Are you excited about the new record?
Liam: Totally man. It feels like a triumph for us on this record. It was really fun to make… and hard – but fun. And I think it was because we were all back together again. You know, we’d sort of fought through the hard times and got to this point where we could make a really really great record. And that’s where we’re at. I think we’re just really happy with the result, do you know what I mean?
Keith: I mean I don’t think The Prodigy would do, or at least release, anything we weren’t excited about… Although there has only been one mistake…
Keith: ‘Baby’s Got A Temper’.
That was a mistake?
Liam: Yeah, but I mean we learnt from it. It just wasn’t one of my favourite records… Well, actually it wasn’t a record I liked at all (laughs). I must have liked it at the time it went out, but I knew it wasn’t a sonic reflection of where the band were heading. It was slow, lazy and just down. It wasn’t an up record… it was just… (shrugs)
Keith: I think the reason we didn’t see through ‘Baby’s Got A Temper’ for what it is… Shit! I’ve got us on to not such a great subject, but fuck it – all aspects should be covered as it is part of the band and happened naturally. But the track was there and we couldn’t see past the celebration of working together. I think, anyway.
Liam: Yeah, it was the one thing that brought us back together and we weren’t able to say, “This isn’t any fucking good, this tune”. But that’s that.
Keith: This record wouldn’t be here now if we weren’t 100 per cent happy with it. There’s no fucking around on this record. Whatever it took: time, sweat… Whatever. It was either going to be fucking perfect or not at all. It had to be.
Liam: Yeah – it had to be. I think people view this as our comeback when I don’t think we’re coming back. We haven’t been away. Some people probably see the last proper Prodigy album ‘Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned’ – ignoring the singles collection – as confusing. It was a confusing album to people, and I can understand that. I think, for one, I fell out with the record company completely as they basically wanted ‘Fat of the Land Part 2’, which I absolutely didn’t want to do. As an artist I categorically believe that you should be allowed to do whatever the fuck you want to do, not be told that you have to do another ‘Firestarter’. And so I’d already made up my mind what I was going to do, and it took a long time to write that last record.
Keith: Turning our back on writing ‘Fat of the Land Part 2’ was detrimental to the band, without a doubt. However, not as detrimental as writing ‘Fat of the Land Part 2’. So however difficult that period was, we’re so glad we’ve been through it. You know, it hasn’t all been good for the band. Same as when you first start out and have to travel in the Transit, it’s garage sandwiches all the way and you’re trying to do two gigs a night to get enough money to live… It’s the same. We don’t want or expect it to be all roses, and we had that period that was a bit of a fucking battle, but looking now it was good. It’s been good for the band because out of it we’ve written this triumphant album that is totally natural and totally 100 per cent Prodigy, as it should be right now.
Liam: I think if you listen to the record… I mean, we’re a moody bunch of fuckers us three, and it feels like quite an ‘up’ record.
Keith: For such grumpy c*nts (laughs)
Liam: Yeah (laughs), it is! It’s not a dark record at all. It’s just a fucking fantastic party record.
So how long were you record the LP for? At what point did it become ‘Invaders Must Die’?
Keith: May last year.
Quite quick then?
Liam: We were in the studio previous to May, but I don’t think before that anything got on to the album… But previous to that we were out of a record deal, so we hired a big live room and wanted to set up a really relaxed area so we could be like, “Yeah, come into the studio and lay some ideas down, or just hang out”. A real relaxed kind of atmosphere. I think during that period a lot of partying took place and there was no sense of urgency as we didn’t have a record deal. We were just using the time to experiment.
Keith: I personally think we were intent on not locking ourselves down to ‘must dos / should dos’, that kind of thing.
Liam: We didn’t want to pressure ourselves. We self funded all that. Looking back I think I should maybe have been more of a co-ordinator and pulled some of the ideas together quicker. But I just got caught up in the idea of partying, champagne bottles stacking up in the corner…
Keith: But again, out of that only came good.
Liam: Yeah – there were actually some really good ideas, but no finished tracks. I think when we eventually said, “What the fuck are we doing?”, it all started to come together better. We had the Gatecrasher Summer Soundsytem booked in and basically we said: “Right, let’s write a track for that and forget about the album”. We knew what that had to be. We knew it had to be a slamming tune and how it needed to perform on stage for that gig. So that kind of took the pressure off the album and that got written in less than a week.
