for new and different music to get out there.
In an age when electronic music can be produced so easily with cheap hardware and software, has your approach to writing and recording changed?
Well, we use laptops, but our studio in North Hollywood is still a big tower and we have a lot of Pro Tools gear. So, in some ways, we do still make music the same way we always have, but we definitely take advantage of all of the new technology, including virtual instruments.
The track “Sling the Decks” on the new album has a really good balance between the melodic and hard, but it also sounds like the past is colliding with the present.
That track has a lot of influences. We have a bass line that is almost like something Peter Hook played in New Order. At the same time, it sounds like a regular Crystal Method breakbeat song. That track is really representative of the whole album, where we’re trying to retain our identity, but also include new sounds that we really like now.
You collaborated with Leanne Rimes on “Grace.” Was this the first time she’d ever sung on an electronic music track, and how did it come about in the first place?
We met her when we were promoting our part in this film called RE:GENERATION. It was this film where electronic music producers worked with people from different genres of music. She worked with Pretty Lights. In that film she sings this really beautiful part on his track, but the part that we liked didn’t make it into that song. Anyway, we met her doing that promotion, and we talked and got along well.
Then Scott just happened to be on the same plane with her, and he had this track that we thought would be a great fit for her. He gave her the track, and she liked it, and then wrote lyrics around it. It was a really natural progression from meeting her to finishing the track. She has an unbelievably amazing voice. People are really reacting well to the track, except all of the Leann Rimes haters out there, of which there seem to be many.
Seems like a waste of energy to hate so enthusiastically.
I know. [laughs]
Are you touring this year?
Yeah, but the tour won’t start until spring or summer.
Anything big planned for the visual side of the show?
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, we have our little fortress of solitude thing, which we debuted at the Staples Center for the League of Legends performance. Then we have all of these new visuals that we’re working with, as well as a bunch of new live elements. So, it’s going to be a really amazing tour.