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 Infidelityera 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 Id 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 youll 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: Hows he makin rent?
Scott: Well, he doesnt 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: Cant touch the nipples, though!
Scott: We could talk about that bust.
Ken: Mm, I dont want to talk about that.
Either way . . .
Ken: We can touch on everything, but I dont 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 arent 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, its 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: Im 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 crystal method 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: Ive never known meth to be popular on any scene. Its always been looked down upon.
Scott: It is weird what a menace to society its become. And fair enough, its not a good thing to play around with. We just thought [the name] was like The Doobie Brothers.
So you dont feel guilty about . . .
Ken: We would if we had done anything to promote drug use. But its never been what the band or musics been about. We just thought it was funny.
What about the name of the new album?
Scott: I understand it has different meanings, but this society is so like on MTV, I can hear Shaggy bangin on the bathroom floor, but cant hear Weezer sing hash pipe? So we dont shy away.
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: Everybodys 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? Thats what this site says. And theres a lot of names, like three or four pages, scrolling down, but whats funny is that Crystal Method isnt even in there.
Have you been hassled?
Ken: I dont 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 weve never been banned from the Midwest or Bible Belt.
Scott: Though in Kansas City . . .
Ken: Oh yeah, we donated our song to the DEA. Allowed them to use it in an anti-crystal commercial: Life or Meth? I guess Kansas City is the crystal-meth capital of the world. Apparently Tujunga, which is right next door [to the Methods La Crescenta studio], is also a hotbed of activity.
Apparently! What about your Got Meth? shirts?
Ken: Top seller! Its a sales tool saying: Have you bought our album?
Scott: I think us throwing a different take on crystal Got meth? or whatever its like, in England, which was so amazing about our early success, nobody knew what methamphetamine was. They had no reference. Weve also had people tell us to change our name.
Did anyone tell you to change the new album title?
Scott: No, everybody was just laughing.
Ken: But it remains to be seen. It could always hurt us.
Scott: One thing that was strange was doing music for that Fox game Nitrous Oxide. Their campaign was Get high with the Crystal Method. Their whole marketing was innuendo farther than weve ever gone. Al Gore called somebody at Fox and was like, This is sending the wrong message.
Ken: We wouldve never allowed them to use our music if wed known.
So you do draw the line?
Ken: We draw the line like crazy.
What are your thoughts on Special K and GHB?
Scott: We played New York and were like, Get us on now, cause if you dont, well play to a bunch of kids in K holes they get this tunnel vision; its like playing for zombies.
Ken: Bad drugs will always be bad. One thing about raves is, theres no performance. But at our show theres a focus on the stage. So we hope they wont get burnt out unless that was their plan to begin with.
On tour, are you approached by kids or dealers who want to turn you on?
Scott: There were people that, from the moment you started talking to them, would be shifty, shady.
Scott: Those people werent real Crystal Method fans who tell us how they love the record. If the first thing out of someones mouth is how they can hook us up, thats the average guy Poison runs into.
Ken: There was a cabdriver in the Midwest that told me he had several ounces cooking in his bathtub. I was like, Let me out, man!
Scott: He was a pretty talkative character. Im sure weve talked to many narcs . . .
Ken: I dont think we have. I dont think anyone is out to bust us.
Are you in a position to get busted? Do you party on tour?
Ken: Think of excess times 10.
Scott: It would be really easy to open ourselves up to that element, but this isnt something that makes me proud Ive had more underage people ask about flaming Dr. Peppers than about drugs.
Flaming Dr. Peppers?
Scott: Its Amaretto and Kahlua with 151 on top. Light it on fire, drop into a half glass of beer, then slam it. If mixed right, theres the aftertaste of a Dr. Pepper. And theres the fire-151-sugar-adrenaline rush.
What about the studio? Do you party there, too?
Scott: Ive done shrooms but couldnt even think about making music. I was so blown away by the 7-Eleven.
Ken: Drugs may help your appreciation of music, but Ive never found that it helps me work on anything.
Have friends or family been harmed by drugs?
Ken: Ive got immediate family with problems, which Ive lived with my whole life, so Im sensitive to it.
Scott: The saddest thing is, this country is so backward when dealing with drugs. They bleep out hash pipe like it doesnt exist.
Ken: Nothing gets kids running faster toward the hash pipe!
Scott: Meanwhile, people serve 90 years for growing their own marijuana. When we got arrested . . .
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What was the charge?
Scott: Somebody narcd on a friend of ours who supposedly had this GHB laboratory in his place [where the band had coincidentally stopped in just as the raid went down]. Two years later, after one mistrial, the judge dropped the charges. Whatever. It happens all the time. We were fortunate enough to have the money, but our friend couldnt post bail for six months. But even our one night in jail, it was the most terrifying thing Ive ever seen. Im laying in this bunk, and this guy took a dump, then pulled out a couple bags of somethin that he sniffed.
Ken: Right then, I got on the phone with our lawyer, saying, Whatever it takes, get bail!