Keith: Yeah, it was really quick. Again referencing all the old tracks that really used to make us buzz and the simplicity of tracks that you’d hear and there would be these huge rumbling warehouse riffs! Just pumping tracks. We realised that it was just simple and whilst the tracks on the album aren’t really that simple in the sense they’re packed with ideas, the way of writing took this on board. I watched Liam – and this is really hard to say – but I watched him writing the tracks in the same way and building the sonics of the soundscape around these big beats and writing big riffs and throwing them on the top. And stealing bits from here and there and slicing them up.
Liam: It just made me remember how I used to write music. When we started the album I just wanted out of the comfort zone and we tried to write songs. That was the wrong approach, and we realised a few months in we were going the wrong way. I knew all along that I could write beats with my eyes closed and so maybe we shouldn’t start with that and look to what I thought was the foundation instead. Songs and guitar and lyrics… (laughs) Just write in more of a traditional way. But how the fuck can we sit there with an acoustic guitar and write shit! (laughs)
Keith: We’re not the Arctic Monkeys, you know. We’re not even the fucking Monkees (laughs)
Liam: We need fucking bass. Turn the bass up!
Keith: We’re all about the buzz. I need to walk in there and Liam says, “Here, check this out,” then presses the button and BOOM!
And you know straight away if there’s something there?
Keith: Yes. The energy is there.
Liam: But we got four months in this time and didn’t realise it wasn’t right… We tried this different approach and we were like three little kids when we started, all back together working again.
Keith: We were all there with this massive determination to make it work and make it great. And that was it. That was it. And in that determination none of us wanted to lay down any real rules, how it must be or how it shouldn’t be. Liam has a vision for this band musically – he knows what it is and he knows that we understand that. And that’s how that works. You know why? Because democracy doesn’t work in a band. “Oh Graham I love your fucking bass part – shall we put it on instead of the piano riff…” That shit doesn’t work for us. The Prodigy is upfront aggression with very single-minded idea of what it has to sound like. And that’s what the band is all about. So I think once Liam had taken the reins it came together. But we’re all a sum of the parts – that’s not taking anything away from myself and Maxim. Too many chiefs and not enough Indians springs to mind on certain projects.
Liam: From the start we decided it had to be a band album – so no room for any vocal collaborations. I did record three and they were good, wicked tracks. Who were they with? I can’t say as they may come out at some stage. They’re pretty much finished. One of them is with someone well known, the other two aren’t. But basically we got 70 per cent of the way through the record and I was like, “Fucking hell – let’s carry on because the stuff we are doing is so much better than that and gives the album more integrity”. And it just feels like a really fucking great band album. Much more than any of our other albums and that makes it really different. Say ‘Fat of the Land’, it had three – maybe four – vocal tunes on – whereas this album incorporates the band on every single track.
Is it important for it to be an album as an entity? Not just a collection of tunes?
Keith: Yeah. And with this album, as much as it can be seen as a complete band album, it’s also an album that we could play from start to finish tomorrow and take it on to that stage and perform it. And that’s exactly what this album is about. The last one confused people as they couldn’t see how it was the band. Anything that comes out from The Prodigy, me and Maxim feel part of it, end of story. Not as a token gesture, not as a loyalty gesture; but because we are part of it and we’ll always represent it. But this is a complete band album. I remember saying to Liam that there was something I’d done that I liked and he was like, “Yeah, that sounded good man but I want you to sound great”.
Liam: You make me sound like fucking Phil Spector (laughs)
Keith: There’s no halfways or good songs. Only great songs.
How does the subject matter of the vocals come about? Do you go into the studio with some themes already in your head?
Keith: It happens in varying degrees of a track. Say something like ‘Colours’ was almost done in terms of the track, then Maxim came in and did a part which then became a part of the chorus way after when the track was done. So Maxim opened up a completed song and then helped take it to another level. Sometimes, like ‘Run With The Wolves’, which has Dave Grohl on drums, was from an idea I’d put down on this mic we had set up at all times just to mess about with. And obviously I put a lot of shit on there, but some good stuff too. I originally put it down on something quite funky although the vocal is really aggressive and then we took the idea and rewrote some of it and it got changed and eventually became the track on the album. So in that case it all came from the vocal idea. So there’s no real rules. But almost all tracks start from a great beat or loop that Liam has laid down.
Liam: The fundamental thing of the band is drums and bass. Take that away and it’s not a Prodigy record. We never forgot that but we just wanted to approach it in a different way. Turns out it didn’t work.
Did you find it liberating not being with XL anymore?
Liam: Absolutely man. I’m still friends with everyone from XL. We never fell out, but sometimes relationships come to an end naturally. I mean, contractually it came to an end after the singles collection (‘Their Law’) which incidentally I didn’t want to do at the time, but grew to actually be very proud of. And the tour was amazing and cemented the band back together. It was a no brainer for us to go out on tour and play the hits. People always want to hear the hits. But we felt like we’d gave it everything and I fucked with old stuff to keep it fresh, but compared to the new tour where it’s at least 40 per cent new stuff and that people have never heard before. That fucking rocked more than the singles tour.
