Inimitable English electronic trio The Prodigy – pioneers of the big beat sound which erupted out of acid house in the ’90s – release their vicious new album No Tourists this month. Founder and songwriter Liam Howlett gives STACK the skinny.
You’ve said Fight Fire With Fire was the first song you wrote for the record; its pace is slow compared some of your other (more frenetic) bangers, which suggests that from the get-go you were relaxed and confident going in to creating this record. Was that the case?
Liam Howlett: It was the first track I wrote on this album, yeah, but at that time I wasn’t sure if it was gonna go on the H09909 album or our album. We talked it over and once it was finished it fitted in with the feel and flow of the Prodigy album. I don’t collaborate with too many people, but when I heard H09909 I knew coming together on a tune would be fire.
I didn’t have the pressure of thinking it was for the Prodigy album, so there was a freeness in writing it. Once I had finished that, I was on a flow. People who know what I am about will know I came from hip hop, so it’s always good to rock a slower beat for me.
Had H09909 already been mates of yours for a long time before this collaboration?
No; I’d heard of them when they first came out. [MC and vocalist] Maxim had seen them play live too. We just had respect for each other and spoke the same language…
“The want and need to be derailed” is one of the core visions which inspired the album (and informs its title). Do you think the fact we’ve become lazier and less explorative can be blamed on the modern era? Or is it more likely to just happen when we get older and prone to thinking we already have all the answers?
I think it is to do with the modern era, yeah – it’s not about age. It’s just simply a reminder to not allow yourself to fall into the tourist path. But we really don’t care… do what you want. We are talking about ourselves more than anyone else. It’s about escapism.
Where do the main vocal and glass smashing samples from Need Some1 come from, and did they begin as the song’s cornerstones?
I made them. I spent a whole day smashing loads of sh-t up and recording it. It was kind of therapeutic I guess. It’s a sound that to me is The Prodigy. The vocal is Loleatta Holloway. When I hear even the smallest bit of her vocal it takes my mind back to a certain time period, which I like with this tune, smashed together with a dangerous, fresh beat. Some tunes I write are just simple, and work, and this was one of them.
The little springy instrument that creeps up and down over three notes in Light Up The Sky’s pre-chorus sounds like the same sound which plays the riff in your ’97 hit Breathe. Does it feel like a signature?
Yes – the album has a few references to our past, but I wanted to make sure it still felt fresh to my ears. The thing is, we have carved out a sound – a sound we created – and we don’t feel like we ever have to change direction or reinvent ourselves. This is the sound of The Prodigy… we want it to always feel fresh and alive, but not retro. We aren’t into retro…
The front of the ‘No Tourists’ bus on the album cover displays a destination card with the address of the first live venue you ever played at: The Four Aces. What do you remember about that show?
It was chaos. The building was actually falling down, there was rain coming through the roof… Loads of our friends came up to support us ’cause it was our first gig. It was the birth of something, that’s for sure. We didn’t know if it was gonna work, but it did, and the guy got us back the following Saturday to play again. A few of our cars got broken into, but we didn’t give a f-ck ’cause The Prodigy, as a thing, had just been created onstage.
No Tourists is out November 2 via BMG.
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