Late 80s Britain. The subterranean free party vibe whispers its secrets to a hidden generation all chasing the smoke of a rumour like cats stalking shadows. Into the secret euphoria step a production wizard, two dancers and a soundsystem MC. Obsessed with the East London warehouse party scene they debut with a fistful of ruffneck breaks and a party hard attitude at Labyrinth in Dalston, London’s Four Acres Club. It’s 1990 and the Prodigy experience is born.
That night the band played to a handful of friends and passers by. Not the most auspicious introduction perhaps but a step, no matter how tentative, on a journey that would become little short of breathtaking.
Back in the rough and ready ambience of The Labyrinth however only two things concerned the Prodigy crew; getting a record out and playing Raindance. Within months both dreams would come true. The debut ‘What Evil Lurks’ EP, offered a deep slice of rough-around-the-edges, renegade-break psychosis. While only a month later Raindance offered four-colour lasers, 8 thousand party people and a bone rattling soundsystem.
Being on stage at Raindance was it for me. It had the proper East London warehouse spirit. As far as I was concerned we’d arrived!” Liam once told me, echoing the thoughts of ravers everywhere.
By the time the band delivered the lumber crunching bass’n’breaks epic ‘Charly’ the rave scene had completely succumbed to the Prodigy’s euphoric rage. Of course it was the uplifting classic ‘Your Love’ that captured the underground hearts.
Just as the mainstream had started to wake up to the rave sound, so the Prodigy had already started to move on. The debut album Experience followed a year in which the band took their beats into the charts and around the raves numerous times.
“I remember at the time I wasn’t into doing an album, I thought it was a sellout coz we were about putting our beats on 12’” vinyl for djs” said Liam. Instead of doing the customary rave circuit to promote the album they took the rock and roll option of playing a headlining tour of traditional venues. Even at this early stage they’d moved beyond the increasingly narrow confines of the rave scene.
Over the months to come the rave scene would be brought to its knees by unscrupulous promoters, dodgy drugs, officious policing and ever more draconian legislation. The last straw for the Prodigy came with the over enthusiastic noise limitations placed on raves. For the band the scene was dead. “At one big rave, I think in Scotland, the sound was turned down so low by the officials you could hear people in the crowd. We said fuck this, someone should take a stand so we walked off stage and the police had to deal with a lot of unhappy people. We then got the blame for killing rave with the Charly tune which we thought was hilarious. We were like, fuck it, it was worth killing then!” said Liam.
But the Prodigy was most definitely alive. Just to prove it they took their incendiary show direct to the heart of rock heritage with a gig at The Marquee in London. Their second album drew heavily on this newfound love of rock. Music for the Jilted Generation spat guitar licks fused with pounding breaks and little bit of voodoo magic.
“It was at a time when the criminal justice bill bullshit was going on, clamping down on any parties and we were all affected by that. It was a mad creative time with a lot of purpose in the music. We had spent some time in America and we were listening to the first Rage Against The Machine album, it was inspirational because it had the groove of hip hop but the power of punk rock. That was definitely one of the records that was in my head when I wrote Jilted ” said Liam. Jilted Generation seemed to naturally carry the anger felt amongst the party-going youth.
“One of the turning points that sticks in my mind was a big festival in Denmark 1994. We were the only electronic band out of a total rock lineup. We played on the same stage to a new crowd and we rocked it and gained their respect as something fresh” said Maxim. It wasn’t long before a whole new set of fans started to discover the Prodigy. A fact that was underlined a year later by the spectacle of thousands of people catching the Prodigy live at Glastonbury.
“To watch thousands of people come from the main stage where Oasis were playing, trampling down 200 tents to get into our field was mad and it felt important,” exclaimed Keith.
Later that year though the band would debut a track at a gig at Ilford Island that would change their world forever – ‘Firestarter’. It would be a full five months before the track would be unleashed upon an unsuspecting world, but already it sounded incredible and fresh.
“Firestarter” came out of nowhere and hit people bang in the face, it didn’t even get any mainstream airplay before it was released. I remember alot of stations were afraid of committing to it saying it was too abrasive for daytime play, it didn’t matter to us anyway” said Liam. It went straight to number 1 in the English charts and destroyed most of Europe. The video, also highly acclaimed, was a monochrome attack and a perfect introduction of a new menacing Mr Flint.
