The Crystal Method
M-Audio gear at the heart of a new studio, new album and new tour
When it comes to electronic dance music, The Crystal Method is nothing short of iconic. In the fifteen years since crafting their first beat together, Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland have been featured in countless films, TV shows and video games—and scored a Grammy nomination along the way. The duo recently replaced their legendary Bomb Shelter studio with their sparkling new Crystalwerks facility and emerged with a new album, Divided by Night, plus new world tour to match. As you might expect, M-Audio gear is at the heart of it all. M-Pulse caught up with The Crystal Method at the Los Angeles warehouse where the legendary electronica artists were putting the final touches on their live stage show.
Performing Live with Axiom Pro
The Crystal Method are known for high-energy, dynamic live sets that often incorporate live remixes and mashups of their most popular tracks. Instead of playing a simplified DJ set like some electronic groups do, Ken and Scott actually perform their songs live—triggering samples and playing key synth lines over dense sequenced backgrounds. "The live show has always been a mainstay of The Crystal Method," explains Ken. "When we first started, we wanted to be taken seriously as a band and make sure we weren’t misrepresented as a DJ team. So of course for the first new album in five years we had to bring out some new gear, a new stage and put on a great show."
In preparation for the upcoming Divided By Night tour, the duo acquired two new M-Audio Axiom Pro 49 MIDI controllers to serve as the centerpiece of their stage rig. "Every control is mapped to something different," reveals Ken. "We use the faders to control filter resonance, delay feedback, and volume levels for each instrument—allowing us to adjust the mix from stage. The trigger pads are used to fire samples from our computers. The Axiom Pro really simplifies everything so we can concentrate on our performance."
Over the years, The Crystal Method’s live rig has continually evolved to the point where now, nearly every musical aspect of their performance can be controlled from stage. As Scott jokingly puts it, the group has "come a long way from using hollowed-out DX7s and tossing them around the stage." Thanks to the Axiom Pro controllers, the duo has been able to reduce their onstage rig and get closer to the crowd. "With the Axiom Pro keyboards set up at the front of the stage, the audience can see everything that we are doing," relates Ken. "Being able to visually connect with the audience makes our shows a lot more enjoyable both for us and our fans."
Getting Ready for the Road
Preparing for the Divided by Night tour involved a lot of pre-production studio work for Ken and Scott. "We basically remixed and reproduced all of our tracks," states Ken. "We stripped out the live parts and sequenced the background elements so we could play everything back from our system on stage. We try to breathe new life into our songs when performing live, while still keeping the basic elements in place. That helps convey the excitement of the original tracks." Scott continues, "In the past, recreating our tracks was always difficult. Now we’re a lot better about archiving patches and documenting our sessions. Thanks to Pro Tools|HD, we now have unlimited tracks to play with and total recall of our settings. It makes pre-production a whole lot easier."
Evacuating the Bomb Shelter
For years, The Crystal Method made music out of the "Bomb Shelter"—a recording studio built into the garage of their Glendale, CA house. From there, the team produced some of their most successful releases, including Vegas, Tweekend and Legion of Boom. Before getting started on Divided By Night, however, Ken and Scott decided to make the move to a new facility. "Our old studio was very ‘cozy,’" laughs Scott. "Over time we started to feel more and more claustrophobic. Plus we accumulated a huge mess of cords. It got to the point where, instead of crawling back into the spider pit to re-patch a faulty cable we would just, well, run another one!"
Moving into a new location and building a new studio gave Ken and Scott the opportunity to switch over to the latest Pro Tools system. "Once we learned all the new plug-ins and workflow tricks it didn’t take long to make progress on the new record," relates Scott. One of the first songs that started to come together was the title track, "Divided by Night." Ironically, it was the last one we ended up finishing. We knew the track had potential, but we struggled trying to find the right direction. Our good friend Jon Brion came by with his little Casio keyboard and sang the vocoder line, which really helped that song take off."
More to Come
With a new studio and new M-Audio gear firmly in hand, fans don’t have to worry about there being an end in sight for The Crystal Method. After the Divided by Night tour, they plan to return to Crystalwerks to do remixes of some material that’s been calling them for awhile, hit the road again for a few more tours and then start working on their next album. For Ken and Scott, the future is crystal clear.
For more info on The Crystal Method, including tour dates, visit thecrystalmethod.com.