Music stars and unlikely allies paid tribute to The Prodigy’s frontman Keith Flint on Tuesday, painting a picture of a surprisingly friendly character behind the hellraising image.
The rave music figurehead was found dead on Monday, aged 49, having taken his own life, according to his bandmate Liam Howlett.
The explosive vocalist may have cut a frightening impression on stage: a frenzied whirlwind of fierce energy with fluorescent, spiked-up hair, manic stare, numerous tattoos and body piercings.
But unlikely figures from across the world of music described him as going out of his way to be amiable, while newspapers suggested he had recently been in private turmoil, having split from his wife.
The Sun’s front page said “Prodigy Keith’s secret agony”.
The tabloid said his death came days after he put his farmhouse up for sale, having split from his Japanese model and DJ wife Mayumi Kai.
Flint had taken part in a local five-kilometre (three-mile) run on Saturday in a personal best time of 21 minutes and 22 seconds.
The Sun said Kai was in Japan when he was found. The couple married in 2006.
‘Demonic stage presence’
The Prodigy were one of the most influential acts to emerge from the underground rave scene.
Their biggest hits included “Firestarter” and “Breathe” in 1996 and “Smack My Bitch Up” in 1997, which merged intense dance beats with elements of rap and punk to create energy-driven music.
The Guardian newspaper’s music critic Alexis Petridis described Flint as a “demonic stage presence with prodigious star quality”.
He said Flint arrived when the British dance scene was enduring a “folk-devil moment” in the media and Flint “seemed happy to own the moral panic”, looking and behaving on camera “like middle England’s worst nightmare”.
Electronic music artists Chase And Status and The Chemical Brothers, considered fellow big beat pioneers, were among those sharing tributes for Flint.
But perhaps the most revealing came from beyond the genre, from figures who said they had changed their minds about Flint, having met him.
Queen guitarist Brian May said he had been backstage at a festival when The Prodigy were playing.
“Feeling a lot of anger in Keith’s delivery, I somehow assumed he would hate us,” he wrote on Instagram.
Afterwards, May nodded at Flint, who came running over and bowed before him.
Flint “then spent a good five minutes telling me very warmly how much he loved our music and had been inspired by it in his life. After that, I perceived him very differently.”
James Blunt, often the target of derision for his soft pop ballads, said Flint went against the grain and had shown him kindness when others in the industry did not.
He said that at an awards ceremony, when former Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher was saying he was leaving Ibiza because Blunt had moved there, Blur frontman Damon Albarn “refused to be in the same picture as me” and Paul Weller saying he would rather eat his own faeces than work with him, “Keith Flint came over, gave me a hug, and said how thrilled he was for my success.
“In our business, there are no prizes for being kind, but if there was, that Grammy would be yours.“
Rapper Dizzee Rascal said he first thought Flint “a lunatic” and then when he opened for The Prodigy in 2009, found him “one of the nicest people I’ve met and always was, every time“.
“When it comes to the stage, few people can carry a show like him.
“Iconic and a gentleman.”
Fellow rapper Professor Green said Flint “always said hello, even when you didn’t have a scooby (idea) who I was”.
Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown called him “a beautiful human”, while rockers the Foo Fighters called him “incomparable”.
The other members of The Prodigy are keyboardist Howlett and MC Maxim Reality. The band were due to play around the world in the coming months but their future without Flint is unknown.