The Prodigy are an English electronic music group formed by Liam Howlett in 1990 in Braintree, Essex, England. Along with Fatboy Slim, The Chemical Brothers and The Crystal Method, as well as other acts they are pioneers of the big beat electronic dance genre which achieved mainstream popularity in the 1990s and 2000s, and are known for high-quality live performances. They have sold nearly 20 million records worldwide which is unequalled in dance music history.
Their music consists of various styles ranging from rave, hardcore, industrial and breakbeat in the early 1990s to electronic rock with punk vocal elements in later times. The current band members include Liam Howlett (composer/keyboards), Keith Flint (dancer/vocalist) and Maxim Reality (MC/vocalist). Leeroy Thornhill (dancer/very occasional live keyboards) was a member of the band from 1990 to 2000, as was a female dancer/vocalist called Sharky who left the band during their early period. The Prodigy first emerged on the underground rave scene in the early 1990s, and have since then achieved immense popularity and worldwide renown. Some of their most popular songs include "Charly", "Out of Space", "No Good (Start the Dance)", "Voodoo People", "Poison", "Firestarter", "Breathe", "Smack My Bitch Up", "Omen" & "Warrior's Dance."
The name displayed on album covers changed from "The Prodigy" to "Prodigy" between Music for the Jilted Generation and The Fat of the Land in 1997 and back again with the release of Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned in 2004. However, Howlett has stated that the title has always been "The Prodigy". The change was made only to fit within the displayed logo, according to Howlett.
Beginnings into fun and fame, and Experience
The Prodigy began with an initial 10-track demo by Liam Howlett, put together on a Roland W-30 music workstation in Essex, England. XL Recordings picked up the demo after Howlett played several tracks to XL boss Nick Halkes in a meeting and an initial 12" pressing of "What Evil Lurks" was released in February 1991. There are some few thousand bootlegs of this release; the original should have "the exchange" carved in the vinyl around the centre of the single (the matrix). The Prodigy's name was a moniker Liam had chosen as a tribute to his first analogue synthesiser, the Moog Prodigy.
The Prodigy's first public performance (with Howlett augmented by dancers Keith Flint and Leeroy Thornhill) was at the Four Aces in Dalston, London (then home to "Club Labyrinth"). "Charly", released six months later, became a huge hit in the rave scene at the time, largely due to the popularity of AA-side track "Your Love" which was arguably more popular within the scene at the time. The release reached #3 in the UK Singles Chart, catapulting the band into the wider public attention. The Kaos Theory compilation series featured "G Force (Energy Flow)" from their third single "Everybody in the Place".
Prodigy "G Force (Energy Flow)" from "Kaos Theory Volume 1" compilation excerpt
An excerpt Prodigy "G Force (Energy Flow)" from "Kaos Theory Volume 1" compilation
In the wake of "Charly"'s success the music charts were filled with unsophisticated "hardcore" rave tracks to which speed and ecstasy-fuelled clubbers had danced all night, but which did not appeal to critics in the music press. Examples were tracks such as Urban Hype's "Trip to Trumpton", and Smart E's (as in Ecstasy) "Sesame's Treet", instigating death-by-publicity to the underground "hardcore rave" scene according to many critics, ravers and followers of the scene. As a result "Charly" (a contemporary reference to cocaine), with its memorable sample of the "Charley Says" children's Public information films and The Prodigy were briefly identified by critics as "kiddie rave" or "Toytown Techno".
"Charly" was soon followed by the band's first full length album, Experience, a landmark release in the history of British rave music. After Experience (album track "Death of the Prodigy Dancers" featured Ragga MC band member Maxim Reality) and the run of singles that accompanied it, the Prodigy moved to distance themselves from the "kiddie rave" reputation that now dogged them. The rave scene was beginning to move on from its hardcore phase, with the Criminal Justice Act's "anti-rave" legislation on the horizon. In 1993, Howlett released an anonymous white label, bearing only the title "Earthbound I". Its hypnotic, hard-edged sound won wide underground approval. Many former critics of the band were astounded when Howlett finally acknowledged responsibility for the record. It was officially released as "One Love" later that year, and went on to chart at #8 in the UK.
