Motorcycle enthusiast Keith Flint passes away
In a bolt from the blue, we heard today that Keith Flint, the flamboyant frontman of “The Prodigy” had sadly passed away. Flint, who turned 49, was crazy about everything that has to do with motorcycles and visited several motocross GPs and MotoGP competitions. Six years ago I (Tom Jacobs) had the pleasure to interview him.
In real life, Keith turned out to be a very amiable, dead-normal boy who made time without a haircut for a comprehensive chat with a Belgian reporter. Obviously passionate about engines, it became a nice conversation. One that I also personally enjoyed because “The Prodigy” – good for about 30 million sold records – was one of my favorite bands as a teenager.
Below is the interview with Keith as a tribute to the man made world famous by his Firestarter song, but above all he was a warm personality and a great entertainer:
Tastes differ but for a guaranteed adrenaline rush you are at the right address with The Prodigy. Since I became acquainted with the English band 20 years ago, at the time of ‘Out of Space’, I continued to follow them. With hits like ‘Firestarter’, ‘Breathe’, sizzling live shows and five exciting CDs, Liam Howlett and co were able to establish themselves firmly in the leading group of electronic music. The Prodigy proved that they have not been sung for a long time with the great ‘Invaders must die’. Later this year their new album ‘How to steal a jet fighter’ will be released. Although Liam is the musical brain of the group, the hyperkinetic Keith Flint has turned out to be the frontman and an important musical sparring partner for Howlett.
The daring looking Flint not only sells in piercings and tattoos, he is also known as a passionate motorcyclist and racer. Well then ..
“It was written in the stars that I would become a motorcyclist. My two older brothers were already driving, then the step was taken quickly. One loved sport engines, the other was more the type of hardcore biker. I always jumped with other riders and actually I am crazy about everything with a motor and wheels. In 1998 I started with club races, but due to a heavy crash in Mallory Park and the intensive touring with The Prodigy I put my race plans in the fridge. At the end of 2010 I went back to the circuits. Last year I rode my first season in the Hottrax Endurance Championship with my own team; Team Traction Control. At the moment we are second in the championship, only some points from the leaders. “
“I love the whole team aspect of endurance racing. Currently we are still on a modest level but next year we want to switch to the national championship. Doing a round of the Endurance World Championship is a dream. No unattainable dream anyway because frankly it is a goal to expand the team in that direction in the long term. The passion to make it as a musician is the same as that of a top rider. You need an all-consuming desire, otherwise it does not work. Both the music business and the racing can give you great satisfaction, but there is also a downside to the medal. They are hard worlds. “
“If you come on a circuit just before the weekend there is nothing. The same applies to a festival meadow. Suddenly the whole circus comes rolled up and everyone leaves on Sunday evening. That is very Rock & Roll! Racing and living in the paddock are a bit like touring with a band. It is a nomadic existence, you actually live a weekend in your van, just like you constantly see a bus on tour. Of course it is not just about that camping feeling. Experiencing your kick on the circuit and setting up quick laps completes the experience. For me, motor racing is the ideal exhaust valve. The excitement to give 60,000 men a good show is comparable with the sensation on the circuit. Training to race keeps me sharp. You need good stamina for both a performance and a 3-hour race. “
“Controlled madness, that’s what road races and our performances have in common! You have to go for it, you have to be strong and you can not stop yourself. A touch of brutality also helps. But with complete madness, things always go wrong. That is a vague border. For me it’s more about the freedom to do what you want. If all goes well, you also ride very spontaneously with a kind of flow. You do not have to think, you just have to feel what the engine does and anticipate to push harder and brake later. Of course you retain a certain amount of control, that’s also the case with our shows. We never rehearse, we just go to our feelings. “
“No, I do not have an Ipod with heavy music before I go racing! Usually I am standing at the pit wall looking at the other drivers or the race for me. I absorb the atmosphere and try to build my concentration. It is like being at a festival on the side of the stage and seeing the group playing for you. You see how the others do it, and you know it’s your turn right away. “
“The pure power of the sound blows you over during a performance. On a 200 hp racing engine, the sound is also very physical. And nothing beats the raw, undamped sound of a MotoGP machine. Amazingly beautiful! What I also get goose bumps is the moment just before the race when you are ready with all the engines in the parc fermé. You feel that brutal power of all those racing engines together, the sound of the induction and riders who rev their engines. Those typical smells too. It seems like a kind of ancient ritual of a tribe! Or a battle cry that resounds before hell breaks loose. “
“Unlike my stage personality, I am not an aggressive driver. I would describe myself as ‘smooth’. As training I drive a lot of off-road, I think it also helps me on asphalt. On the other hand, I am determined when it comes to catching up. Driving a circuit is very dynamic. There is always something new that you can learn. Do everything a little faster, look up the limits of the grip … racing is a real stealth! You can only master that stiffness by riding a lot of the time and with dedication and last but not least, by the passion with which you do it. Who wants to learn how to ride as fast Casey Stoner can you not go to the store for that – you can not buy it, you have to earn it.”
Highlight: “In 2007 I drove back home in one go after the GP in Jerez. Almost 2,300 kilometers was that. We only stopped to refuel and drink an espresso every time! Coincidentally I got to work in the Monster Energy hospitality with an English guy who had just picked up a Ducati Desmosedici in Italy. We were talking about a non-stop trip from the south of Spain to the North of France where you take the ferry to England in less than 24 hours. That never fails someone said. You should never say anything like that to me. Together with that Duc driver and his comrade we drove back, what a ride! “
First victory: “Last year we booked our first victory in Oulton Park with my endurance team. All conditions together made for a nice cocktail; it was raining, it was the last race of the season, I was aging that day and Oulton Park is also a circuit where you need guts. A circuit for real pedestrians. Accidental winning is impossible there. That was a bit of my Stoner moment, like Casey in Phillip Island last year! “
Favorite riders: “Mick Doohan, who is now a good friend, is at the top. When I met Mick for the first time, I was speechless! I did not know what happened to me when I met all the big world stars in music without blinking. I also have a lot of admiration for Ron Haslam and the late Barry Sheene. Or what Casey Stoner does on a motorbike, that is indescribable! As an Englishman, I am proud of what Cal Crutchlow shows this year and the Valentino Rossi soap opera is fascinating to follow. I am not a fan of one specific driver of today, but I have boundless respect for what they do on a motorcycle! “
Keith’s engines: “Suzuki is kind enough to lend me engines for my home-work traffic. Mainly from and to the recording studio. Now I drive with a Hayabusa before it was a GSR750. I myself have a FTR Moto2 GP engine, two GSX-R1000 racing engines built by Crescent-Suzuki, a 250cc KTM enduro, Yamaha FZR400 and a Honda CB900F. I am not a collector or a cleaner. If I do not drive anymore, I’ll take them away! “
Words and interview: Tom Jacobs