Tucked away in the tree-shaded bedroom community of Glendale, Calif., at the foot of the Verdugo mountains, is one of many seemingly quiet, unassuming houses.
Only this one is quite different. It’s where Scott Kirkland and Ken Jordan, collectively known as The Crystal Method, conjure up their big beats and funky breaks in a studio they call the Bomb Shelter.
“The neighborhood is definitely apple pie, people out walking their dogs, very quiet suburb of Los Angeles,” Kirkland said recently. “We’ve had our studio there maybe eight or nine years. It’s a place we’ve been happy with.”
The property even has its own bomb shelter, installed in the front yard during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the early 1960s.
“The owner of the property, she’s a strange woman, pretty paranoid,” Kirkland said. “She showed us an actual clipping from the Los Angeles Times; it was a bomb-shelter-built-in-a-day for $3,000. It was a prefab sphere; they dug a hole, dropped this thing in the hole and closed it up.”
Kirkland and Jordan had high hopes of using the bomb shelter as a studio or a place to store their gear, but it just didn’t seem practical. Instead, the electronic duo use the two-car garage to capture their latest rock-infused dance creations.
They truly rocked the house for their newest project, “Legion of Boom” (released Jan. 13 on V2), with backup help from former Limp Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland, rapper Rahzel of The Roots, onetime Kyuss frontman John Garcia, Jon Brion and Bell Rays singer Lisa Kekaula. As with past albums, The Crystal Method expands its underground appeal, using elements of trippy rock, heavy metal, hip-hop and funk.
What did the neighbors think of all that racket?
“We have great neighbors,” Kirkland said, “and we have the 210 freeway right behind us, so we’ve never had an issue with sound. We soundproofed the studio ourselves, and we crank it pretty loud at all hours of the day.
“Still, we’re probably going to move to a different studio for the next album, because we’ve sort of worn out our welcome.”
Regardless, “Legion of Boom” is a welcome departure from the influx of canned beats, slick productions and over-the-top vocals dominating the airwaves today.
“When we finished ‘Tweekend’ (in 2001), although it had some of my favorite songs we’ve ever done,” Kirkland said, “it was a really dense album. We spent too much time tweaking it and layering it, instead of doing what we do best – that’s focusing on the hook, the groove and the bass line.
“When we started on ‘Legion of Boom,’ we had those goals in mind. It was also heavily influenced by the fact we did a lot of mixes. We did this mix compilation called ‘Community Service’ in 2002. It was us sort of getting back to our electronic roots. Then we DJ’d more clubs and went into the initial inspiration for ‘Legion of Boom.’ ”
The album has it all: vocal hooks (“Bound Too Long,” “The American Way”), hynoptic rock (“Weapons of Mass Distortion,” “Acetone”) and a rousing club sound, particularly on the first single “Born Too Slow.”
President Bush recently gave his State of the Union address. Since The Crystal Method is on the cutting edge, who better than Kirkland to give his opinion on the State of the Music Industry.
“It’s kind of a sad state right now,” he said. “There’s a couple of bright spots, like iTunes is having some success. For the first week of our release, we were No. 1 in overall albums downloaded on the entire site.
“That was encouraging to know our fans are finding a way of getting our CD, instead of going some place and downloading it for free. They’re taking an effort to support the band and downloading a quality version of it at iTunes.”
The Crystal Method also has scored its highest-charting album of its career. “Legion of Boom” debuted last week at No. 36 on Billboard’s pop chart after selling nearly 25,000 copies. Its gold-plated debut album, “Vegas” (1997), featuring the groundbreaking hits “Keep Hope Alive” and “Busy Child,” peaked at No. 92.
“We’re very happy with our situation with V2,” Kirkland said. “It’s a very independent-minded label with major distribution. It has a great roster, like the White Stripes, Underworld, Moby and Grandaddy. Before, we were one of 150 bands on Interscope; it just wasn’t right for our particular situation.
“V2 is very similar to when we were at Outpost (before it went under). You can walk in and hang out with the people who are in charge of making sure your record is heard. The president of the label comes in and you talk about football. It’s a much different atmosphere, a lot more creative vibe.”
Kirkland and Jordan are back in their studio, busy rehearsing for a two-month North American tour, which opens Feb. 26 in Sacramento.
THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “I can’t remember the first one I bought, but I remember the first one I stole from my parents, Aerosmith’s ‘Greatest Hits.’ They had it on cassette, so I took it and added it to my boom-box collection.”
THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “Loverboy, in Las Vegas, where I’m from. Looking back on it, it was pretty cheesy. But I was really into it then. My second concert was Journey with Bryan Adams. After that, I started getting into heavy metal – Ozzy Osbourne, Motley Crue, Metallica, bands like that.”
THE WORST JOB I’VE EVER HAD: “I worked for a pharmacy in Beverly Hills, taking prescriptions for rich, mean people. They were impatient and pretty much demanded their drugs right on the spot, yelling at you if you didn’t get things right. It was a very stressful job. It really tested my customer service skills.”
ON THE WEB: www.thecrystalmethod.com.
BWF (before we forget): The Crystal Method album discography – “Vegas” (Outpost/Geffen, 1997); “Tweekend” (Interscope, 2001); “Community Service” DJ remixes (Ultra, 2002);”Legion of Boom” (V2, 2004).
Upcoming tour dates – Feb. 26, Sacramento, the Empire; Feb. 27, Boise, the Big Easy; Feb. 28, Spokane, the Big Easy; Feb. 29, Calgary, Whiskey Nightclub; March 1, Vancouver, Commodore Ballroom; March 2, Seattle, the Showbox; March 3, Portland, Ore., Crystal Ballroom; March 4, San Francisco, Warfield Theater; March 5, Sparks, Nev., New Oasis; March 6, San Diego, 4th and B; March 8, Miami Beach, Mansion; March 11, El Paso, Club Xcape; March 12, Albuquerque, Sunshine Theater; March 13, Tulsa, Cain’s Ballroom; March 14, Oklahoma City, Fritzi’s Music Hall; March 16, Dallas, Gypsy Tea Room; March 17, San Antonio, Sunset Station; March 18, South Padre Island, Texas, Louie’s Backyard; March 19, Houston, Numbers; March 21, New Orleans, House of Blues; March 22, Gainesville, Fla., The Palace; March 26, Tampa, The Masquerade; March 27, Lake Buena Vista, Fla., House of Blues; March 28, North Charleston, S.C., the Plex; March 29, North Myrtle Beach, S.C., House of Blues; March 30, Charlotte, Tremont Music Hall.
P&P VAULT OF FAME (songs inducted into a Pause & Play time capsule for posterity’s sake, one track at a time). This week’s entries:
Songs – “The Hardest Button to Button,” The White Stripes (Third Man/V2, 2003); “Mr. Sandman,” The Chordettes (Cadence, 1954); “Video Killed the Radio Star,” The Buggles (Island, 1979); “Act Naturally,” Buck Owens and the Buckaroos (Capitol, 1963).
Albums – “World Machine,” Level 42 (Polydor, 1986); “Fly Like an Eagle,” Steve Miller Band (Capitol, 1976); “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,” Neil Young (Reprise, 1969); “Off the Wall,” Michael Jackson (Epic, 1979).
VAULT OF FAME: Check out the past entries.