Neko: interview with LH (17th August 2006)
Neko: So Liam how have things been going? According to your diary entry on your website you’re still hungover from New Years Eve?
Liam: Hahaha, is that the last time I’ve put something on there? Fucking hell that is like 6 months ago!
8 months ago. Shit. Yeah, good, I forgot we had a website. I don’t know, just haven’t done anything. I’ve been writing music, that is the most important thing, you know?
So is there any new material?
There is loads of new material.
I’ve done like, maybe, for this record I am going to record 30 tracks. I’ve done like 18 so far. Then we’re going to pick the best ones. We haven’t done many vocals yet, ive just done a lot of music.
I am going to do 30 tracks and then we’re going to hone it down and choose like the 10 or 11 best ones and some of the other ones might be b-sides or whatever, you know.
“None of the tracks you’ve heard so far are going to be on the album!”
So what does the new stuff sound like?
Fast, scary and raving!
Are you still going down the more melodic route that you were talking about earlier?
Hmm, [thinks] Maybe.
I mean, it’s quite different. Some of it sounds quite 60s inspired, garagey you know. It’s cool, really cool. But in other tracks, I’ve done like a Ska track that is really fucking great.
It’s quite varied so far, but it’s hard to get an overall picture of what it is going to be like at the moment, because I am kind of still writing and still enjoying writing. And it will all change again when the vocals get on it.
On the last record [Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned] you wrote mostly on your own and you didn’t play live at the time, whereas now you’re obviously on tour and you’re together with the other guys most of the time. How does that influence your writing?
It’s wicked, it’s back on the road, getting inspirations from the gigs, you see clearly what has to be done when you play live. It kind of reminds you of what you’re about. But we haven’t been playing any new stuff just because of the Internet thing.
And the other thing is we usually play in sound checks, but we haven’t been at any sound checks because they are festivals, so we haven’t had the chance to play any of the new tracks, which is a shame. It is going really well, it is going much better, much quicker than the last record. And we’re really enjoying it, it’s not difficult so far, it has been really fun.
You said because of the Internet thing you’re not playing live….
None of the tracks you’ve heard so far are going to be on the album!
Does that include the Hurricane Heatwave?
Yes, everything! Dead Ken beat maybe, don’t know… Maybe .
How come ‘Dead Ken Beats’, for example, can’t make it on the album, is it just not working in the studio?
No, I wouldn’t say that. Maybe that is one of the few tracks that we’re all…. It might elevate into something else but so far we haven’t been able to put any vocals on that that made it the good track that it deserves. So I haven’t decided what I am going to do with that track yet.
I love it!
Yeah I know, I love it, it’s brilliant!
How about ‘Warning’, you’ve been playing that live for almost 2 years now?
‘Warning’ is a good live track, Warning instrumental is going on a film which I can’t talk about yet. It is an “in-between albums” track. I’ve put it on a film, really cool. It is actually a British film with American actors in. It’s about all these hitmen that are trying to attack this place at one time. But it is still under wraps so I can’t tell you much about it really.
And that Heatwave track that you played at Brixton once [December 2005] and another time at Download Festival [June 2006], how come you decided not to include that?
It sounds dated! That track sounds dated now, so that won’t be going on. May tear it apart and use the best bits on something else.
You mentioned you’re quite concerned about website downloads and all that. In the last interview we did [October 2005] you mentioned that you were going to upload quite a lot of old demos, like trigger instrumental and even much older demos…
I am definitely going to do that. Hahaha! People don’t believe me anymore do they? But I am going to do it for sure. I am going to put all the old demos up. Yeah, why not put it all up?
You’re probably aware that there was an old tape around?
I don’t know nothing about that. Hahaha….
It was real, it is basically like, it wasn’t the original demo tape. It was some unreleased stuff that I wrote maybe during 1991. That guy basically used to live with Keith and he fancied himself as a bit of a fucking bongo player. And him and another guy played at a rave, I think it was in August or September in Cambridge with us. Somehow, and I don’t know how cause I didn’t say he could go on there, but somehow he ended up on stage with us and Leeroy gave him that tape with some unreleased tracks, maybe 4 tracks or something and the rest of the Charly EP. That was basically like his rehearsal tape with Leeroy’s handwriting on.
I am not angry with him selling it. It’s up to him… I can’t do anything about him selling it, it’s his tape, it’s unfortunate. But I wish that I’d been quicker in releasing all the demos before he had a chance to make money out of us.
So does that mean you’re planning also to get some more old stuff on your website?
Yeah, I am going put all the old demos up! Yeah, all of them! There are some really old ones that people haven’t heard yet. They are fucking shit, but if people want to hear them, they can hear them. Obviously they are not released because they are shit, that is the reason they didn’t come out, you know. But if people are interested in them they can hear them!
Within a month all the old demos are going to be up there.
I am not going to write that!
Mark my words, mark my words. It is true, honestly!
What were some of the names on that tape? ‘Dr. Zupan’ was that on it?
