Keith Flint grew up in Essex, UK and dropped out of school at 15, he was dyslectic. He got a job and worked as a roofer. Years later he would go to a rave club know as ‘The Barn’, it was here he met the clubs DJ, Liam Howlett who was a wunderkind with the keyboards and wrote songs.
Liam had some tapes with mixes and original songs but he knew there had to be more, so he recruited Keith and another guy Leeroy Thorhill to dance, and a girl called ‘Sharky’ to come up on stage and sing, Howlett also met a vocalist called Maxim.
The Prodigy was formed. The demo tape of 10 songs Howlett shopped around got picked up by a label and dance music was never the same. The sound shifted and changed over the years, moving from rave into a demonic hardcore hip-hop punk fusion.
I’ve seen them four times over the years, most recently in an arena at Sydney Olympic Park three weeks ago, they were as great as ever. The first time I saw them was at the Hordern Pavillion over ten years ago, I managed to worm my way down to the front, right on the barrier, I hung on for dear life in a sea of bodies, Maxim dove over me at one point, that night I couldn’t sleep I was so buzzed.
Here on stage was Keith right in front of me, with all his eyeliner, tattoos and two short mohawks running down either side of his head, he would strut and prance around, he would dance in a circle in his own world, he could disappear in a wall of strobe lights and smoke but you’d still hear his punkish cutting voice.
He was the front man, the energy that The Prodigy needed; Howlett was the brains but didn’t have the charisma to be at the front. He knew it was time to put the microphone in Flint’s hands so for the 1996 album ‘The Fat of the Land’ he sang on a bunch of tracks, most notably on a song called ‘Firestarter’, that song went straight to number one in the UK and went gold in the US. The album would go on to sell 10 millions copies.
But it was the stage where Flint truly complimented the noisy music that Howlett was making. They were a live band and their shows were legendary, they made people move like nobody I’ve ever seen. I’d say Flint did pretty well after dropping out of school because he had trouble reading.
It was with shock then that a few days ago Keith Flint was found dead in his house in Essex from an apparent suicide. From someone who seemingly had it all it still wasn’t enough.
I didn’t know him, I’ve never met him but it still sucks. He was part of something that millions of people got great enjoyment from, me being one of them. Just as we listen to Kurt Cobain, Chris Cornell or Scott Weiland with a tinge of sadness, we now unfortunately can add Keith to the list. RIP Keith Flint.