|Saturday, Apr 30, 2016, 08:00:05 AM|
Thursday, April 29, 2004
Off the charts: Crystal Method
From Vegas with beats
By Newt Briggs
Remember when techno was going to save the world? It was January 1995 or thereabouts--a short time after Kurt Cobain had used a shotgun to free himself from the toxic combination of Love, drugs and Nirvana--and electronic music was about to convert us all into a new breed of digital Beethovens. Or so said the patent-leather prophets in the United States Congress, who errantly predicted that 43 percent of domestic households would contain a home MIDI studio by 2001.
These technocrats, however, failed to account for America's stubborn lack of creativity and its undying faith in pop puppets with names like Timberlake and Spears. Despite a significant uprising in Great Britain, there was no digital revolution in the U.S.--only sporadic pockets of guerrilla resistance from underground beatmeisters like Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland. Transplanted from Las Vegas to Los Angeles in the early '90s, Jordan and Kirkland's electronic legerdemain eventually would serve as fodder for everything from Gap commercials to ecstasy-fueled raves. Appropriately, the pair's name was even taken from a word play on the drug culture, Crystal Method (get it, Crystal Meth OD?). This shady double entendre would become both an asset and a liability as the band went from techno-pop glory to the L.A. County Jail and back again.
GET BUSY, CHILDREN: Jordan, a graduate of Rancho High School, first met Kirkland (a Las Vegas native and the younger of the two) when both were working at a Smith's Food and Drug Center in Henderson. At the time, Jordan was also working as music and program director for KUNV 91.5-FM--a position he had held since 1985. After he spied Kirkland at work with a drum machine, the pair stuck up a conversation and their partnership was cemented in beats. Their first gig together was with Greg Walsh, who was opening for Information Society at the now-defunct Shark Club in 1989.
VEGAS, BABY, VEGAS: Although Jordan and Kirkland had both relocated to the Los Angeles area by 1991, the Crystal Method has never denied its Southern Nevada roots. Besides naming its first album Vegas (and using a distorted photo of Binion's Horseshoe on the cover), the dynamic duo used footage from a show at Club Utopia--once the bedrock of Las Vegas' club scene--for its "Busy Child" video. To complete the circle, the Crystal Method even had a connection with the biggest Vegas band of all time--blue-collar hard rockers Slaughter. Once an aspiring guitar god himself, Kirkland briefly took guitar lessons from frontman Mark Slaughter.
TRIP LIKE THEY (ALLEGEDLY) DO: Notorious--and often maligned--for their implied link to the drug culture, Jordan and Kirkland's careers were almost derailed when they were unexpectedly implicated in a gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) ring on Oct. 24, 1997. Better known as the "date rape drug," GHB is a popular rave supplement and is said to have played a role in the death of actor River Phoenix. The two were arrested, along with six others, in an L.A. house that contained as much as three gallons (more than 2,000 individual doses) of liquid GHB. Eighteen hours later, each posted $200,000 bail.
WEAPONS OF MASS DISTORTION: In the wake of the GHB incident, Jordan and Kirkland claimed they were simply victims of bad timing. Apparently, they were dropping off copies of Vegas for promotional giveaways when their DJ friend's house was swarmed by LAPD drug-enforcement officers. As Kirkland told L.A. Weekly in 2001, "Somebody narc'd on a friend of ours who supposedly had this GHB laboratory in his place. Two years later, after one mistrial, the judge dropped the charges. Whatever. It happens all the time. We were fortunate enough to have the money, but our friend couldn't post bail for six months. But even our one night in jail, it was the most terrifying thing I've ever seen. I'm laying in this bunk and a guy took a dump, then pulled out a couple of bags of something that he sniffed."
COMMUNITY DISSERVICE: The last, best hope for American techno, the Crystal Method returned this year after a three-year studio hibernation with Legion of Boom. Cresting at No. 36 on the Billboard Top 200, the album rivaled the band's previous top seller, 2001's Tweekend, but did little to woo the hearts of the media's electro-pundits. The U.K.'s Playlouder called it "nothing more than a U.S. major label executive's idea of what dance music should sound like," and Urb declared that the Crystal Method "has become utterly irrelevant." On a slightly brighter note, Entertainment Weekly described it as a "somewhat dated listening experience."