Keith: Yeah, I mean we thought that the ‘Their Law’ tour was fucking awesome. A real peak. But I say this with all the confidence, reality and with my feet placed firmly on the ground that this latest tour has never seen the band so on fire. This band has never been that good before.
Liam: We were shocked ourselves. Not shocked that we were so good, but shocked how together it all was. I mean we did a few rehearsals, but it’s difficult for us to do. You can’t do it unless you’re in that environment in front of those people. So all we can do is rehearse to the point we know what parts to play and what’s coming when.
Keith: It’s not us running that show from start to finish. It’s more like Liam saying, “You want to do ‘Run’?” and we’ll do ‘Run’ then I might suggest going from that into ‘Firestarter’ and doing something between the two…
Liam: But as soon as you get on stage it all changes. And Keith always fucking misses stuff (laughs). I’ll be like, “I thought we doing that,” and Keith will be “Yeah, I missed it – you must have put a different beat on it”. And I never have.
Keith: But ultimately, there is no preparation done for that stage and that spontaneity with professionalism and as much focus as you can put in it – that is what sets people alight. So it might be the same every night in terms of what we play, but the spontaneity means that it would feel different. I truly believe that.
Liam: Musically it would be different too. As we move through a tour things change and get honed. So I tweak the tunes as the tour goes on.
Keith: On this tour we started in Liverpool and thought, “Fucking hell, that was banging,” and we were almost waiting for the anti-climax gig… But it kept on going (throws arms upwards). All the way along up to Brixton. And then at Brixton the next night was even higher.
Liam: It was a good end to a year. We haven’t even released the record yet!
Keith: You wait until we’ve got the new record locked down. I mean, don’t think that we’ve taken a shoddy version out that’s half rehearsed or half done. But wait until we’re really fucking on it and up to speed… Fucking hell, we’re gonna be banging it!
Do you prefer the small shows or the big shows?
Liam: For me Brixton [Academy] still intimidates the fuck out of me. You feel so exposed on that stage. You can’t escape. With a little gig say, you have the small ceiling and you know there’s a divide. But in Brixton people seem to be everywhere. You look out and they’re just there, up to the ceiling. It’s like being under a microscope. Playing Brixton for me is far scarier than playing Knebworth before Oasis. It’s really fucking full on. I can deal with it, you know – but it definitely makes me stand back and think.
Keith: Everything comes to London. If it’s on tour, it’ll be in London and probably in Brixton at some stage. So as a place it’s very take it or leave it. People will turn up to Brixton and be like “is that it?” – you can’t fake it at Brixton, you bang it or you die. And if you die, it’s like telling a bad joke. It’s goes silent. It’s horrendous.
You just mentioned Knebworth, how was that to play?
Liam: It was great man. We’re actually supporting Oasis again in Ireland in July. I really enjoyed that day – it was good, and different. We’re used to playing in the dark, so that was a bit fucking weird playing in broad sunlight.
Keith: I think we approach gigs like that as a challenge. We think, we’ll launch ourselves out of out comfort zone but still stand by the rules of what we do and fucking rock it.
I’ve never seen a crowd come round so quickly. Disinterested to frantic within a couple of minutes.
Liam: We felt like we did a good job. It’s hard to make any kind of shockwave in a crowd that big, especially when they’re not there to see you. As a support the crowd must be thinking, “Fucking hell, let’s just get on with it and get the proper band on”. So we felt like we went out there and gave people something. Hopefully Ireland will be the same – the new record will be out and I’m really looking forward to that gig.
Keith: Yeah, me too.
Liam: We spend most of the summer doing festivals in the dark. Doing something in the light now and again always brings a new energy to stuff.
Your gigs are always sweatboxes…
Keith: Liverpool on this tour was incredible. Incredibly fucking hot. I mean… Fuck. It was hot.
Liam: I never take my leather jacket off man (laughs), never! It’s a joke in the band that it doesn’t come off. I made it to the third tune and then was like to Keith: “Yeah, I might just slip this off…” (laughs)
Keith: That shit don’t come off for anyone. He even spent his wedding night in that fucking jacket (laughs).
Do you like this period between the album being finished and it coming out?
