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Block-rockin' beats 

The Crystal Method continues to shine

The Crystal Method has been called America's pre-eminent dance producers for people who like rock music, but that tag is too reductive. While the band's big sound often has a rock roar (having employed Limp Bizkit's guitarist Wes Borland and Audioslave's Tom Morello), it also features layered loops of pop, soul and hip-hop that dance over the duo's bubbling breakbeats. Unlike the cold, mechanistic beats of some electronic artists, the Method concentrates on bathing its music with a sonic warmth more common to rock 'n' roll.

"We make electronic, modern-sounding music, but we don't want anything to sound computer-made. We don't use anything that sounds like it came out of a new drum machine," says member Ken Jordan. "We like to program things with sounds that real human drummers make. We like to take sounds and run them through old stomp boxes and distortion pedals - things like that to give what would normally be a modern sound an old rock or R&B sort of feel."

Jordan and Scott Kirkland formed the Crystal Method in 1993 after leaving Las Vegas for Los Angeles, where they got involved in the underground club scene. Their 1997 debut, Vegas, came out hot on the heels of the Chemical Brothers' similarly rock-inspired Dig Your Own Hole album. Vegas took off, selling more than a million-and-a-half copies. With its third album, last year's Legion of Boom, the Method has finally distanced itself a bit from the expectations that have followed since the breakthrough debut.

"The second one, you're always worried about the sophomore jinx, and our first one had done so well. It wasn't likely that the second one was going to do as well, so we were really concerned about making a great album," Jordan says. "By comparison, the third album's no pressure at all."

Jordan and Kirkland are currently supporting Community Service, Vol. 2, their second mix CD, which, according to Jordan, they plan on doing in between each new studio album. The disc includes remixes of the Smashing Pumpkins' "1979" and UNKLE's "Reign." Jordan says the band never sought to meld dance and rock, it just came out of life-long influences.

"We're heavy into rock, dance music and some hip-hop as well. It just comes out naturally. It's what we've always listened to and that sound - sort of a combination of all of them - naturally comes out," Jordan says. "We don't consciously try to bring any of those elements in."

He traces his interest in rock music back - as many can - to his older brother. "He was really big into Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix and stuff like that. So those were my earliest memories," he says. "Later on I listened to all kinds of pop music, then got into college radio and alternative music, then eventually discovered electronic dance and techno."

Jordan worked at the college radio station, KUNV-FM (91.5), while attending the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, which opened his mind to a broad array of musical styles. "I was falling in love with all kinds of things I'd never heard before. That's where I first heard 'Blue Monday' by New Order, which was really important for me," Jordan says. Now he sits on the Grammy panel that eventually created the Best Electronic/Dance Album category.

"There was a Dance Album category but not one for the Best Electronic Album, which they handed out for the first time this year," Jordan says. "Unfortunately, we didn't win."

The duo was nominated for Legion of Boom, but the award went to Basement Jaxx for Kish Kash. Still, Jordan counts it as a triumph and holds out hope for radio.

"American radio right now is not very adventurous," Jordan says. "But electronic music and dance music is part of the mainstream everywhere else, so we're hoping American radio wakes up eventually."

music@creativeloafing.com

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