The first notable DJ/producers to put Sin City on the electronic music map were Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland, better known as The Crystal Method. The graduates of Rancho and Las Vegas high schools, respectively, put in their time DJing at a long-gone sports pub across from UNLV; Jordan even served as KUNV 91.5-FM’s program director. They now celebrate multiple Grammy-nominations, a gig scoring the new J.J. Abrams TV series Almost Human and their 20th anniversary together, so it was fitting to check back in with our hometown heroes.
We caught up with Jordan at The Crystal Method’s North Hollywood studio as the finishing touches were being put on their new album, simply titled The Crystal Method, released January 14.
How are you able to continue to innovate electronic music and retain the distinct Crystal Method sound without being formulaic?
We wanted this album to really sound current and new and modern, but at the same time we never want to lose that sound that we have, which is always changing. It still has that very bass-heavy, almost rock feel to it. We want every track to be a song—whether it has vocals or not. We’re always concerned about that. We didn’t want to follow any of the formulas of the current electro-house sound. There are some elements of half-time stuff—dubstep and things like that—but we don’t really go there on any of the whole songs.
Even if we’re trying to do something totally different, it’ll end up sounding like us. So it’s good that we don’t have another job where we’re trying to mimic all different kinds of sounds. It works out good for us.
You’ve worked on this album for two years. As opposed to many producers who build tracks entirely on their computer with samples and plug-ins, what goes into creating your music?
We do use plug-ins, but most of the plug-ins we use are more sound-processing stuff. We still do record a lot of parts, synths, from our old analog gear. We use a lot of Moog stuff, a lot of guitar pedals. We have a lot of boxes and toys we use here before it gets into the computer.
A lot of producers are focused on releasing singles and getting headlining residencies. Why do you feel it’s still important to make an artist album?
It’s a personal preference. We enjoy it; we like making an album that has a sound. Things that are released as albums are generally six songs, plus maybe some remixes. If we did that, we’d get releases out quicker, so that would be a benefit. Who knows? Maybe this is the last 10-11 song record we do. Maybe we will go to more of the EP versions later. We like doing it this way. But it’s probably not a good idea to wait so long between albums [laughs].
What are your favorite tracks on the album?
I really like the first track, “Emulator,” and it has no real vocals. Then I love “Over It”; Dia Frampton [singer and The Voice finalist] was great to work with. The original version is just her doing a few lines with an acoustic guitar, so that was fun working on that. I love “110 to the 101.”
During the making of the album, Kirkland underwent surgery to remove a noncancerous cyst against his brain and subsequently developed a spinal fluid infection, making this a particularly personal journey for you both. Is that situation evident in the album?
It was my idea to include that sound from the machine Scott was hooked up to in the hospital [on the track “Dosimeter” with Nick Thayer], so a lot of this record was worked on knowing that he was going to have the surgery, and then during and after. It was quite a process for him, so it was a cathartic sort of thing to finish the record and get it out. We’re really happy it’s done and happy with it.
What do you think about the current state of music that’s being produced?
I get bored with that same formulaic buildup [of cymbal crash/wooshing sound], then the girl sings some crappy vocal, buildup and then the cheesy synths and all that stuff. Even though some of it’s good, I don’t really like that formula style. But all genres and subgenres are guilty of the formula, too. Cedric [Gervais] and Borgore are incredible, but that fostered a million copies of all songs that sound the same way, and then the Swedish House [Mafia] sound had a million songs that sound like that. There are so many talented people making music, I just wish people would explore their own sounds and not try to copy everyone else’s.