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  •  British singer Keith Flint of techno group

    British singer Keith Flint of techno group "The Prodigy" performs during the first day of the Isle of Wight Festival at Seaclose Park in Newport on the Isle of Wight June 9, 2006. | Photo: Reuters

Published 4 March 2019

Keith Flint helped turn The Prodigy into one of the most influential groups to emerge from the underground rave scene.

Keith Flint, the Prodigy lead singer who captured the hedonistic spirit of 1990s British rave culture, has died aged 49 in what the band's founder described as a suicide.

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Flint was one of the best known faces of British electronic music, performing apparently random dance moves often with eccentric hair cuts, sometimes styled as devil's horns, and heavy makeup around his eyes.

"I'm a firestarter, twisted firestarter," Flint sang in the 1996 hit which introduced the blistering sounds of Britain's underground rave generation to the mainstream. "I'm the self inflicted, mind detonator, yeah."

Liam Howlett, founder of the group, said Flint had taken his own life.

"Our brother Keith took his own life over the weekend. I’m shell shocked, fuckin' angry, confused and heart broken," Howlett said on Instagram. "R.I.P brother."

Police were called to an address in Essex, eastern England, shortly after 8.10am on Monday where they found a 49-year-old who was pronounced dead at the scene.

Keith Charles Flint was born in London in 1969 and after leaving a broken home, he spent time in Israel as a market-stall trader. He didn't take his main school exams.

The Prodigy had their first gig in Dalston, east London, and released dance track "Charly" in August 1991. Will Hodgkinson, rock critic for The Times, said Flint personified the British rave culture of the early 1990s.

Emerging at around the same time as fellow ravers The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim and Underworld, The Prodigy embodied the "Cool Britannia" feel of the late 1990s.

But The Prodigy's sound was always harder, more confrontational and intense, with their performances turning into sweat sessions that sold out venues for decades around the world.

"After meeting Howlett at a rave in 1989, Flint helped to turn the Prodigy into a band that captured the spirit of young Britain at the time: hedonistic, semi-legal, and definitely interested in doing some freaky dancing at a rave at three in the morning, ideally on ecstasy," Hodgkinson said.

Prodigy's 1994 "Music for the Jilted Generation" was seen as a response the corruption of rave culture and the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which criminalized raves.

In 1995, he danced frantically at the Glastonbury Festival with cropped pink hair and extensive facial piercing.

The video for "Firestarter," which featured Flint performing in a manic manner, attracted a record number of complaints to the BBC's "Top Of The Pops" TV music show because parents said it was scaring their children.

British music magazine NME said the 1997 "Fat Of The Land" album, which included "Firestarter" and "Breathe," had sold 10 million copies to date.

"It is with deepest shock and sadness that we can confirm the death of our brother and best friend Keith Flint," other members of Prodigy said in a statement. "A true pioneer, innovator and legend. He will be forever missed."

Other dance music pioneers paid tribute.

"So sad to hear about Keith Flint, he was always great fun to be around and very kind to Tom and I when we first started doing shows together... great man," Ed Simons of The Chemical Brothers tweeted.

Chase And Status, who were also part of the "big beat" subgenre of UK underground techno and acid house music, said they were "absolutely devastated".

"We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Keith and the life changing music they made and championed," Chase And Status said on Twitter.

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