The Prodigy singer, who is about to turn 40, tells about battling his addictions and finding peace in rural Essex
by: Stephen Robinson
Back in the Prodigy’s 1990s heyday, Keith Flint was known as the “scariest man in music”, with his tattoos and nose studs and his manic onstage persona, but in person it turns out that he is exceptionally gentle and has impeccable manners. True, he swears like a trooper, but after he accuses someone, often himself, of behaving like a c***, he promptly apologises, before using the word again.
When we meet over a large bottle of fizzy water and a bowl of fruit off the Portobello Road in Notting Hill, West London,he realises immediately that I am no rock journalist. I had tried — oh, how I had tried — to listen to the Prodigy’s new album Invaders Must Die. But Flint is sporting enough not to ask me my views.
We talk, instead, about his Tudor home in Essex — a source of pride. Flint worries that because he is an Essex boy, readers will think his house, set in ten acres, is a mock-Tudor Barratt home, when in fact it is a listed historical treasure outside Felsted, with a priest box in the roof. The village features in the Domesday Book, and Cromwell mustered his troops on Flint’s property, which he has meticulously restored from the ruinous state in which he acquired it.
bought the surface of an entire street in Bristol so that he could secure the right cobbles for his driveway. Then he hunted down 19th-century porcelain toilets and matching hand basins to get the feel right in the bathrooms. “It’s very boring and very un-rock’n’roll to talk about it, but I do love my house,” he explains apologetically. “I sold on the cobbles that I didn’t need. I’m from Essex you see, so I’m quite a dealer.”
When not touring with the band, he’s at home, with his six dogs roaming the extensive grounds, which is an important detail because Flint says that the dogs were the main reason he did not kill himself when things were not going so well in his life.
Prodigy were huge in the 1990s, and Fat of the Land went double platinum. They have sold more than 17 million albums worldwide and, unlike some of the Brit bands of the 1990s such as Oasis, they cracked the American market. After a period of inertia after the turn of the millennium, Invaders has sold all over the world, boosted by a recent bravura appearance at Glastonbury. In the Nineties, parents worried as their teenage children disappeared to dance clubs to take Ecstasy and grind around to their most infamous numbers, notably Smack my Bitch Up and Firestarter. It is hard to square this image with the man now sitting calmly in front of me.
still has the tattoos and nose stud, but he is teetotal and much more likely to be found these days in the gym, boxing or practising Brazilian ju-jitsu, than disappearing to the loo for a line of coke.
For a while during the band’s downturn in fortunes, many of Flint’s friends would not have bet on his reaching his 40th birthday next month. He is at first reluctant to talk about this phase of his life because, he says, “drink and drugs hell” is a self-indulgent cliché, and he has never wanted anyone to feel sorry for him.
Flint had a tough upbringing in Essex. He no longer speaks to his father. He was a bright boy with severe dyslexia, so he was disruptive at school and was sent to psychologists to be sorted out, though they found that there was not a great deal that they could do for him. “I’ve always had mental problems, so to speak. I’m incredibly self-destructive,” he says...
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