How To Steal A Jet Fighter • 2012-2014
Now it’s time to delve into another significant milestone of this year: about 10 years ago, the much-anticipated album How To Steal A Jet Fighter was poised for release. To mark the date, we’ve decided to revisit the album’s preparation and all the preceding events, as well as the news of its cancellation. As always, we will share some exclusive stuff from All Souvenirs! Get ready for the most comprehensive journey through The Prodigy’s history of that era.
How To Steal A Jet Fighter was intended to become the second album for the group after their departure from XL Recordings. By then, the success of ‘Invaders Must Die’ had been resonating for a couple of years, during which The Prodigy had managed to create quite a stir. Liam Howlett had produced several remixes for other artists, and the band was on an intense tour throughout 2009 and 2010. Among their achievements, they organized a massive show for 65,000 people at the Milton Keynes National Bowl on July 24, 2010. A year later, on May 11, 2011, this event was officially released as a live album titled World’s On Fire. The concert footage was available on blu-ray and was also screened in movie theaters across more than 10 European countries, as well as in Australia, South Africa, Russia, and others. Finally, Liam felt that the time had come to embark on the next full-fledged LP.
During 2011 there was no information about new releases, and only in December two new tracks appeared in the band’s live setlist. The first one was AWOL!
Neko: Before Christmas I saw you say in an interview that you’ve got to finish some tracks that didn’t make it on the album…
Liam: There is lots and lots of stuff left over from the record. Some people have heard it. The obvious one is ‘Mescaline’ and, what else, ‘AWOL’ which people haven’t heard. It is probably an album worth of stuff that hasn’t made it on the album, which some of it needs to be finished.
The second untitled demo, based on a couple of The White Stripes samples, was informally referred to as Bring The Noise among the fans due to Maxim’s random shouts. However, neither on the day of the premiere nor at the next gig did this track have an official title, as it was missing from the official setlists.
It was only in the beginning of 2012 that the track received its official name – Dogbite! We wrote a detailed history of this track in our article a couple of years ago: theprodi.gy/dogbite
Looking ahead a bit, it’s worth mentioning that ‘AWOL’ has had several versions throughout its history. Much to the disappointment of many fans, the version ‘Strike One’ that made it to the official release in 2015 sounded nothing like the live version that the band played regularly. But we should also not forget that ‘AWOL’ actually debuted two versions at once! On the first gig of the fresh 2012 tour in Bratislava, a completely different version of ‘AWOL’ was played! And this was only the third performance of the track since its premiere in Brazil.
More details about all versions of ‘AWOL’ will be covered in our special article later. But already now we are ready to share AWOL (2011 version) of the track with Keith Flint’s vocals in full, which we recreated together with Rapraiz!
We also recreated Dogbite 2011!
Preparing the album
Anyway, at the beginning of 2012, the band had only 2 finished tracks. That’s when Howlett had an idea for the album title, which Liam spoiled in an interview with Zane Lowe on January 6, 2012. Moreover, he modestly shared plans to release a separate single before the album!
Liam: We want to go back to what we used to do where we just stick an isolated single out in the first third of the year, y’know what I mean?
Zane Lowe: Can I be selfish? You know, I’m always gonna ask for a little bit more… Do you have working titles for these ideas? Or even what they called like? Like ‘Beat 3’ or whatever?
Liam: We’ve got an album title but we just can’t let it out yet…
Zane Lowe: […] Gimme a word, one word! It doesn’t even has to be a title, just one word!
Liam: Jetfighter. Well, that’s not the album title, that’s just a little titul of something…
After 4 months, on May 3, 2012, the title ‘How To Steal A Jet Fighter’ was officially announced in the press, and Howlett made some comments in the media, where he explained his ideas. Among other things, this time he talked about a much more involved Keith and Maxim’s work, unlike in previous years.
Liam for NME: Keef and Maxim have been in the studio with me. Even if they’re not working on lyrics every day, definitely a few days a week they’re come in, have a listen, talk about it. I made the mistake in the past, not the last record but before, where I delivered finished tracks. I think it would have been better with some input along the way.
On May 5, the stage backdrop in the new tour was replaced with a new photograph featuring a jetfighter and the title. All of this unmistakably hinted at the upcoming new album, signaling that the group was entering a new era.
During the anticipation of the new album, the group went through several stage backdrops changes. The first of them was a photograph of an installation from the Kunsthaus Tacheles area in Berlin. This old district of the city was bombed during World War II and became an avant-garde art center from 1990 to 2012. The snapshot was presumably taken by a British artist Joe Rush from the Mutoid Waste Company. However, any other photograph from the 1990s could have been used from the same perspective.
