In the nearly three years since The Fat Of The Land pummeled nearly two million American butts, Prodigy chairman Liam Howlett has been busy with real life. The Prodigy continued to tour the planet in support of the album through the end of '98. Earlier this year, Howlett compiled his DJ mix release Prodigy Present: The Dirtchamber Sessions Vol. 1 (Beggars Banquet/XL), and followed it with a handful of "spinning" dates at assorted European raves, while shunning invites to drive the wheels of steel in American cities.
"I had it set in my mind that I was going to take a year off to reevaluate things and drag up some new inspirations," Howlett says from his home in Essex, England. "It didn't make any sense to go right into the studio after being on tour for so long. And I wasn't interested in touring solo (as a DJ). I like being with the guys and being part of a gang. I needed to go away and experience a few things and get some new input. "
Which is why Howlett doesn't want to raise hopes that there will be a new Prodigy album in 2000. There's nothing wrong in Prodigy World; the band -- Howlett, flamboyant frontman Keith Flint, commanding rapper Maxim and raging mascot Leeroy Thornhill -- are merely exploring other avenues until the time comes to slam down their fourth album. But that doesn't mean that Howlett & Co. have discovered free jazz, bossa nova, or post-rock. He just wants to take Prodigy to the next level.
"For me, it's important that the next album has the same feel and the same rough sound and production," he continues. "But it has to develop a bit more. If you look at our history, you'll see we've always repeated ourselves but we've always managed to sound fresh. The formula has always been the same; it's about the energy. I don't want to lose what we're all about; I just want [the next record] to be more intelligent. "
So you have no problem delivering "Smack My Bitch Up Like You Did Two Summers Ago"?
"I've always said that you've got to be intelligent to play dumb," he opines. "And I think [that song] was the ultimate dumb record. And I never said it was anything else. "
Howlett recently completed work on a track with Massive Attack member Robert Del Naja (aka 3D), which Howlett describes as "the most uplifting track I've recorded in years. People thing that we come from completely different directions, but his attitude [toward music] is just the same as mine. " Howlett says he's been purchasing loads of records, but finds no inspiration in any of them. He cites an advance listen of the impending Oasis album as "really good," rates the as-yet-unreleased Primal Scream record as "fucking great," and enthusiastically endorses Death In Vegas' The Contino Sessions.
So, Liam, will music be this bleak in the next millennium?
"I've got mixed feelings about the millennial thing," he admits. "I'll be locked up in a studio for most of the year, so it'll be interesting to see what comes out. But I hope to steer clear of it, to be honest. There's a lot of crap records due next year!"