The beginnings of The PRODIGY

The musical force behind the sound of The Prodigy is Liam Howlett, from Braintree in Essex, England. He was born in 1971 and grew up with his father and sister. Liam is trained as a classical pianist, as you can hear in many songs, he is very fast on the keyboard.

Liam's fascination with music began in grade school, when he fell in love with Ska and Two Tone. Moving on to high school, he was immediately drawn to hip-hop culture, fascinated by bands like Grandmaster Flash & the Furiuos Five.

THE PRODIGY

THE PRODIGY

The PRODIGY in summer 1988

Inevitably, Howlett wanted to play his own material. A few years later, a vacation job at a construction site earned him enough money to buy two inexpensive turntables. Soon after, a local hip-hop group called Cut 2 Kill took him on board as their second DJ.

Cut 2 Kill signed to Tam Tam Records. But the deal ruled out Liam, despite the band using one of his tracks to win the deal. This betrayal coincided with Liam's waning interest in hip-hop. Following an incident where a knife was pulled at him at London's Subterania because he "did not fit in", he began to seek new musical pastures. It was summer 1988.

 

The PRODIGY from Hip Hop to the House

While Liam was immersed in hip-hop, his home country was on a whole different journey - Acid House. As pure house music tempered its rhythmic obsession by incorporating more melodies and harmonies, Acid House took the beat to new extremes, using technology to create beats that could never be simulated by humans.

Hailing from Chicago and Detroit, the music quickly crossed the Atlantic and took root via massive illegal warehouse parties that formed the basis of what has come to be known as rave. It was the days of smart bars, marathon dancing and a recycled hippie mantra - the second Summer Of Love had arrived.

Liam's first experience of rave culture was a barn party in Rayne (home of Mr. C of the Shamen). He immediately converted, “I thought it was bullshit, such a different experience than I was used to. Hip-hop was such an exclusive, pretentious scene, and to some extent it always excluded white bands. experiencing something like that first night at the barn was such a stark contrast, I really loved the music and the whole vibe.

 

THE PRODIGY

THE PRODIGY

 

I had never liked dancing so much, but it didn't matter, because you could enjoy it, you didn't 'don't need to dance right'. Within a few months, Liam had started DJing at these parties and had become a household name on the Essex scene. However,

Enter Leeroy Thornhill and Keith Flint. Leeroy, all 6'7 "from him, was a James Brown fanatic who only took to the rave scene after the monotonous Acid House developed into something more sophisticated. With his height and lightning-fast feet, he was the person to dance with in the barn.

 

The PRODIGY: Keith Flint

Keith Flint had left school before his exams and held various jobs (including one as an investigative driller), before becoming an "occasional" and then a biker culture enthusiast, smoking drugs and listening to legends of the 70s like Led Zeppelin and Floyd. When Rave arrived in the summer of 88 he was traveling in the Middle East and Africa, but by the spring of 1989 he was back in Britain.

Upon his return, he was immediately kicked out of his home - one night he was sleeping next to the pyramids in Cairo, the next day he was jumping next to a river in Braintree. One of her friends, Ange, offered to search her home. She was an avid raver, and when she next went to a party at the acid house, Keith went with her.

It was then during an outdoor rave that Keith first met Liam. Keith was so impressed with the tunes Liam was playing that he requested a tape of his own mix.

Liam obligated and put four of his own songs on the B side. Keith and Leeroy played the tape late that night and after coming back from a late night and were blown away by Liam's work. As Leeroy deftly remembers, "We were humming our breasts."

 

THE PRODIGY

THE PRODIGY

 

The next time they saw Liam, they asked him to play his own material so they could dance with them. He agreed, and after donning a girlfriend, Sharky, The Prodigy was formed. Liam played keyboards, while Keith, Leeroy and Sharky danced.

Shortly after, they booked their first PA at the Labyrinth in Dalston, East London, where the promoter told them, “I've only had two PAs here before and they were both bottled after. five minutes ".

Liam had felt that an MC was needed for the performance and was put in contact with Maxim Reality (aka Keeti Palmer), a reggae MC, originally from Peterborough, who had spent the last three years in Nottingham. Maxim got into MC-ing at the age of 14, watching his brother (MC Starkey) MC -ing in various sound systems in Peterborough. Once in Nottingham, Maxim had formed a successful musical partnership with a friend called Ian Herwood, and the two had christened each other Maxim Reality and Sheik Yan Groove.

