Prodigy vocalist Keith Flint wrote the lyrics, which basically describe him. "Flint" is a material used to start fires.
Aaron - Des Moines, IA
This was the first single by The Prodigy to feature Keith Flint on vocals. (He'd originally been one of the band's dancers)
Liam Howlett originaly wrote "Firestarter" as an instrumental. When he played it to Flint to his surprise the dancer said he'd like to add some vocals. (He hadn't shown any previous enthusiasm to be the band's singer)
"It was so ridiculous because my English isn't my strong point, by any stretch of the imagination," Flint recalled to the NME. "So I end up singing in this weird accent (puts on a daft yokel voice), 'Oi'm a muckspreaderrrrr, twisted muckspreaderrrr.' But it ended up sounding quite... menacing."
The guitar riff was sampled from The Breeders song "S.O.S.
". The "Hey, Hey, Hey" refrain was borrowed from The Art Of Noise's "Close (To The Edit)."
The video was shot in a tube tunnel at the disused Aldwych station in London and showed Keith Flint wearing an American flag T-shirt and a Mohician haircut looking very menacing. The terrifying video was slammed by the fire service as an incitement to arson. The tabloids criticized it for frightening young children.
The Foo Fighters' "Weenie Beenie," a track on their debut album, provided inspiration for this song.
The Prodigy's main songwriter Liam Howlett told Q magazine March 2008: "I'd started The Fat Of The Land and I'd done the first track, an instrumental: 'Firestarter.' Keith comes in and goes, 'If I'm ever going to do any lyrics, I'm going to do it on this tune.'"
Keith Flint added in the same Q interview: "I remember Liam on the phone to (their record label boss) Richard Russell. He said, 'Do you think these words describe Keith: Twisted? Self Inflicted? Yes, very much so.' The lyrics were about being onstage: this is what I am. Some of it is a bit deeper than it seems."
There was a Hermann Goring quote on the album sleeve that provoked reactions: "We have no butter, but I ask you, would you rather have butter or guns?" Howlett expressed surprise that Q magazine deemed it controversial: "Really? I never got any slack off that being a Nazi quote. I just thought it was relevant. It was a b-boy quote." (A b-boy is someone who is devoted to hip-hop culture).
The Fat Of The Land went to #1 in 23 countries in its first week of release. In the UK it was one of the fastest selling LPs ever, in The Fat Of The Land's debut week its total sales were greater than all the other 99 of the top 100 albums combined.
Keith Flint was asked by Q magazine November 2009 what he considers to be The Prodigy's best lyric. He replied: "That's one of the hardest questions I've ever been asked. I'd better say one of mine. Having barely written anything at school, and then writing the nine lines of Firestarter in Liam's room… I was taking the piss. Causing a stir, f--king people off! I believe that naiveté served me well."
Keith Flint, who died in 2019 at 49, owned a pub in Essex, England with an open fire. A running bit at the pub: any time he would light the fire and someone quoted this song, they had to donate £1 to charity.
Liam Howlett told Q magazine: "The video was black and white because we've done a 100 grand (£100,000) video and we'd binned it and we had 20 grand left. (Our label) XL was freaking out."
The lyrics, "I'm the Firestarter. Twisted firestarter," were the first Keith Flint had written for the band. He explained to Melody Maker the rave rock anthem has nothing to do with literally starting fires but was about performing in front of 5,000 people and stirring them up into a frenzy. "I wanna give people something they'll remember: BOOM! I don't care about a lovely profile shot, I wanna stir people up. 'Firestarter' is about stirring people up."