Las Vegas duo The Crystal Method have been creating their distinctive brand of big beat electronica since the early 90s, which has been featured in various TV programmes, films and video games. The pair have also collaborated with a vast array of artists from across the musical spectrum, including everyone from beatboxer Rahzel to legendary Kyuss frontman John Garcia. M3 contacted one half of the duo, Scott Kirkland, to talk about iTunes overtaking the record store, the evolution of the album format and why you can never stop people downloading…
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Scott Kirkland – My name is Scott Kirkland along with my partner Ken Jordan we have been releasing music as The Crystal Method since 1994. Our sound comes from a love of warm decay, distorted tones, lasting melody and an unrelenting desire for you to feel, not just hear our music.
What inspired you to form the Crystal Method? What are your own musical backgrounds?
When I was younger I was a big fan of rock and metal, and discovered Depeche Mode in my early teens. I fell in love with that sound that was coming out of England and started writing music with a drum machine and a synth and guitar in high school. Another reason I started writing music was chicks! When I was a little older Ken and I discovered the emerging LA rave scene in the late 80s and early 90s and there has been no turning back since.
Many people have claimed that there is no longer any money in record sales, and that touring is the most efficient way to earn an income as a band. How much truth do you think there is in this sentiment?
Well, I think there is still a way of potentially making a living off record sales but I think the most natural way in this current market is to not care and just do whatever you can to get your music out and bring more people to the table. There are always people who will want to buy music, but it is true that most money, especially for the bigger acts, is made from touring.
Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
To me it was a tragic loss because I have fond memories of record stores. Going to record stores was a big thing to do when I was a kid and I definitely miss that. However, most people under the age of 30 have no idea what a record store is and we still have to sell music so I can’t really pine over the fact that they are not as big as they used to be. We have happily wrapped out heads around the iTunes and Beatports and other forms of social media as a substitute for talking to the cool guy at the record store!
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
Preferred method is pretty much any way that I can – I don’t have a lot of time to dust off the wax and drop the needle on the record but I prefer to listen to music in high-resolution format from a CD or a lossless file. I do sometimes listen to the radio or MP3s but the sound quality there is not ideal.
Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
If you are talking about the traditional sense where one would have a physical long form album to be enjoyed in its entirety while looking at the artwork and the inner sleeve, yes, that concept is no longer common. We are now dealing with a situation where it’s a different world. You still have albums, but also EPs and singles that come with things like e-books and video content so the experience can be very similar even though it’s in a different form.
Recently, there seem to be a large number of bands offering their releases for free via sites like Bandcamp. What do you think of this distribution method, do you think it is a realistic solution to the problem of illegal downloading?
Those who have the time, skill and desire to find a song or an album for free will get it for free. There’s no putting that genie back in the bottle. It’s very important to accept that fact and focus on distribution, blogs, radio and playing gigs to spread the word. Most artists now a days are embracing the control they have over their product and that’s awesome!
Do you think the digital age has rendered traditional concepts of copyright obsolete, or do you think they are still relevant?
No, before the digital age radio stations and record labels controlled everything. At least in the States that is. In the golden years of rock & FM radio, the big labels and local stations courted over blow or cash. Now the digital age has given songs written on laptops or uploaded to YouTube an audience and that’s what’s important.
What would you say are the main challenges facing an up-and-coming musician/band in today’s cultural climate?
To have a sound and to be uniquely honest with yourself and ones image. It’s really easy to spot the fakes.
Finally, what does the future hold for The Crystal Method?
Working our ass off to do what we love because it’s the best job in the world!