The Prodigy’s Liam Howlett and Keith Flint, who performed in Malta this August, talk studio work, live gigs and Gozo raves with Ramona Depares. An edited version of this interview was published on The Sunday Times of Malta. All photos: Chris Farrugia Studios.
Lucca, 7pm. The whole town is buzzing with expectation and, even though it’s still a couple of hours to go before The Prodigy take the stage, crowds are already thronging the entrance points to Piazza Napoleone.
The setting is the Lucca Summer Festival and this year’s headliner is the electronic dance group that swooped the title of Most Influential Dance Act in a 2010 poll by Global Gathering. In three weeks’ time, this same group will be rocking the Malta Fairs and Conventions Centre in Ta’ Qali.
The Prodigy is one of the few bands whose following is mind-bogglingly diverse and includes sub-cultures that in other circumstances might shun each other. As old-school rockers rub shoulders with punks and teenage goth-heads, I see that I’m not the only one getting infected by the buzz.
A young man who appears to be in his mid-20s, The Prodigy tee-shirt in hand, is trying to sweet-talk security into allowing him inside the backstage area. Security is not impressed. When it’s my turn I nervously flash my pass and heave a sigh of relief when it works. One step closer to my interview.
We enter the production area and, almost immediately, Liam Howlett and Keith Flint, two-thirds of The Prodigy, come over.
Maxim, the third member, is in the process of finishing up before joining us for a quick photo-shoot, we are told.
I introduce myself and, as soon as I mention the word ‘Malta’, the guys’ eyes light up.
“We love it there. You guys are great party people, that’s for sure,” Flint says.
“Yeah, the Maltese were already kicking it by the time we started,” Howlett agrees.
He is, of course, referring to The Prodigy’s first gig in Malta back in 2010.
“It was really exciting to see that this big party was already going on. It was not quite what you expect. We knew the guys from [Maltese-born opening act] South Central and we knew they’d smash it, so we were aware that the Maltese are in touch with their music,” Flint continues.
At this point, Howlett starts reminiscing about a week that he spent in Gozo “many, many years ago”.
“I had gone on holiday and, while there, I went to a rave. So we always knew that Malta is where it all happens, even though this was years and years ago.”
As enjoyable as it is exchanging Gozo stories with the two artists, I steer the conversation to their upcoming album, which has been scheduled for a late 2014 release.
The band has already previewed at least five tracks – Jet Fighter, AWOL, AWOL Beats, New Beats and Spitfast – in their live concerts. Will they be including new material in their Malta set? Howlett assures me they will.
“As we move closer to the release of the album, we are popping even more bits and pieces. Obviously we don’t want to give away too much, because when the album comes out we want it to sound fresh. At the moment we are in the studio finishing things off and that’s what we are going to be focusing on after this tour.”
What about the name? Flint laughs and shakes his head when I press him for a hint.
Although the trio had originally fixed on How To Steal a Jet Fighter, recent interviews revealed a change of heart.
“We are not quite ready to share it yet.” He pauses slightly.
“Sometimes, the clue is in what we wear…in our t-shirts and things. Put it this way, everyone’s probably been in contact with the name at some stage. It’s been out there. But they haven’t opened their eyes to see it,” he says with a smile.
Unfortunately, a quick look at what they are wearing leaves me none the wiser.
The new album comes five years after their last one, Invaders Must Die. Before that, there was another five-year gap after Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned.
The gaps in between studio work is possibly the only gripe fans have with the band. Flint is pragmatic about the reason behind it.
“We love doing gigs constantly, because it helps the music. We don’t like to take a year off to record.”
Howlett elaborates: “We are constantly playing the music, rolling. We keep focused and in touch with what is going on with the music scene, but we stay on the edge. Take dubstep, we take what we like without losing ourselves or our sound.”
“We don’t want to be fully involved in the scene, we stick to taking bits and pieces of what we like,” Flint finishes off.
Does this mean there is a distinct preference for live performances, as opposed to studio work? Flint tries to explain. “The two go hand in hand. The Prodigy would not exist without the gigs.”
“When you are recording, you always assume that that is what your followers want to own. But it’s only when you do the live shows that the feeling is re-inforced,” Howlett says.
“It’s a bit like a 3D effect,” he continues. “Just selling music would be…you know, it’s not like getting out there and knocking a crowd. The last bit is what makes it so rewarding.”
But by now, we can hear the fans outside screaming for said reward. It’s time for The Prodigy to get out there and destroy the stage. But not before one last parting shot from Flint.
“Malta, keep your eyes open. We’re on the way.”
Howlett grins. “And we’re ready to go wild.”
The Prodigy will perform on August 9 at 11pm at the MFCC, Ta’ Qali. South Central open at 10pm. Standard tickets are available from Burger King outlets.
This interview was made possible by G7 and Knockout Events Worldwide.