Liam: I fucking hate it! As soon as I finish a record I want it out. This is the thing, right, what does my head in; in this day and age when everything is so fucking fast and we have the internet, why the fuck do we still have to deal with four months between finishing [an album] and getting it to people. It’s the only thing that hasn’t moved on. When I finished the album I was like, “So when’s it coming out then? Before Christmas?” They were like, “No, March”. The fuck?! Fucking March… It’s unbelievable. It does my head in.
Keith: I went fucking bananas, I’m telling you. Everyone was telling me to chill out, but I was fucking mad.
Liam: So we did actually put that tour in before Christmas to compensate a bit. It was only six dates, and I think we should have done more…
Keith: I would have done another six for nothing. It was amazing.
Liam: But I thought we wouldn’t be doing anything before Christmas. So I’ve spent the time in the studio, doing b-sides and bonus tracks, that kind of thing. It’s enabled me to finish other tracks that weren’t right for the album but will be for something else. I found another tune that I’d forgot I’d done – it was like: “Fuck, this is a perfect album tune”. It’s this disco punk tune, really different to anything else on the record. But that’s going to be on something else we’re putting out. Like a limited-edition EP thing.
Keith: You’ll fucking love it. I love it. I wanted to do it on tour. It’s really different for the band though. People will be surprised.
The track ‘Warrior’s Dance’ is amazing – harks back to the old Prodigy days without being revisionist. Have you been revisiting older records?
Liam: Absolutely. So we had the Gatercrasher gig looming and Keith suggested we fucked the album for a minute and focus on a new tune to play that doesn’t even have to go on the album. We know it’s got to be a banging tune that’s easy to digest on the first listen. So we went into the studio and had the twenty years of acid house in our heads and started listening to all that great music again: Renegade Soundwave, Shut Up and Dance… All that early shit and found I really loved it again.
Keith: I mean it sounds really crap, but even the smell of the old records and holding the vinyl again… It gets you reflecting on the old stories and the vibes. Not trying to make it sound all deep, but it was fucking great and that’s what the band is really all about. That feeling.
Did you enjoy Gatecrasher?
Keith: Yeah I did, you know. To be quite honest, because of the weather it was a challenge…
Liam: It was a bit shit really. I was glad to be back. But I think it would have been beneficial to us to do a few small dates first, you know what I mean? I didn’t particularly enjoy it.
Keith: I felt sorry for the people having to stand out there in the wet and wind. You know what, it’s really cool when it’s summer and it’s a banging festival. But when the rain comes down you have to try and think fuck it. Standing their frozen in a field with tents blowing down – that’s hard work for the promoters and the people. We were really determined to give everyone a fucking great show, but it was hard. The wind was that strong the sound was being blown back into the speakers and that’s not good for us as a band. It’s not good value.
I’ve always thought that The Prodigy treats the crowd as equals – as if they’re part of the band. So if the crowd are suffering, it reflects back.
Keith: That’s absolutely right and I’m glad you say that. I am no different to them people. I am no better than the crowd. I’m representing them and I’m basically the stage diver who doesn’t get chucked off. I am them. Without them people doing what they do and feeling what they feel, I couldn’t do that. They are my fuel. That’s not trying to be right on or in touch with the kids, it’s just how that works.
The diversity of the crowd at a Prodigy gig always shocks me. You have really young kids rubbing shoulders with old ravers. My mum went to see you…
Keith: You’re so right. I can tell you really understand the band and I know you’re into it. You talk like I talk and pick up on exactly what I see. I saw some kid at a gig recently who could barely see over the barrier – who would have been me years ago. He probably felt as funky as anyone else there and didn’t feel like a kid. How the fuck he got in and made it to the fron… I don’t know. He was there, giving me the finger shouting, “you c*nt!” And next to him is some forty-year-old geezer – top off, covered in tattoos – at the front joining in shouting, “you fucking cunt” at me. I love it. That diversity is more fuel when you’re up there.
But they’re a good crowd. Everyone looks out for each other. When my mum was there she was down the front in Manchester and surrounded by all these tough-looking lads, but they formed a wall round her and looked out for her.
Liam: Yeah, I can imagine. Kept her safe.
Keith: I think that it’s a bad-arse crew, but [one that] displays a unity that reflects the old rave scene. There’s that ethic of the rave scene – a unity. As much as we’re insightful we also unite everyone. We’re all there for a common cause. That people will look out for people’s mums whilst still kicking off is what I love. I believe we have the hardest crowd for anyone else to come along and play to. If you’re supporting us: fuck, good luck!
Liam: It’s hard to pick the right band to support us. Dizzee [Rascal] for the arena tours was an easy choice though.
Keith: Hopefully he’ll make it after his road rage incident recently (laughs).
