It was 1pm on Friday the 31st of August 2018, the first day of Electric Picnic. Myself and a friend were driving down to the festival with not a ticket between us. Tickets had sold out months before. The only hope of getting in was a trumpet, we were hoping to sneak in disguised as performers. It was a terrible idea.
There was only one band that could make us this desperate to go to the festival. When The Prodigy were announced as headliners, we knew that nothing would stop us from getting to see them. The passing of the band’s frontman Keith Flint last week has made me so grateful that we did not let logic get the better of us that day.
Keith Flint is one of the most important musicians that this world has seen in the last three decades. The Prodigy are the reason that there is still life pumping through the veins of dance music today. They harnessed a raw energy that was birthed in the early nighties and nurtured it so that it still survives today.
But where does an outsider like Keith Flint fit into pop culture? How did this troubled teenager become so important for a generation?
Let’s look back to the 1990’s. The Berlin Wall comes down and the EU is united for the first time. It’s the end to the harsh Thatcher and Reagan regimes – Britain is ready to party. Illegal raves start springing up all over the country and the music scene is seeing an energy that echoes 1960’s The Summer of Love or Woodstock.
In the midst of this rave scene lies a nightclub, The Barn just outside of Essex . It’s here where Keith Flint met The Prodigy mastermind, Liam Howlett. Sharing similar interests The Prodigy was conceived and they conquered this underground scene. Keith started as just an on stage presence, bouncing in front of an adoring crowd. But it was his howling screams that caught the attention of the band. They harvested his screams into songs such as Firestarter and Omen that would raise them to legendary status.
Almost as quickly as the underground scene sprang up, it was rapidly massacred by The Criminal Justice Bill. The British parliament had now made these raves illegal and authorities squeezed them out of existence. The Prodigy should have died with this… but they didn’t.
It was because of the originality of Keith Flint and Liam Howlett that the band defied the odds. Their abstract image was paradoxically relatable for everyone. A generation watched the firestarter music video and saw a man with an outrageous haircut bounce around a tunnel screaming:
“I’m the b*tch you hated, filth infatuated, I’m a firestarter, Twisted firestarter”.
He was the anti-christ, he was beautiful. Keith Flint was a release for a generation as he tapped into our primal scream.
Keith Flint had this amazing power to unite people of all backgrounds. The Prodigy would play a death metal festival one day and be headlining an electronic dance festival the following day. This was because he had no fear of being himself. We took refuge in this, that it’s okay to be your own person. Many surgeocally perfected divas sing this message daily but Keith Flint lived this message.
Keith Flint started a fire for a generation and helped us breathe. Thank you.
Image Credit: TimoToivanen_REX