The Crystal Methodís breakbeat
BY MICHAEL ENDELMAN
Scott Kirkland is weary. Canít blame him ó as half of the LA-based electronic duo the Crystal Method, heís in the midst of a nine-week cross-country jaunt to support the pairís excellent new disc, Tweekend (Outpost/Geffen). But despite the hectic schedule, which brings the Crystal Method to the Worcester Palladium this Friday, heís enthused about the previous nightís show and about the one coming up in just a few hours in " one of our favorite places to play. "
And, where is that? Some slick mega-club in New York, LA, or Miami? No. The Crystal Method are in Lawrence, Kansas, which ranks alongside Boise and Tulsa as one of their three favorite cities. All three are just about the last places youíd expect to find a big demand for brain-rattling, block-rocking electronica ó theyíre all isolated from the sleek, urban nightclubs where trend-surfing technophiles gather to discuss the latest UK dance-music imports. But that suits the Crystal Method, who have always inhabited a world apart from Prada-clad New York and Miami hipsters. Kirkland and partner Ken Jordan are a couple of unpretentious guys who look as if theyíd be more comfortable in a sports bar than behind the turntables. Yet next to Moby, these normal joes are the most popular electronic dance act in the country. Their first disc, 1997ís Vegas (Outpost/Geffen), sold close to a million copies; Tweekend entered the Billboard Top 200 chart at #32. In the realm of instrumental electronic music, thatís a big, big deal.
Despite their high-rolling status, the pair are pretty much ignored by the dance-music press, and even their peers in the music world seem to regard them as something of a second-class act. " I think thatís because our style has some roots in rock and weíre not afraid of using guitars, " Kirkland muses. " And that scares a lot of people in the elite dance-music scene. Perhaps the biggest fear among the dance-music scene is that the corporate rock world will take over their world. "
Thereís little doubt that the Crystal Method have helped bring the two worlds together. Last year, the pair toured as part of Kornís " Family Values " metal extravaganza, and Tweekend features guest spots from Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello and Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland. More to the point: the Crystal Method really do rock. They play head banging, balls-to-the-wall electronic music filled with hedonistic peaks, aggressive synths, and chunky hip-hop beats.
But the Crystal Methodís rockist leanings arenít the only reason Kirkland and Jordan get snubbed by the dance-music elite. Although Kirklandís too polite to say so, thereís more than a little bit of cultural snobbism at work. Even though it has roots in bare-bones mid-í80s hip-hop, spaced-out New York electro, and UK acid house, the style of electronic music that the Crystal Method play ó breakbeat ó is generally dismissed as a suburban music, electronic music for white teens who donít know any better. The genreís biggest stars ó the Crystal Method, DJ Icey, and Uberzone ó come respectively from Las Vegas, Florida, and Southern California.
Thatís not something Kirklandís ashamed of. " When we were growing up in Vegas, " he remembers, " it was considered a smaller-market city, and I remember how exciting it was when a band came to town. Likewise, we always make sure to visit cities like Boise and Tulsa. People there are always really excited to see us. Those are the cities that really appreciate the visits. "
Perhaps thatís part of why the Crystal Method have succeeded where other touring electronic acts have floundered. This summer, for example, a pair of European-style traveling mega-raves ó Mekka and Creamfields ó canceled a few weeks before they were scheduled to begin. Soft ticket sales were most likely to blame. The Crystals, on the other hand, are in the middle of their fourth coast-to-coast tour, with no slump in sight.
" Itís very easy to stay in the rave world and play to two to three thousand people every couple weekends and be satisfied with that, " Kirkland remarks. " We just feel that thereís more to this country than raves and one-offs. If you bring the music to the people, then we think that theyíll like it. "
The Crystal Method perform this Friday, August 31, at the Worcester Palladium with Uberzone, Feelgood, Scotty Marz, Stratosphere, Madame Buddafly, JJ Blades, Gil-T, and Sanford Dat Funky Drumma VS. Kingspin. Call (800) 477-6849.
Issue Date: August 30 - September 6, 2001