AFP

TOKYO

Techno-punk rockers The Prodigy, who took the world by storm with their angry lyrics and controversial videos in the 1990s, want to be viewed as a British “national treasure”.

Having released their first album in six years earlier this year, The Day Is My Enemy, the London-based trio insist they have been as influential to dance music as Britpop was to guitar rock. “The Prodigy — what we did for electronic music — is as important culturally as Blur and Oasis,” Liam Howlett, the band’s composer and main writer, told AFP in an interview in Tokyo.

“We’ve always been for upholding the British sound and we should be looked upon as a national treasure.” Perched on armchairs in a hotel suite and sipping green tea, the middle-aged ravers look every inch rock-and-roll royalty. But they have lost none of their belligerence, strafing contemporary DJ culture with an abrasive new record which draws on their rave roots and packs a punch with fierce cuts such as Nasty and Wall Of Death.

“There was a real determination for it to have zero compromise,” said vocalist Keith Flint, he of the spiky hair, tattoos and nose piercings who frightened children with his appearance in the video for the 1996 smash Firestarter.

“There really needed to be an antidote to the DJ scene, which made it quite brutal.” The track Ibiza delivers a scathing attack on mainstream dance music. “We don’t really care that much but we’ll slag it off when we can,” smiled Howlett. “There’s no creativity behind it. (Ibiza) is a bit of vicious fun really. It popped up out of a conversation.

“Our lighting guy was working for somebody and had this CD and he says: ‘Here’s bla-bla-bla’s set. It’s pre-mixed, it’s his set for the summer.’ I just couldn’t get my head round it — he’s a DJ!”

The Prodigy can barely hide their contempt for the Spanish party island, although the three snigger conspiratorially about recently playing there, just to unleash that tune.

“I don’t like Ibiza at all,” snorted Howlett. “I don’t like what it represents. The whole electronic music sound has been kind of hijacked really by the pop world. There’s no bands making the harder end of electronic music and we just think it’s our job.

“People are just getting fed this shit,” he added. “It’s a northern American thing. America always fucks things up. It just takes the cool stuff and washes all the credibility out of it with money. It did it to hip hop, it’s doing it to this now.” From behind dark glasses, Maxim interjects: “The rave scene’s been saturated. When we were in the DJ scene it was an art form, not just operating something that’s synched up for you.”

Flint, less menacing without the black eyeliner and Johnny Rotten sneer of his stage persona, nods. “When you were out, a DJ would make his way through the crowd with two record boxes and everyone would go: ‘Wow, that’s Hype!’ Or whoever,” he said. “Now he turns up in a helicopter, no one sees him and he plugs in a USB stick. “I liked it when the needle got knocked off the record and it all fucking went quiet and everyone went ‘Woooaaargh!’ That was a buzz. The unrehearsed, impromptu nature of it made it exciting.”

The Prodigy achieved huge success with 1997’s multi-platinum album The Fat Of The Land — causing uproar with the single Smack My Bitch Up along the way — and have sold some 25 million records worldwide, a figure unparallelled by a dance band. But they agree they still make music to add firepower to their high-octane live show, which they unveil at Japan’s Sonic Mania and Summer Sonic festivals this weekend.