FAT25 · 10th track: Fuel My Fire · Cover
Today we will talk about the last track in ‘The Fat Of The Land’ album, the legendary ‘Fuel My Fire’. Lots of you guys are aware that this tune is a cover of the L7 song. Did you know that The Prodigy had several versions of it? The first demos were recorded back in ’95, and loads of people have worked on it since then, including two honoured guitarists from The Prodigy: Gizz Butt and Jim Davies. We got in touch with Gizz to reveal some details behind the ‘Fuel My Fire’, and dozens of previously unreleased facts were reported in his story! This article came out really profound, so let’s dive deep right away…
First of all, it turns out that ‘Fuel My Fire’ isn’t even an original L7 composition. Originally they used the tune from a 1989 song called ‘Lost Cause’ by the Australian punk/yob rock band Cosmic Psychos and gave it new lyrics.
The L7’s ‘Fuel My Fire’ appeared on their 1994 album ‘Hungry For Stink’, this song is a typically raucous, driving punk tune, built around two heavy guitar riffs. The thing that’s hard to understand about the cover is how The Prodigy came to pick it up in the first place! According to Gizz Butt, the track went through many stages before becoming the final mix.
‘Hungry For Stink’ by L7 was released in July of 1994 at the same time as the ‘Jilted Generation’, so the very first demo was recorded in post-Jilted times, presumably in 1995 during the same period that the ‘Ghost Town’ cover was recorded. It was an instrumental demo with no Keith or Saffron vocals on this, but with Jim Davies on guitar. Gizz told us that ‘it’s definitely more down the lines of the ‘Jilted Generation’ stuff. It’s not a fast punk 4/4 like the album mix’.
Gizz Butt: After a count of 8 on the hi-hats, a Killing-Joke-type rhythm kicked in (lots of floor tom stuff and hi-hats). There was a very basic guitar with a kind of distortion (Jim Davies was the player), doubled with a bass. There is no high note in the chorus. The keyboard line in the pre-verse has a sound of a similar one I’ve heard from a Madness track and the riff reminds me slightly of ‘Break & Enter’. There are gaps with the drums continuing.
The second version of ‘Fuel My Fire’ was an instrumental again. In fact, the previous demo was re-worked, and the track has been prorated a little more thoroughly. This mix also contained the backing vocals recorded by Saffron from another great band Republica.
Gizz Butt: There begins a distorted flanged bass two-note pattern, then a dub style bass line. The two-note pattern is really deep, a sample coming in on every third beat reminding of the sample in ‘Poison’ 30 secs in, every third beat but metallic, sounding like a guitar sample, a single note creating a major seventh against the root note (technical talk!). The beat on this version is like a cross between ‘Break & Enter’ and ‘Voodoo People’. Only the bass carrying the original tune which is more subliminal. On this version, there are backing vocals from Saffron of Republica same as the final version. In the chorus, the drum fills are using double-kick drum ideas. There is a 3-note keyboard pattern: A/Fsh – D – Csh – A/Fsh. The track follows the same arrangement as the first version, and then there is a break which is the same as the intro (3-note synth swelling in and out). The main beat re-enters, then the 3-note pattern comes in sounding very ring modulated (like the sound of radio interference being tuned). The most well-known use of ring modulation is the voice of Daleks in the TV series ‘Dr. Who’.
After that, there was a third version, when the track was completely reworked into punky style with Keef on vocals. It was mixed and co-produced by Kris Needs from the band Secret Knowledge. It is not known for certain, but it seems that it was from Keef’s initiative that the demo was reworked into a more punky version with full vocals, under the direction of Kris and Gizz. Butt recalls that this version really kicks arse! Like Keith Flint meets Motorhead meets Metallica meets Robert Fripp (David Bowie era). Both Kris and Gizz loved it and really hoped that it would see the official light of day. Exactly this version was mistakenly called Heavy Metal Remix for years, but in fact it’s one of demo versions, which could have been released as version/b-side on single after album’s release with the final version. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.
