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Prodigy Interview


Liam Howlett

Liam Howlett - Prodigy

Is electro the new punk rock? On The Prodigy's new album, Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, Liam Howlett goes back to his punk roots, exploring his influences and mashing them together in his laptop. Inviting people as varied as Kool Keith, Juliette Lewis, Princess Superstar and Twista along for the ride, the CD is like one we have never experienced before.

DJ Ron Slomowicz: So what was your motivation for the new album, did you start with a specific vision in your mind for it?
Liam Howlett: I wrote half the record in 2002, which basically concluded with us releasing "Baby's Got A Temper," the last single. I think after the disappointment of that record for myself with the lack of energy and the way the record came out, I would say that was probably the low point of The Prodigy. I threw five of the six tracks I'd written away and decided to start again. All I knew was I had to find the excitement and energy in my music that I used to have, so I set out to start finding myself again. Finding what the fuck I was about and what did I like? What were The Prodigy about and what was I really about? Getting back to the stage of putting the music first. I didn't want the focus to be on Keith or Maxim or the front bit. I wanted to focus it on the music first and bring that to the attention of people again. I started off and wrote "Wakeup Call," which I did with Kool Keith. It was a direct answer to "Baby's Got A Temper" in the way I wanted to implant an alarm clock in my head and go, 'wake up! Remember what you're about, you're about the beat, and remember you're about achievement.' A wakeup call to write a record that made myself remember about that sort of stuff.

RS: You mentioned Kool Keith, which came first, the tracks or the vocals for most of these songs?
Liam: Each track kind of develops in a weird way. Kool Keith approached me in 2002, when he heard I was writing another Prodigy album and he wanted to get involved. We actually recorded a full rap version which is probably going to be on the B side of one of the singles. We've done a stripped-down version on the album, because it takes the attention off the vocal and we didn't want the record to be too collaboration-heavy. I have written a record that I wanted to play live and not have too many guests all the way through on full vocal tracks. Even though Maxim and Keith weren't on the record, we had strong ideas about having the ability to play these tracks live.

RS: Did you have an idea of who you wanted to get vocals from for the album, or did it just appear to you?
Liam: Again, various ways. For example with Juliette, I was half-way through the record and my friend in L.A. he phoned me up after he saw her perform as Juliette Lewis and The Licks. He said she was fucking insane on stage and had a great voice. I got in touch with her management and got a CD sent across. I loved what I heard. We were up for doing something unexpected and challenging people's preconceptions of who should be on a record or who shouldn't be on a record.

RS: Going back to Kool Keith for a second. On "Smack My Bitch Up," you sampled Ultramagnetic MCs; how much fun was it actually to have him in the studio with you for "Diesel Power" on the last album and for the two tracks that he's on for this album?
Liam: Great. Kool Keith can change. I've been into the Ultramagnetic MCs for years and I think that I always push Keith into trying to get the flows like Ultramagnetics, like the old skool kind of flow, because that's what I like. Kool Keith has so many different personae and styles that I have to pull him out and set him into this persona of the style that I'm working on for the records. It was cool and then he went off and just did his thing, it was fucking great. I think that it's important to be in the studio with people. Working with Juliette, we messed around through the post for a couple of weeks and it wasn't really working so we brought her over to London. It's great to get in the studio with the people you're working with because you really make a connection. It was really easy and exciting to work with the different people.

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