Unfortunately their brand of unorthodox dance music was very old fashioned and after three fruitless years they went their separate ways. Maxim had enjoyed working with Sherwood, so he traveled for three months to relax and think about his future.

 

The PRODIGY: First concert

During his absence he realized that music was his first passion, and so upon his return to England he moved to London. Shortly after, a mutual friend put him in contact with The Prodigy.

Tapes were sent back and forth, but their first gig in Dalston was so brief that the first time Maxim met the band was on the night of the show.

Maxim remembers it as an interesting experience: “I just remember being put on this stage in the middle of what was a dance scene with four people I had just met, and I was just standing at the back with a microphone chatting several times.

Meanwhile, the rest if the band did their shit and everyone went wild, it just happened. It all happened so fast it was weird, but really good. I thought it was really mean but I didn't think of anything anymore that I wanted to do it again. Maxim did it again - a few days later, he was asked to join the group on a permanent basis.

 

THE PRODIGY

THE PRODIGY

 

The PRODIGY: first line up

With this line-up, The Prodigy started doing what few dance numbers before them had done - they played. Their first shows were sometimes uncrowded, such as their fifth concert at Hatfield College where there were only nine people in the crowd, including five staff.

Conversely, their twelfth concert took place at Raindance, a massive rave attended by 12,000 people. What made The Prodigy exceptionalis that their show was live, unlike the DAT dependent PAs of their contemporaries.

 

First demo tape and recording contract for The PRODIGY

Liam Howlett created a first 10-track demo, mounted on a Roland W-30 music workstation in Essex, England. Prior to Christmas 1990, XL Recordings took over the demo after Howlett played several tracks to XL boss Nick Halkes at a reunion, and a first pressing of 12 "What Evil Lurks" was released in February 1991.

He nevertheless continued to work at »Metropolitan« as a graphic designer. At the time, he hadn't been too sure how the other members of the group were going to play their particular roles. the news had been kept from them. But now on the proof of their recent concerts,

 

he was convinced that The Prodigy was the right vehicle to bring his music to a wider audience. However, for Sharky, the idea of even more group engagements was too much, and so she left for Christmas.

The name The Prodigy was chosen by Liam as a tribute to his first analog synthesizer, the Moog Prodigy.

Now down to four tracks, The Prodigy continued to play nonstop to support the "What Evil Lurks" EP. They were rewarded with sales of 7,000 copies and massive underground distribution.

It was an impressive start. In an attempt to tighten up their live show, the group reunited at Liam's one afternoon to rehearse. However, far from the vibe and atmosphere of the shows, with hundreds if not thousands of people dancing to their music, the band found the situation impossible.

After 20 minutes of uncomfortable arguments and reshuffles from Leeroy and Keith, they called him a day. The Prodigy has never rehearsed since.

The PRODIGY: Charly

"Charly", released just six months after the "What Evil Lurks" EP, became a huge hit in the rave scene at the time.

Back then, Liam used to party until late, then come home and write material while still being in the party mood.

It is this method that produced The Prodigy's next single, "Charly". After watching a '70s children's information film, featuring a strange tortoiseshell cat and her baby performer pal, Liam added the line "Charly always says tell your mom before you go somewhere" to a hard and innovative back-beat.

“I thought it was so hilarious,” Liam says. “It was bullshit. I thought if I made that sound really harsh it would end up with something totally new. "

 

The band had played various raggae-style mixes of the track since their first concert at the Labyrinth, but it was the more difficult version of Liam (Alley Cat Mix) that captured the imagination of audiences. By the time of its release in August 1991, pre-orders were huge and the resulting rush in sales propelled "Charly" to number 3 on the UK Singles Chart, catapulting the band into public attention.

The video was featured on "Top of the Pops" and "The Chart Show," and the band performed in front of 30,000 spectators at the upcoming perception rave. Soon after, Liam gave up his day job.

Following the release of the hit single 'Charly', the charts included various 'hardcore' rave tracks that contained cartoon samples, to which clubbers fueled by speed and ecstasy danced, but which did not attract critics. publications of the time.

