For over 20 years The Prodigy have been a cornerstone of the electronic music world. At times serving as its heart, soul, backbone and balls, the outfit has become as celebrated for their standard-setting hyper-kinetic live show as well as infamous for their groundbreaking controversial videos. While they're in the studio working on a new album set for 2014, this month, member Maxim returns stateside for a DJ tour with MC Cianna Blaze. They're set to play L.A.'s The Lure on October 27th San Diego's The Voyure on October 29th and the HARD Day of the Dead festival in LA on November 2nd. We were fortunate enough to speak with Maxim about shifting from frontman to DJing and the differences in putting out an album of electronic music today as opposed to two decades ago. Come breathe with us.
Has it been much different putting together your live DJ tour as opposed to touring with The Prodigy?
It's a totally different process. It's quite challenging actually. DJs today are more producers, aren't they? It's not just DJing anymore. Obviously when I first got into DJing, I was just playing tunes but it's kind of evolved into something else now so I'm actually putting my own tunes into the set which I've written as well to evolve the set and make it different from what everyone else has got. On that level it's quite similar to putting a live set together, but obviously it's not like touring with a band. It's a totally different kettle of fish. For me, touring with a band is the ultimate thing. You're doing all your own music in a live performance, so this has taken me out of my comfort zone in a lot of respects and is a bit of a challenge because I'm behind decks. I'm playing tunes live, so there's the spontaneity of seeing the crowd reaction and taking the set somewhere else. I kinda like that you're in control of the crowd in some respects. When you're playing what you're into, you're kind of projecting it on the crowd and saying “check out what I'm into, this is what I buzz off and makes me move and hopefully it makes you move.” It's quite challenging and quite draining at times, which I didn't expect from the start. It's definitely taxing on your mind. I never drink during or before the show.
Does that go for both DJing and The Prodigy's live performances?
Oh yeah. Never drink before a Prodigy show.
How did you first hook up with MC Cianna Blaze?
Through a friend of a friend. When I first started DJing, I want to do something a bit different. A lot of my friends are DJs or MCs and DJs and I wanted to do something different than have a male drum and bass MC who just comes on in his jeans. I wanted to make the show something people could watch and appreciate, not just an MC blending in the background. I wanted someone to be my voice when I DJ. I met her and I wasn't too sure at first, but I really connected with her and the bond just got really strong. She's a really good MC, a really good rapper. It slowly evolved into her doing her vocals over tunes that I've written. It's slowly evolving into a Cianna Blaze show and blossomed into something we didn't expect.
Do you have the live show in mind when writing music in the studio?
Always. Totally. The live show is what drives us. It's the backbone of the Prodigy. If there was no live show, there wouldn't be a Prodigy. Music gets created in the studio so we could take it to the stage and be a live band. It's good to have that sort of foresight how things work because I bring that aspect into the DJ side of things as well. It's all about the stage. Music is created for the stage to bring it to the people. Nobody sits in the studio and writes music thinking about being in the studio. You're trying to create an emotion and reaction from the people.
Do you recall the first time you played in the U.S.?
'91. I think it was the summer. We toured with Moby and Cybersonic, which was Richie Hawtin's first band. It was a good laugh. It was quite eye-opening because it was the first time we came and toured America. We've been back numerous times, but I have so many memories from back then. When I think of electronic dance music today and where it's kind of started off and what we were doing back then, we were drawing audiences of 2,000 people. We were trying to build that scene in America and show people this is what it's about. We were at the forefront of that and it's amazing where it is now in the U.S. It's a big thing, isn't it?
Is it much different recording and putting out an EDM record now than how it was 20 years ago?
Totally. Well, obviously technology's changed everything, hasn't it? Back in the day, it was all vinyl so you had to get dub plates pressed up, you had to get someone to press vinyl, you had to get the track mastered. Today you can hit tens-of-thousands in minutes, back then you could only hit a hundred people because you had to take vinyl around to different record stores and see if they'll sell it for you and give it to DJs to play. In some respects, today the control is back into the hands of the people because record labels are controlling that side of things. But, obviously, once you give that freedom to people then the floodgates open and there's mountains of tunes out there that are rubbish because everybody's doing it. I believe it's the same amount of good music still coming out as there was then, it's just that today there's more music available. 10% is good, 90% is rubbish.
Being how many landmark music videos you've done, do you have a favorite?
It always changes for me. Sometimes it's "Spitfire,” sometimes it's "Voodoo People” [or] “Take Me to the Hospital.” They all have their own vibe to them. Even one of my own videos, “Carmen Queasy.” It always changes. There's no video where I feel “oh, that was the best ever” because I always feel when you've done the ultimate thing, then where do you go from there? I'm not a perfectionist, but I never feel like I've achieved what I wanted to achieve because I always feel there's something else to achieve after that. I don't feel I've written by best tune yet, I don't feel I've played by best DJ set yet, I don't think The Prodigy's made our best album yet. I don't think we've done our best video or played out best show. There's always something better to have and more to achieve. Performance wise I always feel we can perform better than our last performance.