The Crystal Method
Crystal Method is the biggest selling Electronica group in the country. The group is made up of Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland. In this interview with Ken Jordan he talks about their new album “Divide by Night”, their debut which just went platinum “Vegas”, and one of their biggest hits “Busy Child”. He also talks about production, equipment, and in his eyes where the music business is going.
WHO?MAG: Talk to me about the new album “Divide by Night” and what’s behind the name?
KEN JORDAN: It’s our first new studio album in about five years. We’re working on a bunch of other things since the last album. We did our second mix CD, a soundtrack album, and this other thing called “Drive”. This is the first proper studio album in like five years. We got a bunch of collaborations on there. Like the guys from LMFAO on a track and Matisyahu on the single and video. We have a lot of collaborations, but it still sounds like a Crystal Method record. Well, it’s like a metaphor for our lives. We work pretty hard and have pretty normal lives at home, but then when we go out and DJ night clubs and go on tour, it’s a completely different world.
WHO?MAG: How did you get Matisyahu and Justin Warfield for the album?
KEN JORDAN: We met Matisyahu at a festival last summer. His tour manager came by our trailer when we were getting ready to play at this festival. He asked him if he wanted to come and throw down during our set. We said “yeah” and it sounded like a great idea. He came out and rapped to a track from our first album called “High Roller”. It just went really well. We talked about collaborating on the new album. We sent him some tracks and decided on which ones to work on. He recorded his stuff in New York because that’s where he lives and we worked on it back and forth a couple of times. “Drown in the Now” was the finished product and we thought it was natural selection for the first single. We were talking to this guy Christopher the Minister. He’s on satellite radio. We were talking to him and some of the fans about singers and stuff. He was mentioning he was in a band and we thought it would be really cool. At the time, we didn’t realize it was the same guy who had done like early underground tracks with Chemical Brothers. He came over and he was really into us and a real cool guy. We played him some stuff and he chose “Kling to the Wreckage”.
WHO?MAG: What’s the difference between this album and “Legion of Boom” back in 2004?
KEN JORDAN: We think its more song oriented. There are more vocals for sure. We think the songs are much better and hope it’s a better album.
WHO?MAG: Let’s talk about the history of Crystal Method. How did you guys come together and how did the name for the group come about?
KEN JORDAN: We both still lived in Las Vegas. We both started working on music separately and both were working at the same store as part time jobs. One day Scott came in with a drum machine and we just started talking. We noticed we had similar musical interests. So we put our gear together at my apartment and started working and we’ve been working ever since. It was a girl Crystal we knew. It was a weird story. A rapper that we were working with and this girl used to give us rides everywhere. Where we were going to meet up later on and how we were going to get there, I know! The crystal method! And we just thought it sounded funny and sounded like a drug and it kind of stuck. (laughs)
WHO?MAG: How is your guy’s production process?
KEN JORDAN: We like to start with an idea, either a riff, chord progression, or a melody, sometimes a beat. A lot of people think we always start with a beat, but we don’t. We always start with something else first. Most of the writing is done in the studio. A lot of times we’ll come up with the first idea and we’ll work on it from there. It’s all writing, mixing, and producing in the studio.
WHO?MAG: Equipment-wise what are you using at the moment?
KEN JORDAN: Pro Tools and there’s a lot of old analog synths. Also a lot of virtual plug-ins for synthesizers and a lot of analog emulating virtual synth plugs.
WHO?MAG: When you were working on your debut “Vegas”, what were you using back then?
KEN JORDAN: For “Vegas” we were using an early version of Digital Performer and we only had seven audio tracks maximum. A lot of mixes we did were live mixes and there were thirty tracks of mini triggered stuff and seven audio tracks.
WHO?MAG: What’s more comfortable for you to use: music production software or hardware gear?
KEN JORDAN: Well, there’s still some sounds that the plug-in stuff can’t really get, but the analog gear can get. You know when you use a plug-in everything works. When you use old analog gear, hardly anything works. (laughs)
WHO?MAG: How did the song “Get Busy Child” come about and how was the production process behind it?
KEN JORDAN: We were working on it first and we were touring. It just kind of really started with the “I guess you didn’t know” sample and the beat. I remember we couldn’t get the beat right like forever. I remember we used the Recycle program to try to fix the beat to make it sound great. Then the track just kind of developed. We were playing it out live to test it out and working on it. After a while, we thought we got it right. It was actually the first single from “Vegas” before “Vegas” came out. We used Digital Performer and we used Nord to mix most of the synth sounds and the bass sounds. The drums are a combination of mostly our own programming and little bit of [Fruity] Loop.