Music for the Jilted Generation
In 1994, the Prodigy's second album, Music for the Jilted Generation, was released entering the UK album charts at #1. The album displayed a wider spectrum of musical style with heavy techno and breakbeat-based tracks complemented by the concept sequence The Narcotic Suite, and rock-oriented inclinations ("Their Law", featuring Pop Will Eat Itself). The album was nominated for a Mercury Music Prize although Howlett had reaffirmed his dedication to making The Prodigy a 'hard dance band', commercially successful but without compromise. The band managed to continue to prevent over-exposure in the media by refusing to appear on Top of the Pops or other TV shows in the UK. To this day their only studio appearance on British television came when they appeared on the BBC2 series Dance Energy in 1991 performing "Everybody in the Place". In the ensuing years their videos received a strong level of support by MTV Europe which boosted their popularity across the continent. Keith Flint himself hosted an episode of the MTV show 120 Minutes in 1995.
Following the international success of Music for the Jilted Generation the band augmented their line-up with guitarist Jim Davies (who, later, joined the group Pitchshifter) in 1995 for tracks such as "Their Law", "Break and Enter 95", and various live-only interludes and versions. He was soon to be replaced by Gizz Butt of the band Janus Stark who remained with the band for the next three years. The 1996 release of "Firestarter", featuring vocals for the first time courtesy of a new-look Keith Flint, helped the band break into the U.S. and other overseas markets, and reached number one in the UK. In this year the Prodigy also headlined the prestigious Lollapalooza festival.
The Fat of the Land
The long-awaited third Prodigy album, The Fat of the Land, was released in 1997 just as the band headlined the Glastonbury festival on its opening night. Like its predecessors, the album represented a milestone in the development of both the band and the wider mainstream dance scene. Featuring simplified melodies, sparser sampling, and more sneering, punk-like vocals (supplied by a shockingly madeover Flint), the album nevertheless retained the bone-jarring breaks and buzzsaw synths so idiomatic of the band. The album cemented the band's position as one of the most internationally successful acts in the dance genre, entering the British and American charts at number one.
The Prodigy were getting considerable airplay on rock stations with their controversial track "Smack My Bitch Up" ??? and also a negative backlash for the song. Time-Warner, Prodigy's parent company, was feeling the heat from the National Organization for Women (NOW) over the track. Although the song's lyrics are few but repetitive (in their entirety, the lyrics are "Change my pitch up, smack my bitch up"), NOW stated that the lyrics are a "...dangerous and offensive message advocating violence against women." Howlett responded to the attacks by claiming that the song's lyrics are being misinterpreted: (the song means) "...doing anything intensely, like being on stage ??? going for extreme manic energy." The band did not write the lyric, but rather sampled it from the classic Ultramagnetic MCs' track "Give The Drummer Some" which also appears on the Dirtchamber Sessions (they had also sampled another Ultramagnetic MCs song "Critical Beatdown" on their earlier "Out of Space" single). There are also those who believe that the lyrics are in reference to administering heroin (smack) to another person. Several radio stations defended the song, yet only played the track at night. The music video (directed by Jonas ??kerlund) featured a first-person point of view of someone going clubbing, indulging in large amounts of drugs and alcohol, getting into fist fights with men, abusing women and picking up a lap dancer and having sex with her as well, all displaying the scenes extremely graphically. At the end of the video the camera pans over to a mirror, revealing the subject to be a woman. MTV only aired the video between 1 and 5 a.m. The director got the inspiration for the contents of the video after a night of drinking and partying in Copenhagen.
