Last Sunday I sat down with Keith Flint, the lead singer of The Prodigy, for a meal at a local pub. We spoke about festivals, young blood and the wall of death and this is what was said.
In previous interviews you’ve said your music is a reaction to what’s going on around you, what kind of thing could this be and is there anything at the moment?
Keith: That can be anything from the atmosphere your recording it in, so like the studio can be very sterile because obviously it’s a sound proof box so the vibe is down to the people in there, so it meant that we could break out and go into Notting Hill and soak up some of the market if it was on, or go into record shops, so it energises you to go back into the studio and brings the energy to the music. Playing live is always the best reminder of why you’re writing the music; you know when you’re in the studio it is a very sterile environment and sometimes it can be very boring if Liam’s just working on some beats and bits and pieces. As much as they’re always exciting, not every minute of recording time can be like that.
So going back to what you were saying about performing live, do you prefer performing at festivals or your own gigs?
Keith: The summer is predominately festivals and then come the end of the summer, we usually do a European tour and then a UK tour and pick up other places that we haven’t been to, so I think one compliments the other because you do the festivals and that’s brilliant. 'The festival vibe’, it's summer, you get to see all the other acts and sometimes if you’re lucky enough to be playing with other bands that you're into, you can almost get there and watch like you’re a fan, then go and do what you love doing. It’s not as intimate because the numbers are so big and it is big stages and big productions, so then you really want to go back inside and do small venues, really intimate and hot and sweaty. So you need one, then need the other. I like Brixton Academy, I think that’s what I really prefer on the whole.
Does your music have to change from festivals to your own gigs? Does the same vibe carry through?
Keith: You do try and cater the line-up and set. If it’s a rocky line up or more of a dance line up, you kind of tweak the set a bit to be one way or the other. Generally we’re quite lucky, we seem to kind of stretch across the two quite well so we can usually find a set that works.
Your music doesn’t only adapt to where you perform but who you perform to too, how do you feel about a new generation fans coming along?
Keith: Its essential, I think. All the younger fans coming in, it’s the life blood of the band. You see the new blood down the front. I think when we were a really young band, fresh out the block, we used to be really excited about mature people like older punks coming to the show and now it’s twisted the other way, we're excited about seeing the young kids down the front. That front row is the energy, that’s what gives you the buzz, without that going off it wouldn’t seem the same.
What are your thoughts on the wall of death? Because I was watching one of the videos of it on your website and it looks crazy.
Keith: You’ve got the ‘wall of death’ where the crowd splits and they all charge at each other and then you have a ‘wall of death’ with the motor bikes. It has a kind of double meaning for us and we quite liked that. When you look out at the crowd and see those guys going at it and you watch some of the films where the camera man is in the mosh pit, God that’s not a job I’d want, it's madness in there, only for the brave! It’s also very important to us and the crew that anyone coming over the pit is well looked after and put back into the crowd. Sometimes you see people coming over 5 to 6 times, the energy of getting back out there and getting back into it is immense.
How do you cope with the next few days after a big gig or tour? How do you adjust back to normality, whatever that is for you?
Keith: When you’re working it comes in big blocks and becomes quite relentless. You get into a flow one day after the other, but it’s actually quite easy now after doing it for so long to be able to go back and chill out, hang out with the lads and it’s actually pretty normal now. People often think where you’re so charged on stage you’re unable to sleep, but when you’re actually on tour, it’s so tiring that you’re actually looking forward to your bed.
You’re very energetic on stage, what do you do to keep fit?
Keith: I mountain bike to keep fit and I run. I like running, do a bit of boxing but nothing competition wise, but it’s just something you have to do a lot to keep up the pace, sometimes it feels like it’s more part of my job to keep fit than I am doing it because I want to. You feel very disappointed if you go on stage and you’re not fit enough and you don’t feel like you give it. You feel like you’re letting people down. But yeah it keeps me occupied, keeps me out of trouble! [Laughs]
You said earlier about being in the recording studio, how do you start tracks - does Liam start then everyone pitches in?
Keith; Liam writes all the music, without him there wouldn’t be music. He might have an idea to put in the vocal and then I’ll go in and see what I can do, then we will all sit down together. There’s no real rules, Maxim may then turn up and we all put our ideas in as a collaborative. Liam writes the whole carcass of the music, he knows what we're about and the sound as a group we like to create, I wish I could write as well as him.
Which track would you say properly sums up what the band is about best?
Keith: That’s a hard question, I love the fresher music like ‘The Days my Enemy’ and ‘Spitfire’, and I love the big slamming tracks. I suppose ‘Smack my Bitch Up’ sums up not only the euphoric electric sound, but also the big beats and the bass, we’ve played it ever since it was written so I’d say it really sums it up best.
So what’s next?
Keith: We’re in the studio at the moment. Liam’s has just done one of the tracks for Trainspotting, the Iggy Pop track. I don’t know if there will be another album as such but there will be more music out. Writing a new album is a bit daunting and we take a long time writing them, so it will probably be a case of trickling out a few tracks here and there. Liam’s in the studio every day and as there is no pressure to release another album it is easier, whereas if we said we were going to, it would probably take another four years! [laughs]
I thanked Keith for his time and for speaking with me and we look forward to hearing those new tracks starting to bang out.