The news about Keith Flint’s death this morning just a month after The Prodigy announced their first tour in a decade has only begun to sink in — it’s also made me think long and hard about their music’s influence on me. I feel like I’m so lucky to have had The Prodigy’s Fat of the Land seep into my subconscious when I was just a little kid, which my best friend and neighbor Graham showed to me in late elementary school. He’s passed away as well, so there’s twice as much to mourn blasting the album this morning, then immediately turning into their latest release, No Tourists. At least we have this new album to remember him by; at least I got 22 years of fandom under my belt to carry with me at this incredibly painful time.
The Prodigy’s impending tour was slated to be one of the live music highlights of my year, and fortunately, I got to see them once in 2009 at Ultra. Their electric, animalistic energy channeled into a visceral mash of electronic rock, rap, and electro-clash speed metal hit me so hard as a kid, I swear it cracked open my whole notion of what it can feel like to be alive. I’d never heard anything even close to that in my life and it brought out a new energy in me that was wild and exciting and extremely cathartic. It was the beginning of my lifelong raving career.
The “Breathe” video was being rinsed on MTV in 1997, which is how most everyone back then was finding out about new music besides the radio. I never thought in a million years we’d ever hear this kind of thing on an FM station in the US, but the local rock station in my hometown picked up the single as well as “Firestarter” and “Smack My Bitch Up.” Unlike their fellow Brit contemporaries like Underworld, The Chemical Brothers, and Massive Attack who were putting out tons of prolific music in the ’90s, The Prodigy fully broke in America which had the residual effect of leading me towards these key acts who would go on to define my taste. Here’s the “Breathe” music video, my introduction to the band’s front madman and vocalist Keith Flint:
You could tell he was a force of nature at first glance, and he proved it to me onstage in 2009 with a face-melting performance that felt like the culmination of my entire raving career. The Prodigy’s music was the gateway into this entirely new world for me, and it was Keith who led me in. Fat of the Land made me want to headbang for the first time, throw my Billy Ray Cyrus and Ace of Base CDs away, and become a ride-or-die rock ‘n roll raver. We had to wait a whole seven years for their next album, after keyboardist Leeroy Thornhill departed from the group at risk of a nervous breakdown. The band’s website was replaced with their logo and the words “We will be back…” until 2002, and their next LP Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned came out in 2004. Below is the video for that album’s insane single “Spitfire,” which I think fully encompasses the energy of the long-awaited comeback of The Prodigy.
They kept us waiting another five years for Invaders Must Die, which was the album they were touring when I thankfully got the chance to see them. The video for the title single, embedded below, is an enrapturing, anti-authority, electro-clash punk rock tableau of what it feels like to be held down by the world, and to break out of that grip in a burst of fierce, raw emotion. To me, The Prodigy are a portal to that feeling and it will forever be associated with Keith personally in my mind. To make matters infinitely worse, his cause of death was suicide, as confirmed this morning by his bandmate and founder of The Prodigy, Liam Howlett, in a post stating, “The news is true , I can’t believe I’m saying this but our brother Keith took his own life over the weekend, I’m shell shocked , fuckin angry , confused and heart broken ….. r.i.p brother.”
In an effort to leave this devastating story on a more positive note, I give you my favorite video of The Prodigy’s entire career for “Wild Frontier” off their 2015 album The Day Is My Enemy. It’s a claymation-enacted story of a motorcycle-riding moose who saves one of his fellow forest creature friends from cruel hunters, and it looks like a moving painting. I can’t help but feel like Keith saw himself as the moose in this story: the motorcycle-riding, anarchist hero that he was. He owned the award-winning Team Traction Control motorcycle team and once rode 1,500 miles from England to the south of Spain for the 2007 Spanish motorcycle Grand Prix. His musical legacy was made for speed as I learned in fifth grade riding bikes at top speed around the neighborhood with Graham blasting Fat of the Land in our respective Walkmans — Walkmen? I digress.
Thank you for everything, Keith, and so much love to your family, friends, bandmates, and fans; we’re all hurting today. And if you haven’t already checked it out, don’t miss their No Tourists album — he left this world on a fabulously high musical note.