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Wednesday, January 16 , 2019, 11:21 pm | Light Rain Fog/Mist 59º


Jeff Moehlis: Crankin’ Up The Crystal Method

Before electronic dance music was called "EDM," there was "electronica," which was trending in the late 1990s thanks to artists such as The Prodigy, Fatboy Slim, The Chemical Brothers and The Crystal Method. One can argue about how the EDM of today differs from the electronica of yesteryear. I'd say that EDM is in general more energetic and dance-oriented, but certainly electronica in the 1990s could get a crowd of people grooving to the beats.

You can revisit the electronica era and experience the latest chapter of The Crystal Method on Friday, Nov. 9 at EOS Lounge, 500 Anacapa St. in Santa Barbara. Tickets are available by clicking here.

The Crystal Method, originally made up of sonic adventurers Scott Kirkland and Ken Jordan, first made its mark on the electronica scene with the 1997 album Vegas, a classic of the genre that sold more than 1 million copies in the United States. That was followed by the 2001 album Tweekend, which incorporated rock elements into the mix, and had guest appearances by singer Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots and guitarist Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine.

More albums followed, the most recent being The Trip Home, which came out in September and was the first Crystal Method album produced after the retirement of Jordan. But have no fear. Kirkland took the reins and produced a fine album with lots of danceable parts, a bit of open space and some great retro synth sounds.

Kirkland talked to Noozhawk about the upcoming show and his reflections on the album Vegas.

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Jeff Moehlis: What can people look forward to at the upcoming show?

Scott Kirkland: I think that the people will be hoping to hear some Crystal Method music, and I'll oblige with a big smile and a lot of enthusiasm. I'll be playing lots of stuff from Vegas and Tweekend. I can promise that I'll be enthusiastic and passionate about what I'm doing, and what I'm playing. If one walks into a Crystal Method show and sees the guy up onstage being passive and basically going through the motions, you've walked into the wrong room. I'm usually all in, and I luckily get this lovely adrenaline drop right before I go on.

Scott Kirkland
Scott Kirkland is bringing The Crystal Method to the EOS Lounge on Friday. (Graham John Bell photo)

I think people will have a great time listening to classic Crystal Method stuff, music that's relevant to the history of the electronic scene, at least going back to the rave days of the early '90s. I'll play a great set. I don't mean to toot my own horn, but people spend a lot of money going out, they take the time to find a babysitter, they get their friends together and deal with all the different things that go with going out like parking and getting to the show. I just always want to make sure that everybody has a good time.

JM: I associate The Crystal Method most strongly with your first album, Vegas, which is 21 years old now. Looking back on that, what are your reflections on that particular album?

SK: In 1994, we were about as underground as you could get. The radio landscape was filled with grunge and alternative, and disco was dead, if you will. A lot of the rave scenes that started in the late '80s and early '90s were relegated to festivals, and maybe once or twice a year in your respective part of the world. But there wasn't really a lot of attention being paid to that sort of music over in the United States.

But Vegas was born in that little two-car garage in La Crescenta that was our studio, which we custom built, called The Bomb Shelter. Going back and listening to the way that we recorded it, and some of the techniques, I'm fascinated with the whole album. I'm connected, obviously, to it, and have so many memories of making it. It's like an athlete that maybe hits his goal, and then tries to figure out another goal to hit, because that athlete is no longer the same athlete that he was 21 years ago.

I think that the great thing about the way that we make music is that it really encompasses the time and place we are at at that moment. We take a lot of the things in, we go out and we're part of the scene, and we're inspired by others. So the album is one of those records I'll always be fascinated with, because I'm so connected to it, but it's a version of us at a different place and a different time. The outtakes from it were fascinating as well.

And the process, we didn't have the kind of technology that we have nowadays. So if you were going to do something, you had to follow it through. We didn't have the recallability like nowadays, where every song can be brought up exactly as it was the last time you left it. For us, most of Vegas was made with synthesizers that were sync'd with MIDI, and those settings on those synthesizers would be affected if you went away from it. And then the settings on the board, the way we had things plugged in, and the routing that we had to deal with in those days — you know, you had to finish the song and you had to move forward.

Even now that I look back at it, I can't pull up a session exactly how it was back then, because so much of it was on a board, and settings that were part of a routing that you just can't recall. But I love it. I hadn't listened to it from beginning to end in quite some time, and I sat with some friends and listened to it back, and it was a great deal of fun.

JM: You have a new album out and you're doing a tour right now. What's next? Do you have any other projects in the works?

SK: I've got a pretty good start on my next album, which will be called The Trip Out, which I look forward to releasing next year. And then, also around this time next year, I'm looking to have a live show that can go out, which combines all those different albums and all those different eras together in a cohesive live set. That's something I'm looking forward to. Then in 2020, maybe I'll do some festival stuff, and then maybe do some scoring. I just scored a theme for a TV series, and I'm always looking forward to any challenge that keeps me hungry and allows me to learn a little bit more.

Click here for the full interview with Scott Kirkland, including more on the new album.

— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his website, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

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