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The Prodigy may be one of the most potent acts on the dance scene but they've got a rock'n'roll attitude to live performance. STUART CLARK finds out why from the prodigy himself, LIAM HOWLETT.

"I'M SICK TO death of groups like U2 and Deacon Blue cashing in on our scene," thunders Liam Howlett as he attacks the meat-and-two-veg dinner his mum's just put it front of him. "They might think they're buying themselves street cred but the kids I know are sussed enough to realise that it's purely a marketing strategy. They don't have a real understanding or affection for the music.

"I'm actually a U2 fan - Achtung Baby was a brilliant record but I can't get a handle on Zooropa. They should stick to what they do better than anyone else, which is that big stadium stuff. "

The 21-year-old Prodigy mainman is not, as the more astute of you might already have spotted, the sort of person who pulls punches. Despite his relative youth and mainstream media attempts to dismiss him and his cohorts as E'd up Essex boys, Howlett knows precisely where his career's heading and refuses to sacrifice principles for money.

"I could make a fortune remixing naff bandwagon jumpers like Captain Hollywood," he reflects, "but that's not what I'm into. I only accept a tiny percentage of the offers I get and I'd rather work for free on something that I enjoy and believe in than get a couple of grand for reinventing a band that should've retired years ago.

"I did a track recently for Jesus Jones which may seem a contradiction after what I just said, but they're genuinely interested in experimenting and broadening their sound. Mike Edwards phoned me and it was obvious from the way he was raving about our album that he has respect for The Prodigy. A couple of girls who met them in America told me they were constantly playing it on the tour bus, which was rather flattering, and I thought 'alright, let's give it a go.' The Aphex Twin's even worse than me when it comes to accepting remixes and he did a version, so they must be credible. "

THUD THUD THUD

The 12" in question is 'Zeroes And Ones' and Liam's creative input can be judged by the fact that it's the only thing to emerge from the Jones boys' Perverse album which you wouldn't rush straight down to the second-hand shop with.

Currently changing hands for the sort of money that'd keep the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow in band-aids for a year, The Prodigy's long deleted and much imitated What Evil Lurks EP provided them with a huge underground hit and paved the way for 'Charly', one of the first thoroughbred rave tracks to crossover to the mainstream.

"That was recorded in my bedroom," Howlett reveals, "on less than a grand's worth of gear. That's what makes dance so accessible - you don't have to go wasting a fortune on rehearsal rooms or flash studios. "

Although you'd have to be a forensic scientist to detect it, Liam actually has a classical background and spent his formative years dreaming up ways to get out of piano lessons.

"I'm not Richard fucking Clayderman," he laughs polishing off another potato, "but learning the fundamentals has been a help. If I'm writing a bassline, I'm able to hear the chord in my head and being slightly musical means that you can get away from the standard hardcore 'thud thud thud'.

"I try and fit the samples into the tune rather than the other way round and although I'll never give up on the clubs, most of our stuff can be listened to at home or in the car because it's got hooks and melodies. "

The Prodigy also have an old fashioned rock 'n' roll attitude to live performance.

"Big club, small club or outdoor festival, we always play a proper length set and put on a show. A bloke standing behind a keyboard is pretty boring, so we put a lot of effort into the lights and we've got an M.C. and two dancers, Keith and Leroy, who go fucking crazy. We make a point of talking to promoters and trying to keep the prices down but normally it's seven or eight quid in and if you shell out that sort of money, you expect to be entertained. "

And how was your lunch?

"Great. You can't beat a spot of home cooking!".

• The Prodigy play the Metro, Waterford, on September 17th and the Dublin Tivoli on the 18th.

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