SXSW 2010: The Crystal Method

Posted on Feb 9th 2010 for AOL Spinner by Annamarya Scaccia

In May 2009, electro-rock outfit the Crystal Method released their fourth studio album, ‘Divided by Night,’ on Tiny e Records. Nominated at the 52nd Grammy Awards for Best Electronic/Dance Album, its first single, ‘Drown in the Now,’ featured no less than Matisyahu. With an 2010 tour that includes stops in New Orleans, Moscow and Miami, the Los Angeles duo is gearing up for the jaunt at this year’s SXSW festival. Spinner recently spoke with the Crystal Method’s Scott Kirkland about the band, its name and the craziness of the road.

Describe your sound in your own words.
It’s like a really rich, chunky salsa. Lots of depth, lots to bite into, with a little bit of kick and goes down with chips, tequila, a nice margarita. It’s like rock-infused electronic music. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s dance, techno or breakbeat. It’s a sound based on our influences that we grew up with including modern rock, heavy metal, hip-hop and more electronic-based bands like New Order, Depeche Mode and the entire rave scene of the late ’80s, early ’90s.

How did your band form?
We met at a grocery store where we were both working in Las Vegas. I brought a drum machine to work one day, was hanging out in break room, trying to get my head around the functions. Ken walked in and we immediately struck up a conversation about music. He was working with a singer, working more of the production side, and I [was] writing songs in my room with the drum machine, four-track and guitar. We decided to combine our gear and our energy behind this singer he was. Eventually he moved to California, and I followed him, and we started working more on music for ourselves.

What are your musical influences?
I grew up listening to a lot of rock and heavy metal; bands like Metallica, Judas Priest and Motley Crue. You know, that sort of typical 12- to 14-year-old growing up in the ’80s. AC/DC was also one of my favorites. My mom and dad were pretty young when I was born, so their influences in disco and classic rock were thrown in there. Depeche Mode and New Order, more modern music, mid to late ’80s and ’90s. That, with the club scene and rave scene of Los Angeles we discovered after we moved there. Also, Leftfield was big influence as one of those first bands that was electronic-based with lots of different influences in hip-hop, reggae and dub. We just love music. We don’t exclusively listen to electronic or dance.

How did you come up with your band name?
After we moved to Los Angeles, back in ’89-’90, we put together a studio in Hollywood, working more as a production team, trying to get remixes and work with artists. We were working with this rapper … and he, one day, when commenting on our mode of transportation for the evening, said “Oh, the crystal method,” referring to [our friend] Crystal [who] was going to pick us up and drive to this club. We just thought the words sounded really cool together. Definitely, we heard the double entendre, that sorta pseudo drug reference, but it was just a cool name. The drug itself didn’t really have real stronghold on the nation and the communities … If we were forming the band now, and that name came up, I don’t think that’s something we would continue with. We always made every effort to stir people away from the drug connotation and look at it more as a cool name.

What’s your biggest vice?
Probably vodka and tequila, not necessarily in that order [laughs]. I do have a great love of the flavorings of tequila and vodka. Not together, that would be insane. Lately, though, it’s been letting my son play video games at home past six o’clock. My wife’s really getting on me for that. But I would say those two things and a lack of enthusiasm for working out. That’s also right up there as a vice. I would definitely put that in top five.

What’s in your festival survival kit?
Definitely gotta go with a light jacket, ear plugs, probably a flask of really nice tequila and a half a Xanax would literally help with dealing with large crowds. Maybe a couple of extra pairs of socks in that backpack. You never know what you’re going to run into in that environment. You don’t want to walk around with wet socks.

What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
I find myself singing some of the themes to my son’s favorite TV shows. There’s a show called ‘Backyardigans’ [on Nick Jr.]. It’s a very haunting, clever chorus of animal kids singing, so it’s a clever little theme.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen or experienced while on tour?
When we were on tour in 2001, we were playing in Houston two weeks after September 11. There was a lot of chaos in the country, a lot of fear of more terrorist attacks, and I think a lot of people were finding music and festivals, going out for an escape. The local PD and sheriff’s department spent all their resources on blocking the many entrances to this particular event and telling people it was closed or they were going to get arrested, even though a judge had granted the proper licenses, and helicopters were flying overhead. It was just, “Couldn’t your services be better [used] doing something besides cracking down on a legal event where people are just trying to dance and escape from the tragedy of September 11?” As far as total ridiculousness and overall disappointment in an event and the people surrounding it and affecting it, that was definitely up there.

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