The Prodigy’s Keith Flint in 10 iconic videos
The face of The Prodigy was terrifying, electrifying, iconic and loved.
The news of Keith Flint’s death has hit the music industry hard. All over social media artists from hip-hop, grime, techno, rock and pop have joined thousands of fans in expressing their fondness and gratitude for The Prodigy frontman, testament to the band’s genre-spanning impact on music.
For many The Prodigy were a gateway to rave, enticing fans of rap, heavy metal and pop into the darker depths of the underground. They sold out stadiums, headlined festivals and conquered America, packing as many monster riffs and choruses as any rock band. Yet a hardcore DNA pulsated through Flint, noisily evident in his fluorescent dress sense, cantankerous attitude and that nocturnal, eternal rave energy.
But the past week has made another thing clear: Flint was, by the accounts of those who met him, a genuinely lovely bloke. Here are 10 videos that show why he will always mean so much to so many.
1. TechnoTrance, Barrowlands (1992)
Before Firestarter, before the green hair, before he had ever picked up a microphone, Flint was in The Prodigy as a professional dancer and hype man. Seen here flying through Fire, Jericho and Your Love at Glasgow’s Barrowlands at the peak of UK hardcore, Flint – who had just lived through the acid house explosion – was about as important to The Prodigy as Bez was to the Happy Mondays. In other words: crucial.
2. Out of Space (1992)
Contrary to the happy hardcore direction rave was going in, The Prodigy always favoured freakish aggression over pilled-up loveliness, and that aggression coursed through Flint like an electric current, zipping him this way and that, always in time with Liam Howlett’s frenetic beats. The fourth single from debut album The Prodigy Experience, junglist anthem Out of Space presented an early incarnation of Flint’s cartoonish rave avatar. Watch just past the minute mark as even fellow shape-maker Leeroy Thornhill looks bamboozled at the gas-masked gremlin before him.
3. Voodoo People (1994)
Music for the Jilted Generation aimed to represent Britain’s alienated youth in the wake of the Tories’ violent crackdown on rave culture. But the album sounded as much like heavy metal as techno – Voodoo People borrowed its opening power chords from Nirvana. Note the symbolism: as Howlett talked about moving away from breakbeats, the Voodoo People video sees the band trying to escape the jungle. Flint, meanwhile, emerges from a suitcase after being tossed down a mountainside, recalling that rhino scene from Ace Ventura.
4. This interview from the 90s
As The Prodigy became rock stars, Flint started looking less like Kurt Cobain and more like Alice Cooper. Between looks here, he politely declines a pesky interviewer’s request for a “happy mother’s day” message on account of his own mum being on holiday in Tenerife at the time.
5. Firestarter (1997)
After the Firestarter video – in which a devil-horned Flint spits out his first vocal performance for the band – aired on Top of the Pops in 1996, thousands of frightened parents complained to the BBC, worried it would introduce kids to a world of arson, violence or drug taking (take your pick). Following a spate of ecstasy-related deaths, Flint’s demonic snarl embodied a growing fear of rave and club culture in the UK at the time. Every bit as scary today, Firestarter showed us The Prodigy were not for mums.
6. Smack My Bitch Up, Brixton (1997)
They weren’t for hipsters either. Ever since their toytown techno hit Charly “killed rave” The Prodigy were rejected by purists as the band who made hardcore for the pop charts. Today electronic music is increasingly reverential to the early 90s, but as enjoyable as every repurposed breakbeat and rave stab is, it all feels incredibly tasteful (definitively not a hardcore characteristic) compared with, say, Smack My Bitch Up, voted the most controversial song of all time in a poll conducted by the Performing Right Society in 2010.
7. Breathe, Glastonbury (1997)
Hits are what made The Prodigy a global phenomenon, but without their hyperactive stage presence they would never have headlined a festival. As third album The Fat of the Land dropped in 1997 they became the first dance act to headline Glastonbury, turning the Pyramid Stage upside down with Flint in place as their new lead singer.
8. Voodoo People (Pendulum Remix) (2005)
In which The Prodigy blindfold a bunch of contestants and make them race through Romford Market in the dead of night; Flint can be seen laughing at anyone who falls over, filming them on a Motorola Razr. This remix represented a big moment for Australian drum & bass heads Pendulum, who, along with Chase & Status, Sub Focus, Hadouken! and Die Antwoord, could thank The Prodigy for creating the very world they inhabited.
9. The Day is My Enemy, Russia (2017)
Flint once described The Prodigy as “buzz music”. Early tracks made winking drug references, samples giggling about “charlie” and “rushing” over aural adrenaline surges seemingly designed to accentuate the feeling of a high. Revisiting their catalogue now it’s hard to hear tracks like Poison, Crazy Man, Scienide, Take Me to the Hospital and The Day is My Enemy with quite the same hedonistic enthusiasm. Flint’s struggle with mental health came as a surprise to many who knew him as happy and carefree – something we should all bear in mind when celebrating the life of an “original madhead”.
10. Keef’s Camping Shop Review (2013)
Yet Flint will largely be remembered for the smile on his face. Here’s his deadpan sense of humour in full swing, also showing off The Prodigy’s enduring Britishness. Though the band conquered America – and the world – their frontman still growled the Firestarter lyrics in an Essex accent, and was still literally called Keith. It’s a name that will live long in the memory; Keith Flint will be sorely missed.