Those boiling days of summer may be behind us, but you can rely on the original firestarters, The Prodigy to bring some heat as they close this year’s Victorious Festival with their UK exclusive headline slot on Sunday.
With six albums under their belts and 30m albums sold, the boys from Braintree, Essex, have become globe-straddling titans, with their distinctive brand of electronica, rock and rave.
Their 1997 album The Fat of The Land broke them around the world, hitting number one everywhere from Australia to the US, spawning UK number ones in Firestarter and Breathe as well as the controversial hit Smack My Bitch Up.
And in November they plan to release album number seven – No Tourists, an album heralded by the sudden arrival of the thunderous new track Need Some1 last month.
As mainman Liam Howlett says: ‘Need Some1 demonstrates the thing about our band that I love: it’s multi-sided. We have the freedom to drop a tune like this alongside tracks led by Keith and Maxim, and still represent what we are about in the same way.’
The song features a classic house diva sample from Loleatta Holloway – the original voice of Black Box’s ‘Ride On Time.
‘There’s always one element in our tunes that looks back to where we came from. When asked what the new album sounds like, my response is: evil rave. We own that sound.’
One thing the band – which sees Liam joined by his longstanding lieutenants, MC Maxim Reality and dancer and vocalist Keith Flint – has never stinted on is its aggression: ‘This album is equally aggressive as the last records – but in a different way.’
He expands on the album’s theme: ‘To us, No Tourists is ultimately about escapism and the want and need to be derailed. Don’t be a tourist – there is always more danger and excitement to be found if you stray from the set path. It’s not a warning – and it’s not about separating people. The world has become lazy and people have forgotten how to explore, a lot of people are happy to go along the same force-fed route, so it’s about reaching out to find a possible, more dangerous and exciting route forward, if you feel that.’
When asked how they’re pushing their sound this time, he says: ‘All envelopes are always pushed, there has always been a certain violence to our sound and it’s always been evil rave, we have always stuck to our sound and kept it raw. All these different names and descriptions are what journos come up with.
‘What I do know is that this new album bangs...’
The Prodigy have touched on political themes in the past – the 1994 track Their Law gave a robust response to the then-new Criminal Justice Act and remains a live staple. Is No Tourists political at all?
‘The band sometimes touches on political areas but never in an obvious way. I hate bands that push that, we are about escapism.’
While they have made fans wait up to seven years between albums in the past, this one comes a relatively spritely three years after The Day Is My Enemy. Asked what inspired the new album Liam initially gives a pithy one word reply: ‘Tequila.’ But adds: ‘I’ve got no control on when I get inspired to write music – it just so happened that I suddenly was in the zone and had written an album’s worth of songs that represented.’
Over the summer, besides finishing off the album, they have been playing a few European festivals. Their reputation as a live act goes before them, and as Liam says, it’s crucial to what they do.
‘That’s the one thing that brings everything together.I couldn’t write this music unless it has that outlet on stage. That helps write the musi c . This is what I do it for – the live thing. And until we feel like we can’t do it, or the buzz goes, we won’t stop.’
Last year saw the 20th anniversary of the Fat album. While many acts celebrate landmark anniversaries by playing albums in full on tour, you won’t see The Prodigy taking that route any time soon.
‘It’s because they are either damn lazy or can’t write new songs or want to cash in on their past, simple as that. As long as we have fresh ideas we won’t be doing that nonsense.’
Liam admits it’s not all rosy memories from that period of massive fame: ‘No it was painful too, but you need the highs and lows otherwise you get lazy. We burnt ourselves out in all ways, but we weren’t done and we still had the hunger to come back.’
Around 2000 dancer Leeroy Thornhill left the group and relationships were strained, but as Liam says now, things between the main trio are ‘great. We are brothers for life, we all have the deepest respect for each other.’
With everything they’ve achieved, what does keep the juggernaut rolling on? ‘We are The Prodigy, there’s no rules or pre-planning, we just kept it raw for the people.
‘It’s that unknown drive and hunger, none of us know why and we don’t want to, we ain’t gonna stop for anybody apart from ourselves, as long as we feel it we will do it.’
And with all of the festivals to pick these days, why Victorious?
‘We like to do different things we haven’t done before and I like the seaside. I might go by boat.’