‘EXPERIENCE’ 30th anniversary!

 
The Prodigy’s debut ‘Experience’ became a true rave phenomenon of the early 90s — on September 28, 2022, it turned 30! Quoting yesterday’s BBC Radio 6 Music post, ‘Experience’ was central to the transition of rave culture into the mainstream. It catched the energy and spirit of the movement and translated it into an album, which no other act was able to do. We tried to capture the most important milestones of the band’s beginnings: we got into the context of the album making, and also dug lots of interesting facts about the design of the LP, the first costumes of the band and shared a lot of unobvious details!

Liam Howlett exclusively to BBC 6 Music: I was so submerged in the rave culture from 1990 leading up to this first album and that sound was just in me. To me the whole album is like a snapshot of the sound of that period and what we were about at that time, it’s a more 1992 sound, you can tell by the speed of the tunes, everything started to get faster from 1991 to 92.

Rare promo poster with tour schedule for Autumn ‘1992

With a provisional release date of September 1992, Liam started work on the debut album. Initially, he wanted to make a ‘rave concept album’ along the lines of the early Pink Floyd work, but this idea was shelved once he realized the limitations this might have on his future musical creativity. This approach might tie him too closely to a scene that was dramatically quietening down and, besides, he was no longer inspired by it to the same degree as when he had first started. Considering Liam’s highly economical method of working, wherein he can write, record and produce the entire track alone, the actual album’s recording was a lengthy process. During the summer of 1992, the band were gigging so frequently that he was rarely given lengthy uninterrupted periods in the studio. Under increasing pressure from the record company to capitalise on the band’s high profile and market strength, Liam held out until he felt his work was finished, eventually requiring a total period of six months. The resulting double album, entitled Experience (a playful echo of the 1971 Jimi Hendrix posthumous classic) was a brutalist, uncompromising statement, full of hyperspeed breakbeats, bewildering sonic tapestries and thumping rhythms throughout. It offered an ‘experience’ that both documented the scene the band had emerged from, and offered slight clues as to where they might be heading.


ALBUM TRACKS


Speaking about the album’s tracklist, it can be divided into two even parts: one half was comprised of absolutely new material, whereas the second half contained remixes of already known tracks: ‘Your Love (Remix)’, ‘G-Force (Part 2)’, ‘Charly (Trip Into Drum & Bass Version)’, ‘Everybody In The Place (155 And Rising)’, and ‘Fire (Sunrise Version)’. The reason for that was that ‘Experience’ was one of the first rave scene albums ever, since rave artists would release their stuff as singles or EPs on 12″ vinyl. And when they released a CD – it was top-hits compilations. To make the Prodigy’s first album as fresh as possible and at the same time recognizable, Liam decided to remix some of his tracks that had already been known to public before September 1992. As of ‘absolutely new tracks’, of course Liam tested them live beforehand – Liam still does test his new stuff at gigs. For instance, such tracks as ‘Death Of The Prodigy Dancers’, ‘Wind It Up’, ‘Ruff In The Jungle Bizness’, and ‘Out Of Space’ were performed about six months before the LP’s release, whereas the beta version of ‘Music Reach (1/2/3/4)‘ debuted a year prior.

 Sorry, but this publication has been moved to the archive!
Our team has almost restored this beta of Music Reach (1/2/3/4).

High quality audio will be freely available on our Bandcamp!

Trouble At Sandy Heath


For a long time people used to think that the working title of ‘Music Reach (1/2/3/4)’ was Trouble At Sandy Heath, but

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Death Of The Prodigy Dancers


The track must have fit the gig program so well that it was the live version that ended up on the ‘Experience’ LP. For 13 long years, the track wasn’t available in studio quality. In 2005, Liam, by popular request, uploaded the studio version to the updated website for ‘Their Law’ release & tour.

Screenshot from the official ‘2005 website on the left.
The ‘disquette’ artwork on the right. Restored by All Souvenirs.

Nevertheless, the bitrate-quality of said studio recording leaves something to be desired since it was embedded into a flash-based page. A while back, our friend made his attempt to remaster it.

    Death Of The Prodigy Dancers (Remaster)

Besides, if you listen to it closely, in the original flash-scene with the studio version of ‘Death Of The Prodigy Dancers’ the intro of ‘Everybody In The Place (155 And Rising)’ starts playing at the end. This was once mentioned by Liam himself in an interview with Neko.

Liam with Neko (October 2005):
 
Neko: With Death of the Prodigy Dancer, you had told me a while ago that you had lost the studio version … [it is on the new Prodigy web site now]
LH: Haha, yeah, I found it!
I found it in the DATs in the studio. I was flicking through the drawer, and I pulled it out fucking hell, thats the only copy Ive got of it right there. And at the end of it, because I didnt press stop on the DAT quick enough on the DAT a bit of the next track comes in, ha ha.

