With seven of the biggest and most influential albums in modern music today already under their belt, The Prodigy have consistently proved to be one of the most thrilling live bands in the world! Always uncompromising, The Prodigy’s influence can be seen across generations with the band putting out genre destroying record after genre defying record and right from the very start, The Prodigy were renegade revolutionaries. Put simply, The Prodigy are no tourists and never were. Now, they are here in Australia for their own headline tour including the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on Saturday night. From his hotel room in Perth Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles spoke to Liam Howlett about their new album No Tourists and the hey day of playing the Big Day Out.
Welcome to Australia, surviving the heat?
Yeah man, it’s not that hot in Perth, anything is hotter than being in London right now where it’s snowing actually. It’s good to get out of the UK for a bit I think. We always used to come here in January, back in the day when we used to do the Big Day Out and Future Music Festival those were always perfect for us and we come out of Christmas in the UK and not a lot happens. We miss coming to Australia in a way, we did get offers to come here last year and we wanted to hold off and get the record finished so we could come here with the new album.
Do you get really pumped at the start of a new tour particularly here in Australia?
Absolutely, coming with new music and watching people’s reaction. I never get bored of that. It’s what we live for and all the work that goes in to it, all the solitary work in the studio with me and the two guys, we only think about putting it on stage. It’s what we think about when we are doing it. This is the end result, the playing of the music, writing tunes and the whole studio process especially the last one was so fucking intense and so gruelling. I’m moaning but that’s the only way I could describe it, I really had to twist my brain up and put it in a different place and extract some kind of creative zone out of it. I love the studio work and touring is a different type of phase for the band. This is where the music ends up and where it needs to be. It is great to be able to do this and come to different countries to play it. Being back in Australia we all agree, I speak for us three, it sounds like the right thing to say we get on with Australians.
It does seem like there is a special chemistry between The Prodigy and Australia particularly if you go back to the Big Day Out days?
We loved those days, we were just talking about it, we came here in 1992, really early then Maxim reminded me about some party in Sydney for New Year’s so we had been quite a lot even before the Big Day Out. When the Big Day Out started the line ups were so great with bands such as Rage Against The Machine, Soundgarden, System Of A Down and us being on tour with those other bands really opens your eyes getting to hear and see different types of music. We’ve made friends with a lot of people on the Big Day Out especially the Lilly Pad guys and they are still our friends now, and it has been like fifteen years. We have had some really great times here and it is good to be back.
Do you feel that with No Tourists that the band is making a massive resurgence again?
It is such a big commitment of time to putting myself in to doing the record and I do it for myself firstly because I love it. To give an album I can’t go in to it half hardheartedly, I throw my complete self in to it. Even when I go home at night my mind is still thinking about what’s happening with this track or what’s happening tomorrow. The whole time I was doing the record I didn’t see any of my friends, I had to shut all of them down because I didn’t have the head space to speak to anyone, it was purely doing the music and the album.
This record was the most intense, there is no formula of doing records and you have to make it different every time and the way this one was different was there was no down time. So when we went on the road I was still writing in studios and hotel rooms, we would go to the closest hotel after the gig so i could record the guys straight off stage. I think that’s why it was done so quick and I didn’t allow myself any point to come out of that zone but with previous albums I might of had a month off or pull out for a little bit. With this one I kept the pressure on and pushed myself, it paid off in a way and I mixed the whole thing in my studio myself whereas usually in the end of each album there’s another three months added on to break the whole thing down and mix it in a big studio. I’m fed up with these big studios and I don’t use them any more. I went back to how I used to do it old school. I was happy with it, otherwise it wouldn’t have been delivered to the record company. Whatever happens after that is out of my hands, it is nice that people like it but ultimately I knew it was good enough and we all felt it was a good Prodigy album. It happened quicker which was nice.
With the experience being intense as you described, were all your ideas in your head in terms of how you wanted it to sound or does that unfold in the studio when you start recording?
Tracks seem to influence other tracks, Timebomb was done quite early on and I had done a minute of it and it did not have any drums on it, I had done the musical parts and for ages I tried three or four different drum tracks and I couldn’t get it right, so I had to put that on the shelf for a couple of months and step away from it while I was doing the other tracks. When I did Resonate I found it easier the second time going back to finish off Timebomb. I think that is the main difference between how I used to record and how I do it now. The equipment now allows me to pick tracks up and put them down at any point, this is all on the computer. Back in the day it was all live on the desk, once that desk is taken down and on to another track there is no other way of recording that other track so you had to commit to it. When I mixed Smack My Bitch Up back in the day that was the mix, if I started another track and I went back to it I think it would be something else. That is one of the only good things about the new technology really otherwise my studio is really old school. I use these computers and tape machines, just a lot of old school influence on this record and us not being afraid of who we are, representing our history but not wanting to make a retro record. We wanted it fresh and it is important if you are bringing old influences back in that you are attacking it from a fresh angle still.
Do you feel the pressure in the studio or are you very focused on what you need to do?
There is a certain amount of isolation I need and be totally on my own to get the initial idea going. I don’t want anyone in the studio or anyone near me, even my guitarist I will tell him some days not to come in because I need to be on my own. Once I have the initial idea, once it is down I feel I can build on it and the guys can come in. If its a lyric track we’ll mess around with lyrics and that idea. There was no formula on this album and different to any album I have written before. I would say that I definitely needed to put my head in a different zone for my own benefit really and pushing the barrier a bit more to see where the mind can go.
Is the plan to keep recording full length albums or as I read in another interview maybe releasing more EP’s?
Like anything with this band, most things happen totally spontaneously and without thinking things. We would come off tour, we were still doing gigs when we made The Day Is My Enemy I was like, right I’m going back in to the studio and that I’ll just do an EP, release it and take that back on the road again. That in itself will inspire some new tracks so we’ll just do EP’s. I get frustrated, the guys get frustrated with how long it takes to do an album. Sometimes, there is just nothing you can do about that. No Tourists was taking sa while in the studio, why? That’s just the way it is. I think with this one because I changed the way I was working I seemed to get locked in to the zone easily. Within five months I came up with half the album so then I was like, we’re doing an album now. I threw the EP idea out the window. At the end of the day the thought process behind it was a good one but I think an album stamps itself authority over the test of time much more than an EP would. This is the seventh Prodigy album, I don’t know if people would think of an EP in the same way.
Is it always tough with whatever you do being compared to The Fat Of The Land?
No I don’t mind, people can think what they want, I don’t care! People think about us in different countries in lots of different ways. It really depends on where you go, in Russia people really got in to us from Invaders and the same as in France we didn’t really go there. Obviously Firestarter being the most iconic Prodigy tune, that’s the first thing that sticks in people’s minds. The impact it had on them and the way it drove through culture. It is still of us and our nature so it doesn’t matter, you have to keep going, we are not the type of band that relies on our back catalogue. It’s when band’s go and play their first album again, it means they have run out of ideas to keep it going. When we get to that point we’ll consider stopping because it is like what’s the point. We’re a band that keeps pushing it forward.
Interview by Rob Lyon
Catch The Prodigy on the following dates, tickets through http://www.teglive.com.au/