Liam Howlett chooses the tracks that inspired rave culture's most raucous album
Twenty years ago this month, provocative British dance act the Prodigy released their seminal album, Music for the Jilted Generation. The follow up to their 1992 debut, Experience, which was more or less a collection of their early singles including rave anthem ‘Charley Says’, Music was arguably their first album proper.
An eclectic mix of hardcore dance, grunge and industrial, it was at once an authentic expression of 1990s postmodernism and at the same time, a completely unique album written by a band in a school of their own.
‘We’d been known as a dance act but I wanted to go beyond that with this album,’ says songwriter and producer Liam Howlett. ‘I’d become bored of the rave scene; it had become something so different to what it had been four years earlier. I remember hearing Rage Against the Machine and The Chronic by Dr Dre while on tour in America and thinking, I want some of that raw energy. So I came home and started writing with that idea in my head. I was drawing from a real mix of influences.’
Recorded at The Strong Rooms in Shoreditch under surprisingly restrained conditions (‘I wasn’t really doing any drugs then, just weed, but I got fed up with that too,’ says Howlett), it went straight to number one in the album charts, galvanised the sound they would later develop to worldwide appeal on 1996’s Fat of the Land, and boasted four classic singles.
The first two, ‘One Love’, with its distended breakbeat rhythms and ‘No Good (Start the Dance)’ which uses heavy acid sounds and a skewed soul-sample choruses, marked a departure from their previous guise but were no less fascinated by rave. However the following two, ‘Voodoo People’, which features a riff based on ‘Very Ape’ by Nirvana, and ‘Poison’, a kind of half speed gothic breakbeat, indicated a desire to split with the past completely.
‘A lot of the tunes on Music were written as a reaction to what was going on in dance music,’ says Howlett. ‘For example, 'No Good' was a response to all that shit Eurodance stuff, and 'Poison' was a backlash against jungle which seemed to be getting faster and faster. We also started making better videos during that period as well. 'No Good' was filmed under Spitalfields market and 'Voodoo People’ was shot on location with a real witch doctor casting a spell.’
Two decades later the record seems as relevant as ever. Strong, dissonant, angry, its uniqueness is confirmed the band’s lack of imitators in the years hence. Speaking from his home in London, Liam Howlett tells Dazed about the ten records that were buzzing in his ears while making it for an extra-special anniversary playlist.
‘So What Cha ‘Want’ by the Beastie Boys
This tune has so much swagger. When I heard it I knew they were back. They're a band that's always in my head when I write.
‘Bombtrack’ by Rage Against the Machine
I could have picked any number of tracks from their debut album where this joint comes from, it has so much energy, raw funk power and groove. We were in LA when it came out and it had a big effect on me when I went into the studio to write ‘Poison’ and ‘Their Law’.
‘The Ecstasy of Gold’ by Ennio Morricone
This song just keeps soaring and lifting.
‘Halleluwah’ by Can
All about the drums and groove here.
‘Papua New Guinea’ by The Future Sound of London
The last great uplifting rave tune I liked from that era. Hearing it closed a chapter of my life.
‘Welcome to the Terrordome’ by Public Enemy
One of my all time favorite hip hop bangers, it’s got it all, rhyme, flow, the lyrics and chaos – a kind of violence that gives me a buzz.
‘The Chronic’ by Dr Dre
The whole album bangs, I couldn't pick just one track because I’ve always listened to it from start to finish album, it’s so good.
‘2000 Light Years From Home’ by The Rolling Stones
I remember my head being twisted when I first heard this. We’d been doing mushrooms on our tour bus and it was the perfect soundtrack. ‘Their Satanic Majesities Second Request’ where this track is from is probably the best Stones album in my opinion.
Territorial Pissings - Nirvana
I was never a grunge fan, but this tune carried the punk spirit and energy like nothing else that was around at that time.
‘Good Livin’ by Bernard “Pretty” Purdie
The groove is so heavy I had to sample it. You can hear it on ‘3 Kilos’. So ffffrrrresh!