Title art by Kildren. Click image to visit studio. Closing art by Jill Rubin. Click image to visit Twitter page.
Listen to Live Reading
Listen to Suggested Audio
 The Prodigy “Firestarter”
 The Prodigy “Smack My Bitch Up”
 The Prodigy “Your Love”
“I’m the trouble starter, punkin’ instigator
I’m the fear addicted, a danger illustrated”
How’s this for an anecdote … When The Prodigy frontman, Keith Flint, became landlord for old English public house, The Leather Bottle, in 2014, one of his very first actions was to place a swear jar on the bar. Given that the pub had itself an authentic log burning fireplace and one of his daily tasks was to light said flame, it was only a matter of time before the word “Firestarter” was opportunistically chanted. And, when this happened, Keith would playfully insist on a one pound forfeit being stumped up. This iconic phrase was both blessing and curse to him as, while on one hand, it catapulted the rave outfit headlong into the major leagues, courtesy of the headlining single from their masterful 1997 long player, The Fat of the Land, that was the way the British media would refer to him forevermore. When in truth, he was simply a fucking nice bloke. Like, real salt of the earth. There was no fat on this T-Bone.
Thus, I have decided to honour this fine English gentleman in my own way. Not by supplying the obligatory check list of facts and figures, shall leave that for the obituaries. The worldwide web is at your fingertips, should you wish to read precisely what they wish you to read. By speaking of a transcendental soul whom I knew intimately, without once actually meeting him “in person”. Should the eyes be the windows to said piece of kit, then Keith’s penetrating peepers were a pair of triple-glazed beach house patio sliders overlooking an endless stretch of white sands and the big blue caressing it. To be fair, the other band members had this virulent glare nailed down also. But it was Keith who prowled the lens front-of-house like a pristine panther from 1997 forth.
So where was I when all this was transpiring? Well, having followed The Prodigy like a wolf on a season trail ever since their first EP, What Evil Lurks, in 1991, and been regurgitated from the rave scene in late 1993, when it all got a little too dark and dingy for my liking, I was painted in primer for something to reinstate my flagging faith in a scene that appeared done, dusted and busted by the old bill. My beloved breakbeat had become way too breakneck by ’97 and largely replaced with techno thumps, with nary a snare or hi-hat in sight. Then Firestarter exploded like a snarling supernova and fused whirling breaks with panic room-pounding punk attitude, the likes of which never quite escaped the seventies. While God was busy saving the queen, the New Romantics were sharpening up our act. And God bless ’em for that. Vague twist of artistic irony.
While a fire was indeed lit beneath my posterior, it was another track from The Fat of the Land that truly did a number on me. The title, Smack My Bitch Up, alone would have had Mary Whitehouse prolapsing like a Friesian in a twister, but the video was where the ultimate donkey punch was landed. Having spent several minutes in the first-person company of a fellow who was quite clearly something of a general bastard, we were led back to the boudoir, where commencement of saddle blazing coitus titillated every sense we’d had pushed, shoved, puked on and pummeled repeatedly for the dizzying duration. And then… the money shot. As pilfered from the swear jar and paid back in fucking full. Dude looked like a lady to me. Could it be I had been served? Exhaustively? Yes indeed, my mind had signed the deeds way back at the strip bar. Friends and countrymen, I had learned the first rule of fight club.
Was this the most thought-provoking and jarring music video I had ever had the bitchy pleasure of being smacked with? Uh-huh. Has anything matched it since? Uh-uh. Anyone who questions the validity of art as a five sense medium, then watch Smack My Bitch Up and prepare to swill the mouthwash. It single-handedly challenges one of the most critical misconceptions in modern life and one that affects us all, as a result of the media drip-feeding bile. That only men could ever possibly be abusive. In the history of bitch slaps, this one left the most punishing of palm prints. It also transformed the entire meaning of the project into something so relevent that we couldn’t even begin to be prepared for it.
“I’m the bitch you hated, filth infatuated, yeah
I’m the pain you tasted, fell intoxicated”
Yet still I couldn’t shake those eyes. That glare. One which only reveals what we are in-tune enough with our souls to ever see. Many feared it, I felt only serene when locked between its crosshairs. The reason for this is simple as Gump – his soul was a thing of magnificent beauty and grace. Indeed, I feel it within me right now. Once you forge that unique connection, it just is. Keith Flint was and still is, one of the sweetest natured, most unassuming, kindest, funniest, most down-to-the-salts, souls I have ever come across. Recently, I have begun to tinker in live visual performance, and the most adoring reverence I can pay is to say that it was Keith’s way or the high way. The intensity in that gaze was my right of way. My end game to play. The reason why I accentuate the eyes with make-up. It’s an open invite to our beach house by the sea. And yes, we do have ourselves a log-burner.
Thank you sir, for the belief you instilled in me. The media had you down as a firestarter and Jesus Christ were they onto something for once. But they missed the trick, didn’t they. Ever the ultimate illusionist. When I offered the cursory pitiful glance at the daily papers while queuing for my smokes, I felt positively saddened. Front page news delivered through matter-of-fact alone, with supporting image of white devil drenched in green hue to further dress him and address him to type. Cunts. But then, that’s why we do what we do and in the manner we do. Anyone who truly knows our souls will know they are too true to ever be blue. And will be aware that there is beauty in-between too. Keith, you are sincerely a mercurial creature. And I’ll be the very first to donate a pound to your swear jar, in honor of the flame you placed within me which will never be extinguished. Cheers.