Exclusive interview with Kieron Pepper (November 2020)
In November 2020 theprodigy.ru team made a fantastic interview with Kieron Pepper, former The Prodigy drummer, Baseface member, multi-instrumentalist, and a music producer with more than 30 years of experience.
Some of you can probably remember Kieron Pepper at legendary The Prodigy’s 1997 Brixton Academy gig, as well as at dozens of parties he hosted with Dima Gordy, Pepper’s BaseFace bandmate. Kieron co-wrote “Baby’s Got A Temper”, “Razor” and “Black Smoke” by The Prodigy and co-produced Keith Flint’s solo album “Device #1”, as well as Maxim’s legendary “Carmen Queasy”. In addition, Kieron helped Leeroy Thornhill with the release of “Beyond All Reasonable Doubt”, where they recorded several tracks together. Pepper also took part in the creation of Hyper’s “We Control” album, where Leeroy also appeared as a co-writer.
Kieron Pepper spoke about what he’s working on now, told about his 10 years of experience with The Prodigy, Liam Howlett, and Keith Flint, showed some details about FLINT’s debut album, shared Baseface’s future plans, and gave us a huge amount of information about his musical background. Thanks to Dima Gordy and Dmitrii Wuks for making this interview happen. Russian translation can be found here.
Part 1. About Keith Flint.
Did Keith write any lyrics or record any vocals between 1997 and 2002? That means between “The Fat Of The Land” and “Baby’s Got A Temper”.
Yes, 2000 to 2002 was when Keith & I wrote quite a few songs, some of which ended up on “Device #1”. The first solid song from those sessions was “Prescription” – but the arrangement was different from the album version. The music was written initially with just myself, Keith & Tony Howlett: we had a joke band name and jammed for hours at his house just for kicks before it got serious. Then the rest we wrote with Jim Davies when he joined the fold (after he was welcomed back to The Prodigy at that time). Other songs were written after 2002, before the recording of the album at Olympic Studios with Youth.
Why has Keith’s solo album never been released? What can be said about the album’s fate after Keith’s passing?
The album was never finished properly. The tracks that appear on the private copy of “Device #1” (which was leaked) were truly great in energy and really captured the moment, but there was a general feeling that it could have been better.
I’d love to finish the album at some point, bringing in more elements from the earlier demos. I wasn’t using computers to produce the demos back then, just samplers and hard-disk recorders. I don’t know where the 1/4 inch tapes of the album track masters are.
I’m not sure if any part of the album is salvageable though, and it wasn’t released at the time for a reason. I’ve got boxes of old demos in the loft, but I just can’t bring myself to go up there and look yet. There are probably a few conversations to have first.
As you may remember, there was a track called “Vacation”: basically, it was The Prodigy’s track but later it was re-sung by Keith. Did those two versions differ a lot from each other? Were any elements from it incorporated into Liam’s tracks later on? Do you recall anything about it?
It was actually the other way around. “Vacation USA” was one of our tracks that was on “Device #1” that Liam wanted to work with; along with “Razor” and “No Name No Number” (“NNNN”), which became “Baby’s Got A Temper”. I can’t remember if Liam finished a version of “Vacation”.
Was Keith upset about the fact that his solo album hasn’t been released? Or did he grew indifferent towards his solo career upon returning to the band? What do you think: did he have enough freedom to unfold within The Prodigy?
I think we were all gutted. I wanted nothing more than for that band to succeed — especially for Keith, but there were many factors against it.
Keith lived and breathed The Prodigy — it was his life, and after the extra experience of writing songs in this way, I’m sure it gave him extra impetus and fire to contribute to all the great The Prodigy tracks that we love after that period of time.
Part 2. About The Prodigy.
You may remember the track called “Dust Yoself”, it was played live a couple of times back in 2002. Still, we have no recordings of it whatsoever. Do you remember, maybe some elements of it were later used in other Liam’s tracks? If that’s true, do you know anything about it?
This was a jam/link track used in between songs at gigs, I used to love jamming live with Liam — I think at the time they were loops that he triggered from the Roland W-30, and so it was very organic and easy to change the structure at will. Maxim would freestyle lyrics — there were some awesome versions that I am sure must exist from fans’ bootlegs.
I imagine that some of the sounds found their way into other later tracks, even if they were put through the mangler, chopped into fragments.
Why do you think Liam released nothing between “The Fat Of The Land” and “Baby’s Got A Temper”? It was the most commercially successful time for the band. Fans are sure that there was enough material for an EP.
That’s a question for Liam really. A lot of the songs/ideas at the time I think ended up (in some form or other) on “Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned” and later albums. I hear sounds and riffs from that time even on “No Tourists”. Liam has well and truly honed his sound over the years; his armory of beats, riffs, treatments, and production tricks are outstanding. I’ll never get bored of his music, and I can’t wait to hear what happens next.
Part 3. Personal questions.
What are your musical roots and background? How did you start playing drums?
