(This is a repost of my EDMTunes feature article about The Prodigy. Show them some love for giving me the platform to write about talent that either no one’s heard of yet, or no one cares about anymore. Here’s to hoping I’m right and The Prodigy remind everyone in 2015 why they’re the best at what they do. The Wolverine of the Main Stage as it were.)
We’re at the precipice of another major shift in EDM. No, it’s not big room finally dying, or progressive house returning to center stage. It’s a little more base, a little more primal than that. The Prodigy are releasing a new album, and with it, an entire industry will pivot, as they say it will “wipe the floor with dance djs.” It’s easy to forget how crucial The Prodigy is to American EDM. Whether they’re headlining Lollapalooza (1997), Coachella (back in 2002) or being one of the biggest acts to play Ultra Music Festival twice (2006 & 2009), all the way back when it was only a 1 Day/weekend festival, most DJs you hear today draw inspiration in one way or another to The Prodigy.
In case you need a refresher, The Prodigy was formed by Liam Howlett in 1990. Maxim & Keith Flint are two of the more visible faces of the group (the two guys yelling and having crazy body modification in every video). This group was one of the ones there, pretty much at the beginning. To note, MDMA had been illegal for less than 15 years when this group showed up on the burgeoning UK open air & warehouse rave scene. They pioneered a sound called “big beat” which is the genre you’re thinking of when you think of The Prodigy, Fatboy Slim, Chemical Brothers & even The Crystal Method. This hard-hitting, aggressive & at times, terrifying (especially if you lived in the UK/US suburbs) sound was essentially the brostep of the 90’s. This sound, roughly approximating the halfway point between a rave and a soccer riot, took the UK by storm. This early work didn’t make it over the pond, but as they got bigger, they moved decidedly toward the soccer riot end of the music spectrum.
Music For The Jilted Generation meant quite a bit to a lot of people across the Western world. Voodoo People, One Love, Speedway & Poison signaled a potent shift to the “lock up your daughters, fuck your conventions” end of the dance music spectrum, and their fans, loved them for it. The music was unnerving, while dope, and the videos were unsettling at their lightest.
If you saw the movie Hackers, you know what I’m talking about. The album captured this ephemeral “don’t fit in” feeling that so many of us felt. While Gen X had that experience with punk, some of the younger ones, eventually called older millenials, were rocking out to this. 1994 & 1997 saw the release of two albums that were foundational to a lot of people’s listening habits & sense of what electronic dance music should sound like. One was Music for The Jilted Generation, mentioned above, and the other is The Fat Of The Land.
The Fat Of The Land, released just as they performed at Glastonbury (that other gigantic festival across the pond), got into a lot of trouble, which, in our eyes, made The Prodigy ours forever. The video above was restricted to after 1 AM play because of the explicit drugs & violence. NOW yelled and screamed about “Smack My Bitch Up” being inherently misogynist & inappropriate, while others howled that it was telling children to do heroin. Obviously, it did none of these things, and in fact the vocal is actually lifted from a hip hop track by Ultramagnetic MC’s called Give The Drummer Some (27sec in, crazy right?). And yes, watch the video all the way to the end, because there’s a HUGE TWIST. (or what was considered a twist then)
The album was one you could listen to front-to-back, and I still dream that an action movie will come out using just tracks from the album as the soundtrack. The album was recently re-released as an expanded edition with remixes from The Glitch Mob, Major Lazer, Baauer, Noisia, Zeds Dead & Alvin Risk. These remixes are dope, and my two favorite are below.
The album was pulled off the shelves at Wal-Mart & Kmart, and as we all know, if you’re a teen and some band gets pulled off the shelves, they must be the raddest shit ever. It took all the way until 2004 to get some new material from these guys, with Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned. This album had a bunch of new electronic elements and one of the craziest marketing schemes for the pre-release I’ve ever seen. From the wiki:
5,000 digital copies of “Memphis Bells” were sold over the Internet. Each copy was a combination of customer-chosen instrumental, rhythmic, and melodic options, of which 39,600 choices were available. Five mixes were sold in three file formats, WAV, two audio mixes in MP3, and a 5.1 DTS surround sound mix, and all were free of digital rights management.
Can you imagine getting to build your own remix then buy it? Why the hell doesn’t ever DJ freaking do this? They’re sitting on the stems and apparently, a gold mine. The live shows done in this era were second to none. I should know, I was at 4 of them. The two shows at Ultra Music Fest, the show at the now-shuttered Roseland Ballroom & now-shuttered Nation in DC. These parties made hardstyle shows look tame. There were no Stereosonic swole bro’s, there was a legit moshpit. No pressure to go into it, but it was there if you wanted it. Much respect, massive dancing and a whole lot of what “big room” sounded like in 2009. (Apologies for the borked quality of the video below, this was before live-streaming or video capture was really an option at parties)
The track being mixed into in that video is Invaders Must Die. Released on The Prodigy’s new label Take Me To The Hospital (best label name ever), the album straddled hard dance, alt rock and “I can’t believe it’s not thrash” (that’s a genre right?). Warrior’s Dance, Omen & Take Me To The Hospital are all massive tracks.
But here’s my point with all of this. Each time The Prodigy came out with an album, there were dozens of remixes by DJs across the world. David Guetta, DJ Deekline, Pendulum (you know, that drum & bass act Knife Party used to be) and so many others. While my 3 favorite mixes are below, now I hope it’s clear why I believe The Prodigy releasing a new album early in 2015 is the best Christmas present EDM fans can hope for.
The “violent” sound that The Prodigy is going to bring to the fore will give us so many dope remixes. But more importantly, it’s going to help dance music pivot away from its current reliance on pop & overly corporate music. There’s a certain bit of counterculture to dance music & underground parties that a lot of people feel is missing. Who knows, maybe this will help remind people. At the very least these tracks, off the album tentatively called How To Steal A Jetfighter, will inspire a bit more of a raw, emotional & authentic big room vibe than Animals. I know this seems like a stretch, but if we have remix material from sources other than Ed Sheeran & John Legend, that edge might show back up in a lot of these live sets. I leave you with what Noisia did with The Prodigy’s last album. This is the kind of music you “rage” to, not brolectro or Michael Baystep. Imagine this on a mainstage and you’ll get what I’m talking about.