TOKYO (Reuters) - Be afraid! The Prodigy, the British dance band who swept the world with their violent lyrics, scary videos and techno-punk style a decade ago are back with a bang.
The London-based trio have returned from a spell in the wilderness fully re-charged and with a new album “Invaders Must Die” which draws heavily on their early rave roots.
Technically, they never went away but the road back to recording together again on their fifth studio album “Invaders” has been a long and hard one.
“It’s a misconception that the band broke up, but we don’t care,” Liam Howlett, the Prodigy’s producer and main writer, told Reuters in an interview in Tokyo.
“Around 2003 was a turbulent time for the band. Me and (vocalist) Keith (Flint) weren’t speaking for about a year.
“Then we hit our singles album and at that point our friendships had totally welded back together. That was 2005.
“The new album’s abrasive and uplifting. We didn’t plan it to be uplifting because we’re quite moody people. The Prodigy’s hedonistic. That’s just how it came out,” he added.
The multi-platinum 1997 album “The Fat of the Land” had transformed the Prodigy into one of the world’s biggest acts with smash hits such as “Firestarter” and “Breathe.”
Their success, and notoriety, reached a climax with the controversial single “Smack My Bitch Up” but the cracks began to appear after a period of extensive world tours.
Having sold some 16 million records globally — a figure unparalleled by a dance band — Howlett dropped Flint and fellow vocalist Maxim Reality for their next album, released in 2004.
“Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned” earned mixed reviews but Flint, he of the punk-rock hairstyle, nose piercings and maze of tattoos, conceded Howlett’s bombshell had stung.
“When you have had the high of being on stage, especially in a band like ourselves, I can’t help but search for that buzz,” he said, his features softer without the fearsome eyeliner.
“It’s not the admiration I need, it’s not the qualification I’m relevant. It’s that fuel. You can try to find it in drugs or whatever. I’ve tried everything.
“Not like Pete Doherty — he’s definitely the proper rock ‘n’ roll disaster. I’ve given up all drugs and drink now. I realize that this band is my drug. Nothing makes me higher than this.”
Wedged together on a sofa in their Tokyo hotel suite, no hint of animosity lingers between the now middle-aged men, who first met in the late 1980s.
“Our ethics and our beliefs are the same,” said Maxim from behind dark glasses. “From day one after ‘Fat of The Land’ blew up, we still go about business in the same way.”
The band bristle at the suggestion they had lost their edge after hitting ground zero in 2003.
“We never lost it,” said Maxim with a flick of his dreadlocks. “This is a result of the last five years, building up to this point. ‘Invaders Must Die’ is what’s come out of that.”
Last Thursday’s high-octane gig at an intimate Tokyo venue before the album release later this month demonstrated that the Prodigy have lost none of their fire or creative edge.
Their new songs triggered as much moshpit pin-balling and crowd-surfing as the old electro-punk classics.
“That’s respect,” nods Maxim, like Flint looking far less hell-raising than his on-stage persona. “It just goes to show they’re killer tunes.”
Flint suddenly jumps from the sofa and picks up a chair — which thankfully he sits on.
“I know I’m in the best band in the world,” he said.
“When we walk onto that stage I’m not feeling like I’m ruled by any other band.
“I know that I’m with the best people I can be, and my arsenal of sounds and songs and tracks is as good as it could possibly be. Don’t be in a band unless you feel that.”
Editing by Miral Fahmy