Composed of Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland, The Crystal Method has been roiling at the periphery of pop culture for closer to twenty years, steadily gaining more fans, more clout, and more levels of awesome. They’ve been the gateway for electronic music for countless people–myself included–and have made any number of radio releases and high-profile remixes, as well as been a part of numerous movie scores and TV show soundtracks.
Or, in short: Holy shit, you guys! It’s The Crystal Method!
This Identity Festival happened to be Ken’s birthday–so because of that, and because he’s a hockey fan, and because he was in Pittsburgh, he decapitated a penguin pinata on stage with a hockey stick. I’ve seen the Method play before, years ago; I went in expecting a fairly danceable big beat/breakbeat set. Nope: they went to an awe-inspiring degree of crunchiness, dropping a brutally glitchy set (as well as random cans of water) on the people who packed together in the full sun to see them. Also, they debuted a strange new instrument that looks like two guitar necks on a DJ mixer. I was curious, so I had to ask about it first.
Let’s start with the inappropriate one: So, your equipment out there–I’ve noticed it’s not quite like everyone else’s!
Ken: That’s right!
Scott: Yes. The CDJ 2000 . . . Honestly, I don’t even know–
Ken: It’s the longest name in the world.
Scott: I’m glad you gravitated towards that . . . The CDJ thing was part of an art project we did for Pioneer. And the rep at Pioneer said, “Let’s make two more of these, and get the USB & keyboard working!” The original piece was a piece of leftover keyboard from a tour that I‘d smashed–you remember that tour (note: the Community Service tour), I was smashing things all over the place.
Ken: But the project, the first one of those things is up for auction right now–it’s a VH1 Save the Music kind of thing.
Scott: That one’s the genesis of it, because then we decided, “Hey, these could be the things we DJ on!” So then the guy who helped fabricate it–who makes amazing custom guitars–he was like, “I’ll put a bass pickup in it so you can actually play it.” It was this really organic idea that came from us having a bunch of leftover gear at the studio, and this guy was able to fabricate the original one, and then it was just like, ba-ba-ba-ba-ba and things just started happing. It’s like, you know . . . The keytar is one of the worst designed objects ever. They mean well, but . . . Playing keyboards, I would love to figure out a way of doing the keytar the proper way. But this is beyond that: this is like putting a CDJ in a keytar, then making it multitask. I love to be able to do things, change the song up . . . And the people can see the music’s coming from that thing.
You mentioned something towards the end of the set about the promoters’ choice to put an electronica festival on in the daytime. What were your thoughts on that?
Ken: First of all, much thanks to everyone out there in the sun just totally enjoying the music and not caring about how hot it was. It was hot out there, and they were totally unaffected–and that’s just really amazing, and a sign of the love of the music for everybody who came out.
It’s great that you were reminding them to hydrate.
Scott: If nothing else, I had to be a PSA.
Ken: “You broke my nose–”
Scott: No, this guy–
Ken: I didn’t understand what he was saying! He’s like, “Broke my nose–” and I’m like, “What? What do you mean? What are you talking about?”
Scott: No, what happened was I went to throw it (note: a can of water) to him and I was throwing– There’s people out there who I know are looking right at me, and I’m looking at them, and there’s someone maybe two or three feet in front of those people who are like, “Oh, he’s talking to me!” And they’ll go up to catch it, miss it, and because of the deflection from their hand . . . It wasn’t me who was the last one to touch it, it was the guy in front of him. I try to pick out people who are paying attention, and my arm is sometimes not accurate, but–
Ken: The other guy got the assist!
Ken: We normally throw them plastic bottles of water, but the water that we have is those Red Bull cans–
Scott: No, no, no no, Rock Star.
Ken: Why do I keep saying Red Bull? I clearly know the difference! Why am I saying that–
Scott: The thing is, I kept going, “Can you bring me some water?” And Josh kept bringing me these Rock Stars, and it says “Contains water” . . . And I’m like, “I know it contains water!”
Ken: Of course it contains water!
