'Fat Of The Land' is 20
You may have noticed the Iconic Moments series we've been rolling out. Basically, it picks out the most special, celebratory or bizarre events in artist's careers and so far we've included the likes of The Chemical Brothers, Aphex Twin and Ricardo Viillalobos.
Up next are The Prodigy to fall in line with their third album, 'The Fat Of The Land', turning 20. The album's kind of a big deal in case you didn't know. You might have heard a few of its hits, 'Firestarter', 'Breathe' and the highly controversial 'Smack My Bitch Up'. The latter turned heads, but that's what the band - Liam Howlett, Keith Flint and Maxim - do.
Mixmag's head was certainly turned by their tune 'Charly' back in the day and you'll see below that the band weren't too happy with our view on it at the time. Some of their performances have been incredible, albums have stormed to the top of the charts and awards have been won.
See 10 iconic moments from the group below.
"Hmm, what to call ourselves? I know, the synth I used to make my first load of bangers." That's what Liam Howlett undoubtedly (although probably not) said to himself when trying to come up with a name for the band. Still, legendary synth, legendary group. Simple.
When a promoter tells you "I've only ever had two P.A.'s here before and they were both bottled off after five minutes", confidence going into a gig can't be high. That's exactly what The Prodigy were told ahead of playing at The Four Aces in Dalston, East London, but the dread soon turned to elation. Maxim, who had only just been drafted in after Howlett felt an MC was vital for a gig of this nature, said "everybody was going wild, it just went off." He was only a temporary member at the time, but he was full-time when the next gig came around.
Back in August 1992, Mixmag ran a cover asking 'Did 'Charly' kill rave music?' with a photo of Liam Howlett holding a gun to his head. The article was relating to the group's debut single 'Charly', one that sampled a cartoon cat public information film Charley Says and ended up at number three in the UK Singles Chart. Mixmag's then-assistant editor Dom Philips later wrote "when Charly turned from wacky hardcore anthem into chart-busting gold dust, Howlett's silly little novelty tune joined another, far less honourable heritage". Obviously Howlett didn't take kindly to the accusation that his band were responsible for "starting what must be the most inane sampling phase in the history of dance music." What better way to get us back than burning a pile of said issue in the video for their September '92 track 'Fire'? Well played, fellas.
The Prodigy came from rave. It was on the dancefloor of the Barn in Braintree, Essex where Keith Flint and Liam Howlett first crossed paths, Howlett handing over a mixtape and Flint declaring the tunes needed to be heard live. The Prodigy was born and in 1992 they released their debut album 'Experience' featuring the freakish 'Out Of Space'. If there were any doubts about whether the boys were true ravers, this behind-the-scenes footage lays them to rest. Flint, dressed head to toe in nightmarish lab gear, jokes with a pal about dropping pingers before his jaw falls towards the floor. "These ones creep up on ya, these creep up on ya," he mumbles. Classic.
If The Prodigy has a trophy room, then you'd be blinded by the objects on shelves upon entry. They've picked up countless awards, from Brits and a MOBO to a slew of MTV accolades. '94 saw them pick up their very first, winning Best Dance at the first ever MTV Europe Music Awards. They pipped 2 Unlimited, D:Ream, Jam & Spoon and Reel 2 Reel to the trophy that year and won it again in '96, '97 and '98. The only times they didn't win that category in the '90s was when they weren't even nominated. Despite all the glory, there's still one they've not picked up - the coveted Grammy. Still time, boys.
The vividly coloured reverse mohawks, the septum piercing, the thick eyeliner, the body covered in tattoos. Keith's mid-'90s look is as punk as it gets. It wasn't always like that, though. The behind-the-scenes footage of 'Out Of Space' above shows him pre-piercings and this pic from 1983 displays him as a fresh-faced school kid. We're not entirely sure what inspired the change in appearance, but it was certainly suited for the group's aggression-fueled brand of rave music. The above footage of Keith performing at Phoenix Festival in 1996 is enough to give you nightmares.
Second album, first number one. 'Music For The Jilted Generation', released by XL Recordings in '94, got the top album spot in the UK and ended up selling 600,000 copies which deemed it certified platinum. Liam Howlett later said he regretted the choice of album title (referring to the British rave scene becoming corrupt and the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994). He also claimed it was never meant to be political, but with a track sampling speech saying "fuck 'em and their law", that's quite hard to believe. Either way, it contained a whole host of tripped out frenzies including 'One Love' and 'Voodoo People'.
This is the performance we mention above when covering Keith's image change. Intense, supercharged and downright scary, the lads delivered a festival masterclass for the patrons of the Stratford-upon-Avon event set up as an alternative to Reading Festival and Glastonbury. Not much more needs to be said, just watch the footage.
What do you get when you put a Vivienne Westwood collection, a catwalk and The Prodigy in a room together? Keith Flint crawling around like predatory cobra, obviously. For those who don't know, MTV's Fashionably Loud was an extravagant fashion show bringing together the world's biggest designers, models and musicians. In '97, British fashion pioneer Vivienne Westwood called upon The Prodigy to soundtrack models parading her Red Label collection down the catwalk. Considering Westwood's punk background, the exhilarating rock-ravers were perfect to inject a sense of no-fucks-given into the show. 'Breathe' is the soundtrack for the most part, Maxim leading the chants of "exhale, exhale, inhale, inhale", and, before you know it, Keith emerges from the crowd and drags his hands and feet down the catwalk. Maxim's roars of "OH MY GOD" are completely justified.
Chris Evans' party boy antics during the '90s got him into a lot of bother, but that bad boy behaviour didn't seep through to his Radio 1 show, which wasn't allowed to play 'Smack My Bitch Up' due to a BBC-wide ban. The Prodigy made sure to remind him when he presented them with their award for Best Live Act at the 1997 Q Awards. "Respect to everybody who voted for us, even though certain people won't play us on their radio station," Maxim aimed at him in the acceptance speech. In a state of embarrassment, Evans claimed he'd play 'The Fat Of The Land' album in full "tomorrow", before Liam Howlett, beaming, told him to "fuck off". After a few words thanking their table, he chucked another one in for good measure. It was all in good fun, though.