(I sat down with The Crystal Method at Escape Music Festival, held at the Beach Club on Governor’s Island. Their set was one of Saturday’s best, kicking the day into high gear. It was a proper, old school party, with amazing dance, techno, house & ridiculous live sets. If you weren’t there last weekend, you missed something special. Photos by Sarah Vale.)
1. How was your Summer 2014? Better than your Summer 2004? How about your Summer 1994?
Scott: That’s interesting, nobody’s ever asked us that question.
Ken: You know just this month, October actually, would be 20 years since our first release, our first 12″.
Scott: Is that when it came out? October 94? So summer of 94, was us just trying to create something that we thought would be cool & be the first release on this label called City of Angels. We were excited, and we’re still excited. So, much different time, 20 years ago to today. Summer of 94, there was a lot going on. So much stuff, Pearl Jam and Nirvana.
Ken: The LA rave scene was still happening.
Scott: Slightly yes. It was on its downturn then. We were living down in Orange County at the time.
Ken: The actual recording of Now Is The Time was done at the Bomb Shelter. Summer of 94.
Ken: There are some big clubs like Exchange, Avalon, Create, also a cool smaller club called Sound. And then there’s a lot of other, more Indie kind of things going on. Little warehouses & there’s a Burner community…
Scott: There’s still the Beach parties, the Moon Tribe things?…they do something out of Malibu or Santa Monica. Anyways, the thing about LA is that it’s so spread out. There’s no public transportation that is fun & sexy & easy. So people are far away from each other, and there’s not that communal vibe you would sometimes find in a city like London or Berlin. But you definitely have pockets. Downtown is becoming a real hotspot for a lot of artists living. But the club scene is continuing to thrive & grow, and I think it’s not at a pace where you feel like it’s going to hit some sort of bubble. It doesn’t feel over-saturated, it’s still a very fun, organic scene.
Ken: We were excited about it. It was the first time we had something like that, going out in such a big way. Every week they were playing the song, it was really featured and it was just a lot of fun. Whenever you hear your music being played for a lot of people, even though you’ve heard the song a million times before, it’s like Wow! This is pretty cool!
Scott: I was just on an airplane and I heard Trip Like I Do was in an episode of Fargo, the TV show Fargo.
Ken: In the stripper scene right?
Scott: In the stripper scene! And a character gets killed right in that scene.
Ken: We’re good at that!
Scott: A lot of people get killed in our scenes! And Keep Hope Alive was actually, weirdly, had the most deaths on camera at one point. It was in a Chow Yun-Fat movie called The Replacement Killers (sequence here). But I love that moment when the song was in that show, Fargo. It’s such a great show, it’s such a great movie. You’re just like, aw man, the Coen Brothers have heard our song. Or Billy Bob Thornton has heard our song. There’s a moment where you go, that thing that you made like, 18 years ago, 17 years ago, 20 years ago, whatever it is. And you’re just doing everything you can to create the coolest thing you can for you and for your audience. And then it finds this whole other audience. And then it lands somewhere like that, where you’re like, Shit, it’s a very cool moment. I knew it was in there before, but then seeing it…because it’s not like they give us any kind of approval or review of what the scene’s going to look like before. But, seeing it, having it in the middle of such a great production was just really cool.
4. Your self-titled album that was released after Scott’s critical surgery was loved by every person I spoke to about it. How did you keep the hard-hitting vibe of classic TCM intact while updating the sounds for the post-EDM generation?
Scott: I wish it was released this during the surgery, so you get all the sympathy, you know what I’m saying? Buy This Album, or he’ll never come out of it!
Ken: He’s barely hanging on! Well, it was, you know, a conscious effort. We DJ a lot so we’re always listening to new music. We like a lot of the new sounds but at the same time we always want to make a Crystal Method album. One that when people hear it, they’ll know it’s us. I think this album has been a really good combination of those two things.
5. I last saw you guys live at the short-lived Identity Festival when you played Camden, NJ (in that parking lot) on that crazy day in August 2011, with the storm. Did you guys get your gear out and everyone to safety before it got too wet when you cut your set short?
Scott: They covered all of our gear up. We barely made it in, we like, jumped into somebody’s bus.
Ken: Yup, that’s right.
