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Electronic Pioneers The Prodigy Regroups

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Friday, May 22, 2009

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When the members of The Prodigy saw Friday's (May 22) Fillmore Detroit show on their limited North American tour itinerary, they assumed it was just another stop in the Motor City.

But vocalist Keith Flint says that learning the show is the official opening party for the Movement 2009 festival makes it a little more exciting.

“We knew there was some kind of dance festival, but we didn’t know its significance,” says Flint, 39, the voice behind The Prodigy’s breakthrough 1996 hit “Firestarter.” “Now that we do, we’ll look at it and maybe put a set together in respect to that.

“But I must admit, we take everything seriously. We do try and make the set as right as it can be for where we’re playing, no matter what.” That ethos has certainly kept The Prodigy on the leading tip of the electronic music world since Liam Howlett founded the group in 1990 in Essex, England. Populating a scene that also included the Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim, The Prodigy has released five studio albums — including this year’s “Invaders Must Die” — and has sold more than 17 million records worldwide, making it the genre’s most commercially successful act.

And even if “Firestarter” was a momentary blip on mainstream radio, club denizens have long been dancing to Prodigy fare such as “Charly,” “No Good (Start the Dance),” “Breathe,” “Smack That Bitch Up” and “Warrior’s Dance.”

“We had fans from day one,” explains Howlett, 37, “but a majority of the people who know the band, we picked up from ‘Firestarter’ onwards.

“We’re always explaining to people that the original idea of The Prodigy was we never wanted to be predictable ... like a normal band. The original idea was sampling culture, stealing things, using influences from hip-hop and stealing vocals and just finding something different to do each time out.”

Howlett admits that The Prodigy “almost didn’t survive the hype” generated by “Firestarter” — and Flint’s distinctive winged-hair coiffure — and Flint notes that the group went “through quite a rough period” in the hit’s wake. The Prodigy began to take its time between albums — seven years between 1997’s “The Fat of the Land” and 2004’s “Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned,” for instance, and another five leading up to “Invaders Must Die.” And neither Flint nor MC Maxim Reality, both original members, were part of “Always Outnumbered,” although Flint says that time apart was not contentious — or even apart, for that matter.

“As much as people think we split up or weren’t a band, we were still touring and still working in the studio together,” he explains. “We didn’t make the last album together, but we were there at points throughout the project. We weren’t banished from the studio or anything like that. We never said it was over.”

But, he acknowledges, “Things felt like they were winding down.”

The Prodigy was rejuvenated by, of all things, the 2005 compilation “Their Law: The Singles 1990-2005.” Rather than kindle nostalgia, Flint says, there was a sense of “is this all we’ve done?” He, Howlett and Reality decided to make the package “really good — as everything Prodigy is.” By the time they were done with a concerted period of work on their past, Flint says, “we were like, ‘Yes, we’re ready to record now. This is the time.”

“Invaders Must Die” — which debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard Electronic Album chart in early March — got its start from the anthemic single “Warrior’s Dance,” which The Prodigy originally composed to have something new to play at a festival date. Flint describes it as “the real old school, beat-thievery cut-and-paste kind of thing we used to do.” The song went over well with fans and was, according to Flint, “a springboard for the rest of the album.”

“I think we realized we have our own sound, and we shouldn’t be frightened of using it,” he recalls. “We knew that should be the sound of the album, which is why people say (‘Invaders’) sounds very much like early Prodigy.

“We didn’t at any stage want to write a retro album. The production makes it very current. We’re proud. We’re not just regurgitating the past; we’re trying to bring it into the present.”

The Prodigy and Dethlab performs at the Official Movement 2009 Opening Party at 8 p.m. Friday (May 22) at the Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave. Tickets are $75, $35 and $20. DJs Chuck Flask and Evan Evolution will spin in the adjacent State Bar as part of the event. Call (313) 961-5451 or visit www.livenation.com.

Web Site: www.livenation.com

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