Interview: The Prodigy
Wed, 01 Apr 2009 07:40:15
When I tell you that The Prodigy is back, I mean The Prodigy is back. For the first time since 1997's The Fat Of The Land–the now classic album that brought us the infamous "Smack My Bitch Up"–the talents of Liam Howlett, Keith Flint and Maxim have come back together for the band’s most pulse-pounding effort to date; Invaders Must Die.
From the throbbing opening moments to its triumphant end, Invaders Must Die is an album that oozes the energy and intensity of this much-heralded reunion. Factor in a percussive contribution from Foo Fighters mainman Dave Grohl and The Prodigy’s always unwavering dedication to their craft, and you’ve got forty-five minutes of pulsating beats that no four walls could possibly contain.
In the middle of an expectedly hectic press day, ARTISTDirect caught up with The Prodigy as they were being driven around the even more hectic streets of New York City; sporadically swapping cell phones while caught in a perpetual revolving door of questions. While the clamor of background noise, the city streets, dropped phone calls and a surprise appearance by the NYPD as our chat drew to a close might not seem like the most fitting environment for an interview, somehow for The Prodigy, it made perfect sense. At least we were able to get this much out of them…
This is first time in twelve years, since The Fat Of The Land, that you, Liam and Keith have all appeared on the same album together. What was it like working together again?
Maxim: Working back in the studio with these guys was just very exciting for all of us. After everything we’ve been through over the last seven years; to get through all that and get back in the studio was great. The last thing we did was the Singles [Their Law: The Singles 1990 – 2005] album and after that, we all just wanted to get right back in there and do another album.
Prior to the album’s release, it was said that The Prodigy had recaptured that old-school vibe on this album. Did that come from the fact that it had been so long since the three of you worked together?
Maxim: Well the sound of the band has never really changed. We haven’t changed our style in any shape or form. We’re still the same style. We’ve still got the same ethics behind the music. There has never really been a change in the music as far as I see it. Let me explain it like this; it’s kind of like The Specials. If you’re into The Specials, you’re into them because you’re into ska. So you like The Specials and they put out a new album and you go get the album and it’s drum n’ bass. Well, obviously you didn’t want to hear The Specials do drum n’ bass. So our style hasn’t changed because we’ve always kept the same belief and the same ethics and the same approach.
That being said, Invaders Must Die is still a much bigger and more intense album than previous efforts.
Maxim: Yeah, I agree with that. I think it’s a lot more melodic. The album is far more band-orientated than what we’re used to doing. It’s definitely a live album. Previous works have had more collaboration on them; this is more of a one-hundred percent band album.
“It's so easy to get lost on a major label. If you're not making the numbers they expect you to hit, they'll just drop you without a second thought.”
You released the album under your own record label. One would think that after all the success The Prodigy has enjoyed; you wouldn’t have any problems getting the deal you wanted out of any label. Why do things on your own?
Maxim: We like to maintain total control of everything we do. Even if you’re on the right label, you sign on with a major label and you’re at that level; you have to hand that control over to somebody. We like to maintain that control over all aspects of the band; the music, the live set, the sound, the lights. When you’re on a major label, you have to worry about who is actually working with you on these things. You can always get passed on to so-and-so or whoever. We like to keep things quite family-orientated. No matter what label we’re on, we like to bring in whoever we’re working with as if they were part of us and keep things like we would a family. It’s so easy to get lost on a major label. If you’re not making the numbers they expect you to hit, they’ll just drop you without a second thought.
At this point Maxim passes the phone off to vocalist, Keith Flint.
Maxim and I were just discussing your label, Take Me To The Hospital. Can I get your thoughts on the matter?
Keith: Well the label is more of an imprint of Cooking Vinyl. To be quite honest, it’s something that is very embryonic at this point and doesn’t have much attached to it other than the name. If something cool comes along, then there we go; we’ve got an outlet. That’s it really. We’ve just been concentrating on the album; that takes up all of our energy. Liam gets stuff sent to him daily, and it’s great to see all of this music coming through. Hopefully, one day we’ll come across really exciting that we can’t pass up. If that does happen, that’s when the label will start working.
If I were to guess I would have said that you started the label to avoid another situation like the one you went through with Time-Warner when you released “Smack My Bitch Up.”
Keith: You mean the controversy? Well, we never try to cause controversy. That sort of stuff always turns out nasty. Things like that happen purely because it’s how we want to be. We never strive or set out to shock people. I don’t even think nowadays you can do actually do that. People can go on the internet and, with the press of a button, watch anything. I suppose the only thing we really did, after everyone pointed at “Smack My Bitch Up” and called it controversial, was to make the video the way we did. We asked, "You think that’s controversial? Well here you go; we’ll make the video controversial." That was really the only instance in which we have ever tried to outdo ourselves and shock people. It didn’t take a lot of thinking; we just knew we weren’t going to give a fuck about whether it got played. We just wanted to make what we wanted to make. There was no board meeting were we discussed how we could stir things up, we just knew we wanted it to be balls out.
And honestly, if you wouldn’t have made a #1 hit out of the song, nobody would have cared. The entire world heard the song so of course someone had to make a big deal about it.
Keith: Yeah, and that’s the cool thing. If you stand your ground and people listen, then that’s what it’s all about.
You worked with Dave Grohl a bit on the new album. How did that come about?
Keith: Dave, yeah man, he’s cool. We didn’t actually get to work with him one-on-one in the studio. Dave emailed Liam and was like, ‘Hey, what’s up? I just got off the road and I’m back into playing drums again. I love playing drums. It’s great being behind the kit again. How about I send you a hard-drive with a load of drums tracks on it and you can check it out.’ Liam thought, ‘Of course. I’m finishing the album and this gives me something extra to work with.’ It was all really quite exciting. Liam didn’t want to just loop what Dave had sent us, he wanted to make a real part of it. We took a vocal track that we had lying around the studio from an earlier session and re-worked it because that was quite a venomous track. So we put that track over Dave drums, fired it back to Dave and he loved it. It was why he wanted to send us his stuff in the first place. It was really cool the way it all worked out. “Run With The Wolves” was the track we did that on.
I hesitate to use the word ‘heavy’ when talking about the album because I don’t want to give the impression that The Prodigy has become a metal band or anything of that nature, but in the context of what this band is, Invaders Must Die really is a pretty aggressive album.
Keith: I think that’s just part of what we do. We do beats and we do bass and it has to be heavyweight. It’s not about being dark; it’s about being aggressive and upfront. This album, in some respects, is quite euphoric. I think though, that comes from the triumph of all three of us making an album together again and where that all came from in the first place.
The Prodigy has always used, in one form another, ants in the artwork. Have you tied them into this new album through its title? I’m picturing Invaders Must Die as being a sort of call to arms for a colony of ants and how it could metaphorically translate to the world.
Keith: We’ve never really broken it down into what it might mean, but like anything with The Prodigy, it is what it is. You can take it all for face value. You can look into it and see ants swarming and the way they colonize and take over everywhere they go and that’s cool. It might mean one thing to the other guys, and it might be different to you. To me, it’s the ants.
Finally, The Prodigy is gearing up for a US tour in the spring.
Keith: I’m not exactly sure what we have coming up for all that, but I do know that we’re coming to some really cool venues and have some really cool things in store. We’ve got some nice stuff coming for all the fans in the US, so make sure you keep your eyes open.