20 Jan 2024

Scott Kirkland on 30 years of The Crystal Method

From Music 101, 3:15 pm on 20 January 2024

From pulsating synths to thrashing drums, Scott Kirkland has spent the past three decades carving out a sonic niche as The Crystal Method.

Ahead of his show at Auckland's Powerstation, RNZ's Rangi Powick talks to Kirkland about the creative process behind his electrifying music, from the early days of rave to their latest studio albums.

Scott Kirkland from electronic music pioneers The Crystal Method.

Photo: Supplied

The Crystal Method sound (until 2017 crafted in conjunction with Ken Jordan) is an explosive cocktail of industrial fury and dancefloor euphoria that can make the listener feel as if their life is a high-stakes action flick. 

Speaking with Rangi Powick for RNZ's Summer 101, Kirkland breaks down the origins of their sound:

"My dad would listen to a lot of progressive rock, Pink Floyd, Zeppelin and heavy stuff. He got into some of those Switched on Bach albums; he loved classical music as well. He was listening to music all the time. 

"My mom loved disco, she got into The Clash... they were really young when I was born so when they were in their early twenties I was able to take in all this music.

"As I got older I listened to Metallica, Priest, Iron Maiden, and bands of that nature. 

"One day I was in my high school class and a friend of mine had Black Celebration by Depeche Mode on his Walkman and from that point on everything changed. The cinematic sound of that album made me realise I didn't have to be anchored in one genre.

"When I started DJing in clubs when I was nineteen, we were playing disco before disco came around to being cool again. We were digging deep into crates in record stores and finding some of those classics and bringing them into clubs.  

"It all came together when Ken and I got together. We loved the sound of big drums, and distortion, and appreciated acid house and Detroit techno, and the sounds coming out of Manchester.

"We found our way into the studio, and put all those influences on the table, and made ourselves a pretty hefty meal".

Asked about The Crystal Method's mastery of blending rock aggression with electronic grooves, Kirkland said he and Jordan had "a couple of analogue synths in the early days but when you'd turn them on they'd be a little cold".

"We started to invest in some old distortion pedals and started to experiment and push the barriers of what we were able to do in the studio.

"We were always conscious of that heavier sound and we wanted the listener to hear distortion and the warmth of big drums.

"We were going out all the time. The rave scene was really popping in the early '90s and we'd go home with our ears ringing and heads buzzing and get up the next day and play around with sounds and textures.

"We had a studio in our two-car garage and just toiled away."

Ken Jordan's departure in 2017 marked a new chapter for the group, Kirkland says.

"There was a bit of a void but there was also an opportunity for me to move forward.

"The magic of what we were able to do for 20-plus years was that we had similar taste but he didn't like metal as much as I did and he liked things I didn't so we had common ground but also our own perspective.

"We'd fight sometimes, and argue about stupid stuff, and then we'd go out to a club and find common ground about something that was happening in the room: 'This track's killer, it sounds like something we were working on the other day, we should go back and work on that tonight'.

"I definitely miss having him in the process with me but he's very proud and into what I'm doing and has given me the blessing to continue on as The Crystal Method."

The Crystal Method play Auckland's Powerstation on 29 February.