Curiously, the band also had another spare backdrop! At several summer gigs in 2012, there was the backdrop with a Harrier Jump Jet as if flying straight towards the audience.
JETFIGHTER vs SYSTEM OF A DOWN
On June 8, 2012, the band unveiled the long-awaited title track of the album – Jetfighter, at Download Festival.
“we have chosen to headline download festival as our only uk festival show next year and will be playin some new songs for the first time from our next album due later 2012 …….. see you there” Liam, Keef & Maxim
The only professional recording of ‘Jetfighter’ was made at Exit 2013:
The track is based on samples from the song I-E-A-A-I-A-I-O by System Of a Down, which was released back in 2002 on an album called Steal This Album.
But the funny thing is that ‘Jetfighter’ was not the first track in which The Prodigy sampled System Of A Down. Two years before the album announcement the band presented a new untitled filler instead of the second part of ‘Poison’ – that was also based on 2 samples from S.O.A.D.
- Sample: guitar #1
- Sample source: System Of A Down – Bounce [Toxicity, 2001]
- Sample: guitar #2 & drums
- Sample source: System Of A Down – Stealing Society [Hypnotize, 2005]
We’re in the process of recreating this filler, you cand listen our short demo in hidden section!
All of which suggested that Liam was over-semanticizing of System Of a Down, even partially sampling their album title ‘Steal This Album’.
It was generally expected that Liam would start sampling alternative rock and nu-metal. After all, in the lead-up to the band’s sixth studio album, he had been promising for a couple of years that the release would be much heavier, more forceful, and more aggressive.
Liam for NME 2012: The last record was kind of a party album, I guess. We were all happy to be back together again. But the best tunes of that album are the ones that have less of that. It’s definitely going to be heavier, darker.
NME 2014: Comparing the sound of the new LP to the band’s last, Liam commented: “It’s more violent-sounding; it feels wilder. It’s not so much old-school. It’s neither guitar-based not synth-based; it’s kind of a mixture.” He added: “It doesn’t feel so radio-friendly to me; it feels like its got a lot of edge.”
We’re also in the process of recreating the track JETFIGHTER and we can’t wait to share the interim result with you already!
After the gig at Download festival, where ‘Jetfighter’ premiered, the band released a video from the festival with an exclusive professional recording of the live track Spitfast, which in principle can also be called a kind of “demo” of that period.
In the video, Liam briefly talked about his upcoming plans, and that there are only 3 tracks for the album that he is fully satisfied with: ‘AWOL’, ‘Dogbite’ and ‘Jetfighter’ (which, he says, should be a bit reworked).
In August 2012, Max and Keith gave an interview to Blic Online, carefully avoiding a direct answer about the new album. They mentioned that the process was ongoing but required time, and they didn’t like working under pressure. Therefore, the album would be ‘done when it’s done’.
Blic Online: Are you preparing a new album?
Keith: We are working on the album and we are in the studio all the time, but it’s a process. Until we have written the last song we won’t be revealing anything. We don’t want the kind of pressure that we have been faced with before.
Maxim: Creativity doesn’t come from someone telling you to make an album. It comes from the energy of live shows and only when it wants to come.
Taking into account all the above mentioned facts, it can hardly be said that the band was “working in sweat” on the upcoming LP. It was more like the band spent more time on the design, concept and promotion of the new LP. For example, the band created an official page in the then still gaining popularity social network Instagram – instagram.com/theprodigyofficial
Liam’s personal photos from his studio were also sprinkled in there, hinting at the beginning of the busy process of working on the new album!
On November 2nd, Paul Dugdale’s short film from Warrior’s Dance festival in Belgrade, Serbia was published on the band’s official YouTube channel. A very fresh demo from Liam was used as the musical background, which he made while on tour.
It can hardly be taken seriously as a track for the upcoming album, but nevertheless, Liam himself spoke of it as a simple demo from that period.
But we restored this demo in last year as well! 🙂
As you have already realized, there was no previously announced album or single in 2012, and all releases were pushed back to 2013. In general, nobody expected any other scenario, and many assumed that some new information on the upcoming release would appear only by the end of the year, for example, at a show in Brixton, where the band often presents new material.
The end of 2012, as expected, was no exception, and at three shows of End Of The World Extravaganza series the band played two new tracks (one and a half, to be exact) and new intro. The first was The Day, which, like ‘AWOL’, was recorded back in the days of ‘Invaders Must Die’ with Martina Topley-Bird.