Liam: The thing about Dizzee is he’s really established and strong in his own thing, but usually we try and go for people who are up and coming. It is a hard thing to try and find as we want to put on a party night – every aspect of it, so it’s a good night throughout. We had Does it Offend You Yeah? on the Brixton shows and they worked really well. When the support act is on I’m normally in the hotel room watching TV though (laughs)…
Keith: I’m always there…
Liam: Yeah right!
Keith: Nah, I’ll be soundchecking. Going through all my mics (laughs). Am I fuck.
Do you find it funny hearing your influence in other bands now? Justice, Pendulum, Hadouken!?
Liam: It’s fucking great. I listen to all them and other bands but it’s hard for me to see it…
Does any of that feed back into you?
Liam: No. The thing is, I like The Bomb Squad and Public Enemy and I like the Sex Pistols, but I don’t think necessarily that we sound like them. But I can relate to bands saying they like us and that they have picked up on elements and interpreted it into their own music. I can’t hear any influence of us in there, though. Say Pendulum, they’re like more drum and bass which immediately makes it different. But Rob from Pendulum said that any band who is an electronic band who plays live and has guitars is going to be compared to The Prodigy. But I don’t think their music is actually anything like ours. I suppose we were responsible for bringing the big riffs to dance music in the 1990s and they’ve taken on that aspect. But Pendulum sound more like a band than we do. I’m not criticising, but their songs sound like they are played from the same stock of instruments on each track. Whereas I find that for us, I like to keep the vibe similar but the sound different.
Keith: To be honest, if I was in the studio and thought something we’d done sounded like another contemporary band – whatever and whoever it was – to steer away from that. But if there was say a guitar sound that had a flavour of something that had already been, I’d warm to that. You know? I think that if a guitar sound had an authentic punk sound, I’d love that.
Liam: Guitars are funny things. Before I knew about them it was: “Stick a guitar through and amp and you’re done”. But getting the right sound is much harder. Like ‘Colours’ on the record – we worked so hard to get an authentic 1970s sound. Anything too metal would have been wrong, so we really poured effort into it. You can’t just stick a guitar part over a dance beat, it has to be more than that. Otherwise I’d definitely not use it. The second it veers into metal, it’s out.
Keith: Any comparisons with anything in the same genre as we are all gets ironed out when we get on stage. That is where The Prodigy stands alone and the complete picture is made up. I’m happy with that.
Liam: As far as clubbers go, I’m pretty much 100 per cent sure they’d rather see Justice on stage than our band. Clubbers like that linear thing that fucking keeps going – more like what a DJ would play. It’s more in line with the way Justice play their live shows. Whereas we attack it more like a band. That makes us less of a club band and pulls us away from the dance arena. And the tunes are too song-based for clubs. People often ask me what kind of music we make and I haven’t got a fucking clue. I honestly can’t explain what this band is.
Keith: What kind of band are we? We don’t actually know.
But surely that’s a good thing?
Keith: Yeah, without a doubt. I sit next to people on the Tube and they see this colourful character and ask what I do. “I’m a musician is the loosest sense,” (laughs) and when they ask what type of music I do… I don’t know, I just don’t know. But that’s good.
Are you ever surprised just what a classic LP ‘Music For a Jilted Generation’ has become? Zane Lowe recently included it in his classics series.
Liam: I know people always have their favourite album and automatically I always assume that’s ‘Fat of the Land’. Listening to ‘Jilted’ the other day, I didn’t realise how complex it was. I hadn’t sat through it from start to finish since the day it was completed – obviously I’ve listened to different tracks, but not all the way through. The idea of playing out entire albums on the radio is such a good idea and for Zane to do that is great. People don’t do that anymore. With downloads and iTunes, when I was doing my record – and it’s quite short at about forty minutes – I was sat there thinking, “Does anyone actually listen to albums anymore?” Listening to our one, the flow was really good, and there’s definitely a beginning, middle and an end. But listening to ‘Jilted’ – fuck me, it’s so long (laughs). I was just sitting there for hours. I decided to listen to it in the car and it takes me about ten minutes to get back to mine from Keith’s and I went the long way but was still only half way through. Ended up on the ring road (laughs).
When you were talking to Zane you mentioned that back then you had to make a concerted effort to make the tracks short, whereas now you struggle to get them above four minutes. Why do you think this is?
Liam: Yeah, it wasn’t such a case of getting them up to four minutes but more that they were all done and complete well before that time. ‘Warrior’s Dance’ is actually longer – but the rest felt right at that length. For listening purposes they are all 100 per cent right. They all get changed when we play live and the main element is that they hit at the right point, so ‘Invaders Must Die’ has been chopped to bits for live.
