They're all up to it, of course. That Prodigy lot. Liam's off making damn-ace mix-albums. Keith off racing scary motorbikes. Leeroy's in the middle of a solo album. And Maxim - he of the kilt, the cat's eyes and demoniacal on-stage behaviour - is ready to unleash his own solo-project this autumn. The awesome, quietly ferocious, minimal hip hop of My Web EP, released on XL this month, is just a taster of what's to come. Describing his tunes as "obscure fucked-up musci with lyrics on it" and hinting at collaborations on the album (one's with Poetic of the Gravediggaz, one's with a "famous black British soul singer", while another is with "a fomous white male singer"), this is something he's been wanting to do much of his life. "I've always been writing music," he shrugs, too serene for this nasty big city-chain bar we're sat in. "You should come round mine and have a look! You'll see cassettes and cassettes of songs, and books and books of lyrics - stacks of 'em!"
Maxim now lives in Essex, where The Prodigy all stay within a ten-minute radius of each other. But he's originally from Peterborough, growing up in a multi-racial community which has had a big effect on the music 30-year-old is making. "The community was really integrated - black, white, Asian - so a lot of my friends were skinheads and rude boys. And then I had other mates who were into northern soul or punk. I may have grown up on the raggae scene. But I grew up in all the scenes, really. " Inspired by his older brother to take up MC'ing ("I'd be trying to impress his friends, you know")
Keith Palmer took the name Maxim Reality, bought a dictionary and thesaurus, and got seriously into lyrics. "I was analysing lyrics in such detail. The dtuff I was writing at the time was all about real-life. I didn't pick the name because I thought it sounded cool. It was because of a reason. " And while Maxim, the solo-artist, owes a hell of a lot from being with The Prodge - "Liam opened me out to dance music, my way of writing totally changed" - he feels his own project is giving him back something he's been missing for the past eight years. "When I was younger I used to write lyrics every day. If I'd have stayed on top of it, I'd probably have been quite good! I think the dance scene took something away from me. But it also added something. " It certainly gave him the change to be himself. "On stage, I realised I could lose myself a bit more.
You know, people say I'm wild on stage, but I'm not wild, that's just me. " For now, he's not thinking of taking his solo project live. "I keep the two things very seperate. The Maxim on stage is one side of my personality comming accross. This is another. This is my reserved, at home side. It's Maxim vibe. And it feels good to simply express my self on vinyl. " Still, he admits that a lot of his own 'vibe' is pretty dark stuff. Like My Web - which is about him being ensnared by his alter-ego. "Everybody's got that side. They just don't know how to delve into it. And when I'm creative it's the side I dip into. I couldn't write a happy song. It's not deliberate. It's not like I automatically think of something sinister. It's funny, my cousin always says to me - what is it with you? I have this statue of the grim reaper in my kitchen and he's like, 'That's evil!'" Isn't it? "Nah! It's not evil! It's beatiful! Only reason I got it, actually, was because of this white label I did about five years ago where I called myself the Grim Reaper. " It's one thing to have 500 anonymous whitelabels drifting through the country (check that record box now).
It's another, of course, to release a solo work after already having become super-world-famous in one of this decade's biggest bands. But it's a case of been there, done that, rather than a cause for concern. "Obviously people will have certain expectations. But I've had too many downers from journalists while being in the Prodigy to care. I write music for myself, not other people, and I'm 100 percent happy in what I do. I enjoy this, being on my own, the solitude, getting to know myself a bit more. But I also get withdrawal symptoms, the need to see the others and do a show - keep the buzz alive. " And his dream? "There's no dream I want to fulfill as such. Maybe that 'dream' hasn't entered my heads yet. The thing is, your dreams always carry on. What else do you have to live for?"