“When, and if, I get to 65, I’d like to say that I did everything – the lot,” the late Keith Flint once said. “I’d like to think I bedded loads of babes and lived out my ultimate sex fantasies. I’d like to think I’d been through every colour with my hair and everywhere that could have been pierced on my body and been pierced. Even if all my beloved tattoos have gone saggy by then,” he said, “at least I can stand up and say, I did it.”
In the aftermath of the death of The Prodigy founder earlier this year, many fans reflected on these words, which more or less sum up Keith’s one-of-a-kind energy. Terrifying the country’s youngsters (and most of their parents) during a now-notorious appearance on Top of the Pops in ‘96, bringing sheer menace to the music channels with his performance in the ‘Firestarter’ video, and fuelling the brilliant chaos of a live show, Keith Flint brought a playful ferocity to everything he did onstage. And off stage, he’s remembered as a kind and generous man with a wicked sense of humour to match. While he was the landlord of Pleshey pub The Leather Bottle, Keith ran a mandatory swear jar for punters who dared to make ‘Firestarter’ jokes as he stoked the open fire – and donated the contents to charity.
Following the death of Keith, The Prodigy cancelled their upcoming live shows, and stepped away to mourn a beloved friend and collaborator in private. Now, they have shared the news that they’re back in the studio.
— The Prodigy (@the_prodigy) August 20, 2019
The Prodigy’s decision to carry on making music is brave. It also seems like a fitting continuation of the way in which they have honoured their bandmate’s memory thus far. Ahead of Keith Flint’s funeral, which took place in March, they asked fans lining the procession route to “raise the roof for Keef” – and the thousands in attendance rose to the occasion. Thumping dance music blasted from a local pub across the streets of Braintree at his send-off, and outside the church, fans joined together to sing The Prodigy’s 1992 song ‘Out of Space’ en masse. It felt like the perfect celebration.
Around Essex, Keith would often get approached by confused locals who wanted to take a closer look at his chaotic hairstyle. “I get so many old dears coming up to me going, ‘Nice one, love yer hair, are you collecting for charity then?’” he told NME pre-mass fame. “They love it, they know life’s too short so you might as well live it.” You suspect that he’d say the same thing about the prospect of The Prodigy continuing.
There is no right approach to grief. It’s a messy, unpredictable, gnarled beast. If The Prodigy had decided to disband for good, that would be the right approach too. Some bands split following the passing of a bandmate: Nirvana and Beastie Boys to name two. Other bands, like Queen, continue playing their back catalogue as a tribute to their departed frontperson, or release new music under different monikers, as Thin Lizzy have done. Following the passing of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, his bandmates formed New Order. The Manic Street Preachers went on after Richey Edwards’ disappearance. AC/DC continued as a band with the blessing of Bon Scott’s parents, and dedicated ‘Back in Black’ to the late frontman.
All of these different stories find their way to the right ending; you would not rewrite any of their journeys. Of course, this group will never be the same again, and Keith’s absence will be felt in every single beat. By continuing to create warped, earth-shuddering, rave music, The Prodigy are continuing to write their story how they see fit. And what a fitting tribute to the truly irreplaceable Keef’s spirit this new chapter will be.
For help and advice on mental health:
- ‘Am I depressed?‘ – Help and advice on mental health and what to do next
- Help Musicians UK – Around the clock mental health support and advice for musicians
- Music Support Org – Help and support for musicians struggling with alcoholism, addiction, or mental health issues
- YOUNG MINDS – The voice for young people’s health and wellbeing
- CALM – The Campaign Against Living Miserably for young men
- Time To Change – Let’s end mental health discrimination
- The Samaritans – Confidential support 24 hours a day