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‘Champion of the outsiders’: Keith Flint remembered

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ICON: it’s a word so happlesly thrown around these days that it’s nearly lost its meaning. People often acquire this moniker for little to no reason - but not Keith Flint. The Prodigy frontman was a performer worthy of this title. His animalistic energy, his frenzied lyrics, and his signature devil-like looks made him the scourge of parents, and a hero of the disenfranchised.

News of Flint’s passing sent shockwaves through the music industry, with everybody from Johnny Rotten to James Blunt sharing their memories of Flint, and their immense grief over his suicide.

“The worldwide outpouring of grief across social media tells you just how much of an impact he had on people’s lives. Keith was an outsider, a champion of the outsiders,” said Martin James, course leader of Music Journalism at Solent University, and biographer for The Prodigy, when he spoke to The Link.

He added: “We first met at a rave in the early 90s when everything was exciting and new. The last time I saw him was at the band’s Ally Pally gigs before Christmas. We talked about getting older, and how we’re adapting to being older men. We never talked about music. The world beyond was far more interesting.”

Flint first got involved with music when he met Prodigy founder Liam Howlett at a rave in the late 80s. After bonding over a love of the same music, Flint became a dancer for The Prodigy.

The band gained prominence underground with their first two albums ‘Experience’ and ‘Music for a Jilted Generation’, but it was in 1997 when The Prodigy - and particularly Keith Flint - were catapulted into worldwide recognition.

The group’s seminal album ‘The Fat of the Land’, which featured their two number one singles ‘Firestarter’ and ‘Breathe’, changed the face of electronic music.

The music video for ‘Firestarter’ cemented Flint’s place in the public consciousness. The black and white vision of hell on earth filmed in an abandoned tunnel caused concern from parents, filled viewing teenagers with pure adrenaline, and was stopped by some broadcasters from being aired before 9pm for fear that it was ‘too scary’ for children.

Most Prodigy fans can remember the first time they saw the ‘Firestarter’ video.

“The Prodigy have influenced my life since before I can remember. I’ll never forget hearing them for the first time as a kid and watching the Firestarter video, having my mind blown to pieces. Being into metal at the time I was shocked at how an electronic group could be way more heavy and intense than any metal band I’d heard. Nothing came close,” said Scott Jackson, an electronic music producer from Reading.

“I vividly remember watching the black and white music video for Firestarter on Top of the Pops, mesmerised by Keith Flint dancing with reckless abandon around the tunnels of Aldwych station, all the while scaring the absolute hell out of middle aged housewives and mums. Only one frontman in a generation can trigger parents to cry out “WHAT THE **** IS HAPPENING?!” said Craig McKeown, a lifelong Prodigy fan.

Flint, along with Howlett and co-frontman Maxim, had an inalterable and profound effect on popular music - not just in the UK, but worldwide.

“The Prodigy took electronic music around the world to places no other band would play. They turned metal heads into ravers, junglists into rockers. They brought the music clans together. They were also bigger worldwide than Oasis, The Spice Girls or any of the other 90s artists,” added Martin James.

“Even today, when the radio won’t play their music they headlined festivals around the world. Their musical impact can be heard everywhere from techno to hip hop, to rock and even pop. They are one of the most important bands ever to come out of the UK. People will see this in the fullness of time.”

Flint presented himself with furious passion on stage. Those lucky enough to have seen The Prodigy perform live will know that he was a fiercely dedicated and energetic performer. Behind the stage presence, Flint was a well loved man.

“[He was] funny, interesting, extreme and very honest. He was a lovely guy who didn’t suffer fools gladly. The stage performance was an exaggeration of an aspect of his personality.” said James.

Yes, Keith Flint was an icon. A man whose on record and on stage presence captured everything that it was to be of a certain generation. He was an embodiment of a group of people who were bored, frustrated, and disillusioned. More importantly than that, he helped them to forget that they were all of those things.