Examples were tracks such as "A Trip to Trumpton" by Urban Hype and "Sesame's Treet" by Smart E (as in Ecstasy), inciting ad death to the underground "hardcore rave" scene, according to a number of critics associated scene. As a result, "Charly," in the midst of being titled after a contemporary reference to cocaine, with its memorable sample of the children's public information films "Charley Says," saw The Prodigyy briefly identified by critics as "Kiddie rave" or "

 

 

The PRODIGY: Everybody in the place »

With the huge success of "Charly", the Prodigy roller coaster really started to pick up speed. Having already established themselves as the first name to emerge from the rave scene, they were now in demand for live performances.

Their third single, "Everybody in the Place", released in December 1991, was accompanied by European and American dates, followed by the signing of the American label Elektra. At the same time, Liam's musical prowess was recognized by being invited to remix Art of Noise, Dream Frequency, and Take That (he turned down Gary and his pals).

Everything seemed to be going remarkably well - until, that is, the negative impact of an outrageous press ax job set them back for a while. A dance magazine had claimed that "Charly" had opened the floodgates of the so-called "children's rave", which they said was making this important subculture a laughing stock. Despite this irritating setback, The Prodigy continued to grow.

After their fourth single, "Fire", maintained its uninterrupted run in the charts, they released their first double album - "The Prodigy Experience". It was comfortably the best album to come out of the rave scene.

With a 23 date tour to support the record, the band continued to perform relentlessly, and the combination of unique music and hard work rewarded them with an album number 12, which remained in the top 40. for six months (it quickly turned platinum). This period should have heralded their most productive period to date, but by the time they had toured the album in Europe, America, Australia and Japan, they had become deeply in debt and were on the verge of going their separate ways.

Starting with dates in Australia, the band's schedule only allowed them two days off in a month and a half. To make matters worse, many shows were poorly promoted and the majority of US promoters did not pay. On top of the poor tour conditions and improper billing, the whole experience turned out to be a nightmare.

The last singles from the debut album were "Out of Space" and "Wind it Up" which, despite the band's mediocrity, continued The Prodigy's beautiful tradition of Top 20 Hits.

 

 

 

However, by the time they had started to recover from their American nightmare, Liam was wary that the group was in danger of being dragged along by the dying rave scene. Things had to change.

The problem was that, with the band's massive commercial success, many underground critics called them “sell-outs”, and they found it increasingly difficult to get their records to play on the DJ circuit.

So, in the summer of 1993, they released their new white label single under the pseudonym "Earthbound" (the name of Liam's home studio at the time). The lysergic and anthemic minimalism of the track was a radical change, as Liam recalls "One Love was a big leap. It was more of an air house, less breakbeats, and it could have lost all of us who were following us before for the breakbeat element.

In a way, the whole scene at that point was confusing and uncertain, and it fell into different categories, with one set of DJs going one way and others going elsewhere. "

"I did not want to get involved in all domestic politics," he continues. “It would have restricted me creatively, I would have been too limited. So "One Love" came from that. The B-Side incorporated the Jonny L mix, which was more techno German with a touch of breakbeat, so it was still a hard drive.

The whole EP was a strong sign that we wanted to do things differently. I realized that the group had to progress and evolve, that I had to come back to the music and evolve. "

It was the turning point in The Prodigy's career. Vitally, this gave Liam a free license to experiment on the second album, which he started working on in late 1993. While working with Liam on this album, Neil McLellan noticed his unique writing approach.

“I can tell Liam was tightening himself on a leash, that he wanted to go further and heavier. Once he entered the studio, I realized very quickly that I was dealing with a unique writer. His approach is really weird, and I've never seen everyone write music the way Liam does. It plays everything manually, rather than looping sections all the time.

It's amazing to watch, and can be so quick. There is nothing traditional about his work. The point to remember is this: it's really easy to write bad electronic music, because anyone can sit at a computer, but writing good electronic music is very, very difficult. Liam does this. "

 

 

The PRODIGY: the second album

The release was preceded by the band's best track to date, the 150bpm techno of "No Good (Start the Dance)", which was accompanied by a great video of a seedy underground party that earned the band a big show at MTV. Despite the continued success of the singles and the surge of live support, no one could have imagined the response that greeted The Prodigy's second album, “Music for the Jilted Generation”.