For many years, we had been puzzling over the source of the rip where both tracks come from. We even assumed that it was some kind of an advanced promo of the album, but everything turned out to be as simple as possible.

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Live Performances


In general, the gigs from the ‘Experience’ period are quite interesting since there are no live recordings from late 1992 till summer 1993. Nevertheless, we have something to tell you about them. We can’t fail to mention of what the band itself looked like at their live shows: of course you do remember these noticeable white-and-green stage costumes, which represented the band for more that 1,5 years. Jay McKendry Jenkins, who was responsible for ‘Charly’ single cover, also made over 30 outfits including a straight jacket for Keith. We’ve chatted with Jay and she told us a wonderful story of how it all began.

The Prodigy, September 18, 1992.
Shot by Phil Nicholls | philnicholls.co.uk

Jay McKendry Jenkins:

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Keef Flint on The Prodigy’s first ever live performance in Labyrinth, February 1991.
Photo courtesy of Jay McKendry Jenkins | instagram.com/jmcjartist

Jay McKendry Jenkins:

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Experience Era Design


The band was always attentive not only to their stage image, but also to the design of their albums and singles. The 1990-1992 period was noteworthy for its classical ravey flyer aesthetics. ‘Experience’ era was fully designed by The Unknown Partnership headed by Steve ‘Jaffa’ Gribbin in close cooperation with Liam Howlett (don’t forget that young prodigy was a graphic designer before he devoted himself entirely to the band).

During the first six months of the band’s existence, their logo changed three times.

  • The first one used the only Synchro font without any change whatsoever. It can be seen on the first gigs of the band which took place in winter/spring ‘1991 season. The logo adorned Liam’s live synthesizers at those time, and also was pictured on the tickets and the unreleased demo tape from 1990.
  • The second one was seen on the ‘Charly’ music video and on an info paper to promote the ‘Everybody in the Place’ single. It uses Peignot font.
  • And the third logo is an improved version of the second one. By the way, is still being used by the band in merchandise for the official store. It was first premiered on their debut single ‘Charly’, and then continued its way on ‘Everybody In the Place‘, ‘Fire / Jericho’, ‘Out Of Space’, and ‘Wind It Up (Rewound)’, and their first album ‘Experience’.

The LP artwork has a small story to tell too.



The album cover and also an inner & back sleeve uses several Helvetica fonts, and the back shot where the band relaxingly smoking pot was pictured by legendary Matt Anker, the photographer who captured hundreds of recognizable images and worked with Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead, Blur & loads of others.

The Prodigy promo photos captured by Matt Anker

The band’s members portraits were painted by Alexander Medawar Garland, or simply Alex Garland, who is an English novelist, screenwriter, film producer and director. He has come a long way from his humble beginnings doing comics, working as an illustrator and a freelance journalist. Being a friend of Liam Howlett, at the age of 22 Alex Garland drew the pictures for the inner sleeve of ‘Experience’. Years later Liam Howlett suggested to make the music for Alex Garland’s ‘The Beach’ screen version, but ‘No Souvenirs’ has never seen the light of the day…

The Prodigy painted by Alex Garland

But it is also known that Alex Garland’s portraits were not used in the official double-CD reissues of ‘Experience’ — otherwise, the design concept remained the same. Experience: Expanded was first released in 2001, and then it was reissued again seven years later, in 2008. The main difference between these two editions is that in 2008 two bonus tunes were added: ‘05 version of ‘Out Of Space’ and ‘Android’.


New Remixes


A year after second release of ‘Experience: Expanded’ came out, in 2009 an updated remixes of ‘Death Of The Prodigy Dancers’ & ‘Wind It Up’ were played a couple of times, yet it has never been released.

Back in 2010 Liam also produced a remix of ‘Weather Experience’ specially for the Milton Keynes Bowl gig. It was also played live several times and ended up being officially released on ‘World’s On Fire’ (2011).

Liam on ‘Milton Keynes’ youtube stream (July 2020):
I DID THIS VERSION OF WEATHER EXPERIENCE ESPECIALLY FOR THIS GIG A FEW DAYS BEFORE

Also in 2018 on Rinse FM

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We’ll post the story about the ‘Out Of Space’ single, its design and other details a bit later, stay tuned!

Headmasters: SIXSHOT, SPLIT
Additional thanks to: Canyon Hill, Martin Roach, Jay McKendry Jenkins, Fate Ararita


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