What Evil Lurks
The ground breaking number-one single on the UK Singles Chart and The Prodigy's first big international hit that changed everything.
"Firestarter" was the first single from their third album The Fat of the Land, released on 18 March 1996. It was also their tenth single and the group's first number-one single on the UK Singles Chart, staying on top for three weeks, and their first big international hit, also reaching number in the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, and Norway. In 2020, British newspaper The Guardian ranked the song number eight on their list of "The 100 Greatest UK No 1 Singles".
It featured Flint's punky vocals which showcased him as the group's frontman. The songwriting credits include Kim Deal of alternative rock group the Breeders, as the looped wah-wah guitar riff in "Firestarter" was sampled from the Breeders' track "S.O.S." from the album Last Splash. The drums are sampled from a remix of the song "Devotion" of the group Ten City. The "hey" sample is from the 1984 song "Close (to the Edit)" by Art of Noise. Then-members Anne Dudley, Trevor Horn, J. J. Jeczalik, Gary Langan and Paul Morley also receive songwriting credits. The "Empirion Mix", which does not include these samples, is credited solely to Liam Howlett and Keith Flint.
The title and lyrics were subject of controversy in the UK because of their violent nature. The music video further boosted these controversies.
In October 2011, NME placed it at number 52 on its list "150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years". Following Flint's death on 4 March 2019, fans used the hashtag 'Firestarter4Number1' on various social media platforms to replicate the song's success by getting it to the number one spot again. This was done out of respect for Keith Flint and to raise awareness of suicide among men. During this time the single also returned to the Billboard charts, entering number 13 on its Dance/Electronic Digital Songs Sales chart in its 16 March 2019 issue, marking the first time that this song has appeared on a Billboard dance chart. In 2020, British newspaper The Guardian ranked "Firestarter" number eight on their list of "The 100 Greatest UK No 1 Singles". In 2022, Rolling Stone ranked it number 110 on their list of "200 Greatest Dance Songs of All Time".
I was listening to the Foo Fighters album and I think it's track #7, "Weenie Beenie," the punk track on the album. This is on the first album not the second one. I listened to it and I don't know where I was. I think it was either Macao or something like that. I had the album on and I was listening to it. And I was thinking it was a good track. The track is not a ground breaking track. It's just a good, solid rock track and I had that in my head. I don't know. I went into the studio to get something that had a similar type of energy. It wasn't like I want to write something like that because the two tracks are so different anyway.
I just basically laid the drums down first and tried to get the drums sounding really live and really big and basically getting the drum sound sounding as real as it could. And not too mechanical. With a good groove and stuff. Basically laid the drums down, laid the bass down. Then I think [singer/dancer] Keith [Flint] came 'round after that and he listened to the track. And basically we said this is an instrumental for the album. It's gonna be like an instrumental track, whatever. And he said to me, "Yeah, I really like that. I'd like to put some vocals on it. Can we have some vocals on it?" We were sitting there. "You want to do vocals?" And he was like "Yeah, yeah, I want to try and express myself on this track. " And it was like, well, fuck it, let's have a go at it.
Basically he wrote about five lines and then just kept repeating it over and over again on the mic. Then we both decided it worked. He went away. And that night I basically brought out lots more guitar sounds I had recorded before and basically laid them on the track and everything seemed to come together really quickly. And by the next day I finished the instrumental. And Keith came back around and we laid the vocals down and it was done in about three days.
- Liam Howlett
When Firestarter was released, all of the Prodigy's previous singles went back into the top 75!
In October 2011, NME placed it at number 52 on its list "150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years".
The song was also featured in the London Summer Olympic opening ceremony of 2012 representing music of the 1990s.
Many artists have covered ‘Firestarter’ including KISS co-founder/bassist Gene Simmons, who included a version on his 2004 second solo album, the appropriately titled ‘Asshole’.
27 May 2020 | The Guardian
The 100 greatest UK No 1s: No 8, The Prodigy – Firestarter
10 Apr 2020 | Madness To Creation
JIM DAVIES (THE PRODIGY, PITCHSHIFTER) Converses with Mark Dean on “Headwars” and his Illustrious Career”
04 Mar 2020 | Kerrang!
My Friend Keith Flint, The Voice Of A Jilted Generation
06 Mar 2019 | Kerrang!
Their Law: How The Prodigy Breathed New Life Into Rock
05 Mar 2019 | The Independent
Keith Flint death: The story behind 'Firestarter' – The Prodigy's first number one and their most famous song
07 Nov 2018 | Kerrang!
The Prodigy Thirty years of firestarting; one must-read interview
04 Nov 2018 | BBC
The Prodigy: 'We don't need to reinvent ourselves'
18 May 2015 | MusicTech magazine
Landmark Productions: The Prodigy – The Fat of the Land
05 Mar 2015 | ABC
The J Files: The Prodigy
04 Dec 2012 | MTV Hive
Dissecting the Prodigy: 25 Samples Behind 'The Fat of the Land'
21 May 2011 | The Guardian
The Prodigy didn't kill rave, they reanimated rock'n'roll
14 Oct 2005 | The Independent
The Prodigy and their prodigious talent
01 Sep 1999 | Spin Magazine
The 90 greatest albums of the 90's
01 Sep 1997 | Spin Magazine
It's only rock'n' roll
01 Sep 1997 | Select
This is dangerous
16 Aug 1997 | Melody Maker
01 Aug 1997 | VOX
Crash and Burn!
05 Jul 1997 | Kerrang!
28 Jun 1997 | NME
Selected LP, The Fat of The Land
22 May 1997 | Now
Prodigy jump off electronica bandwagon
01 Mar 1997 | The Mix
Playing with fire!
01 Jan 1997 | Melody Maker
Setting America Alight!
10 Dec 1996 | PointCast
Talent: The Prodigy
23 Nov 1996 | Kerrang!
Public Enemies Number One
01 Nov 1996 | Future Music
Favourite 50 - 1 Korg Prophecy
01 Oct 1996 | Sound On Sound
Liam Howlett • The Prodigy & Firestarter
02 Aug 1996 | Aftenposten
Platina til Prodigy
01 Apr 1996 | Select
24 March: Firestarter at the top of the hit parade
23 Mar 1996 | NME
House Of The Razing Arson
01 Mar 1996 | MTV Blah Blah Blah
White Heat, White Noise, White Out
01 Feb 1996 |
The Prodigy Alternative Dance Supergroup
01 Jan 1995 | The Face
The Future Sound of Essex
What Evil Lurks
Everybody In The Place
Out of Space
WInd It Up
No Good (Start The Dance)
Music For The Jilted Generation
The Fat Of The Land
Smack My Bitch Up
Prodigy Present: The Dirtchamber Sessions Volume One
The Prodigy Experience - Expanded: Remixes & B-sides
Baby's Got A Temper
Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned
Their Law: The Singles 1990–2005
Voodoo People / Out Of Space
Back To Mine
More Music For The Jilted Generation
Invaders Must Die
Take Me To The Hospital
Invaders Must Die EP
The Added Fat EP
The Day Is My Enemy
The Night Is My Friend EP
Light Up The Sky
The Fat Of The Land 25th Anniversary - Remixes
World's on Fire