During a performance at the Reading Festival (August 29, 1998) The Prodigy and the Beastie Boys had an onstage disagreement over the track - with the Beastie Boys requesting the song should be pulled from their set as it could be considered offensive to those who had suffered domestic abuse. Choosing to ignore the Beastie Boys plea, Maxim introduced "Smack My Bitch Up" with the declaration "They didn???t want us to play this fucking tune. But the way things go, I do what the fuck I want". The incident has since become part of festival folklore, and was voted one of the greatest ever live moments by the now defunct Select Magazine.
Wal-Mart and Kmart later announced they would pull The Fat of the Land off their shelves. Despite the fact that the LP had resided on their store shelves for over 20 weeks, and the fact that they had sold 150,000 copies of the album in total, the two stores found the marketing campaign for the new single release offensive.
In mid-2002, the complete, unedited video was aired on MTV2 as part of a special countdown showing the most controversial videos ever to air on MTV. This countdown was only shown late at night because of the graphic imagery of "Smack My Bitch Up" and several other videos on the countdown. This video in particular was deemed the "Most Controversial Video" by MTV and showed at the #1 spot on the countdown.
1999 saw the release of The Prodigy's Dirtchamber Sessions Volume 1, a DJ mix album by Howlett, produced as an official record of a successful guest appearance on the British Radio 1. In June of this year when the band had questionably reached their commercial peak they parted company with guitarist Gizz Butt .
In 2002, after a break from touring and recording, the single "Baby's Got a Temper" was released to critical disappointment. The song was written by Keith Flint's sideband, Flint, and also featured Jim Davies. Howlett produced it. Once again, the band courted controversy by including references to the so-called "date rape" drug Rohypnol in the song lyrics, although it is unclear whether or not the band "glorifies" or presents the drug in a negative light. In the same year, however, Q magazine named The Prodigy as one of the "50 Bands To See Before You Die".
Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned
The Prodigy's fourth studio album, Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned was released on ( in the USA.) A precursory and experimental single, "Memphis Bells", was released in very limited numbers, followed by the traditional release of the single "Girls". The U.S. version of the studio album contained a bonus track; a remix of "Girls" entitled, "More Girls".
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 (of 660,000 total) 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. The experiment was a success, with the 5,000 copies being sold in just over 36 hours in spite of server problems from the demand.
In 2005, they released a compilation, Their Law: The Singles 1990-2005, which spawned a single containing new remixes of the songs "Out of Space" (the "Audio Bullys Remix") and "Voodoo People" (the "Pendulum Remix"). The latter was also followed by a music video filmed in Romford Market, Essex, which featured on the DVD release of the compilation. Sharky, the group's only female member, is shown running and winning the race depicted in the video.
The Prodigy's first two albums (1992's "Experience" and 1994's "Music for the Jilted Generation") were re-released in expanded, deluxe editions on August 4, 2008. As well as being remastered, the new packages feature a bonus disc including mixes, rarities and live tracks. The two albums also feature expanded artwork in addition to the new musical content. The band also showcased 4 new songs at the Oxegen Festival in the early hours of July 13; among the tracks previewed were "Worlds On Fire", "Warriors Dance", "Mescaline" and "First Warning", which recently featured in the gangster movie "Smokin' Aces" and as soundtrack in game "Need For Speed: Undercover".
Invaders Must Die
Main article: Invaders Must Die
On , 2008, it was announced that the band's fifth studio album would be called Invaders Must Die and would be released on the band's new label, Take Me to the Hospital. It is the first studio album released by the band since 2004's Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned and is the first Prodigy album since 1997's The Fat of the Land to feature all three members of the band. in the USA on March 3, 2009
The album features drummer Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures) on drums for "Run with the Wolves". The top five hit "Omen" and the "Invaders Must Die" tracks were co-produced with Does It Offend You, Yeah? frontman James Rushent. Sleeve notes show an A&R credit for Nick Halkes who signed the act to XL thus possibly linking with the clear references on the album to rave culture and the presence of the 'classic' Prodigy sound that seemed less present on the 'Always Outnumbered' album. The band said that the album would go back to their "old-school but cutting edge" roots. The album became released as a CD, CD/DVD set, Double vinyl, digital download and a luxury 7-inch vinyl box set which can include five 7-inches, CD/DVD, bonus CD, poster, stickers and stencils.
