Hi Keith, we only found out we had this interview 30 minutes ago so if we’ve missed anything out by the end please just say.
Hey man you just rock on.
What are you up to?
Just preparing for the day really, putting a few bits and pieces right for the European tour and preparing for a gig in France at the weekend. We’ll obviously play America and then onto our UK tour.
It’s all going well isn’t it? Madness.
Can you tell us about the new album, Invaders Must Die, and what you’ve been up to in the last year?
Well the album’s been the major thing really. We’ve been touring because we find that as a band you have to take yourself out live to take the tunes to where they’re ultimately going to be played. It keeps the band alive and there’s a lot of value in staying out there and working live. But predominantly it’s been about finishing this album. It’s maybe not taken as long as some of the other albums, which took their time to complete. It’s been a hard process you know; the first part of writing the album was certainly experimental. We allowed ourselves to party quite a bit but then it was time to get serious. The last few months were about getting all the ideas that we came up with in the first studio (‘cause we were still in the same building, we had just moved to a smaller studio that was a bit more intense and less of a hangout). You couldn’t get the 10 people we had hanging out in the other studio into the new one. I don’t think people realise how much hard work goes into writing an album. It’s a fucking hard process but we’ve been buzzing with it.
Was there a lot of pressure involved with it? Was there a deadline to meet or was it ready when it was ready?
Well, when we first started writing the album we didn’t have a label. We’d left XL and we hadn’t signed with another label so it was pressure free. We certainly went into this album determined not to have any pressure on us because that’s what stifled us in the past. Once we had signed, I wouldn’t say we were under pressure but we had the determination to give these guys and ourselves a good album because Cooking Vinyl have been with us right from the start. They have shown a lot of respect for the band so yeah; we really just got our heads down. There’s good pressure and bad pressure. Cooking Vinyl certainly weren’t going to hurry us to try and make us bring out something we didn’t wanna do but we all knew we had to get working on it so it was good pressure.How did the collaboration come about with Dave Grohl (from The Foo Fighters)?
To be quite honest the thing with Dave Grohl was obviously going to be a talking point. He’s well respected but it was such a natural process. It was an email that was sent to Liam from Dave saying “Hey, what’s up, just finished touring and I’m back in the studio, I’m back drumming, I’m where I love to be, what you up to?” and he was like “Oh I’m just finishing the album” He was like “Oh man listen let me throw you some beats down” and Liam being the beat beast said “Yeah man do that”. Dave didn’t wanna just sample, he actually wanted to do parts for us. Liam listened to it and there was a wicked groove so he took that piece out to begin with. We’d already written, Run With The Wolves, vocally and it was just a case of marrying them up. It was a venomous vocal which was working but it just wasn’t on the right bit of music. So we sort of rewrote that and sent it back to Dave who said “Yeah man this is the sort of track I wanted to be doing”. It was such a simple process. In less than a week it was done. We’re trying not to make too much of it, it’s not like a big collaboration. He doesn’t want that and we don’t want that either. It could have been any one of our friends that drummed, produced a wicked part and brought the track alive and it just happened to be Dave and we’re fucking buzzing with it. Dave’s a cool guy you know.
How in your opinion does this album differ from the rest?
All the albums that we write on the one hand stick to the ethics and beliefs of the band which are, it’s gotta be thumping, it’s gotta be edgy, it’s gotta have beef, bass and groove and the production process has got to be current. I think that’s what keeps it interesting and exciting. I don’t think it does vastly differ from the others, apart from the vocals which have been pushed a little bit more. It’s a bit more melodic and it’s certainly got a slightly different direction which has been really cool. There are obviously some references to the past but again it’s not a retro album. It’s the production that keeps it current and just the fact that we travelled the world, we went to all the big cities and we listened to a lot of music which brought us new flavours.
What is the formula that makes The Prodigy’s music so timeless?
Oh f*ck, if I knew that then it wouldn’t have taken us a year to write an album. I don’t know what the right answer to that is, I really don’t because it’s not a formula but I think that it’s gotta be real. It’s gotta be 100% and you have to want to do it for yourself and for the band. It’s not about writing for record companies or what you think might be good. Do you know what I mean? It’s not about trying to write radio hits or trying to write to stay up with the masses. I think that makes you a short lived act. I think the fact that we are truly from the rave scene, the real rave scene, not the one that turns into a joke. We are from something that was a true British youth culture. I think that’s what gives us a sound; we’ve got our own sound and that is the key. I think that being able to take it live and present it live and bring what is a highly dynamic piece of music to another level when it goes live is also key to The Prodigy and what we do.
It must be amazing to think the fans that you have got from the rave era are with you to the present day…
We’re getting a lot of new blood at the front. It’s really cool to feel like you’re getting fresh blood and it’s also nice to feel that you’re not doing it for a reunion tour or a retro tour and playing to the same old faces. It’s great to have the hardcore fans there because without them we would be nowhere, they are our fuel. But it’s also nice to excite new faces and see people getting into the band for the first time.