One was ‘Manic’, I think…
No, I don’t remember that. I’d been interested to know what that is…it might have been ‘Maniac’, but not ‘Manic’.
[Note: the actual tape does list ‘Manic’ as a track]
They are all old; they are all tracks I did after the first EP, sort of like ‘Pandemonium’ time.
The new album in the making, have you got like a timeline when it is should be ready, or when you think it may be released?
I want to release it for summer next year ; that is my plan. It’s feasible at the moment, anything that fucks up with that is like… If it was the matter to deliver it to the record company and it could be out in a month then that would be fine but they want 3 months notice, they want 3 months lead time to promote it, so that’s the thing that could delay it if it went over.
It seems to be written quite quickly at the moment. When I write an album it has to feel like it’s got like some kind of connection between tracks, that it has got an angle, it’s got a sound. But lots of tracks I’ve written so far are kind of like one is pulling in one direction, one is pulling in another. I don’t think I’ve written an integral track that is shaping the whole album yet, that is why I am carrying on writing. I’ve written some good tunes but I am still fighting for the track that is going to be the leader, you know what I mean? Or the shaping tune, the tune that shapes the album.
When I wrote ‘Spitfire’ on the last record I thought, yeah that gives the album [Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned] the kind of element, the edge and aggression that I wanted. ‘Firestarter’ was obviously the one before [The Fat of The Land] and ‘Poison’ was maybe the one on the other one [Music for the Jilted Generation]. Because we haven’t finished tracks with vocals yet, I don’t think we’ve come across that track for this record yet.
So you haven’t done any vocals yet or you haven’t finished any?
We’ve done a few vocals, we’re still doing it, we’re still writing. It is a long process, it is not quick. It is also hard to get everyone in the studio at the same time.
Are you planning on doing collaborations again on this album?
No, I don’t think so. Maybe, maybe, but I’ve got no one in mind at the moment. Definitely not doing any rap collaborations, no Kool Keith on this record! Maybe there might be collaborations in smaller ways, some musicians and stuff like that. I don’t really want any major collaborations.
Are there any specific influences for this record, you mentioned it was more garagey, 60s…
Some of it is quite psychedelic in a way, not in a Chemical Brothers way, but more in a 60’s kind of way. I can’t really explain, it is fast, really fast! It sounds like a band. It is definitely not breakbeat or drum’n’bass or any kind of thing. It just sounds like Prodigy.
Are there any specific bands that influence you?
No, not really. There are bands out there that I really like but I’ve been listening to old stuff you know.
You’ve been playing a quite similar setlist for a while…
I apologize about that! Haha!
“We are really dying to play the new shit”
Would it maybe help you write new material if you started playing more new stuff or varying the setlist?
We are really dying to play the new shit, I’ve got to tell you we are! It is such a pain in the ass.
So you won’t play them until the new album is out?
No, no, no of course not. We’re doing Creamfields as you know. I think I did an interview when I was pissed.
Yeh, I was going to ask about that one…
Yeah, forget about that, I lied because I was drunk, I got excited! So basically we are not playing any new tracks there. That is the last gig we’re playing in England so the next gig we do in England we’ll be playing new stuff. That’s the last time of people seeing us like this. Maybe we’ll put some other tunes we haven’t played in a while in. Might put ‘Rhythm of Life’ in or shit like that, I don’t know yet.
We’re definitely not playing any new material. No way. I just get really disheartened when people like… if we haven’t finished a track yet and we’re just trying these ideas out and we used to be able to do that and it used to be no backlash, but now things are torn apart and I fucking hate that. It is not good for a band.
Once we are 95% finished and we are really sure of it in our heads and we know it is going to be out within the next few months then that is the time to drop it and we’re going “here we are, that is it!”. If like tiny things have to get changed like arrangements or shit like that, you know that is fine. But like not when we are just trying things out. Maybe there might be few little beats and shit flying around but nothing major. Not yet, it is too early, no point in playing a year ahead of when the album is coming out you know with new tracks, that is silly.
Do you think the new material that you’ve been writing is as compatible with your live show?
It is always designed for live, maximum impact is live. The album is fucking going to be exciting. I am really excited about it, do you know what I mean? It is going to easily piss on the last album!
Basically this is to inform people we’re still fucking alive and we still give a shit, you know? We’ve been working our asses off and when you’re writing a record it is like we’re totally in that mode… You kind of go into selfish mode and not thinking about anyone else. It is like we should actually have someone run our website who keeps people updated and gets quotes of us up every month of what is going on and that type of shit. So that is what we intend to do.
We are probably going to take the website down in about 3 or 4 months and then have a new one so it builds up to the new album.
It’s hard talking about a record when it’s so far in advance. We are in the studio, we’re hearing it all the time, it’s shaping itself as the months go by. Last month I’ve been in there quite a bit, the month before I was on holiday, now we are on the road and other shit going on. It’s like some months it slows down. A Prodigy album takes a fucking long time to get written, it does. It is not like a band goes and writes and records. Since it’s mostly me doing it, if I don’t go in there, it doesn’t get written, that is that!
