The Prodigy and their prodigious talent

In a brilliant but controversial career The Prodigy have stacked up the hits. The band's Liam Howlett revisits the greatest
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The Independent Culture

Released March 1996, chart position No 1

Crunching guitars, thundering beats and Keith Flint's iconic techno-punk pose. The last great No 1 single of the 20th century.

Liam Howlett: "This track was all about an attack. Sonic attack is what excites me, trying to capture this controlled energy that's right out there on the edge, straining at the leash.

"I'll never forget the reaction when we first dropped this live, people were like... mouths open. When it finished there was a moment of absolute silence, then the whole crowd just went off it. Keith [Flint, the vocalist] was really nervous about doing it.

"Up until then all he'd had to worry about was dancing on stage, but now he had to remember the lyrics as well. Suddenly he had to use a different part of his brain!"

THEIR LAW

Never released as a single. Taken from the album 'Music for the Jilted Generation'

A collaboration with Pop Will Eat Itself, "Their Law" provided The Prodigy with an unintentionally political edge thanks to its coinciding with the Criminal Justice Act.

LH: "People thought it was about the Criminal Justice Bill. In retrospect it was a reaction to it but we didn't want our music to become swallowed up by the political movement. Someone wanted to use "Their Law " on the soundtrack of a film about the M11 protesters. I remember saying that I'm not bothered about people up trees trying to stop a road. I was like: 'build the road so I can get into London quicker!'"

BREATHE

Released November 1996, chart position No 1

Crackling with an abrasive tension, "Breathe" features the duelling microphones of Flint and Maxim, and an aural war between whipcracking beats and bass driven melodies.

LH: "This was an attempt to bring the band together musically. Ironically it had the opposite effect and brought out the antagonism between Keith and Maxim who had started battling on stage for attention.

"There was a real tension there. So the vocals became this kind of call and response thing that rally captured that antagonism."

OUT OF SPACE

Released November 1992, chart position No 5

Rolling breaks, reggae samples, the ultra-kitsch hook "I'll take you brain to another dimension" and the nutty charisma of rave.

LH: "People always seem to love this track. All I did though was add some beats to a sample of this wicked tune by Max Romeo and the Upsetters. It was the last rave tune that I wrote which was any good."

SMACK MY BITCH UP

Released November 1997, chart position No 8

Condemned by the Beastie Boys and Moby, debated in Parliament, banned by Wal-Mart, "Smack My Bitch Up" stole hip-hop's old skool lingo but somehow lost its meaning along the way.

LH: "The dumbest track I ever wrote, what else can I say? Basically I put down the biggest beat I'd ever done and took the piss. I remember we were in the frame of mind where we just wanted to push things to the limit.

"When all this shit started happening about us encouraging violence against women I just thought it was mad. My thinking was that when an artist paints an obscene picture it's up to people what they get from it. Some people might be inspired, others might be disgusted, but it ain't gonna make people want to go and copy it in real life. That was the mentality I had."

POISON

Released March 1995, chart position No 13

Maxim's debut the slow grind of "Poison" provided the blueprint for the big beat sound that followed.

LH: "We'd been together for five years and Maxim had never been on a track but 'Poison' really brought us together. I love the flow to his lyric, the way it slips across the beat. Drum'n'bass was just kicking in and everyone was doing these really fast tunes, so I just slowed the whole thing down."

GIRLS

Released August 2004, chart position No 19

After a seven-year hiatus, punctuated only by the disappointing "Baby's Got a Temper" single, The Prodigy returned with this gorgeous slice of old-school electro meets sleazy tech-funk.

LH: "It's just me back to what I did in the beginning, rocking the beat over a couple of samples. I really like the track; it's got sleaziness to it.

"People always ask me about why it took so long between Fat of the Land and Always Outnumbered... I got to the point where I just wanted to switch off for a while. It was more real having that long break. I could've come straight back with Fat of the Land Part 2 and coined it in."

VOODOO PEOPLE

Released August 1994, chart position No 13

The Last Poets, an insistent flute refrain and Howlett's trademark low slung funk grooves.

LH: "I always thought this track was quite cheesy really... Actually, it reminded me of James Bond when I first did it."

CHARLY

Released August 1991, chart position No 3

Written off in some quarters as the track that killed rave, thanks to its kids' TV sample of Public Information Film character Charly the Cat.

LH: "For such a long time this track was like a noose around our necks. We were totally overtaken by its commercial success but, when I first did it, all I was trying to do was write a track that'd do my friends' heads in!"

NO GOOD (START THE DANCE)

Released May 1994, chart position No 4

House gone dirty.

LH: "'No Good' was me doing everything that I hated about dance music - nice vocal, melodic riffs, 2 Unlimited shit - but with a real darkness underneath. It's a really angry song."

SPITFIRE

Released April 2005, limited download single, no chart showing

Probably the finest moment on the band's fourth album Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned, "Spitfire" does exactly what it says on the tin.

LH: "It was one of those tracks that was written to blow up people's speakers. A really hard hitting attack. The lyrics are just me summing up something about being British. The Spitfire was the best of British engineering, a powerful war machine. I liked the idea of relating that to the band."

JERICHO

Released September 1992, chart position No 11

The flipside to "Fire", this offers a collision between rampaging horns and ecstasy soaked rhythms.

LH: "This is a fans' favourite. A serious warehouse tune. I've got loads of unreleased tracks from this period that are all good, rocking warehouse tunes."

EVERYBODY IN THE PLACE

Released December 1991, chart position No 2

LH: "I put this out because of record company pressure. I'm still proud of it... but I wasn't too bothered about it selling."

ONE LOVE

Released July 1993, chart position No 8

LH: "We put this out as a white label under the name 'Earthbound', so no one knew it was us, and it got loads of support from DJs and journalists who had been dissing The Prodigy. When they found out it was us they quickly changed their minds. But I wasn't bothered 'cos I'd already gone from the dance thing."

HOT RIDE

Released November 2004, limited download single, no chart showing

After years of threatening to produce the paradigm of the electronic punk sound, Howlett finally delivers with this scorching avalanche.

LH: "I think this is a really great track which has been overlooked. It's got a real punk rock spirit. I wanted that Seventies punk sound. It's got Juliet Lewis on vocals. She was great to work with, really enthusiastic."

'Their Law - The Singles 1990-2005' is out on Monday on XL Records; Liam Howlett was talking to Martin James

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