Do tracks change as you play live? Evolve on tour?
Liam: Always. It’s always work in progress when you play out live.
And how much does that feed back in to what makes it on to the record?
Liam: One hundred per cent. Always man. When we played Gatecrasher, the new tracks we played both had the opportunity to go back in and get tweaked, making them better. Usually I know when it’s right. A track like ‘Take Me to the Hospital’, I got that nailed straight away. It worked on record and live. ‘Invaders Must Die’ needed a lot of work for live, but sat really really well on the album. But for live it didn’t work until we repaired it.
Keith: We didn’t even realise it didn’t work until we played it and we were like: “Fuck, this needs sorting”. And it went back and forth a few times. But that is the schizophrenia of the band (laughs).
Liam: I love it though. Before we finished the album and we were doing gigs I said to our tour manager that if I could have all my studio equipment in my room after a show I could finish a track based on the vibe I’d got. I come off stage with the vision so clear in my head and could finish the album in a week if the studio was there waiting. I’d literally come from the gig, have a quick drink, go back to the hotel room, carry on drinking, then hit the laptop and just be writing ideas. And that’s where a lot of the album came from – through ideas off the back of gigs.
If you were to come off stage and hadn’t enjoyed it, would you know that was the time to call time of The Prodigy?
Liam: Without a doubt.
Keith: It’s almost the benchmark. I think that Liam will forever write music because he can’t help himself…
Liam: But The Prodigy can only survive if we play live. Simple. The moment we stop doing gigs is when the band ceases to exist. But I love it and I really enjoyed writing this record.
Do you still get the thrill when people come to the shows and react so well to the new tunes?
Keith: We both said and both knew that these recent gigs have put something in us again. A recharge. I don’t know what it was, but now we just feel complete again. If I were the Six Million Dollar Man… You can buy the figures on eBay and they’ve always got the little bit missing off the arm…
Liam: Mine haven’t (laughs).
Keith: Nah, yours don’t. But I’m the complete Six Million Dollar Man on eBay. The bit of skin that folds back isn’t perished. I’m the full thing (laughs).
When you’re in the studio do you listen to other people’s music? Or do you try and cut off from outside influences?
Liam: Yeah I listen to stuff, just enough to keep my finger on the pulse. I think as a producer it’s really important to keep an eye on stuff – less so for Maxim and Keith – but I need to know what’s going on. On a production level more than in terms of songwriting, you know? I don’t give a shit about the songs – I know what I need to do there. It’s more in terms of the little details and the way things are produced and the way things sound. It’s my job to keep up on that. It’s what I have to do. I listen to as much as I can – I don’t have favourite bands or anything and it’s always been like that. I’ll hear one song from a DJ and one from a band and really pick up on that.
Keith: The thing is that, for instance, I listen to music stations and try and keep myself up and I’ll text Liam and let him know about something and he’ll get in touch with that track.
Liam: We all have really different tastes too, which is good.
Keith: Maybe when I’m writing, or involved with the album, it’s more important to me to just listen to music. So when I’m training I’ll stick the iPod on shuffle, just lots of different music all firing at me. I’ll listen to Zane Lowe when he’s playing new tracks and just see what’s grabbing my attention. I don’t think I’ve ever had to listen to new music to be a part of this band, because as much as I’d like to pretend I’m really in touch and at that fucking club that only has nine people listening to unheard of dub plates… I’d love to be that person, but I’m not. I believe somehow that I’m one of those people who are in touch. I know what people are wearing and know how to carry it off and I know the kind of thing people are listening to and how it sounds. Somehow I’m in touch, but I don’t know how I’d do that.
Liam: It’s because we travel around a lot, and go out.
Do you keep up with popular stuff? Would you even know what’s in the charts?
Liam: No man. I haven’t got a fucking clue. Not in an “aren’t I underground” type of way, it’s just never interested me. I mean, I know when someone like Kings of Leon get to number one because that’s like something important – this really great American band who you’ve seen come up and they get there, it’s a fucking achievement. I obviously know when Oasis get to number one, you know what I mean? The whole family goes fucking mad (laughs), but I’m not really and honestly ever bothered about the charts.
But when something like ‘Firestarter’ got to number one it had such an impact. As a teenager living in a little market town, it felt like being vindicated and part of something bigger. When it was on Top of the Pops it was this massive cultural thing.
Liam: Yeah, I don’t actually remember that happening again since on that level.
I think it was the last number one that caused that generational divide. Made people talk about it at school and work…
Liam: Yeah, and I’m glad to have been part of that if it is the case. Because I can’t actually remember another record that has come out of nowhere to get like that. Not even Radio One would play it – they were like, “No way – no fucking way”. It actually got there on the buzz of the band at street level, which doesn’t happen now.
