The Prodigy’s seventh studio album, No Tourists, is so titled with good reason. Filled with ominous synthesiser riffs and pounding programmed drumbeats, it’s as uncompromising a record as the techno-rock trio have released in the past 28 years.
“I think that it’s a really natural process,” says Keith Flint, the band’s co-vocalist and dancer, in considerably mellower Essex tones than the hell-raising figure he once portrayed in the video for The Prodigy’s 1997 Number One, Firestarter. “You get a couple of trigger songs to start with that tend to lead the way. But everything is written for stage and the venom and the fire that you feel and hear in the music is because essentially it’s always going to end up on stage.
“I think that we try to be uncompromising anyway because we’re not a formulaic band. Our end result isn’t the radio, it’s the stage, so that gives us the freedom to be who we are.
“It is pretty full-on,” he concedes, “but I think that’s what we love. Essentially that is The Prodigy.”
As for the album’s title, he says: “No Tourists is very much about not being on the pre-written route, like a package tour where you know when you’re going to eat, you know where you’re going to go and it’s a complete safety net, really. We’d rather be like explorers and adventurers and go off the beaten path and find out more about what’s going on. Eating with the locals and going to clubs where the locals go rather than going to the tourist destinations.”
Flint admits there are echoes of the band’s roots in the rave scene in the early 1990s. “There’s definitely flavours of albums past [but] I don’t think it’s a throwback; we’re always looking forward and always trying to move forward in the production and the way it sounds, not making a repeat of what we’ve done before.
“But Liam [Howlett, the band’s keyboard player and producer] owns those sounds, he produced them and he was a massive part of making that sound and what was happening at the time.
“I think it’s for pop stars to do that reinvention thing. Our fans and people that come to the shows come for a reason, they know what to expect, that sonic onslaught, but I’ve often said to Liam, ‘You own that sound and never be frightened of using it’. That doesn’t mean he should necessarily regurgitate it, it just means you can’t be frightened of who you are.”
Now aged 49, Flint looks back on those illegal raves with nostalgia. “It was an amazing time, there was a lot about it that was special. It had a lawless aspect, nobody really knew what it was or where it came from. You did feel you were out there doing something very special at weekends, the unity that it brought, the music and the DJs. It was like a proper youth culture.
“I think the beauty of that time then was the lack of mobile phones. You couldn’t just go on YouTube and see what perception or energy or biology or telepathy there w; you could only find it by knowing where to go and discovering it for yourself.”
The Redbridge-born performer firmly rejects the idea that this album was in any way influenced by the tumultuous political climate of the last couple of years. “For me personally I know nothing about politics,” he says frankly. “If you fired some political terminology at me I wouldn’t understand it, that’s for sure. There’s no room for us as a band to bring any politics into our music because it’s a release for people.
“We want people to come to the shows because ultimately that’s where the music becomes 3D, live, and not have them thinking about if there’s a political statement or the stance of this track, what it’s trying to say, other than the unity of the crowd. Everyone wants to unite and ignite and have a bit of a riot and for it to be euphoric.
“I don’t personally get on with people that become a politician because they have a few hits records. I’m sure there’s loads of people that have done good through people having awareness and then being able to use their platform to get a message across but I wouldn’t feel comfortable with that myself. I think focusing in on playing to people and knowing that you’ve been around the world [is enough].
“We’ve always prided ourselves in the fact that if a country asks us to go, we go. Back in the day we went to Bosnia just as the war was finishing, being the first [band] from outside the country performing there in seven years there’s something good about that. Going and igniting a field full of people is a really good thing.”
Flint’s other love is motorcycle racing. He competed himself and for several years he ran his own team.
“I love the bikes,” he says. “I don’t race myself any more but achieved what I wanted to do there. I did three seasons myself and absolutely buzzed off it and then set up Team Traction Control. I’m not involved with the team any more, I passed it on when it moved up from the 1000CC to the Superbikes, and it’s still going. Two [Isle of Man] TT wins, both years with Ian Hutchinson, four in total back to back wins – being involved with something so historic that’s a very proud moment.”
No Tourists is out now. The Prodigy play at First Direct Arena, Leeds on November 13. theprodigy.com