“Firestarter” was of course the last truly great number one record of the Twentieth Century. But the world had to wait over a year for the album to follow.
In the meantime they pounded the unsuspecting public with the demonic single ‘Breathe’ and then the live classic ‘Smack My Bitch Up’. “We aren’t people who like to play it safe, that’s why were puttin’ ‘Smack’ out. For us its about abusing our new status and fame, pushing it. ” said Liam at the time.
nThe success of The Fat of the Land has been reported over and again. An album that stands as a defining moment in the history of popular music – up there with your Never Mind the Bollocks’s, What’s the Storys and Neverminds – it still remains one of the fastest selling albums of all time.
What followed were a few years in which the band toured the world like a rabid, all consuming behemoth. No corner of the globe remained untouched by the Prodigy experience. And yes, America loved them.
“I remember us feeling proud that we were British and we were doing damage in America. We went mad with the gigs and just decided to go to these different places that other bands weren’t going at the time. We played Beirut, Serbia, Red Square in Moscow. These gigs really felt like they meant something, you know what I mean?” said Liam
The fourth album may have taken some time to follow (punctuated only by the Dirtchamber mix set in which Liam reminded us of his past as an oldskool mix DJ and delivered a jaw dropping lesson in eclecticism) but when it came it heralded a new fusion of old skool grooves and off the wall energy. Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned was an unsuspecting powerhouse of sleazy electro trash that laughed in the faces of the people who had pronounced the band dead.
“Listen, it may be a little fuckin’ late maybe but it was important I felt like we were not repeating ourselves. I wanted to get back to the beats and sample culture, the roots of the Prodigy. It’s the most personal album I’ve done, it represents what I’m about… That fist in the air shit!” Liam said when it hit the streets.
So, 1990 to 2005, 15 years of The Prodigy at the controls and a long haul from that first east London gig.
Standout moments? Well, there are so many to chose from. How about playing Charly for the first time at Telepathy 1991 and Limelight in New York 1992. Keith in the perspex ball for ‘Break And Enter ‘1995. Maxim’s vocal debut on record with ‘Poison’. The Glastonbury take-over and floor collapsing at Brixton. Riots in an oversold Greek gig and stage invasion madness at Brighton Essential Festival. Playing war torn Beirut and spitting fury at 100,000 people in Moscow’s Red Square. Attacking American MTV with Firestarter. The banned Smack My Bitch Up video. Liam’s Dirtchamber bootleg mix album. Rocking the Coachella festival in L.A with pure British style. Triumphant return to the English charts at number 1 with Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned. 2006 saw a blistering headline performance at Isle of Wight festival and being the first dance/ rock band to headline at the Download festival.
In 2007, The Prodigy entered a new chapter of their career, signing a deal with UK independent label, Cooking Vinyl, to set up their own label Ragged Flag. The label, which will be the platform for their next album release, will subsequently act as an outlet for new talent that they find. Much of that year was spent writing and recording new material for their forthcoming, as yet untitled album, due for release in the second half of 2008.
In February 2008, the Prodigy was cited as one of the five most important acts to come out of the United Kingdom in the last 50 years by Q magazine.
They will be headlining the Gatecrasher festival on Saturday 24th May.
The Prodigy & Carl Cox – Live at Dance Nation Summer Ball Weston Park Shropshire 18-07-1992\r\n:::::::::::::: rename to setname.mp3
The Prodigy – Live at Teatro Caupolican Santiago Chile 28-10-2009
The Prodigy – Live at Lowlands Festival 22-08-2009
The Prodigy – Live at Rock Werchter 02-07-2009
The Prodigy – Live at Rock am Ring 06-06-2009
The Prodigy – Live @ Roseland Ballroom (New York – USA) 26-03-2009
The Prodigy – Live at Bratislava, Slovakia 07-03-2009
The Prodigy – The Mixmag Podcast 15-01-2009
The Prodigy – Live at Zane Lowe Takeover on BBC Radio 12-01-2009
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