During that time you became the certified ‘biggest band in the world’. How did you cope with that? Is it something you’d go back to?
Liam: We never bothered about mass appeal, but with this new record we do want lots of people to hear it. It’s not like “we’re fucking back, like us!” because we don’t give a fuck. We just want people to hear the music.
Keith: We want to rule every festival. We think we are the most important band in the world.
Liam: But what we mean by that is that everyone should think like that. If you’re in a band you should be the best and fuck everyone else.
Keith: We really don’t like looking at the long game. I’m not sat here working out the next haircut and hair colour to make me the ‘Firestarter’ again. I don’t know what that was then, but whatever it is I don’t need it now. You know what I mean?
Liam: I think that to us our first album ‘Experience’ was massive because we were just this bunch of ravers and were like, “Fuckin hell! I can’t believe it.” Then when ‘Jilted’ came out we were like “Fuck, I can’t believe it” again. And then ‘Fat of the Land ‘came out and it was another “fuck”. I can’t say that about the fourth one (laughs)…
Keith: All I want to do is walk on stage like I did on this tour and feel that. That’s the ultimate success to us.
On a personal level it must have been really odd being this cultural figure. I remember fancy dress parties with people made up like you, and parodies on the TV.
Liam: It was funny more than anything else – we just had to joke about it at the time. As soon as Keith had that thing, he wanted to change it though. Move on.
Keith: Yeah, it was done. I was really reluctant for that to be everything that it was about. The band were so much more than that and I felt like it was detracting from the reality of the band and the music, and where it had all come from. The most important thing was that we were so significant in the rave scene and I rebelled against it with that period. Reflecting on it now, it was probably harder work being the ‘Firestarter’ (laughs) than I realised. But at the same time it was ridiculous and stupid and it became a parody of itself.
Stuff like the Lucozade advert at the time, where the elderly chap drank it and turned into a stereotyped version of you.
Keith: Exactly. Someone said to me that that is the ultimate compliment, but I was fucking angry about that. Not because they’re taking the piss out of me, but people think you get paid for that stuff and own that image. And somehow I’d sold that imagery to someone… It cheapened it all. The thing is, being labelled with that madness and eccentricity is 100 per cent me. It’s not an act. It’s what the music and being in the band makes me. It’s my energy. From listening to The Jam in my bedroom, when I get stirred it incites something inside of me. I want to bash my head on the wall… I don’t know what else to do.
Liam: That’s how ‘Run With The Wolves’ made me feel when I wrote that tune with Dave Grohl. I just wanted to physically get it out.
Keith: If I could I’d rip my fucking chest open on that stage. It’s like, “fucking hell!” Expose my ribcage and show that this is what it does to me. It was really muddled emotion that time.
Liam: But it went really quick too. There was no time for reflection. We were just so in it. It was great time but we didn’t have chance to reflect on it until we started putting together the Singles collection and were looking through pictures and stuff. That’s when we began to talk about it and remember all these mad stories.
A lot of that period saw you defined by your videos. Are they an important element of getting across what the band is?
Liam: Every aspect is part of it. So many bands take shit like that for granted, but every thing is fucking important. And why wouldn’t it be? People see the band through that. I personally hate doing videos as it’s the one area that still falls out of your control. At least with artwork you can say which bits you don’t like and it’ll get done. But with a video it’s always that grey area where it can go wrong. And a few times it has gone really wrong. In the olden days you couldn’t do a video for under sixty grand and we’ve had shit videos where we’ve lost a hundred grand. Like ‘Firestarter’, we binned it. We knew the video was fucking great, but the video’s look was shit. So the reason why ‘Firestarter’ was black and white and grainy was because it was all we could afford. That’s the way things are meant to be though. They’ll come good, or not as the case may turn out to be… We’re being very careful on this album not to go in with videos thinking: “Wah! Let’s make it as mad as we can.”
Keith: We want the videos to act as a set up… What is this invasion coming? It’s The Prodigy.
Liam: As time goes on, people will see things build. You might isolate ‘Invaders Must Die’ as a video and say it’s not as good as ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ – but it’s just the start. Something is happening.
Keith: It’s a very different world now – music television is dying and, you know, online gaming communities are what it’s about.
What do you think of the internet in terms of music? Is it a good thing, or a hindrance?
Liam: I’m cool with it now. As everyone who knows me knows, I was dead against it on the last record. I’m down with it now, totally behind it. I like the fact that we play something like ‘Warrior’s Dance’ out live and some shitty little clip from someone’s phone gets a ridiculous amount of hits on YouTube. That to me is great, almost guerrilla. That was just a phone clip with fucking awful sound, but people wanted it.