Gizz Butt: This one starts with the guitar feedback tones that you hear on the album version but this is a semi-tone lower. Keith’s lines ‘I’ve got a word of thanks’ are heavily effected with delays. The beats on this are fast and reminding me of Motorhead’s ‘Overkill’ with lots of fills. There is a guitar chord on each the first beat of a group of 16 notes. A metallic guitar riff playing fast palm muted 16th notes performing an A to Eb chord change. The guitar plays 8 riffs, then it’s doubled when the verse vocal enters, Keith’s vocal sounds chilling. Then comes the chorus, finally the bass enters, the punk guitar riff is played twice, then a more sophisticated palm-muted version of the riff with the feedback. Saffron’s backing vocal on the bridge. I am playing the high note played on version 2. After that a break drums and bass and swelling feedback A violent crashing guitar on each first beat, a pick slide, then a palm-muted version of the version with interjected open chords and slides, after 4 riffs an open punk version of the riff is followed by an octave riff with a new melody (similar to live versions on YouTube and on live DVD). There is a break with just the rhythm guitar riff, the drum fills with rim shots swelling in volume, and feedback swelling. We remember plugging in my gear wrongly and this freaky feedback that sounded like the amp was gonna explode, we recorded that! The second time around the guitar is doubled with bass, a pick scratch, everything exploded, and the violent slamming guitars re-enter. A tapping overdub on the last 4 riffs, Saffron backing vocals. The song ends with the feedback.
Gizz also added that some parts of this version can be heard on the first live performances of the track.
Gizz Butt: Live version from Brixton 1996 has lots of live melodies from the Kris Needs version with a Sex Pistols guitar solo.
You can also note that at the end of ’96, the pre-final version was oftenly played! It missed the feedback at the beginning and had some other minor differences. We found this pre-final mix in studio quality and posted in the hidden section, be sure to check it out!
The fourth and the final version of ‘Fuel My Fire’ was released on ‘The Fat Of The Land’ LP, and Gizz still has something to add about it!
Gizz Butt: The album version begins with my feedback and sounds from the Kris Needs version. The guitars have a different tone and may have been re-recorded. The drums are similar but have a different sound and different hi-hat pattern. Same kick drum pattern, my feedback comes in halfway through verse and is detuned on chorus. Effects come in a high note in chorus, 2 note police sire keyboard line is there, guitar feedback on pre-verse Keith vocals, and Saffron’s backing vocals are the same as the Kris Needs version.
On the live version from Brixton 1997, the melodies have changed a bit and the solo became simpler, I’m using more effects.
You can find the some rare live videos, exclusive guitar riffs recorded for Prodigy and other rare stuff at Gizz Butt’s Patreon.
It’s also quite touching that The Prodigy literally financially saved L7 and gave them new opportunities. While talking to Kyle Meredith, L7’s Donita Sparks remembered that ‘it didn’t make us rich, but it really got us out of the red’.
Donita Sparks: We didn’t even know that they have covered it! We weren’t friends, and our french promoter played it for us, he was like ‘Have you heard The Prodigy cover?’, and we were like ‘What?’ — and he played it for us, and we were just staying around the boombox like ‘Oh my God, this is amazing’… We were so flattered, and it was such a different take on the song, and they sold a gazilion records. And them covering that song got us out of the red with our publishing deal. So we still would have been, you know, breaking rock in the hot sun! It’s all really bizzare. I mean, no connection, you know, British guys, they were just fans, so that was really cool. It didn’t make us rich, but it really got us out of the red.
Answering if Donita had any connections with Keith Flint, she fondly recalled playing together.
Donita Sparks: We played a couple of festivals with them in Germany with David Bowie headlining, which was amazing. We had gotten bouquets from our french promoter, and I gave one to Bowie, and I gave one to Keith from The Prodigy, so they were both very happy. And I was so happy to present them both bouquets of flowers because that’s how I roll!
A quick recap:
- ‘Fuel My Fire’ cover was started in ’95 in the same period as ‘Ghost Town’ and it was definitely more down the lines of the ‘Jilted Generation’ stuff, not a fast punk 4/4 like the album mix.
- Most probably with Keef’s initiative it was pulled from Liam’s shelf in ’96 and refined by Gizz and Kris Needs with Flint’s vocals.
- Kris’ and Gizz’s version sounds closer to metal stuff and is exactly the demo version of the final one, not the remix it is often referred to as.
- This version of Kris and Gizz was considered a b-side for an upcoming single.
- The track was finalized by Liam with Keith on vocals and Saffron on the back, and some parts of the Gizz and Kris demo were also used in the final version.
- On the Brixton ’96 record, you can hear the very pre-final version of the track with no guitar feedback in the intro and some of the Gizz riffs from his demo.
Headmasters: SIXSHOT, SPLIT
Additional thanks to: Gizz Butt, NoiseCrumbs