Are you going to keep playing live until the album is out?
No. By November people won’t see us for a while. There is no point in playing until we have the new shit prepared and then we get back out again. Because otherwise we’ll just be doing shit gigs, no point, do you know what I mean?
How have you been enjoying recent festivals or are you missing the small shows?
I like doing the small shows because you can get to try things out in the sound check. You can hear straight away whether you think if it’s going to be rocking or not, make some adjustments. It is different than in a studio, you start getting the perspective of it.
Festivals have been cool. I think as a band we feel really tight. This last couple of years it feels really tight. I checked some of the shows, some of this recorded stuff from years ago. We are much better now than we used to be. That is what I think.
Any recent shows that stood out for you?
Download was pretty mad. Isle of Wight and Download were two completely different gigs. Isle of Wight was really middle of the road. I was like fucking hell! There is one stage with 50.000 people in front of it. That was pretty like, I thought this is going to be hard to make this happen.
It was a great show. It felt like middle of the road, when I was walking through checking people out and you know it wasn’t like Download where it was fucking hardcore or Glastonbury, it felt like a lot of normal people were there, you know what I mean? Download was completely insane. I really love that, the chaos of it all.
We don’t want people to get fed up with it. Because we’ve been lucky to be able to come back after we’d done this record [Their Law The Singles]. I didn’t want to do it.
Did you in the end enjoy it at all?
Yeah….I kind of fell out with the record company about it, because I didn’t want to do it, but they kind of made us do it and then we got into it and said ‘let’s do it’. But we were honest about it; we told everyone we didn’t want to do it and then just made the best of it.
But at the end of the day, you know, the tracks we’re proud of, and if we wouldn’t have done that, personally the relationships between the band members wouldn’t have been as tight as it is now. We wouldn’t have been able to go back into the studio have such a buzz with lots of ideas with such momentum and drive. So that’s good.
Did revisiting your history inspire you to come up with new material?
Not really, no. Doing the gigs is the biggest inspiration really. It’s really easy to see what has to be done. Playing the tracks really shows what works and what’s good about the tracks and you get reminded of dynamics in songs and all that and then when you’re in the studio it’s important to remember all that.
So what’s a typical day in the studio for Mr Howlett?
Erm, …usually get there about 12 and leave at about 9, sometimes working late. People ring me up all day so usually only at about 5pm the phone stops ringing, and I stop getting e-mails, shit like that. And then when I’m on a real roll I work late but usually leave about 9 o’clock. And just, write really loud music all day long!
How do you start a track?
All different ways. Sometimes I’ve got a guitarist in the studio and we lay shit down, sometimes we have no beats at all and done sessions where it’s just guitars and vocals and writing songs in a more traditional way. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t work. It’s really easy to change things, so if we just try and figure out what a vocal is doing if it’s with guitars and we may want to throw the guitar away again later and change it for something else. I’ve done that on a few things and it’s been really good.
Other times, I’ve been in studios in Ladbroke Grove and I’ve been walking around going to loads of record shops down there. So I’m in there probably a couple of times a week, buying tunes. But old shit, old weird 60s records and 70s type shit and whatever. I was in there and I heard this record, it was like this Mexican kind of track and I made it into a ska tune.
So, different ways for different tunes!
When do the vocals get written?
Yeah, we’re starting to think about that now. There are certain tunes I write for Keith, certain tunes I write for Maxim and certain tunes I don’t write for either. Because the sample side of things is still important, you know, we still have respect for the roots and DJ culture. We won’t do a full vocal album, some tracks won’t have any vocals on, some will have samples, some will have both or one or two of them.
Is Reason still a part of the writing process?
[Liam quoted this software as major help for AONO album in first nekosite interview]
I’m not fucking promoting them anymore!
They haven’t done anything wrong, I’m just fed up with…you know, I still use it, but I also use Logic, Protools, I use Ableton, I use whatever is there really. Reason is good for getting shit happening quickly, but it doesn’t sound like Logic or Protools, they sound better.
So either way, it ends up on Protools anyway.
Is Champagne still a major inspiration as well?
Yeah, I’ve moved on from Moet now, moved on to Veuve. I love Veuve, I don’t drink anything else! In the studio actually, we’ve got a bit of a collection. I have to put a picture on the web site so people can see, it’s actually quite funny.
We’re hoping to get the album out next year, it won’t be early summer. Lot’s of things affect when an album comes out. All that is totally out of my control. When it is delivered, then I have done my bit, it’s up to the record company to do their bit after that.
[Interview is finished, but Liam doesn’t believe I have no more questions]
Okay then, favorite Big Brother housemate?
Hmm… Shabbaz! hahaha! No, I don’t watch it, I watched it when it started. I can’t be bothered with it. Does my brain in. I am more into Love Island hahahaha!
Interview by Andrea Schnepf aka neko – www.nekozine.co.uk 17th August 2006, Backstage at Gampel Festival (Switzerland).