Alternative Press

Tables Turning

Prodigy founder Liam Howlett has assembled a DJ master-mix album of cut collisions. Adam Heimlich smacks his pitch up.

"That's all it's meant to be - a laugh," says Prodigy's Liam Howlett, not laughing. He made a b-boy-style DJ mix for a Radio One show called "Breeze Block," but it was so well received that Howlett decided to release it as a stop-gap Prodigy album, marking the end of the Fat of the Land period and the start of what would come next. After a quick edit to excise old rap songs that'd been based on never-cleared sample material, the session became Prodigy Present: The Dirtchamber Sessions Volume One (XL/Beggars Banquet).

"It's got that ropey kind of quality," Howlett says of Dirtchamber's rugged and raw sensibility. "It's not supposed to be a seamless mix - just two turntables and an ADAT [recorder]. "

There's an amazing amount of material packed into Howlett's non-stop, crazily overlapping genre hop (imagine going from Beastie Boys to Sex Pistols to KRS-One to Uptown and back in a New York minute). "All I wanted it to be was [a record of] my inspirations -- music I've grown up on, that helped me write my own music," explains Howlett.

Turns out he's no stranger to the game. Howlett's path to the rave pantheon was not through house or through techno, but through rap.

"I was into it from when I was 15," he reports. "I saw some American DJs in London in '86, at a show called UK Fresh '86. They had word of mouth featuring DJ Cheese [whose track "King Kut" shines through the Dirtchamber maelstrom]. I had to spend my summer holiday working on a building site to save up enough money to buy turntables. "

Howlett entered a London contest for the title"Mixmaster of the Year. " He cut a tape and sent it in, but soon decided he could do better. The entry deadline hadn't yet passed, so Howlett cut another tape and sent it in under a different name. "I came in first and third," he recalls with a chuckle.

An even better laugh might be had trying to watch Howlett's competition keep up with him.

"I've got a problem with club DJs," he says flatly. "When I was into hip hop I was totally fascinated by cutting and scratching. I learned to do that first. Then, when I went into a club environment, I was overqualified. [Today] there are a lot of DJs who don't make their own music. They're big stars and make all kinds of money, just from playing other people's music. [This record] is about giving some insight into hip hop culture. It's a final stamp to say this is what it's about, for me. "


Fix It With The Mix: Liam Howlett's Favorite DJ Albums

Double D and Steinski - History of Hiphop: Lessons One, Two and Three
    "The authority on a whole style of mixing. "

Big Apple Productions - Genius At Work, Volume One
     "A real mishmash -- loads of electro-tracks, almost like a history of hip hop.
 Came out in '86, I reckon. Volumes two and three I wasn't into so much. "

Coldcut - Beats and Pieces
     "Absolutely wicked. It's got a Led Zeppelin break running all the way through it. "

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five - The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels of Steel
     "The one that got me started - the real inspiration. "

DJ Mackintosh - various UK street mixes
     "One of the first white DJs - he won the DMC championships in '85. He was also the judge of the competition I won. "

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