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Latter-day Speedwagon

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 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: 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?

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 can’t hear Weezer sing “hash pipe”? So we don’t shy away.

How did you stumble across the “Tweakendpun?

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 . . .


Ken: “Tina.”

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.

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 Method’s La Crescenta studio], is also a hotbed of activity.


Apparently! What about your “Got Meth?” shirts?

Ken: Top seller! It’s a sales tool saying: Have you bought our album?

Scott: I think us throwing a different take on crystal — “Got meth?” or whatever — it’s like, in England, which was so amazing about our early success, nobody knew what methamphetamine was. They had no reference. We’ve 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 we’ve ever gone. Al Gore called somebody at Fox and was like, “This is sending the wrong message.”

Ken: We would’ve never allowed them to use our music if we’d 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 don’t, we’ll play to a bunch of kids in K holes” — they get this tunnel vision; it’s like playing for zombies.

Ken: Bad drugs will always be bad. One thing about raves is, there’s no performance. But at our show there’s a focus on the stage. So we hope they won’t 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 weren’t real Crystal Method fans who tell us how they love the record. If the first thing out of someone’s mouth is how they can hook us up, that’s 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. I’m sure we’ve talked to many narcs . . .

Ken: I don’t think we have. I don’t 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 isn’t something that makes me proud — I’ve had more underage people ask about flaming Dr. Peppers than about drugs.


Flaming Dr. Peppers?

Scott: It’s Amaretto and Kahlua with 151 on top. Light it on fire, drop into a half glass of beer, then slam it. If mixed right, there’s the aftertaste of a Dr. Pepper. And there’s the fire-151-sugar-adrenaline rush.


What about the studio? Do you party there, too?

Scott: I’ve done ’shrooms but couldn’t even think about making music. I was so blown away by the 7-Eleven.

Ken: Drugs may help your appreciation of music, but I’ve never found that it helps me work on anything.


Have friends or family been harmed by drugs?

Ken: I’ve got immediate family with problems, which I’ve lived with my whole life, so I’m sensitive to it.

Scott: The saddest thing is, this country is so backward when dealing with drugs. They bleep out “hash pipe” like it doesn’t 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 . . .


What was the charge?

Scott: Somebody narc’d 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 couldn’t post bail for six months. But even our one night in jail, it was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen. I’m 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!”

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