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With the strength of Liam Howlett’s bedroom-born endeavours, The Prodigy were never going to stay on the shelf for long. But it had to start somewhere, and if you want to get to the heart of what makes a good band great, then why not ask the man who signed them? Dave Kerr grabs a word with Nick Halkes, founder of XL Records.

Where and when did it all begin – how did you first encounter The Prodigy and what were the qualities that compelled you to sign them?

“Basically, Liam called me up at XL and said ‘hi, I’m a DJ with a rap act called Cut 2 Kill, I’ve made some of my own music and I’m just wondering if you’ve got any time for me to come down and play it to you?’ It was one of those ones where I could’ve said ‘well, you can sling it in the post’ or whatever, but I just thought ‘fair enough, why not? I’m sure I can spare 10 minutes to have a listen.’ A few days later he came down with a demo tape, and it was a tape in those days – a cassette – with a handful of tracks on it, four early bits.

"It wasn’t that I heard music that made me go ‘wow – this is gonna be massive, these are major crossover hits here,’ because they were cuts like Android, Everybody in the Place; it was just early, underground-aimed, breakbeat driven club music, but I liked the dynamic of it. I asked Liam a few questions, the usual stuff: ‘hey, how do you see things developing for the act?’ To which he replied, ‘oh, well I’d like to take it live, I’ve got a few mates that might become part of a band.’ I thought that sounded like a good idea, showed a bit of vision above and beyond making tracks for the sake of it. I played the stuff to myself over the next day or two and pretty swiftly called Liam back. I said ‘yeah mate, if you’re up for it I’m up for it as well, I’d like to sign you.’ It was a very simple deal to do and we were off and running.”

Why do you think people keep queuing up for more?

“I think people like the way that the band set their own rules. I think it’s very attractive, the way that they don’t chase success in the traditional manner and they never have done. Even scrolling way back, the band got offered the chance to be on Top of the Pops around the time of the Everybody in the Place single and we pretty much knew it would go to number one if they did it. But the band’s view was: ‘We don’t really like the show and we don’t particularly like a lot of the acts that end up on Top of the Pops, so, nah’. Obviously, knowing that you may well have a number one if you’re going on Top of the Pops would probably be the sort of thing that the vast majority of acts would jump at. But, again, they chose to set their own rules rather than follow the course that most others take. That’s what’s at the heart of their enduring success. Musically too, there’s still something very special going on with The Prodigy.”

Written by: Dave Kerr
Published: Tue 31 Mar 2009

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