The pop charts of March 1996 were a heady mix of boybands, Britpop and bad Eurodance… the perfect environment for The Prodigy to drop the devastating Firestarter, which was released on 18 March of that year, 23 years ago today.
Coming at the listener (and, thanks to the ubiquity of mid-90s MTV, the viewer) with more venom than Johnny Rotten at his most snarling, the track was arguably the group’s biggest hit, and paved the way for Flint, heretofore a background dancer, to be thrust front and centre.
Following Flint’s untimely passing earlier this month, we look back at an interview the band gave to Rolling Stone in August 1997, with the cover of the magazine featuring the Essex native in his punk pageantry.
Five years on from the group’s debut, what prompted Flint to pick up a pen and start writing lyrics, interviewer Chris Heath asks.
“That’s unexplainable,” Flint responds. “Why does a river turn into an oxbow lake? I’ve spent six years expressing myself with my body, shouting with my body. It’s like a conductor of the music. From the party scene, when a tune came on and it was your tune, I wanted everyone to know it was my tune. Yes! Fuckin’ hell! Rockin’! Just yelling at each other, dancing away. This is just an extension of that.
“If I could get a mike and just go, ‘Fuckin’ hell! Fuckin’ hell!’ I would do it. That is the punk-attitude, DIY aspect of the Prodigy.”
When The Prodigy came to record Firestarter, Flint recalls how he and the group’s Liam Howlett listened to it about 30 times, mesmerised by the group’s dark new direction.
“I’m not a singer,” says Flint. “I love the fact that there’s people out there that have been trying since the age of nine to sing and get the voice right — do, re, mi and all that — and I can roar in, not ever written anything or performed lyrically anything, and write a tune that’s so successful.
“I think that’s a brilliant piss take on a lot of people, and that gives me a buzz.”
As for the lyrics of Firestarter, in which Flint refers to himself as a ‘self-inflicted mind detonator’ and ‘the bitch you hated’ – implying a degree of self-hatred – he is less forthcoming, however.
“It’s quite deep,” he says. “I don’t know if I want to say. I could explain it to you, but I wouldn’t for the magazine.”
Click here for the full interview. RIP Keith Flint, 17 September 1969 – 4 March 2019.