By Jonathan Crane
CALGARY – This spring marks the first year of Scott Kirkland reviving The Crystal Method, synonymous with the electronica boom of the ’90s, now a solo act following co-founder Ken Jordan’s retirement.
At the time of Jordan’s departure there were no hostilities or tensions. He left Kirkland with words of empowerment, urging him to continue their quarter-century legacy that so far has come to include five studio albums and original productions for multiple games and film projects.
“He basically said just keep going, you love it and I’m proud of you,” relays Kirkland. “So it’s not like there’s any residual damage from some fallout, something that would weigh down my creativity or in any way sort of change the narrative. The narrative is still the same. I’m now continuing on as The Crystal Method, proud of all the things that we’ve done and the albums that we’ve made.”
To give an idea of how far the two came as a group the conversation shifts to the late 1980s. After meeting at a grocery store in Las Vegas and bonding over music, they moved to L.A. and began exploring the emerging rave scene.
“We were thinking we were going to be producing bands, so we started gathering gear and going to these raves and realizing that we didn’t need a singer, we didn’t have to work with a rapper, we didn’t have to be the producers, we could be the artists,” says Kirkland.
They then set out finding lodging in the area just outside of L.A.
“We found a little two bedroom house in La Crescenta, California, which is up in the foothills and it wasn’t much. It was the only that we could afford. Actually, it was the only place that would rent to us because we had such bad credit because we had sort of eaten into our savings trying to be producers,” says Kirkland.
The place in question had a two car garage, and the pair set to work on drywalling it to turn it into a studio.
“We put a little storage area between the garage door and the wall that would have been the studio wall, and we put all our junk in there so the landlord wouldn’t know that we had converted the garage into a room because she would have kicked us out probably,” says Kirkland.
They named the space The Bomb Shelter because there was an actual bomb shelter in the front yard that had been installed during the Cuban missile crisis.
Despite the group’s humble beginning in their ramshackle studio the rest of the ’90s was followed by a series of sequential milestones that catapulted them to the center of pop-culture.
“We released a 12-inch in ’94, Now Is The Time. And then we did a version of “Keep Hope Alive” that came out in ’95, and then we got a deal signed in ’96,” says Kirkland, adding. “We put out a record in ’97, that was Vegas, and the rest is history.”
This early era, from the creation of The Bomb Shelter to the release of Vegas, is what Kirkland is hoping to recapture with TCM’s forthcoming release The Trip Home. He compares it to a painter going back and rediscovering old methods that they once used.
“There’s certain [times] that you remember how you did things. That to me was what I wanted to get into, not remaking Vegas, but just remembering the ways that we made Vegas. And the way those early years were ours, and they were not anybody else’s,” says Kirkland.
As he explains, during that period they were able to make electronic music in the way that they saw fit.
“I like the idea of being able to go in and not give a shit about what’s going on right now in EDM. Not that I don’t find some of it really cool, but there’s a perfection to some of the stuff that I think it’s a little bit too surrealistic sometimes. I kind of like the idea of doing things a little bit of a different way,” says Kirkland.
The fact that the forthcoming album is driven in part by nostalgia for the Vegas era has also fueled Kirkland’s desire to return to the road and tour. As he explains, the electronic music boom of the 1990s is one of that decade’s cultural pockets currently lacking modern nostalgic outlets.
“There’s radio stations that play nothing but ’90s rock now. But for the electronic scene for the ’90s, for people like you and I who got into Prodigy, and Massive Attack, and Portishead, and Chemical Brothers, and Daft Punk, and Leftfield, and Orbital, and The Orb, and Crystal Method and all these different bands, there’s not really an outlet for us unless it’s on the internet.”
Although TCM’s DJ sets contain new music, being able to cater to this nostalgia is important to him. The aim isn’t to capitalize off a past era, but rather to expand it into the present day.
“I think there’s something magical about being a part of a scene and then being able to continue that scene forward,” says Kirkland.
As the conversation draws to a close Kirkland reflects on how it’s not only TCM’s composition that’s changed, but the fans as well. In recent years he’s noticed a second generation of fans appearing that are just as eager for the music as their ’90’s predecessors.
“There are kids that are showing up that have been turned on to the music either by siblings or cousins, or just the fact that the craziest thing is their mom or dad said, ‘Hey, you like so and so. Maybe you’ll like the Crystal Method?” says Kirkland.
The Crystal Method performs in Calgary on May 12 at the Marquee.Marquee, The Crystal Method