CP Interview: The Crystal Method

by Clubplanet
11.13.2008

The Crystal Method has been on the musical radar for quite some time now, and they don’t seem to be slowing down. They’ve been featured in a bevy of movies and video games, have been releasing widely successful studio albums and putting on live performances for over a decade, and have even scored and entire movie soundtrack. As of late things have been getting more interesting. Currently, they are on the verge of a world tour for their new album that features collaborations with an array of artists you may not expect on a Crystal Method album.

ClubPlanet recently got a chance to talk with The Crystal Method about their upcoming album, their favorite pieces of gear, and why Barack Obama's sound bytes are perfect for sampling.

ClubPlanet: What have you been up to lately?
Scott Kirkland:
Just working on the new album. Personally, my wife and I just had a baby girl about a month ago.

CP: Congratulations. So going into the new album, did you have a set concept, were you trying to do something different?
Scott Kirkland:
We’re always trying to do something different, we never want to repeat ourselves. We’re trying to create something that we’re into and to be appreciated by a larger fan base. We’re trying collaborations that take us on a different course. So far it’s sounding really good, I’m really proud of it. We’ve got great collaborations. We’ve got a track with Matisyahu, we’ve got a track with Jason [Lytle] from Grandaddy and Emily [Haines] from Metric. There are others as well like this band called The Heavy. I love the direction of the record. To your initial question, did we have a concept, nah we didn’t have a concept, our concept is make it better than the last one [laughs].

CP: Do you think you honed your sound during live performances and brought that into the studio, or the other way around?
Scott Kirkland:
It’s probably a combination of both: our musicality come from the music that we love and the stuff that we listened to growing up. We always try to make an effort to take dance music and club music and not mold it to, but bring in things that we love about soul and hip hop and rock and the artists that we grew up listening to. We take our influences and inject them into our music, like a lot of the stuff that we would hear in the late 80s and early 90s, a lot of the techno stuff. We bring all the influences together when we go out and play live. It’s something that definitely does shape us, the way the crowd interacts with us. That’s kind of a conscious thing that we take with us. Sometimes we’ll even comment on a drop that really works and we’ll say that maybe we should expand it or add some drums in a section. Those kinds of things happen when we’re out on the road.

CP: What do you enjoy more: the studio or playing live?
Scott Kirkland:
There is that immediate gratification of the live show and the crowd. We’re so into playing that part and making sure everything sounds good that we lose every great moment of the show to the fact that we’re into what we’re doing. There are moments that you can’t replicate anywhere. Those moments would never come if we didn’t have the studio time and we didn’t have the opportunity to get in there and spend the time we needed to develop our sound. So both are very satisfying in different ways, each one has its high points.

CP: So one feeds off the other?
Scott Kirkland:
Definitely. The production aspect of it can be tedious and sometimes very frustrating because it’s not always flowing, not every idea is always that great, and sometimes spending so much time and not achieving your goal can be frustrating. Sometimes going out and not doing your best show can be frustrating.

CP: Do you prefer live synths or software synths?
Scott Kirkland:
It took us a long time to be comfortable with virtual synths. Initially, when they came out they couldn’t come anywhere near the original or giving you that feel of being able to grab a knob and adjust the thing that you want to adjust. They’ve made great improvements to the sounds of the virtual synth lately. Native Instruments has had some incredible soft synths for quite some time. There’s a lot of really good ones that allow us to do a lot of things we can’t do, like write modulation. The greatest software synths you wouldn’t try to compare it sonically to its counterpart in the analog world. There’s this great benefits to having everything in the computer, being able to recall things easily. You’re never going to be able to get the sound quality, but a lot of them have come pretty close. This record is a little bit different because we’re using a lot of soft synths. In fact I have the Audacity plugin in front of me right now, the mono/poly from Korg, who also has done a great job re-creating some of those classing synths. They’re getting better and it’s a lot easier to go out on the road. I’ve talked to a lot of people who’ve completely left all their analog synths at home in the studio and been very satisfied with they sound they’ve created with the software synths.

CP: What’s your favorite piece of technology?
Scott Kirkland:
In the grand scheme of things, we wouldn’t know what we’d do without our Macs. But for years we used Digital Performer in our sequencing, and we use pro tools on the audio side. We switched for this album and created everything with pro tools. I’m really digging the direction that Pro Tools has taken in the past few years, and I think we’re making a better album because of that.

CP: Who are your biggest influences?
Scott Kirkland:
If you were to try to pinpoint a couple of bands, definitely Depeche Mode, and bands that I really started to get into in my early teens. There’s a moment in your life where you get attached to certain music and for me it was it was a lot of that synth pop stuff. But I’m also influenced by heavy metal, like Metallica, AC/DC, and Judas Priest for the energy that they created. Listening to some rare funk records, soul artists like Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder and just everything. A great song is a great song. There isn’t any particular style that we haven’t said, “Wow, this is an amazing song. I wish we could write something like this.”  Of course the Chemical Brothers as well. They’ve consistently put out one great record after another and that’s something that a lot of artists aspire to do. I can’t write something that Radiohead writes or Bill Withers or Public Enemy or anything like that. Those influences come out in whatever you do.


CP: What is appealing about crossing over mediums to video games and movies?
Scott Kirkland:
The only thing we’ve done specifically for a movie was the London score, which was a small budget indie film that came out a couple of years ago, and the theme for the TV show Bones. There’s this really cool action shooter game that’s coming out, MAG, that we did a piece for. But most of the stuff has existed on an album first. The London thing was good. It was nice getting our feet wet in that style and dealing with the director and producers and trying to come to some creative point where everybody was happy. Our sound works well in all those different environments. It’s something about our sound that people gravitate towards in those different environments.

CP: Your song in a Gran Tourismo

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