Like Underworld, the Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim and a handful of other electronic musicians, partners Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland have a signature sound that will have you shaking your ass whether you hear it at a rave, in a video game or in a commercial. Even if you don't think you know the Crystal Method's music, chances are you've at least heard the unsettling, knob-distorted funk classic "Busy Child," with its gospel-like "get busy, child" vocal sample. The song was a single off of their 1997 debut album, Vegas, and thanks to the magic of licensing found its way into living rooms everywhere via a Gap ad peddling $10 pocket tees to the masses (the same spot also co-opted skateboarding culture).
While Madison Avenue has landed Jordan and Kirkland some corporate cream, the success has done nothing since then to dilute their sound. While they work with synthesizers and software to build tracks, the partners first and foremost are music lovers with strong pop songwriting sensibilities. They've developed a sound that works as hard-core dance music at its finest -- but can find approval with even the most blandly casual of ears.
Maybe even with your mom.
Jordan and Kirkland have crafted their finest work over the past decade working within the once-trendy, still-developing "breaks" genre. "Breaks" tracks are built around hard-hitting, syncopated kick-drum beats similar to what you'd hear from a marching band or from a thumping hip-hop track (as opposed to the repetitive four-to-the-floor beats of house and trance). And they're almost usually built around funky bass lines. "Breaks" rose to prominence in the United States and globally under the aegis of the "big beat invasion" of 1996, but unlike in Britain, the genre never gained much traction on these shores. Even in the Crystal Method's hometown of Los Angeles, "breaks" nights are a rarity that take a good bit of spelunking to find, which is a goddamn shame and all the more reason to check out the duo's latest DJ set, whatever your musical preferences might be.
The Method, following the success of Vegas, released Tweekend in 2001, an album of original tracks that sold more than 1.5 million copies. They followed that release the next year with a mix album called Community Service. Then Jordan and Kirkland crawled back into the Bomb Shelter (as their studio is known -- no word on whether Dick Cheney ever drops in for onion rings and milk shakes) and crafted Legion of Boom, their third album of new material, which is scheduled to hit stores on January 13.
After working with Tom Morello, Scott Weiland and others on Tweekend, Jordan and Kirkland enlisted former Limp Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland, vocalist John Garcia of Kyuss, and the rapper Rahzel, among others, to help build their new Boom -- and boom it does. "Born Too Slow," the song featuring Borland and Garcia, epitomizes the strengths of this group's sound: hard, banging, metallic, thumpy, catchy and danceable. And the vocals work, too.
During their last pass through the desert Southwest, the Crystal Method had a run of luck so bad that it would have sent the members of Spinal Tap sprinting for a therapeutic crystal treatment with their astrologer back on the tour bus. But like Jeff Bridges' white-Russian-and-doobie-loving Dude in The Big Lebowski, the Crystal Method persists.
Recently, we chatted with Kirkland about beats, roofs, life and knowing when to say when to tweaking -- tweaking knobs, that is.
New Times: Things didn't go exactly as planned during your last trip to Arizona. What happened?
Scott Kirkland: We love coming to Phoenix and Tucson, but we had some technical problems on our live Tweekend tour. [At] the Phoenix show we had power problems. All of our lights and all of our sound and all of the PA were going through one generator, which doesn't help the gear. I lost half of my keyboard set, and it was a less than spectacular show. [At] the Tucson show we had to cancel because the venue we were playing at the roof was falling in. Uberzone played and he has a lot of bass in his set and chunks of the ceiling were falling down. Then Adam Freeland was DJing and he had large chunks of stucco and ceiling falling close to people who were dancing and very close to him. Our set has more bass than both of them combined -- so we were concerned and had to cancel the show.
NT: How did the Community Service album and DJ tour affect the music on Legion of Boom?
SK: Delving deep into breaks and dance music, preparing for that record, getting the songs together, and touring heavily influenced the sound of the [new] album, especially tracks like "Bound Too Long," "High and Low," "Starting Over" and the single "Born Too Slow," which has rhythm and bass that are dance-floor friendly. There's so much great music coming out of the breaks scene from DJ Hyper and Adam Freeland and Elite Force.