We packed our bags early on a warm Friday afternoon and hurried out of the Mixify offices in the Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. The reason? In just a few hours, we were set to party with and interview one of the most influential acts in electronic music. The Crystal Method are certified pioneers of the big beat genre and have been heralded by publications as “one of the best live dance acts on Earth.”
It’s not every day you get to kick it with platinum selling Grammy nominated artists, so, naturally, we made the 3 hour drive in 2 hours. We arrived at The Note, quickly found a table behind the sound engineer, and noticed that we had a perfect elevated view of the the crowd and the stage. We had a feeling it was going to be a good night.
At 11 PM, we met with the pioneering duo in the green room. The only way to access the green room was an open-top elevator that moved so slowly and deliberately, it made every arrival seem like the most dramatic entrance ever. After a few informal handshakes and introductions, I sat down on a closed cooler situated between Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland and picked their brains on everything from what their inspirations are, to what advice they can give to aspiring producers, to what it was like hanging out with Victoria’s Secret models.
I watched Re:Generation Music Project in February with a friend, and we loved it. We thought it was super cool to see all the behind-the-scenes action. Just want to get your take on what it was like to work with someone like Martha Reeves.
Scott: It was unlike any collaboration that we’ve ever had before. Just the whole scope of it, the recording and having it documented, and sort of the rawness of it. There was such a quick introduction to her and then we were going around town. I think we made a really great connection on the day we went around Detroit and then the next day, you know, we were in the studio trying to record drums, bass, guitar, horns, backup vocals, and then her vocals. So the first day it was nice and easy, and spiritually just really amazing, seeing Detroit through her eyes and hearing the stories, and the next day it was just the complete opposite.
Scott: So there was a little bit of stress and a little bit of tension, but in the end though after bringing all the parts back and bringing in our own background vocalists Jackie, Louis, & Donna, we had a track that we really loved and we’re really proud of. Now, see, after our inspiring giant hug to Detroit, the Tigers are headed to the World Series.
Ken: The Crystal Method brought the world series to Detroit.
Scott: I was reading a story in Rolling Stone about packs of wild dogs roaming the streets in Detroit right now and living in abandoned places. Kind of a crazy world. But yeah, it was a great experience, glad you guys liked it.
Yeah, definitely. That must have been really cool working with someone like Martha, because of your R&B and soul influence. You guys also had a chance to check out New Order in LA a month ago. Is that a group you consider influential?
Scott: Yes, yes.
Ken: Oh yeah, absolutely.
Scott: Did you tweet that?
Ken: I did, I tweeted a photo that said “Forever Joy Division”.
Scott: Yeah, living in LA we get a chance to see a lot of great bands. They’ll come through once in a while, so it’s good to go. It was a weird experience without Peter Hook there, but yeah it was a good time.
You guys are still at Crystalwerks, your studio right? Is it nice having your homebase to focus on production and not have to worry about all the outside things you have to deal with?
Ken: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve always had our own studio, but this is the nicest one.
Scott: We don’t have to worry about air conditioning, and dust bunnies collecting in the corners of stuff. You know, it’s really nice to have your own place.
And there are no wild dogs running around there.
Scott: Haha, no, no wild dogs. There’s a weed store next store, so we got that going, but there’s really no bonus to that. Except Ken got to see –
Ken: *laughs* I saw a drug bust…
Wow, maybe that’ll be some inspiration for the next album. I don’t know if you guys saw, but the DJ Mag Top 100 list came out today.
Ken: Who was #1?
Armin was #1, Tiesto was #2 and David Guetta was #4, he was #1 last year.
Scott: You know, that list is such an interesting list, it’s like uhh – it’s a real obvious testament to their popularity, without a doubt. Well, you know, I think it’s great there’s a list of 100. But rarely are my favorite songs on a Top 40 list or my favorite DJs on a Top 100 list. But it’s a great deal of work that those guys have put in, it’s really like today’s pop music. I mean Tiesto must be seething!
Ken: Well, Armin has the whole world blanketed with A State of Trance and that whole trance family, I mean fuckin’ – oh god, bless them all.
The Crystal Method has played at EDC and more intimate venues like The Note, do you have any preference on how you guys structure your sets and the amount of energy you guys put out?
Ken: Yeah we tailor it towards the venue and the crowd, we love playing smaller venues.
Scott: I love that you can do the elevator thing up, I wish we could do that on stage, you know, with some smoke coming up also. We’ve played all over the place, filled out venues, we’ve played in places with 10,000 people and had it feel like a small club. Most of the time at the intimate venues, if you get a crowd and the sound system is good, it’s yours to lose at that point, because everyone is ready to go. We love being able to interact with people. We’ve played at a lot of strange places.
Two quick questions, we have a lot of aspiring producers & DJs on Mixify and think it could be cool to get some insights from artists as successful as yourselves. If you’re a bedroom producer or DJ, what are some “must-dos” to get to that next stage in your career?
Ken: Nowadays you have to release your own music, have your own sound, and you have to play alot. You have to develop your own audience.
Scott: You have to have an image that defines what you do. I don’t think it necessarily has to be a mouse head, I mean, I’m just saying. Joel is brilliant and that whole thing is brilliant. Armin works really hard and has been building a brand for a long time, and he has built his own industry of DJs & friends that work with him. I was reading an interview with Diplo in Rolling Stone and he’s from not too far here, in Philly, he was working in record stores and doing his whole thing and gravitated towards the music he liked. Even if it was different, he did the things he wanted to do and wanted to hear. I mean the worst thing that we’ve always found, and the people who always seem to fall by the waist side, are the people who are always changing with the different tides and music genres. You just gotta find your sound and work your ass off and believe in it.
Were there any perks in having your track “High Roller” featured in a Victoria Secret campaign a couple of years ago?
Scott: *laughs* – Well I can tell you, my father-in-law was really impressed with that. You know, once, many years ago, when Vegas had just come out. We were invited by Donatella Versace to come over and play her first show, her big show in Milan, so with all of our gear and all of our crew, we went over there and played three 10 minute sets. Kate Moss was on one side and uhh, what was her name?
Ken: Ohhh, Naomi Campbell
Scott: Yeah Naomi Campbell, and as soon as we start playing, all the models start doing their thing. We got really drunk at the first show, it’s such a strange world. It’s been really weird having someone cut a video of sexy models, beautiful women, sexy and fast cars, all the different things our music has been cut into, video games, it’s all kind of a surreal experience. Well, maybe subliminally we were thinking of fast cars and hot women so that would fit perfectly. But yeah, it’s a surreal thing, when you’ve created something and it has a life beyond that.