b>THE CRYSTAL METHOD with üBERZONE and DJ BYRON at Kool Haus (1 Jarvis), Tuesday (August 28), $21.50. 416-869-0789, 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
it never pays to be first. sure, the innovators get respect, but it's the
synthesists who get rich. The progress that KMFDM, Meat Beat Manifesto, Fat Boy Slim and others have made in bridging the gap between rock and electronic music has really just paved the way for artists like the Crystal Method to cross over and cash in.
The urbane Los Angeles-based duo of Scott Kirkland and Ken Jordan might appear to be an unlikely breakthrough bet -- they look more like brokers than ravers -- but since their techno-tilted Vegas (Outpost/Universal) debut, they've made a concerted effort to buzz, blip and bash their way into the rock mainstream through high-impact appearances on the Family Values tour and radio-sponsored outdoor festivals as the token "electronica" act.
They were willing to put up with the unfavourable slots, the crowd abuse and the politics to tap a huge new audience.
"It would've been easy for us to just stay in the studio and make tracks for the club scene," explains Kirkland from a tour stop in Sacramento, "but we made an effort to put our music in front of people who'd never heard us before. And that was probably 90 per cent of the Family Values crowd.
"You just have to be willing to take the odd water bottle in the head along with the applause. But it was worth it.
"After every show kids would say, "Dude, I never knew you guys rocked!' People have this impression that we're going to be their worst techno-house nightmare, but our music isn't that far removed from the alternative rock they know."
Now it's even closer. Gone from the Crystal Method's darkly grinding new Tweekend creation are the surgically cut snare snaps, to be replaced by bold bass lines and raging guitar riffs. It's an altogether nastier blast, putting them closer to the caustic crunch of KoRn and Limp Bizkit than to anything the Crystal Method bounced out before.
"We didn't go straight into the studio after doing shows with Limp Bizkit and Green Day thinking, "We've got to make a rock record.' The only concept we had was that we wanted it to be bigger and better than our Vegas album."
"A few years ago, there was all this hype about electronic music being the next big thing. Maybe Tweekend is our unconscious response to all those ridiculous statements about the guitar being dead. I grew up playing the guitar, and I still love that sound."
Yet despite the cameos by Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, Stone Temple Pilot's shouter Scott Weiland and Beck's scratch specialist, DJ Swamp, the Method men won't cop to cozying up to the rap-rock crowd.
"Through playing the shows we did, we got to meet artists like Rage Against the Machine who turned out to be fans of our music. When the opportunity came up to work with Tom Morello, we weren't going to pass it up.
"His guitar sound and technique are so unique, once we did some tracks with him we found other places where guitar parts seemed to fit. It didn't occur to us that if we had guitar on one track we shouldn't use it on another. We just go with whatever feels right."
There's more to Tweekend than just guitars. What's being overlooked in the discussions of the Crystal Method's rock redirection is that they've also found the funk along the way. You can hear it in the structure of their beats, but it's also there in the analog keyboards that wind up being the most intriguing aspect of the album.
Check the Wurlitzer gurgle on Over The Line or the siren squeal they squeezed from an old Yamaha TS40-M at the end of Roll It Up, which incidentally also features some B4 synth ooze from Toronto's Byron Wong of My Brilliant Beast.
"We spent a lot of time in the studio tweaking things. Every couple of days we'd bring a different synth and play around with the knobs to see what we could get out of it, because, unlike modern equipment, each one of those old machines has its own special character.
"When I mentioned that our plan was to do something "bigger and better,' I should've said "funkier,' too.
"For the past two years, I've been spending lots of money at this online music retailer called Dusty Groove (www.dustygroove.com) buying compilations of rare funk records. It's amazing how many incredible records were made during the late 60s and early 70s that you've never heard before.
"I could pick 1o of those records at random and know for sure that I'd like at least five. There's no way that would happen if I bought 10 current releases at a regular music store."