Scott: It wasn’t our bus, it was somebody else’s bus. It might’ve been Morgan, our VJ’s. He was on a bus with a bunch of other people, and it just opened up. It came down that afternoon. That’s right, you could see Philadelphia over the river. It struck me how close everything is. That you could see Philadelphia in Jersey, is really wild. It takes the Giants hours and hours to Philadelphia, but just because of traffic.
6. Along those lines, do you have any thoughts on harm reduction for promoters and event/festival producers that would want to book you or other safety-conscious acts in the future?
Ken: We prefer playing events that welcome harm reduction techniques and groups like DanceSafe & Electronic Music Alliance. They’re taking a real proactive stance. They’re not trying to promote drug use in any way, but they are saying they want people educated about these things that are out there. And I think the more education kids have, the safer they will be.
7. Some have claimed that your favorite synthesizer is the Clavia Nord Lead, is that true? Do you have any recommendations when it comes to hardware or plug-ins that you’re digging at the moment, or could not live without?
Scott: We loved the Nord Lead & the Nord Lead II. Over time if you were to examine it, it’s probably one that we use a lot. We love the Roland Jupiter 6, I think my favorite as far as the type of sounds you can get out of it. We’ve got a lot of lovely new stuff. Picked up this fun device, it’s fun, it’s a consumer model. But it has an ability to sample, and it kind of takes you back to one of those early synths.
Ken: Yeah, like the SK-1.
Scott: Plug-in’s wise, we use a lot of Sylenth, the Native Instruments stuff is awesome, FMA.
Ken: All the Arturia plug-ins are great.
Scott: The quality of them is so crazy. When we were making Vegas, there was no “In-the-box.” Everybody’s got so much power now, you can put all these effects & plug-ins across all of these different channels. It’s a completely different world. It is so crazily different, production-wise, from where we were 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago. There’s a lot of great stuff out there. We use the Wave stuff, as far as stuff on the EQ side. McDSP & SoundToys also create really great delays & strange stuff.
8. Who are you looking forward to collaborating with, and are there any places left in the world that you haven’t played at that you’d like to?
Scott: The collaboration thing is always a strange thing. Obviously there’s people that we really love and respect and would love to work with, but if the feeling isn’t mutual, then it’s not gonna be a great thing. Places we haven’t played yet….We haven’t played in St. Petersburg, we played a few cities in Russia. Would love to play South Africa, Morocco.
Ken: I’d love to play India!
9. What would be your favorite positive/cool thing in dance music that’s occurring right now, anywhere in the world? Something cool you’ve seen maybe outside of the states, as opposed to talking about something you dislike in the industry?
Ken: I think with SFX & Insomniac battling each other, I think the production value of all of these events is going through the roof. So sound & lights & visuals have just been super amazing at all these big festivals. And that’s cool.
Scott: On the music side of it, I’m always amazed at how much great stuff is coming out. There’s lots and lots and lots of music, saturating every layer of every genre. People can dump on dubstep or electrohouse. The puritans in the House world have the thing they like and that’s the great thing about it. We’re all just loving the entire scene. We have little pockets of people, cousins don’t always get along but they don’t have to hate on each other you know what I’m saying. You’re all cousins!
Ken: That’s right!
Scott: House cousin don’t hate on Breaks cousin. Sure you don’t look the same, maybe your Dad’s got a lazy eye & a limp, and that’s why you can only move at one tempo, but we’re beyond that. We’re all family. One of the things that come out of any culture, you find people who feel heavily affiliated closely, it’s “their” thing. Something they discovered on their own. So they take ownership of it, but then they start to worry about people coming into their territory. Fucking do what you do and love it. As long as you do everyone’s gonna be good.
10. If you could, what do you think of the evolution of American EDM over your two decade presence in the dance music community? You’re one of the only groups that survived, any thoughts as to what you can attribute that to? Where do we go from here?
Ken: Our longevity is from loving to work with each other and loving to make this music. The future, we don’t know. We’ve kind of ridden waves of popularity of this music. There was a big wave in the late 90’s, then came back down. Now it’s up high. We’re gonna be ok if it levels off or goes down.
Scott: We’re like squirrels, we’ve been saving some nuts for any kind of hibernation for a long winter.