However, this time the sound of the track itself was clearly updated and in no way referred to the days of ‘Invaders’, but was just like the musical trend of that year – the trap wave. In an interview with Liam a few years ago, we asked if the version played at Brixton was a ‘new’ demo or the ‘IMD’ version recorded with Wiley, to which Liam did not give a clear answer, but made it clear that it was just a demo. You can read the full story of ‘The Day Is My Enemy’ and a detailed analysis of all versions of the track here: theprodi.gy/theday
We thought at the time that this short ‘The Day’ was just a quick sketch and hardly a candidate for a release. But after the release of the 2 minute ‘Need Some1’ as a single and a couple of “insides” about tracks from that period, it’s safe to say that it was a real candidate for an album track at least!
This 2012 demo, by the way, we completely recreated a couple of years ago too!
The second track was a short filler called Eagle Break, where several symphonic loops were played in reverse. It’s quite possible that this was indeed the long-discussed Reverse Brass, also left from the ‘Invaders Must Die’ working tracklist: theprodi.gy/live2008
Incidentally, the new 2012 Intro was used in studio quality in promo video announcing these shows in Brixton.
The year 2013 wasn’t particularly productive for The Prodigy either. Apart from the three ready-to-go bangers, various other new beats and pieces began to surface throughout the year, collectively confirming the shift towards a heavier rock-influenced sound. In the early summer of 2013, the first unnamed heavy beats emerged (they were titled as simply NEW BEATS in the gig setlist), and following suit, a full-fledged new track named RockWeiler was presented at the German Rock am Ring on June 8th.
By the way, we also recreated these NEW BEATS 2013!
Interestingly, the initial version of ‘RockWeiler’ played at the time was quite different from the one that appeared two years later on ‘The Day Is My Enemy’ album. The first mix was based on samples from Rage Against The Machine, and it was noticeably closer to the heavy style that Liam was talking about in those years.
- Sample: guitar
- Sample source: Rage Against The Machine – Killing In The Name [Rage Against The Machine, 1992]
Studio work was underway, too, and Liam occasionally posted the process on his Instagram.
Throughout 2013, the band didn’t do much in the way of interviews or talk about the album, but Liam continued to actively push the “jetfighter” theme on his instagram.
One notable exchange took place in March between Liam and Danny (also known as The Prodigy Fanboy). During this conversation, Fanboy reminded Liam about the previous year’s promise of a new single, while Liam contemplated the idea of releasing a short EP. However, these ideas also did not come to fruition.
Fanboy: There was talks of a isolated single maybe happening. Is this still the plan? Or maybe an EP coming soon?
Liam: I DO LIKE THE IDEA OF THIS AND WANT TO MAKE IT HAPPEN, KEEP UR EARS LOCKED!
Toward the end of the summer, Liam announced on insta that his studio was moving, which sort of put the recording process for the new album on hold indefinitely: “Last shot of studio before i move out . End of an era,, new studio monday yeeha!!”
Only at the end of the year, as traditionally, one new track was presented at the December gigs in England: Get Your Fight On!
And like all the previous tracks, in a completely different arrangement from the 2015 album version.
Once again, the release of the new album has been pushed back a year, to the 2014…
In 2014, already being in a new studio, work on recording the album continued. You can read more about this period in our interview with Neil McLellan, mixing engineer and co-producer of several The Prodigy albums – theprodi.gy/neil-interview-2021
Liam, as promised, sat down to finalize the track ‘Jetfighter’:
And a little later on, Liam posted another cut better known as the Sunlight Out Riff, or simply Sunlight Riff – fans were absolutely thrilled by it, although unfortunately, it never became part of any new track:
VISUALS AND DESIGN CONCEPT
It seemed that the album process was heading in the right direction, and along with the new beats, the visual elements at the concerts were also changing from time to time. Throughout 2013, the stage backdrop featured artworks from the winter gig at Brixton, created by Luke Insect. Then in December, a backdrop with the masks by Crimson Spark Mask appeared onstage. By the way, there were tees with these masks in the band’s official store for a while too. Looking ahead, we can also add that Crimson Spark Mask art was back on the stage for a while in the summer of 2014 as well!
In April 2014, the stage set was updated again, this time with a Harrier Jump Jet backdrop, which the band had already used in 2012. This very backdrop served as the basis for the working album cover of ‘How To Steal a Jetfighter’. Work on it was already underway in February 2014.
The working design concept was being handled by British designer Jordan Atkinson, who had collaborated with Liam since the preparation of ‘Invaders Must Die’ in 2008. In the spring of 2023, while collaborating with All Souvenirs via Instagram, Atkinson shared the detailed story of creating the design concept – instagram.com/theprodi.gy
Jordan Atkinson for All Souvenirs: “Back in 2014, I had the opportunity to pitch an artwork concept for The Prodigy’s sixth studio album. It was then titled ‘How To Steal A Jetfighter’.”
