Each month we take a look at a classic track or album and discuss it from a music production perspective, examining any sonic innovations that took place during its recording. This month we discuss The Prodigy`s third album, and the one that made them global stars; The Fat Of The Land.
The album was released in 1997 on a wave of hype created by the two singles that preceded it; `Firestarter` and `Breathe`. `Firestarter` gave the group their first UK number one, whilst also generating a fair amount of tabloid hysteria due to Keith Flint`s menacing appearance in the song`s video.
The music for the album was all composed, mixed and produced by Liam Howlett. His creative use of samples, along with his trademark earth-shaking breakbeats are what really set The Prodigy apart from many of their contemporaries, as well as the character-filled performances of their two MCs, Flint and Maxim Reality.
The Prodigy`s first two albums had been more straight-ahead rave records; although even then, Music For The Jilted Generation in particular is a remarkable creative effort. On The Fat Of The Land however, Howlett combined the dancefloor sensibility of someone who had come through the British rave scene, with an instinctive grasp of hip-hop style sample manipulation that was honed during his younger years as a break-dancer and DJ.
Howlett`s main tool for creating music at that time was the Roland W-30 Sampler Workstation, and in fact a number of the tracks for the album were initially created using this alone. During the making of the album however, he began to open up to the possibility of using the then relatively new technology of the digital audio workstation. Cubase turned out to be an excellent fit for the kind of music he was making, and he incorporated it into his workflow. The power of the breaks is a defining feature of the album and this was achieved in places by layering samples over one another; for example the E-mu SP1200 provided the meat of the Firestarter break.
On this album, Howlett was able to combine his influences into a heady brew that was not quite like anything we had heard before, and it still sounds fresh today.