Ken Jordan was worried that the television wasn’t loud enough. After a few drinks at the Hotel Real InterContinental lobby bar in Escazú, southwest of San José, Jordan’s wife, Janine, convinced him that we wouldn’t judge his and Scott Kirkland’s first new album in four years as The Crystal Method based solely on the speaker quality of a hotel TV.
“I guess the volume only goes up to 63 for the neighbors,” Jordan mused after hooking up his laptop and hitting play. Dia Framptom’s breathy singsong voice floats out of the speakers above the heavy techno beat below. The TV speakers boom. “Just imagine this with super subwoofer bass!” Jordan whoops.
The television, with its scrolling advertisements for hotel food options and local calling rates was a far cry from the sound system at Vertigo, the San José club where the band is set to perform on Sept. 7, as the last stop in a Central American tour leading up to the release of the band’s first new album since “Divided by Night,” in 2009.
The duo has never performed in Central America in their 16 years together as The Crystal Method, but Jordan is no stranger to Costa Rica. The electronic musician has been vacationing here for the last six years at his house on the Pacific Coast in Malpaís, on the southern Nicoya Peninsula.
Any performances as The Crystal Method, however, were in doubt earlier this summer when Kirkland suffered a dangerous infection following brain surgery that derailed summer tour plans and the new album’s release date.
Down at the bar Jordan wears a dark blue shirt and shorts, already anticipating the beach despite the cool rainy night outside. He orders an Imperial beer, de rigueur for Gringos nostalgic about their time in Costa Rica. Despite owning a home here, Jordan lamented that it’s been over a year since he’s been down to visit.
“We’ve been looking for Central American shows, it’s a standing order to our agent,” he said, adding that they were excited to be performing in Costa Rica.
The Crystal Method will also have shows in Guatemala and Panama City.
After we introduced ourselves, Jordan leaned over the table and asked, “What happened with that murdered turtle conservationist?” referring to the recent arrests in the Jairo Mora case.
Jordan and Janine have a strong interest in ocean conservation and “green” living. The Crystal Method has performed at the Sea No Evil benefit for the Sea Shepard Conservation Society, a marine conservation organization headed by fugitive Capt. Paul Watson, who has been on the lam since Costa Rica issued an extradition request for him following an alleged attempted shipwrecking off Guatemala’s Pacific Coast in 2002.
Watson has been a vocal critic of the government’s handling of the Mora case and announced he would name one of his fleet’s ships after the slain conservationist, as previously reported by The Tico Times.
The Crystal Method even has a “green” rider, which includes requests for organic foods and aims to reduce waste by insisting on no plastic or paper products that would likely end up in a landfill.
“I’ve learned everything about living ‘green’ and the environment from [my wife],” who runs Green Wave, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness and funds for environmental sustainability.
The couple has also done volunteer education outreach with the Rainsong Wildlife Refuge in Cabuya, an organization that trains volunteers to patrol beaches to protect sea turtles, among other activities, and fundraising for the Escuela Futuro Verde, a bilingual primary school in Cóbano, Puntarenas, through Janine’s NGO.
Jordan admitted though that when he comes to the rocky shore of Malpaís all he really wants to do is relax and work on his surfing.
Vacation was probably the last thing on Jordan’s mind when a medical emergency late last spring scrambled plans for a summer tour and the album’s planned release date.
Kirkland wrote a statement posted to the band’s website explaining that he had been experiencing “short, painful headaches.” An MRI revealed a benign posterior fossa arachnoid cyst in his brain and a doctor recommended brain surgery to address to cyst, since there could be complications from Kirkland’s on-stage antics.
Kirkland and Jordan were able to get back to work on the album briefly before Kirkland contracted an infection from the surgery that sent him to a hospital intensive care unit for 10 days, scrapping any hopes of a summer tour.
“We didn’t want him to rush back. We didn’t want to postpone anything, we just said, ‘everything is canceled, there’s no new release date, just get well,’” Jordan said.
Kirkland has since recovered and will be back at a keyboard next to Jordan at Vertigo.
“He’s back to jumping around on stage,” Jordan added.
Back in the hotel room, Jordan’s response to the music is more sedate, bobbing his head to the beat as he sits on the edge of the bed.
“Even though we’re making completely electronic, computer-driven music we’ve always tried to give it a really human sound,” he said.
When asked how the self-titled album stacks up against previous Crystal Method releases, Jordan didn’t offer many specifics but reflected that “Divided by Night” suffered from too much collaboration with other artists.
“We think the newest is always the best,” Jordan said.
“Play ‘Funk Muffin,’” Janine said, “It’s my favorite.”
Jordan leans over her to reach the laptop’s keyboard. “OK, one more,” he said and pressed play.
The Crystal Method will play at Club Vertigo in Edificio Centro Colón, on Paseo Colón in San José, Costa Rica, on Saturday, Sept. 7.