From a technical point of view, the latest Prodigy release Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned has proved that it's what's in your head and not in your studio that counts - this album reportedly started life using Propellerheads Reason and a laptop. Liam Howlett, the Prodigy's creative force has spent two years working on this release and finds the sound of the Mackie 32-8 Analogue 8-bus console very much to his liking.
"I've always had a really good relationship with Mackie," Howlett explains. "I've used Mackie desks from the beginning - and this particular one since the second album because it gives us our distinctive Prodigy sound. The 32-8 lends itself to being driven very hard. It has a naturally warm sound that allows us to push the channels as far as they'll go. It really is a very capable, warm desk."
Howlett says that Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned was conceived in his bed and in his garden! His initial ideas were captured using a laptop and five pieces of equipment taken from his studio - a Phoenix valve compressor, a Culture Vulture distortion unit, a Korg Micro Keyboard, a Manley Valve EQ and a 1980s Korg MS20 analogue keyboard. Music was written on the laptop using Reason from Propellarheads Software, which Howlett describes as 'like a computer game to use'. Tracks were then transferred to Pro Tools so that guitars, keyboards and vocals could be added.
Once the initial ideas were captured, the project moved to Muse Studios in Stoke Newington for four months of pre-production and recording. "Muse is a very small studio owned by some friends of ours. It's main advantage is that is has a Mackie desk, which I was keen to use for pre-production," Howlett explains. "When we moved to Whitfield St. in March, which is where we mixed the album, I asked Mackie to lend us a 32.8 analogue console even though we had a Neve desk in the studio. We used the Neve as the main mixer but we had the Mackie working alongside it as a sub-mixer because it was able to create the signature Prodigy sound that everyone recognizes."
For Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, Howlett worked with co-producer Neil McClennan and Pro Tools operator Damien Taylor. The album also features guest vocals from Hollywood actress Juliette Lewis and Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher.
"I enjoyed getting more people involved because it freed my head and allowed me to focus on writing," he says. "The most important thing for this album was to concentrate on the music and bring that to the fore. I wanted the vocals to be less important, more like samples, and for the album to be about energy and aggression so that we pushed the music forward without a vocalist carrying the weight. I wanted this album to be about getting back to the beats because this is what the Prodigy has always been about."
Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned will be released on August 23rd 2004 via XL Recordings.