Break the Mould – the heroes behind the design
When we kicked off our collaboration with Hatch we had a very specific idea in mind. We wanted to celebrate and pay homage to a group of British people that broke the mould – creative, brilliant people that dared to stand out among their peers, who did things differently to the people before them, who changed the course of history through their ideas, imagination, creativity, will, hard work and contributions to society. It’s not exhaustive, of course, but it’s a pretty good start. And we knew Hatch’s completely unique style was the only way to bring this to life.
So here we thought we’d tell you a little more about the unique characters that feature on the Venus & the Cat indoor pot ‘Break the Mould’.
The Beatles, formed in Liverpool, 1960, changed everything. Simply put, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr formed a band regarded as the most influential of all time. With their roots in skiffle, beat and 1950s rock and roll, they expanded, experimented and incorporated more traditional pop, classical, Indian music and hippy psychedelia, as well as more progressive hard rock. They created a sound like nothing else heard before, current or after. They broke the mould irreparably. The Beatles built their reputation on endless hours of live gigs, perfecting their craft in both Liverpool and across Germany (where they would play translated versions of their songs). By the time they were exposed to a commercial audience, they were sublimely practiced at their art and "the Fab Four" soon brought "Beatlemania" to the world.
In a few very short years the Beatles were international stars, leading the "British Invasion" of the United States pop market, breaking numerous sales records in the process. The Beatles are the best-selling music act of all time, with estimated sales of 600 million units worldwide. They are the best-selling act in the US, with certified sales of 183 million units. They hold the record for most number-one albums on the UK Albums Chart, most number-one hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and the most singles sold in the UK. The group were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, and all four main members were inducted individually between 1994 and 2015. In 2008, the group topped Billboard's list of the all-time most successful artists on the Billboard Hot 100. The band received seven Grammy Awards, four Brit Awards, an Academy Award (for Best Original Song Score for the 1970 film Let It Be) and fifteen (yes, fifteen) Ivor Novello Awards. Time magazine named them among the 20th century's 100 most important people.
Picture the scene. Somewhere deep into the late 80s Essex rave scene, 18-year-old Liam Howlett (a classically trained pianist) is DJing a set when a young dancer called Keith (Flint) asks him for a mixtape. Howlett returned him a cassette with the word "Prodigy" etched onto it (the 'Moog Prodigy' was the brand name of Liam's synthesiser). Keith loved Liam's original tracks, sharing them to friends and fellow dancers Leeroy Thornhill and Keith Palmer (stage name Maxim). Together they approached Howlett to create a group, where they would dance on stage to create atmosphere around his live sets.
Within a year The Prodigy were signed, exposing a mainstream audience dumbed down by Timmy Mallet, Kylie, Jason and Roxette to the burgeoning dance music scene. Rave was somewhat secretive and soon to be illegal, but The Prodigy's first hit 'Charly' (which started a tremendously successful trend of mixing dance and hardcore rave tracks with cartoon samples, such as "A Trip to Trumpton" by Urban Hype and "Sesame's Treet" by Smart E's) unexpectedly hit number 3 on the UK charts. Critics deplored it (they called it "kiddie rave" and "toytown techno"). Fans loved it. The Prodigy - four young lads from Essex - had gate-crashed the mainstream.
Their second single 'Everybody in the Place' (1991) confounded critics by reaching number 2 in the UK charts, ahead of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody re-release on the occasion of Freddie Mercury's passing. As the Criminal Justice Act's "anti-rave" legislation loomed, The Prodigy were carving themselves out a hugely successful niche, creating a kind of music never before heard. Their style was adapting all the time, gradually leaving the cartoonish influence behind and leaning more on samples from US hip-hop, electronica, punk and psychedelic rock.
Their first album (Experience, 1992) went Platinum. A year later their release 'Music for the Jilted Generation' built on their style of 'big beat', a popular dance genre created alongside acts such as the Chemical Brothers and Fat Boy Slim, finally welcomed critical acclaim (including a Mercury Prize Nomination), topping the album charts despite an ongoing refusal to appear on television, in order to protect themselves from over exposure. They notably stood out from anything else the British music scene had to offer.
When 'The Fat of the Land' was released (starting with 'Firestarter' in 1996) it did so with band members sporting radical new looks, Maxim delivering a chilling new persona and Flint his now synonymous punk inspired visage; both Flint and Maxim now delivering powerful and aggressive vocal performances. It launched The Prodigy stateside, as they reached number 1 in the US charts, headlining Lollapalooza that year, Glastonbury the next (which they would do again triumphantly in 2009). They were now by far the largest dance act in the world, Q magazine naming them one of the "50 Bands to See Before You Die".
Over the next decade or so, The Prodigy would release four more studio albums across multiple varying influences and collaborations (plus a live album recording of arguably their greatest stage achievement, their 'World's on Fire' festival) before Flint's death in 2019, repeatedly charting international number 1's. The band would include many members in addition to the ever-present Howlett, Maxim and Flint, most of whom joined as live musicians, The Prodigy developing dance music beyond the synthesiser, often performing extravagant live sets with stunning accompaniments from guitarists and 'hyperspeed' drummers in addition to their own crashing synth bass.
Their awards list is significant, featuring multiple nominations and wins across Brits, Grammy's, Ivor Novello, MTV, MOBO, Mercury, Q and NME. The musical press titled The Prodigy "the Godfathers of Rave", and they remain one of the most successful electronic acts of all time having sold an estimated 25 million records worldwide.