That feeling of unbridled energy is what lies at the heart of The Prodigy’s sound. A sound that is a glorious hybrid of post-hip-hop beats married to techno’s drive and punk’s original invective – all of which are mixed in Liam Howlett’s head with added sonic detail thrown in for good measure.
If Liam is the band’s studio mastermind, then Keith Flint was vital in projecting those musical ideas on to an audience. Part-clown, part-punk, part-court jester, he provided the band with a live focal point alongside their charismatic MC, Maxim, and 6ft 7in dancer Leeroy Thornhill.
Three months after their first appearance in the pages of Kerrang! everything changed for The Prodigy with the release of Firestarter, the first single from the band’s forthcoming album, The Fat Of The Land. The accompanying video was bleak and mesmerising, and featured Keith in the starring role, singing the song in a derelict London Tube tunnel.
In a year where the likes of The Spice Girls and Peter André topped the singles charts in the UK, the fact that Firestarter enjoyed a three-week stint at Number One proved a defining event in British popular culture in the ’90s.
The song’s success suggested that music could still rise from the underground to achieve mass success. But this wasn’t even normal music. The image that Keith Flint projected in that video underlined that this was music made by freaks and rank outsiders. In fact, Keith had cast himself in the same mould as the likes of Alice Cooper and the Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten – a comparison that he most enjoyed.
The video ensured that Keith was transformed almost overnight into one of the most recognisable frontmen of his generation. Added to the recognition came the controversy with the track’s lyrics, The Mail On Sunday suggesting that they advocated arson and leading the campaign to ‘Ban This Sick Fire Record’. If certain quarters refused to air the track or the video, it just seemed to make it sell more, the band shifting over half a million copies in the process. Suddenly and rather unwittingly, The Prodigy – and Keith in particular – were pop stars.