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As their 'best of' album is unleashed, in a rare interview TuneTribe's Dave Starkey finds out what drives The Prodigy's main man Liam Howlett creatively, and what gets him hot under the bonnet...

With the release of singles retrospective 'Their Law' and a recent honour at the Q Awards, The Prodigy's profile is set to be raised once more. Having found Liam Howlett holed up in the studio preparing the group's next studio album, we dragged him away from the mixing desk and gently whispered some questions into his ear.

You've just won a Q award for innovation haven't you?
"'Innovation In Sound', whatever the fuck that means!"

How did you feel about that?
"It's always good. It's good to be recognised. It was quite a bizarre do though - I expected there to be a lot of new bands and stuff, but it was us and Oasis... a real '90s throwback! But we had a good time and we were proud."

The release of a retrospective often indicates that bands are getting ready to wind it up. Is this the case with you?
"People say that, but all the 'best of' albums I've bought are by bands that are still around now, so I don't know if that's the case any more. Maybe it used to be the case ten years ago, but all these bands have done these albums, Chemical Brothers, Blur... we always knew album number five was going to be the singles album."

So you'd always had planned a 'best of'?
""We laughed when the label said it when we first signed – we never thought we'd get that far. I was thinking 'I don't want to do it - how are we going to make it creative?', but we put a lot of work into it. There are two versions - a basic version which you'll be able to get in Tesco's and all that shit, and a deluxe version some new tracks, live tracks, things for the fans." (both versions are available on TuneTribe now)"

What's next for you then?
"We've been touring and now we're in the studio recording the new album until next year."

What have been the high and low points of The Prodigy so far?
"Because we've done our singles album, we've been looking back a lot recently. There have been many high points - getting a deal, playing 'Raindance' in London, releasing the first record, number one in America. Every year something's happened. It's been amazing."

Who would be your ideal person to collaborate with, living or dead?
"Keith Moon. I'd love to get him drumming on a track."

What are your thoughts on the state of the music industry at the moment?
"It's definitely harder now. We were in a time when singles sold - a number one would sell 500,000. 'Breathe' sold 600,000 but even number ones now are usually 20 or 30,000 at the most. It's a lot harder for good music to come through. It's not so bad now - two or three years ago, pop music was really big but with Radio 1 looking for more actual talent, that's changed. A lot of bands still don't really take any risks and don't have any danger about them. We need bands that don't give a fuck, balls out and have no rules about their music."

How do you feel about dance music?
"I don't know anything about dance music. I don't care about it. I stopped listening to it halfway through the '90s."

Why?
"I was never a clubgoer, and it lacked the energy and dirt that I like in music. There were always tunes that would come through, but it generally felt like the same shit I was listening to ten years ago. It would help if electronic music was more band-based; people willing to put their faces behind their music - it would come through a lot more."

So what inspires you to still keep making music?
"Hearing something and thinking 'I wish I'd written that', which makes me go into the studio and try and write something better. For me, it's always about trying to write a better song or make a better beat than someone else. That's what keeps me going."

What makes you angry?
"A lack of dangerous music, a lack of people taking risks with their music. It's not so much anger; it's more like 'come on, what the fuck's the matter with people?' The '90s seemed to be so much edgier - people were giving it more. I hate all these American bands with false anger - they've got their guitars and they're trying to be angry when there's nothing to actually be angry about."

What are your favourite Prodigy tracks and why?
"'Poison' was always a favourite. With that track we were going against the formula. When everyone else was turning up the tempo, we flipped it and wrote a slow track which was equally as heavy. It also works live as well - that track has evolved through 11 or 12 years. 'Breathe' is a favourite as well."

What's been the strangest moment of your career so far?
"It's all bizarre - I don't know really. It's all fucking strange."

Dave Starkey

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