Invaders Must Die was released on , 2009 in Australia and in Europe on , 2009 charting at number one in the UK with week one sales of over 97,000 - a higher figure than for either 'Always Outnumbered..' or their singles collection. The album also charted top 5 in Germany and Australia and top 10 in Norway and several other European countries. To coincide with the release of the album, the band embarked on a nine date, UK arena tour, with support from Dizzee Rascal, Noisia, Herve and DJ Kissy Sell Out. The single "Omen" debuted at #1 on the Canadian Singles Chart the week of February 25, 2009.
Initial critical response to Invaders Must Die was somewhat mixed. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album has received an average score of 60, based on 20 reviews. However, the album has been well received by the fans.
The single "Warrior's Dance" was released on May 11, 2009. The track's chorus is a sample of "Take Me Away" by Final Cut with True Faith. It also contains beat samples from "Let The Warriors Dance" by Addis Posse.
The digital single was released on April 17 in Australia, exclusively on iTunes, although only the "Edit" version with none of the remixes is also be available. When released on iTunes Australia the song was titled incorrectly and the download was actually a song from Placebo, this issue was fixed later on.
3 remix versions of Warrior's Dance will be sold on the Prodigy's own store, as digital downloads in MP3 format. An extra remix will be exclusive to iTunes. The song peaked at #9 on the UK Singles Chart.
The single "Take Me To The Hospital" was released on 31 August 2009. The CD Single includes the Sub Focus Remix and the 12" Single also includes a Rusko Remix. Liam also collaborated with Josh Homme to create the "Wreckage" mix of the song. The song shares its name with the band's record label.The track features samples from 'Salami Fever' by Pepe Deluxe and 'Ragamuffin Duo Take Charge' by Asher D & Daddy Freddy.
The Promotional Film, for Take Me to the Hospital, was completed. The music video became available to view exclusively on the VidZone application for PlayStation 3 on August 4. The video was also posted on the official website and Youtube channel on August 5. It was filmed onto VHS rather than digital recording equipment to obtain an old school 90's look
European release includes 11 tracks audio CD and a DVD disc with the videos "Invaders Must Die", "Omen" and live video versions of "World's On Fire" and "Warriors's Dance" plus computer readable (HD data for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X) HD version of the video "Invaders Must Die".
Rumors of a fifth single from the Invaders Must Die album, are being explained at The Prodigy.com's Forum. However, the next one would be "Thunder", "Stand Up", "Colours", "Pihrana", "Run With The Wolves", or "World's On Fire". If they choose "World's On Fire", it would be the album's next single.
Keith Flint ??? Dancer, Vocalist (1990???present)
Liam Howlett ??? Keyboards, Programming, Songwriter (1990???present)
Maxim Reality ??? MC, Vocalist (1990???present)
Leeroy Thornhill ??? Dancer, occasional live Keyboardist (1990???2000)
Sharky ??? Vocalist, Dancer (1990)
Leo Crabtree ??? Drummer (2008-present)
Rob Holliday ??? Live Guitarist (2005???2006, 2008???present)
Alex Roberts ??? Guitarist (2009 - present)
Former live members
Kieron Pepper ??? Drummer, occasional Guitarist (1997???2007)
"The Rev" ??? Guitarist (2007)
"Snell" ??? Drummer, (July 2007)
Brian Fairbairn ??? Drummer (2007)
Jim Davies ??? Live and Studio Guitarist (1995???1996, 2002???2004)
Alli MacInnes ??? Guitarist (2001, 2002)
Gizz Butt ??? Live Guitarist (1996???1999)