Without The Prodigy’s Keith Flint, punk and electronic music may never have seen eye to eye

Without The Prodigy’s Keith Flint, punk and electronic music may never have seen eye to eye

Photo: Lewis Nixon
Words by Mike Cusack

He was an incredibly influential figure in the music landscape.

The world mourned in early March 2019 as the news of Keith Flint’s passing broke across the planet. The loss of the enigmatic frontman of groundbreaking UK act The Prodigy had generations of music fans spanning his three-decade career in shock.

Originally a dancer in the group, Flint brought his explosive energy to the microphone first in 1996 with singles ‘Breathe’ and ‘Firestarter’, bringing a guttural punk intensity and untamed energy more akin to Johnny Rotten than anything dance music had ever seen. Combined with Liam Howlett’s production genius utilising hallmarks of UK hard rave, break-beat, acid house and industrial, The Prodigy had a sound that was fucking exciting and new.

But what shot them to number one on the charts and international superstardom, was likely the group’s videos featuring Flints’ now iconic aesthetic. Twin green mohawks, white make-up, eyeliner applied with a shovel, piercings, tattoos, devilish joker-esque smile, tongue out — this bloke (alongside Marilyn Manson) was the poster child for ‘shit we don’t want in our lives’ as far as ‘90s parents were concerned. Jumping around like the clown of your nightmares, possessed by rage and only the vaguest fragments of sanity — for many misfit teens, Flint was a hero, a beacon of light in the homogeneity of modern life.

Despite his onstage persona, Flint developed a reputation as a polite, generous and genuine soul of the music industry. His honesty and charisma often caught interviewers off guard — he admitted to bouts of depression far before it was an openly talked about topic, admitted to consuming alcohol and drugs “like a sponge” in his times of despair, leading to troubles within the group that ground Keith’s involvement to a halt after their seminal album Fat Of The Land.

But it wasn’t the end. Keith got married, bought a house out in the green pastures of Essex, bought a pub, got a bunch of dogs and a couple of horses. Got really into motorbikes. He lived a peaceful life and got himself cleaned up with the help of his family.

Eventually, Hewitt and Flint patched up their friendship and got back to work with Invaders Must Die, released in 2009, featuring Flint front and centre. Unfortunately, it seems Flint’s demons never truly left him.

Depression is fucked. 49 is too bloody young. Keith, you were a visionary. Thanks for spending the time you chose to have on Earth making a significant contribution to the history of dance music. Thanks for freaking nine-year-old me out in ‘96. Thanks for again showing us what onstage energy is really about. Rest in peace.