Welcome to 909rewind, a series from 909originals that explores the early musical careers of some of clubland’s biggest names, uncovering hidden gems and familiar classics from the archives [click here for past editions].
This month (21 August to be exact) marks a milestone birthday for one of the true electronic pioneers of this or any other era, as The Prodigy’s Liam Howlett turns 50.
Having cut his musical teeth with Cut 2 Kill in the late 80s under the pseudonym DJ Fame – check out the group’s Listen to the Basstone for an indication of what the Braintree native would do next – Howlett formed The Prodigy in 1990, with the group’s first single, the Ultramagnetic MCs/Madness-sampling What Evil Lurks, in early 1991.
The rest, as they say, is history… with The Prodigy reportedly back in the studio working on new music, in what is their first project without the late Keith Flint, who passed away in March 2019.
But while Howlett’s musicianship with The Prodigy made him a household name, his work outside of the band was no less interesting – in early 1999, he released a mix album, The Dirtchamber Sessions Volume One, which showcased both his dexterity behind the turntables and musical upbringing (Bomb The Bass, Sugarhill Gang, The Charlatans, Beastie Boys and Jane’s Addiction were among the acts featured).
With the Prodigy on temporary hiatus, Howlett toured the album that summer, performing DJ sets at festivals including Homelands Ireland, where a leak in the roof meant some enterprising roadie was forced to stand with an umbrella over the decks for the duration of his set.
He would go on to put out another compilation – Liam Prodigy: Back To Mine – in 2006, which similarly drew upon a wide range of influences, including Public Image Limited, Meat Beat Manifesto, The Stranglers and even Dolly Parton’s Jolene.
“I never get inspiration from the rave scene,” he told Future Music all the way back in 1993. “The atmosphere gives me a buzz, but lately there seems to have been something in the songs that I don’t like – halfway through they bring in a riff that’s already been used loads on other tracks.
“There are too many people just sampling beats. They need to be a bit more clever – they need to find beats that have never been touched before and mess around with them.”
That broad musical knowledge has led Howlett, both under his own name and under the guise of The Prodigy, to remix a wide variety of artists over the years, several of which we have compiled for this edition of 909rewind.
This includes his savage take on Front 242’s Religion, the rave-tinged rework of Jesus Jones’ Zeroes And Ones, a dub-heavy version of Ian Brown’s Just Like You, and a scything Method Man remix. We’ve also thrown in a few reworkings of Prodigy classics, not to mention a couple of gems from the group’s early catalogue.