It went straight to number 1 on the album charts, and was subsequently nominated for a Mercury Award and has sold over a million copies worldwide.

 

 

In the very contemporary context of the fight against the criminal justice bill, it was a propulsive modern dance record and an otherworldly opus with layers upon layer of fractured patterns, supremely organized hooks, neat arrangements, bridges and purlins, all forming an immense height of tension and emotion.

It was a lot more dynamic and dark than the linear tunes from the first album.

There were a lot of heavy breakbeats, jazz-funk grooves, manic guitars, a return to hip-hop (Poison) and a hard dance piece (No Good Start the Dance).

Throughout the record, the sampled dialogues and twisted snatches of vocals helped evoke a range of moods and ideas, interwoven with a subtle, antisocial controversy and a deceptive delicacy of production and writing. It was an expression of auditory hedonism that informed one of the most remarkable dance records ever written.

The response from critics has been as frantic as that from the record-buying public. NME called Liam a "modern day Beethoven", and there was hardly a bad review in sight.

The album's success was bolstered by the fact that on average The Prodigy performed a concert every three days in 1994, all over the world. They even performed in front of a huge crowd in Iceland and won the “Best Dance Number” award at the MTV Awards.

 

Festivals and The PRODIGY

They also started performing at major festivals, including the Feile Festival in Ireland (attended by 35,000 people), and have since established themselves as one of the best festival groups in the country. With the album's four singles in the Top 15 ("Voodoo People" hit # 11 and "Poison" got # 8), it was a period of universal success for the band, and with the voice of Maxim used for the first time on "Poison", the musical possibilities for the group have further increased.

1995 was devoted to solidifying their reputation as "the greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world" by playing numerous festivals and even more concerts. (Their performance at Glastonbury 1995 has been hailed as "The Greatest Show on Earth").

The first taste of the new material from their third album came in March 1996 with the release of "Firestarter", a techno technique. hardcore and industrial, in which dancer Keith Flint took the limelight with his sneer and maniacal voice.

Despite its extreme nature, the radio play she received was huge, and the track crashed at number 1 in When the video for the song aired on 'Top of the Pops', the BBC received a big hit. number of complaints from angry parents that Keith was too scary to watch in the early evening, despite the fact that there were no drugs, weapons or violence. , or swear were featured in the video.

A letter raged “This young man clearly needs urgent medical attention. "Despite this, or more likely because of it, the record sold over 750,000 copies in less than six weeks,"

 

The PRODIGY and Geffen

With the band signing a huge contract with Geffen in America, the Prodigys are proof that the “no compromise” punk ethic endures in their attitudes towards business and their often extreme music. Despite their accomplishments, the group continues to shy away from publicity and avoid any pitfalls of the fame game.

1999 saw the release of Prodigy's The Dirtchamber Sessions Volume One, a DJ mix album by Howlett, produced as the official record of a successful appearance on UK Radio 1. In June of the same year, when the band had arguably reached his commercial peak, they parted ways with guitarist Gizz Butt.

After 1999, Thornhill left the band after separating from Sara Cox due to the risk of a nervous breakdown, resulting in the band's website being replaced with their logo and the words “We will be back…” on a black background, which would remain until 'in 2002.

They still control their own merchandise and have absolute authority over record releases, tours, videos and virtually every aspect of their operations. With Liam having the ability to write, design, produce, and master an album in his own studio, The Prodigy demystified and streamlined the record-making process.

They are real electronic punks, the start of a long career.

 

The Prodigy studio albums

  • Experience (1992) - THE PRODIGY
  • Music for the Jilted Generation (1994) - THE PRODIGY
  • The Fat of the Land (1997) THE PRODIGY
  • Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned (2004) - THE PRODIGY
  • Invaders Must Die (2009) - THE PRODIGY
  • The Day Is My Enemy (2015) - THE PRODIGY
  • No Tourists (2018) - THE PRODIGY

 

Members of The Prodigy

  • Liam Howlett - keyboards, synthesizers, programming, laptop, computer, samples, sequencers, turntables, drum machines (since 1990)
  • Maxim Reality - MC, beatboxing, singer (since 1990)
  • Keith Flint - dance (1990–2019; died 2019); lead vocals (1996–2019)

 


 

Eric CANTO Photographer: Concert photos, portraits, album covers.

 

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