“What evil lurks in the heart of men..?” The story behind The Prodigy’s debut EP

“What evil lurks in the heart of men..?”

So begins the title track of the What Evil Lurks EP, released by legendary rave outfit The Prodigy on 25 February 1991. While it was preceded by the limited release of Android as a standalone track the previous November, this was the first official release by the Essex group, setting in motion a three-decade career and counting.

Sampling Ultramagnetic MCs, ska group Madness and a 1930s US radio show, What Evil Lurks headed up what was in essence a mini album, also including rave cuts We Gonna Rock, Android and an early version of Prodigy staple Everybody In The Place.

You can listen to the full EP as a YouTube playlist here:

As the official press release at the time put it, “More tough house beats from that unlikely hot bed of talent, Essex (reference N-Joi, Fantasy UFO, D Zone Records etc).

“The Prodigy is 19-year-old Liam Howlett and XL Recordings are proud to present his first excursion onto vinyl. Enjoy the pounding rhythms of What Evil Lurks, We Gonna Rock, Android and Everybody in the House (sic). More meaty beats from XL Recordings!”

It was composed largely on a Roland W-30 Sampler Workstation, Howlett’s main piece of equipment at the time – as Howlett explained in a 1992 interview (reproduced by Music Radar a few years ago), his setup at the time was relatively basic.

“I started with the W-30, then I got a [Roland] U-220 and a 909, the old house drum machine. […] A lot of people use the Atari ST for sequencing, but I’m so used to using the W-30 that I don’t want to move away from that; I know it inside out. The only downfall is that it’s only got 16 tracks; I get round it by MIDIing two together to get 32.”

XL Recordings snapped up the tracks (part of a 10-track sampler Prodigy composer Howlett put together) in late 1990, however he is reported to have originally offered the tracks to Tam Tam Records, on which he had released his first music, as part of rap crew Cut 2 Kill. Tam Tam’s loss was certainly XL’s gain in this instance.

Originally released on just 7,000 copies, What Evil Lurks was one of the most bootlegged EPs of the rave era, with the first batch famously misspelling the B-side as ‘Androids’.

Everybody in the Place would, of course, go on to receive its own release in December 1991 (and become one of the group’s biggest tunes) but the version presented here is a more stripped-down and noticeably slower version.

Notably, the EP’s Dutch release, by Torso Dance, also featured a different running order, as Android, a popular floor filler of the time, took the A1 position. The EP was also re-released by XL in 2004 to mark the label’s 15th anniversary.

The What Evil Lurks EP also gave rise to one of the more unusual Prodigy bootlegs, as snippets of Pope John Paul II and firebrand DUP leader Ian Paisley were set atop the track Android.

Receiving regular airplay on Dublin pirate Sunset FM during the 90s, the bootleg existed in semi-mythology (and on a few old, battered, C90s), before being uploaded to YouTube a few years ago.

To be fair, listening back to it all these years later, the vocal samples are a bit overdone, and the quality is horrendous.

But for a generation of pirate radio listeners, every time this gem came on the radio, it was ample excuse to reach for the extra-strength Communion wafers.

All together now… “Young people of Ireland… I love you…” 🙂

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