Keith Flint death: The story behind 'Firestarter' – The Prodigy's first number one and their most famous song

Many TV stations refused to play the video pre-watershed

Roisin O'Connor
Music Correspondent
Tuesday 05 March 2019 08:19
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Keith Flint death: Prodigy front man dies aged 49

Keith Flint, the electronic dance music pioneer and singer with The Prodigy, has died at the age of 49.

The band confirmed the news shortly after a report that Flint had been found dead at his home in Essex, commenting: “It is with deepest shock and sadness that we can confirm the death of our brother and best friend Keith Flint. A true pioneer, innovator and legend. He will be forever missed.”

Immediately recognisable thanks to his spiky, fluorescent-coloured hair and incendiary live performances, Flint founded the band in Essex in 1990 with budding producer Liam Howlett and Leeroy Thornhill.

Together, they turned the sound of underground rave music into a global force without diluting its sound, although Howlett said in interviews that the band had to “fight” to get respect from the rest of the music industry. They went onto become one of the greatest and most influential electronic bands of all time.

Most fans would agree that the 1997 hit “Firestarter” – taken from their third album The Fat of the Land – was their biggest and best-known song. It caused mass controversy upon its release due to its confrontational, violent lyrics and an eerie video that was shot in London’s abandoned Aldwych Tube station (many TV stations refused to play the video pre-watershed).

Flint and Howlett had discussed the song as recently as February this year, in a podcast with triple j. Howlett said he was “on a mission” to move away from the rave scene and do something different.

“I was starting the new album [when I wrote ‘Firestarter’], and that was the first thing people were gonna here. Then all hell broke loose, with that track. I was messing around, sampling loads of guitars, so I’d spend a lot of time recording guitars then really smashing them up and trying to make new sounds out of it.”

The track samples from The Breeders’ ”SOS”, as Howlett was a fan of Kim Deal and the “drone” sound on the song that gave it an “evil” build. Flint then came round after Howlett had written a minute of the song, and ended up recording his first vocals for a Prodigy song.

“The backing track was almost done, and I said, if you was gonna put me on anything, that’s what I’d be on.”

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“Firestarter” was also the group’s first number one single on the UK Singles Chart. It instantly changed The Prodigy’s image – and was more brazen with its mix of rave and rock than anything they had released before.”

The lyrics included lines such as: ”I’m the trouble starter, punkin’ instigator/ I’m the fear addicted, a danger illustrated,” and: “|’m the bitch you hated, filth infatuated, yeah/ I’m the pain you tasted, fell intoxicated.”

Yet despite the clear rage in the lyrics, Howlett and the rest of the band said they just wanted to make music for people to go “yeah!” to.

“All the anger on the records just comes out of battling with myself, to try to make the tracks better,” he said in a 2004 interview with The Guardian.

“Politics? It’s never political for us. We just write music for people to go ‘yeah!’ to. “To be honest with you... I’ve never been angry about anything in my f***ing life.”

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