The other day I had lunch in Montrose with Ken (older, quieter, a “just-a-pinch-between-your-cheek-and-gum” Walt Garrison drawl) and Scott (younger, squirrelier, a staccato quasi stutter) of the successful techno combo the Crystal Method, whose 1997 debut wiggled its way into numerous movies, TV ads, even video games, and whose new album, Tweakend, is due out July 31. On the way to lunch, we passed a suspiciously sparse old record store in La Crescenta, where only moments before meeting the Method I had found, still sealed with its original $6.99 price tag, a large Winterland Productions T-shirt silk-screened with a Hi Infidelity–era photo of REO Speedwagon . . . which made me think of REO Speeddealer . . . which in turn gave me a good way to break the ice and broach the subject at hand . . .
L.A. WEEKLY: I thought I’d find 101 Strings’Astro Music at that store.
SCOTT: I looked through there, all I found was . . .
KEN: Great White . . .
SCOTT: And you know how sometimes you’ll pull out a record that still has the plastic and say, “Wow, records used to cost $5.99”? He still has those prices on there.
Ken: How’s he makin’ rent?
Scott: Well, he doesn’t move a lot of product. And he sketches out when you go in there. When I went there, he started playing “Radar Love.” It was so surreal. And the back of the place is total Sketchville — TVs taken apart, radios all over.
On that note . . .
Ken: We knew this was for the “Drugs” issue, but thought it was a music-only interview.
I can just feel you guys out.
Ken: Can’t touch the nipples, though!
Scott: We could talk about that bust.
Ken: Mm, I don’t want to talk about that.
Either way . . .
Ken: We can touch on everything, but I don’t just want to throw things out.
When you came to L.A. in the early ’90s, were drugs more in the open?
Ken: Definitely, but everyone was cool. The difference is, music came first back then. The whole [rave] culture was the antithesis of meat-market bars. Now people go just for the drugs and aren’t even aware of who the DJ is. A good percentage are passed out on the floor.
Scott: When these big clubs started taking off, there was this sleazy crew that would sell fake hits. “Bunkstacy” we used to call it, a heroin mixture with caffeine. And it turned so many people off — they thought, “Ecstasy sucks, it’s awful!”
Ken: Actually, one of the first raves we went to was a predecessor to our name, this fantastic rave called “Love, Sex, Dance.” LSD. We thought the double meaning was hilarious.
Was meth big on the scene by then?
Scott: I’m sure, but we only got the double meaning after we heard the words The Crystal Method together and said, “Wow, that sounds cool.” This rapper we were working with actually said it at the end of the night, when we were desperate to get him out of the studio: “Ah, the crystalmethod” — in reference to how we were gonna have the time to do his mix and still do our own thing. It was like when you make fun of truckers doing speed.
Ken: I’ve never known meth to be popular on any scene. It’s always been looked down upon.
Scott: It is weird what a menace to society it’s become. And fair enough, it’s not a good thing to play around with. We just thought [the name] was like “The Doobie Brothers.”
So you don’t feel guilty about . . .
Ken: We would if we had done anything to promote drug use. But it’s never been what the band or music’s been about. We just thought it was funny.
What about the name of the new album?
How did you stumble across the “Tweakend” pun?
Scott: Tommy Lee was doing his song “Narcotic,” which we worked on, and I made a Loverboy reference: “Everybody’s working for the tweakend.” Months later we were coming up with names for our record, and somebody said Seven Day Tweakend. Too long. So, what about Tweakend? At the time, we were looking at a Web site that keeps up to date on all the nicknames for methamphetamine, like . . .
Scott: And “chicken.” If I ask a narc where I can get some good chicken, am I gonna get hauled in? That’s what this site says. And there’s a lot of names, like three or four pages, scrolling down, but what’s funny is that “Crystal Method” isn’t even in there.
Have you been hassled?
Ken: I don’t want to diss the wrong people, but some national organization sends out things to local police when we play, saying our crowd is made up of dealers and abusers. And that sucks, but we’ve never been banned from the Midwest or Bible Belt.