Scott: And he’s like, “This is the water for the tour!” And I went, No, I want water, I want bottled water– “No, this contains–” Yes, I know it contains water! Fucking every–fucking Coca-Cola contains water! And it wasn’t until Caesar at the booth was like, “No, it’s only water. Drink it!” And I was like, “Ohhh.”
Ken: It looks just like the Rock Star energy drink!
Scott: I get it now. It should say, “ONLY contains water.”
Ken: They should have a different label, it should be white–
Scott: They want everyone to think you’re sucking it down–
(Note: This was the point Afrobeta came back from Pittsburgh, and Cuci presented Scott with a pink unicorn pillow for his daughter. The pillow promptly ended up decorated with the penguin piñata’s head, and the audio from the interview degraded into hysterical laughter and noise.)
Scott: We’ve gotta put that out on the set for the rest of the tour. It’s part of the family now.
Ken: As Seen On TV, thank you!
So I haven’t seen you guys for almost ten years now and in the meantime you’ve gotten crunchy as hell. What are your thoughts on your own musical evolution?
Ken: We’ve always kind of leaned towards the two extremes, the hard and the beautiful soft, so I think the music we’re making, the music we’re playing is still kind of natural to us, and what we gravitate towards.
Scott: I agree with everything he said.
Ken: And with the development of dubstep, I think that kind of gives us permission to be as hard as we want. Because that style is just so hard, so it’s kind of a free–
(Note: This was where Tony Smurphio of Afrobeta rolled back through with a birthday card for Ken, and where things once again degraded into pandemonium, with bonus talk of plumber’s crack and Bill Murray movies. This was probably the most organic, most chaotic, least formal interview I’ve ever done, and it was amazing.)
Ken: It’s so much fun when you play on your birthday. That means you’re living off this shit.
So as for plans for your next work: I think it’s been two years since Divided by Night, and you played a new song tonight . . .
Scott: Yeah, we played a new song tonight, it was Play for Real. We did two songs for this big Dreamworks movie that’s coming out in October called Real Steel; we worked with Danny Elfman–or he worked with us, it’s hard to say how it worked out.
Ken: And Hugh Jackman is in the film.
Scott: Yes, it’s a futuristic robots thing. We did two songs– This director, Shawn Levy, was a big fan of ours. We had a meeting with him in January and the first thing he said was, “I can’t believe I actually have The Crystal Method here! I’ve been making movies for a long time and finally have a project where I can bring you guys in.”
Ken: One of those songs on the soundtrack we contributed is . . . It’s an awesome track.
Scott: We should play it. We’ll play it right now. If I had my phone?
Isn’t that your phone–no, that’s my phone.
(Note: We never did find the phone.)
I do remember when Divided by Night came out there was a rumor bumping around that you guys were only going to make a set number of CDs, then stop. Is there any stock in that?
Ken: Like a set number of albums in our career, then stop? I hadn’t heard that.
Scott: Maybe we should do that.
Ken: The funny thing about that is, REM for a long time said for sure, early on in their career, that their last show was gonna be like New Year’s Eve 1999, 2000, and they kept going way past then.
Scott: REM, TCM . . . We get confused. I don’t know how many times people have come up to me to tell me about how they lost their religion to my songs.
I’ve got one more question–the absolutely most important question: In the event of a zombie apocalypse, what are your plans?
Ken: It happens when?
Whenever it happens.
Ken: The plan?
Scott: The apocalypse will not be televised?
Ken: The apocalypse . . . And we live?
Like, how are you going to survive the zombie apocalypse?
Ken: We live in California, and my wife’s really good about getting the whole earthquake thing together.
Scott: We’ll be good at making friends with zombies. “Dude, don’t you remember? I played for your fucking zombie party, like, ten years ago.”–“Raah, I won’t eat your brains because I like you!”–“Thank you, appreciate it, high five, whoa, your arm just fell off.” I figure that’s the best plan.
Ken: I’ve gotta change my earthquake plan–I’ve gotta make sure my earthquake plan now has a sign that says, “We love zombies!”
Scott: You’ve gotta plan early for the zombies, because they have short memories. Or long memories, I’m not sure. They might be like elephants, but dead elephants.
Need I reiterate how awesome these guys are?