How about stuff leaking?
Liam: That does my head in a bit. It reduces the impact a bit and a lot of thought goes into the moment it comes out and building to that. I’m not down with that – one element I ain’t. It’s disappointing and we know it will happen. It always does. You just have to be prepared for it.
Keith: It annoyed me as people want to download the tunes as we’re playing them. Traditionally as a band we’d write a tune, put it on the stage and see how it did. So it really hindered us as we didn’t want people saying, “It don’t sound like this”. I mean, obviously we wouldn’t take anything to the stage that is shoddy. Like, “This is fucking shite, let’s play it for a laugh”… But it felt like it robbed us of part of the creative process. But now – even I admit that I use computers. And I’m a dumb arse. I still feel it’s a dangerous piece of kit (laughs). I’m too scared to put The Prodigy into YouTube…
There’s lots of clips. Does it annoy you that people now seem to experience everything through the little screen on their phone or camera? They don’t necessarily live for the moment of what is happening in front of them.
Liam: Yeah – but I don’t mind. If that’s how they enjoy it, fine. You can share all these things with your mates, but ultimately you can’t download the band and the experience of being there at the show. You can’t take that. It’s something you have to be part of, the atmosphere. And that’s one reason we don’t do much TV stuff. It’s the last thing that’s not given away. It’s a thing of value that you can’t take away from us. You have to come and be there in that room with us to feel it.
Keith: I went to our local town and it’s where you’d go to do the Christmas shopping in the past. Now half of it is shut and the other half is pound shops. And I thought: that’s the fucking internet [‘s fault]. It’s great when you want to buy something at two in the morning…
Liam: He means adult material (laughs).
Keith: But when I want to go and experience real life beyond my living rooms, it’s fucking pound shops. Where are we gonna be in a few years?
Liam: You should move to fucking London then.
Keith: (With yokel accent) I don’t want to go to that there London city town because Dracula will come and eat your baby in London where they’re all bloody strange people…
So you wouldn’t move to London?
Keith: I actually have a flat just over the road (laughs)
Does this recession guarantee good music?
Liam: Yes. People always want to go out. We just want to go out and forget about this shit, you know? We can’t wait for the tour.
Keith: Maybe the people who want more than the internet are those people out there at the shows. They want to touch every aspect of it – makes them crave it even more. You can’t touch a band through the internet. You can’t download the atmosphere.
Liam: We’ll be doing as many festivals as we can. We’ve got some really cool stuff coming – a whole year to fill up with gigs. I can’t wait to go to Australia for the Big Day Out. It’s always a really good bonding time for the band. It’s so spaced out. You do a gig one day and then have like three days ‘til the next and it’s summer. It’s maybe too chilled out! You can’t get on any kind of flow.
Keith: It chews out the last of winter for us, so we spend it having fun. We went to the studio last time we were out there. We got so, so bored. It didn’t work then, but it would this time. But we won’t do it this time. It’s called the Big Day Out – we called it the Big Day Off.
Liam: We love playing Japan – the whole culture, the fans. The atmosphere is great. But I couldn’t live there…
Keith: I could. We’ve always loved the place – I can’t put my finger on it.
Liam: I feel the same with New York. I could see myself living there at some point. I can’t stand the rest of America – I fucking hate it, but New York is different. It’s fucking brilliant. My family are there now, but I couldn’t make it. We went and mastered the record there which went fucking wrong. We did the last one in New York and it was a good job and suited that record. But this new one is more in line with ‘Fat of the Land’ in terms of sonics. Americans try to make the loudest radio record they can, and that doesn’t work for us as it’s all about the ‘phatness’ of the bottom end. We thought it would be this great rock and roll ending to the making of the record.
How do you know when a track is finished?
Liam: I tend to know when it’s done for the record. But it’s hard to do something that is right for all aspects, live, on the record… I’m totally happy with this one for the record, it’s perfect, but I know that the live versions will be different on some of them. So I expect to tweak them and bring new life to them. The album version of ‘Omen’ is different to the single version – just some of the beats. The groove is the same and I love doing that. Others like ‘Warrior’s Dance’ don’t need nothing new. From the off it’s just there.
Keith: Everything balances out on the record. Tracks are only there as long as they’re good enough to be there. I don’t know how that happens or when the decision is made, it just comes along and works. I’m as happy to hang in there in the studio whether it pans out or not. I’ll put down an idea – good, bad or indifferent. But I’m there because it’s The Prodigy, and that’s part of the process.