A self-taught multi-instrumentalist grew up on a diet of Cocteau Twins, The The, Street Sounds Electro compilation albums, Fugazi, shameless 80’s pop and underground acts you will have never heard of, that played my local music venues Y-Club & The Army & Navy — where I did my first gigs.
I was in a band called The Changelings (1989–1990), I sang and played guitar/keys — the drummer Dan (still my best friend) wanted to leave and become a frontman. I was more interested in keeping the band together and was very keen to learn the drums, so we swapped. It’s all Dan’s fault.
Could you tell us more about what you’re up to at the moment? According to your Instagram account, you are currently working with many artists and doing different production. Please, tell us about the most interesting projects you are working on now.
I have two main passions at the moment, firstly writing and producing with fresh bands such as Wargasm and Crashface, and other bands and artists; and secondly, I help young acts with artist development — whatever they need — from songwriting to pre-production for recording or live performances, advice on branding and helping to connect them to the right people they need to advance and excel. Sometimes just moral support, belief, and opportunity are enough to help people to the next stage.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with many artists who are really starting to make waves or have gone on to greater success: Chinchilla, Sophie & The Giants, July Jones, Joe Carabine, Annabel Allum, Stu Brootal, Bruch, China Bears, Hounds, Hockeysmith, Dekay, Lime, Lúna, MIN t, Neon Islands, Nuuxs, Owen Petch, Penelope Isles, Prima Queen, Rila’s Edge, Rocky Nti, Sam Animal, Xero, BEACH RIOT, to name-check a few…
I particularly like helping acts in the early stages, I’ve been doing it for years behind the scenes. It is so rewarding to see them earn success through hard work, talent, and focus.
I’ll eventually make my private work in this field more public; but for now, meeting creatives through references and word-of-mouth is cool for me.
I still get my kicks playing with bands. I play bass with Sleeper (wrote an album with them in 2018), and drums/samplers/synths with Radiophonic Workshop (we did a soundtrack for a horror film called Possum last year).
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How and when did you become one of The Prodigy members and why did you quit?
I recorded a mini-album at The Strongroom — mixed by Neil McLellan. He gave it to me on a DAT tape, which I couldn’t play. I lived in Braintree at the time with 2 other members of my band realtv. I met Keith Flint walking through town and asked him if he thought it would be OK to call around to Liam’s house. I knocked on his door and asked him if he’d put my album on to CD so I could listen to it. He was in the middle of writing/producing “The Fat Of The Land”. I ended up going around there quite a few times, hanging out, swapping sounds on W-30 disks.
He called me up in November 1997 and asked if I’d play drums for The Prodigy. My life changed in so many ways.
Ten years later, after many adventures, my time with the band had run its course. I’m sure I’ll go into more details at some point. It worked out well for everyone, I always proudly followed the band after my time with them and will remain a fan until the end.
Which The Prodigy’s studio tracks did you participate in (excluding “Baby’s Got A Temper”, “Razor” and “Black Smoke”)? What did the studio work with The Prodigy look like in general?
Those are the main tracks that people know. I did quite a few sessions with Liam at various stages and I think bits and pieces got used. It was a great vibe watching Liam work whether it was in his studios at home / Sarm or when he was locked into his laptop. I did a chunk of loops — bass, beats and noises in my home studio, and worked on those remotely…
Part 4. About BaseFace.
Tell us more about your forthcoming plans. You’ve already released a few singles and started a remix competition — what should we expect next?
New singles are currently being written and recorded (I’m supposed to be doing a track right now) and I look forward to continuing this flow we have at the moment. I’m waiting with anticipation for news of Covid restrictions being eventually lifted; to allow travel and live shows. I miss Russia a lot and can’t wait to return…
You’ve released the split-single with Порнофильмы in October. What can you say about this collaboration? Have you heard any other Russian bands? Please, tell us about the most interesting ones.
I’m into Louna at the moment, and some Russian rappers — the passion they have really comes across, even if I don’t understand all the lyrics…
It was a total honor to work with Порнофильмы — I love their energy and the vocal dexterity and power of Volodya (Vladimir Kotlyarov, the lead band member) is incredible. It was a great match, set up of course by their number one fan Gordy.
What artist or band would you like to record a track with (no matter worldwide or local)? And do you plan to make any other collaborations with Russian artists?
I’d love very much to work with more Russian artists (we are talking to some legends at the moment) and collaborate on a dual language track if possible.
A BaseFace vs Crystal Method would be quite interesting, and I’d be really into BaseFace featuring Nova Twins or Waax.
I already have some interesting co-writes with great artists, set for next year — though that isn’t as BaseFace. My personal wish list for future creative collaborations would be Never Not Nothing, Bishop Briggs, Girli, and Mr. Howlett…
About your new label DEADQUARTERS: who are you going to sign (if you are going to)? Do you have any interesting artists in mind? What are the functions of your label: distribution, promotion, support, etc?
Our label functions at the moment just for our releases, but of course, we have our eye on acts that we would like to bring into our world. I imagine that I would use my artist development to nurture and support the bands as well as them benefitting from Gordy’s fantastic business brain.
It’s early days for the label and I’m very excited as to what (and who) the future may bring…