I hear you’re headlining Global Gathering this year, what other festivals are you playing?
I think we’re playing pretty much every festival this year. To be quite honest I don’t know what festivals have been announced, but we’re pretty much playing all of them apart from V Festival because we did it last year. Reading and Leeds Download Festival, The Isle of White, I know they’re on the cards. So we’ll do something like Global Gathering and then on the complete flip side go and do a Download festival which is crazy and that’s what the band gets off on. That’s our fuel, we love it and we just buzz off it.
Do you still get the same buzz from performing live on stage as you did when you first started?
100% and probably more so now. I was on the tour bus the other day with Liam and we weren’t blowing smoke up our own arses, you know what I mean? We were just on our own and there was no ego involved. I said to Liam “Is it me or is this as good as it’s always been?” and it really is. If it weren’t we’d tell each other. We’d just say to each other “Hey man we’re not rocking anymore we’ve gotta just pack this up and go”. But man it’s as good as it was. Sometimes you’ll talk about bands that have been successful and lasted a long time and you go and see them. Maybe they look a little bit tired, a little bit lethargic and you think, “Oh it was good, but was it like back in the day when they were something?” I think if you see The Prodigy now you know what it was like for us back in the day for sure. The tracks are there, the energy is there, we are buzzing, we really are. We’re loving it.
Would you say that there are any live performances by The Prodigy that stands out in your mind?
Doing the five nights at Brixton was really cool. It’s very rare that you stay in the same venue for five nights and we feel that Brixton Academy is our actual home. We made Brixton Academy our home for five nights and rocked it for five nights and that sticks in my mind because it feels ballsy and exciting. We played Red Square with 250,000 people in front of us. That’s an incredible amount of people, it’s just unbelievable. It’s what you would really, truly call a spectacle and you look with disbelief. That was certainly up there. But also likewise going into Bosnia at the end of the war when there was still gunfire. We were under armed guard. We drove through five miles of aid trucks to get into the country and we were the first of any kind of entertainment to play in the country for seven years. Doing stuff like that is really exciting and it really makes you feel like you’re truly taking your music to the people.That’s an amazing story. How does the reaction of the crowds differ between countries? It doesn’t. One crowd is as good as another. If it rocks, it rocks. It just shows that all people are the same. It breaks down all barriers – race, colour and creed.
Did you always know you were going to be in a band?
Who me? No, never. It was nothing I aspired to at all, it all just happened so naturally. It was just incredible. Once I got the opportunity I grasped it with both hands and cherished every second of it, and still do.
What would you have been doing had The Prodigy never formed?
I was a roofer at the time so I may well still be a roofer. I’m sure that I would have made the most of myself because that’s the kind of person that I am but I don’t know.
What would you say is the biggest lesson that you have learnt from being involved in the music industry to date?
That’s a good question actually, what have I learnt? That it’s f*cking tough! That’s a really good question you know because it’s quite deep. I can think of many answers but none that I really wanna go into. It’s like anything, you’ve gotta work it and you’ve gotta be professional. For me personally what I’ve taken from it is that the people that come and see you never lose touch with the fact that you are no different from the people that you play for. I always say I’m the stage diver that never got chucked off. I jumped off stage however many years ago and never got chucked off and I still keep rolling and keep getting up there. I remember going to see bands back in the day, begging my boss to give me a day off work and doing all I could to get the money together to pay for the tube and the ticket and whatever else. You have to remember that the people that come to see you have done the same. So you have to give 110% at every show as if it’s THE most special show. Every show has to be the most special show you’ve ever done or don’t do it, don’t be complacent. Also, all the friends you meet aren’t your friends. All the “Hey let’s do a track together, I love your music man, give us your number, or we’ll hang out”, they’re not your mates. Your mates are your mates, they’re the real deal.
What advice can you give to new bands starting up?
Be as real as you can and believe that you’re the best band in the world. Any time you go out to play believe you’re the best and only band that matters. Play and perform like that.Apart from your own stuff what do you consider to be good music?
Today I was listening to Rage Against the Machine and I have to keep rolling them out the bag. I listen to anything from reggae, ska, punk, psychobilly, rock, but not Nickelback or shit like that. Rage Against The Machine, System Of A Down, Death Tones, Bloc Party, you know they’re the sort of bands I like but then I listen to a lot of dance music. I’ve given up drink and drugs and I don’t do anything like that at all now but when I was partying I would always have dance music on. Quite a varied bag really. I was really into Dizzee’s album last year. I like the new Bloc Party album; I thought that was really rocking. Yeah man, there’s some good stuff about. Chasing Status as well, I think they’re fucking banging. They’re really coming up and they are really fucking havin’ it.
What are you doing for the rest of the day?
I might just have to go and jerk myself off quickly, grab a coffee, have a shower, I don’t know. I’m just into the studio and, as I said earlier, getting stuff done for the upcoming tours, so it’s kind of just going over the tracks as a few need shortening. Just work really.
Do you have a message to our student readers?
Respect to anyone who has stuck with us!
The Prodigy interview by Ben Farrin