“Liam had described the new material as taking a “heavier and darker” direction. I envisaged a minimal black sleeve with only The Prodigy logo in a spot gloss UV print. The real artwork; blueprint schematics and exploded diagrams of a Harrier Jump Jet, would only be revealed under UV light.”
“As part of the reveal, I developed an idea for the promo video. However, it has only been fully realized recently in the rough demo version seen here after revisiting the original concept art. At the time, I hadn’t heard any of the new material, but something about their track ‘Diesel Power’ had synergy with what I had in mind.”
“I developed some further concepts, this time to the revised working title ‘Rebel Radio’. Unfortunately, the ideas were never meant to be. ‘The Day Is My Enemy’ became its finished title with Nick Macfarlane’s distinctive fox design.”
Also, remarkably, in 2013-2014, the Rockstar team (led by Eugene Riecansky) presumably designed the visuals in support of the then-upcoming ‘How To Steal A Jetfighter’ tour! Liam started working with Rockstar back in 2001, and still does to this day — we’re preparing a great piece on this 20+ year collaboration, stay tuned for updates!
It’s intriguing that according to some designers, potential album cover ideas for the upcoming 6th album of the band started appearing as early as 2011-2012, despite the lack of finished material and a release concept!
British artist Dan Baldwin discussed this work and its backstory in a 2014 interview.
Dan Baldwin for Music On Walls: Radar Atom Terror (2011) was an exercise I set myself to show The Prodigy how I would make a painting for them. I know Liam and Maxim and they have some of my art. In the painting there is a skeletal hand, reaching out to grab The Prodigy pills, another reaching the tape spool, and a third going for the radio, these represent Maxim, Liam and Keith. We can also see three skeletal children on an old school TV which represents the three main band members again. There’s a skull wearing a cowboy hat which has The Prodigy logo on it, their old star logo. There’s the word ‘SEE’ which came from their track Colours, ‘I can see that look in your eyes’. There’s a sword, representing the ‘warrior’ — as they often describe themselves as warriors, a blade, and hand grenade to add some power. Other than that, I listened to the band solidly whilst making the piece to generally FEEL them and make the piece feel right.
From the depths of Ebay: Beautiful high quality original signed print on leather made for The Prodigy (band). Dan Baldwin ‘Radar Atom Terror’ giclee print on leather signed and numbered of only 6 of which 4 were given to The Prodigy band. 2012 Dan was asked to design album sleeve and he designed this wonderful print that was un-used artwork. Size is 77.5 x 78 cms (unframed). This artwork comes box framed in black with certificate of authenticity from The Eddie Lock Gallery.
A DEPARTURE FROM THE ORIGINAL IDEA
Time went on, and towards the middle of 2014 Liam started to say that the concept of the album would be completely different and nothing that had been played in the past couple of years would appear on the new release. On July 17, 2014 in an interview with Zane Lowe, Howlett said that he has about 8 tracks ready, but he doesn’t want to play too much new material – so that the record will still be fresh when it comes out. Liam also recalled the moment he worked on the ‘Jetfighter’ album, where he wanted to change everything.
- Zane Lowe talks to Liam Howlett (17.07.2014)
Liam Howlett for Zane Lowe: On the final stages, when I’ve written everything, I’ve just put it all together, you know, went to track six and [was like] ‘Man, we need something else!’
Furthermore, he mentioned that he wasn’t sure if ‘AWOL’ would be on the new album, for there are tracks that sound much better. (Later, after the release of the album, AWOL will be released as ‘Strike One’ version of The Night Is My Friend EP).
The subject matter of Instagram posts closer to the fall also began to gradually change and posts with jetfighters abruptly disappeared from the agenda.
When it came to the mixing of the album, it was clear that the words about all the previous material going to the trash were not a joke. And along with snippets of new tracks, all sorts of cringe memes and photos of stuffed foxes began to appear.
In September 2014, the band played their last gig of the year in Ibiza. The artwork with the jetfighter was still on stage, but the new album was destined to be somewhat different, despite the presence of ‘Jetfighter’ and ‘AWOL’ in their concert setlists.
However, if to summarize, the revision of all ideas for the 6th album is not surprising, because the concept looked very doubtful: not only half of the tracks were sampled from ‘Rage Against The Machine’ and ‘System Of A Down’, but also the title of the album was obviously borrowed from S.O.A.D.’s album title – ‘Steal This Album’. Anyway, release of a small EP with tracks such as: AWOL, Dogbite, Jetfighter and some other 4th track from the same period would obviously not be the worst idea! Considering that it was a 6-year wait for the next album after ‘Invaders Must Die’…
Headmaster: ALL SOUVENIRS
Additional thanks to: Jordan Atkinson
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