WHO?MAG: In the reissue of the album that came out last year, the bonus CD was all remixes. Did you choose those artists to do the remixes or they came to you?
KEN JORDAN: We choose all the artists. It was people we liked what they were doing at the time. We choose them and we really took our time on that. It’s mostly remixes and then there’s one live song and then an old unreleased demo.
WHO?MAG: Talk about the “Drive” album you guys did with Nike. How did it come about and where was the cover picture taken?
KEN JORDAN: Some Nike/Apple guys had a meeting with us to tell us about their secret project which turned out to be the whole Nike plus thing. We’ve always used Macs and at the time we were wearing Nikes. We don’t wear them anymore. Anyway we thought it was a good project; so we did it. It was first available on iTunes and for the Nike Plus thing. We let them have it for 6 months. Now it’s just one of our releases you can get anywhere. We did a whole photo shoot at a running track at Glendale Community College.
WHO?MAG: How did you guys end up doing the soundtrack for the movie “London”?
KEN JORDAN: This producer that tried to hire us for this other movie called “Spun”. He came to us and we watched the movie and we liked it. We thought we could do a good job with the score and it was our real first score work. Where we actually look at the scenes and create music just for the film.
WHO?MAG: Was it difficult doing the score?
KEN JORDAN: Sometimes it’s easier because you kind of know what the mood is supposed to be and know where the action is so you kind of have the music land at certain points. Some of its harder; you have to make the rhythm or the time fit the certain parts of the scene that you’re supposed to accent. Some of that technically is harder, but the creative process is easier.
WHO?MAG: How did you guys hook up with Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine for the “Tweekend” album?
KEN JORDAN: We found out that he had secretly gone to a couple of shows of ours and he was a big electronic music fan. When we found that out, we tried everything possible to get a message to him. (laughs) At first he wasn’t he wasn’t calling back. We were really discouraged, then it turned out we were calling the wrong number; then when we called the right number. He called us right back. When we worked with him, he came to our old studio the Bomb Shelter, which was a total disastrous time and he was really cool about it. He didn’t really care. He brought his gear and was really easy to work with. He co-produced some tracks with us and played on a few. We really liked working with him.
WHO?MAG: How about with Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots?
KEN JORDAN: We had talked to him about working together a long time ago. When we finally did work together, it was one of those things where he just kind of did his stuff at his studio and we did stuff on our studio, but he never really came over. We never knew what it was like to work with him.
WHO?MAG: How did you hook up with DJ Swamp?
KEN JORDAN: I think our A&R guy Doug Cydell knew him. We knew of him because we’d seen him perform at some Beck shows or something. I always knew he was an amazing DJ. He did the scratching on “Name of the Game”. It was the first time we’d seen a CDJ player. They gave him an early version of it or something. He did the scratching on “Name of the Game” on one of the first CDJs ever to come out; the new good ones.
WHO?MAG: I’ve seen videos of him. He’s crazy!
KEN JORDAN: Yeah it’s kind of crazy man. We had him play with us a couple of times and set stuff on fire; doing Tarzan off the polls. (we both laugh together) He’s a pretty wild guy.
WHO?MAG: Which is your favorite album?
KEN JORDAN: Probably “Vegas” because it’s our first one and we took a long time to make it and it did well.
WHO?MAG: Have you ever had any issues with sample clearances?
KEN JORDAN: Nah! Ever since the beginning, the only samples we’ve ever used we cleared and paid for. It’s never been an issue with us. We hardly use any though.
WHO?MAG: Who are some of your influences as producers?
KEN JORDAN: Going back to Trevor Horn, Butch Vig I think he’s amazing. William Orbit he’s really good. All the guys from the 80’s and 90’s influenced us.
WHO?MAG: The Butch Vig who produced Nirvana right?
KEN JORDAN: Yeah. He produced Nirvana “Nevermind”. He produced Smashing Pumpkin’s “Siamese Dream” and the first Garbage album which is amazing.
WHO?MAG: How do you guys approach doing remixes?
KEN JORDAN: We just like to take generally just the vocals and then kind of turn it into our own track. We don’t pay that much attention to the original song. We did The Doors cover and did kind of leave that one intact. I guess it just depends if it’s a good track to start with, then we’ll leave some elements of the song. If not we’ll just take the vocals.
WHO?MAG: You’ve gone from a major to having your own label. Which is better?
KEN JORDAN: Well right now it’s best to be your own label because all the other labels are going down the toilet. They’re all going broke. You kind of have to be on your own label right now, unless you’re Kanye West or Brittany Spear. I think we’re moving towards a market where music will be for free and you just pay for other things: tickets for shows, merchandise, or whatever. It’s seems like that’s the way it’s going to me.