As he stormed on stage wide eyed with a fur coat slumped over his shoulders, I will never forget being crammed into the front rail at Isle of Wight festival in 2015 with Keith Flint looking directly at me, albeit momentarily. His frightening onstage energy was intense but infectious, creating mosh pits the size of football pitches and turning the crowd into psychopaths for the two hours the Prodigy performed. Neither will I forget my introduction to them, my Dad blaring ‘The Fat of The Land’ in the car when I was a kid and I innocently bobbed my head along vigorously. Whatever it is, The Prodigy have had an impact on lives all across the world and the tragic passing of Keith Flint will be felt everywhere.
Throwback to 1990 and Britain was a hotspot for dance music. Illegal raves, acid and the revelation of uppers such as MDMA created a rave scene that provided escapism from the bleakness of Thatcher’s Britain. On a beach in Southsea, Liam Howlett was DJing out the back of a truck illegally to a crowd ready to go all night long. In that crowd was a young, broke Keith Flint. Mesmerised by Howlett’s performance, he approached him and asked to join together – and so The Prodigy was born.
Two years later saw the release of The Prodigy’s debut album ‘Experience’ epitomising the sound of the 90s-rave era. Sounding like music from a fairground sped up to 150 bpm, the album was completely ground-breaking. They didn’t shy away from what they were with songs such as ‘Charly (Trip into Drum and Bass)’ and ‘Fire (Sunrise Version)’ but the track that lifted the album to new heights was ‘Out of Space’ which still remains a favourite for DJs. The video, which looks like it was shot on a Nokia camera phone and is edited to make it look colourfully psychedelic, is simply the group on some kind of drug in the English countryside going nuts to the song with Keith Flint wearing a Breaking Bad style meth cooking suit and a gas mask.
In 1994 ‘Music For the Jilted Generation’ was released which included hits ‘Voodoo People’, ‘Poison’ and ‘No Good (Start the Dance)’, a continuation of the uncut raw rave sound of their first album. Next up for The Prodigy though was an album that would take them from being a more underground dance group to a household name, and still to this date one of the best dance albums ever made, 1997s ‘The Fat of the Land’. Keith Flint came to the forefront of the group in ‘Firestarter’. If you haven’t seen the music video already, it’s a must watch. With red hair styled as horns, piercing all over his face, a thick chain around his neck and dancing like a mad man in a sewer, he looks like he’s possessed while the video for ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ became banned on MTV. As a first-person account of a heroin and cocaine fuelled night out, it’s not that surprising it got banned really. Second track on the album ‘Breathe’ has become their most popular hit on Spotify, representing a finer tuned rave sound to their previous music. It was also the opening to their live set so holds a special place for me.
After releasing a forgettable album in 2004, they got back to winning ways with ‘Invaders Must Die’ in 2009 which saw them adjust their 90s rave sound to a more contemporary style but still managing to restore their identity. It is start to finish an album full of huge hits, especially ‘Omen’ which is instantly recognisable from the starting xylophone. Their two recent albums went dramatically downhill but the music they produced before makes up for it. The Prodigy were rave pioneers that produced music played at every nightclub in the country. They managed to associate themselves with getting fucked on every drug under the sun and still remained a household name being played on the radio. What was completely remarkable about Keith Flint in particular was that despite his terrifying and sometimes evil stage presence, he came across as a genuinely nice bloke in interviews and is referred to by people in the music industry as being a true gentleman.
Losing him still hurts but thank you for the memories Keith, in your honour I’ll commemorate you in the best way possible, playing The Fat of the Land on full volume.