Black Book magazine
March 27, 2009
It takes a genre-skipping, rule-breaking band like The Prodigy to completely blow that silly old cliché that “the third time is the charm” to smithereens. After some tumultuous times, the band has reunited with new vigor to produce their fifth album: Invaders Must Die, an insurgency of rapid-fire electronica. It’s their most introspective, complete, and self-representative album to date, and it shot straight to number one in its debut week. No collaborations and no nonsense. We spoke to vocalist Maxim, who recounts the band’s long and twisted journey towards sovereignty.
It seems logical that after each recorded album there’s a different feeling. This is your fifth release; how did you feel about the album?
I think it’s the most relative “band” album we’ve ever made. And when I say that I mean that as a band, it reflects us the best. There was a down period we went through where we had some bad times as a band, and after going through those trials and coming out the other end, this album definitely represents that time and the togetherness that we feel now.
Who exactly are the “Invaders” who must die?
The invaders represent the negativity that surrounded us and tried to infiltrate us during that bad time the band went through. There was a time when we weren’t even speaking as a band, and people weren’t trying to pull us back together and say, “Come on guys, talk, you can get through this.” Instead, there was more bickering and people trying to split us up by saying “Oh hey, guess what Maxim said, guess what Keith said, guess what Liam said.” These outside forces tried to infiltrate the band, and as time went on we realized—wait, hold on a minute, there’s not a problem with the band, we just need to communicate. So the dominant forces that tried to break us down are the invaders. The title actually happened one day when I think Keith said, “Ah man, those invaders, they’ve got to die!” and then Liam said, “That’s the album title right there!” So it’s sort of a togetherness for us—we’ve been through such bad times, and we’ve come through to the other end, so all the negativity, all the paranoia, all the negative forces that were trying to break the band down, we’ve kind of dispelled that and those are the invaders—they’ve got to die.
The band has described the track “Take Me to the Hospital” as a crash of all three of your personalities. Is that the song that best represents the three of you on the album?
Yeah, and it was only through actually playing it and realizing what we each do on the track, and noticing the sounds that we all bring to the track that we understood that. It’s kind of like a mixture of all three of our styles and personalities. Obviously Liam brings the beats and so forth, Keith brings his car-crash kind of lyrics to the mix, and the dancehall/warehouse vibe because that’s kind of my style. So it’s a real true mix of all three stars coming together, and that’s something that’s really developed over time. We were like, wow—this track really sums up The Prodigy.
Is that your favorite track on the album?
It varies for me, but it’s one of them, and when that track was finished, I always used to say to the guys, “Man, that is the new ‘Smack My Bitch Up.’” That was my description of it afterward.
You took your time recording this album—starting a track, then coming back a few months later to finish it. Would you just let it sit until something hit you that you needed to add?
Yeah, we tried to smooth things along rather than let it become stagnant and fixate ourselves on one track for a couple of months. With this album we were just really honest with each other, and if something wasn’t working, we’d say “Let’s move on,” put it on the back-burner, and just move on to another track. We’d revisit it later, and there might be something in it that was good that we could bring to the forefront at a later time, and that happened on quite a few tracks.
So you learned to record differently this time around?
Yeah, on this album we more or less recorded everything—something we didn’t do previously. We made a conscious decision that we would put down or record all the lyrics or vocal ideas, and keep them so we could revisit them. Before that, we weren’t very proactive on that level; if we came up with a lyric, we’d say the lyric and say, “Nah that doesn’t work,” but we didn’t record it and we would just forget it. So in the studio we would say “Oh, what was that lyric we thought about the other day?” and the answer would be, “Oh I don’t know, I can’t remember it.” So this time around we made sure to record everything and go back to tracks and vocals. One of the tracks that we actually went back to—which I think is one of the standout tracks—is “Run With the Wolves,” because of a lyric that Keith wrote. It was about six months before “Run With the Wolves” was written, and there was a lyric and a vocal idea we had recorded on another track, but it didn’t seem to work because the other track didn’t seem venomous and the lyrics didn’t match. So when the music for “Run with the Wolves” was written, we kind of delved back and brought those lyrics forward ... and that’s a perfect example of the way we worked.
The order of the tracks works great together as a set, but what determines how you mix it up live?
The way the tracks flow, it sounds like a live set, and this was meant to be a live album. There are no collaborations (there’s drums by Dave Grohl, but that’s not really a collaboration as such), so it’s a band album, something we can play totally live. The beauty of this album is that we can take tracks off of it and put them in the existing set where we play “Breathe,” and “Fire Starter,” “Smack My Bitch Up,” “Poison,” and a couple other tracks, and they just slot in perfectly. We’ve got so much ammunition, whereas on previous albums where there were four or five collaborations, we couldn’t really play those tracks live.
So when you were recording the album, it was a very conscious decision to make songs that would be great to play live?
Yeah, in the back of my mind that was always something I though about. Liam did have a couple of collaborations pending for the album, but eventually we realized—“Hey, we don’t need collaborations on this album, this is a band album, this needs to represent Liam, Keith, and Maxim.” We realized that the collaborations didn’t fit into the grand scheme of things, and because of that it definitely turned out to be the most representative album of the band out of all the albums.
You’ve reached a vast audience worldwide, but some people would still consider you underground. Is there a specific audience you haven’t tapped yet that you’d like to reach?
We’ll do any crowd because we haven’t got a specific audience. I think our audience is just people like us—people who like energy and music, and people who like to express themselves. That’s our kind of crowd. The reason why I think people say we’re underground is because we don’t do the things that other bands tend to do, which is a lot of TV. We don’t go on TV shows and play music, or do live music programs so people can say “Yeah, over there in the corner is The Prodigy!”
Do you consciously try to stay away from that kind of exposure?
Yeah, that’s not what we’re about. That’s not real to us. What’s real to us is playing in a venue with 2,000 to 3,000 people who come out to see a band actually play. Not playing in a theater where people have been told to come to make the crowd up, and told to clap or where a studio is used to recreate the atmosphere of a club or a party. That’s not real, that’s just people who turn up just to get their faces on TV by peeping into the camera. They’re not passionate about the music, they’re just there for the TV program. So we steer away from things like that, and we only play in live venues for people who actually come out because they are interested in music.
Prodigy plays tonight at the Roseland Ballroom.