On stage, Keith Flint was “danger illustrated” – a maniacal, uninhibited performer, who introduced an element of danger to The Prodigy’s live shows.
But tributes to the star, who died on Monday, revealed his softer side.
Jo Whiley called him an “absolute sweetheart” and the Chemical Brothers thanked him for being “friendly and supportive” when they started out.
“It was so disarming to discover this incredibly gentle, intelligent, charming man,” said DJ Mary Anne Hobbs.
Pop star James Blunt even shared a story of Flint’s kindness and generosity after a bruising night out.
“At the Q Awards years ago, when Noel Gallagher was saying he was leaving Ibiza because I’d moved there, and Damon Albarn refused to be in the same picture as me… Keith Flint came over, gave me a hug, and said how thrilled he was for my success,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Keith, I only met you once, but I shed a tear at the news of your death. In our business, there are no prizes for being kind, but if there was, that Grammy would be yours.”
Queen’s Brian May also described how Flint shattered his preconceptions when they met.
“I was backstage when Prodigy were playing a festival soon after Firestarter came out,” he said.
“I was knocked out by their records and the intensity of their show was awesome. But, feeling a lot of anger in Keith’s delivery, I somehow assumed he would hate us – Queen, etc.
“So I just nodded in respect when I saw him at the other side of the stage while the gear was being changed over. He ran straight over and did that Wayne’s World tongue-in-cheek bowing thing, and then spent a good five minutes telling me very warmly how much he loved our music and had been inspired by it in his life.
“After that, I perceived him very differently and I enjoyed their records even more! How horribly sad that he got to the point of taking his own life at an age when he was still so potent.”
On Reddit, one fan recounted how he met Flint and his girlfriend in 1996, when the couple were hoping to buy his parents’ house in Plymouth.
“My dad had left all plates [full of] sweets around the house and as Keith and his girlfriend were leaving, my mum picks up one of them and goes running across the room saying, ‘Prodigy, Prodigy, would you like a jellybean?’
“He looks round, a bit surprised, and then smiled and said ‘Ooh, go on then!’ They both seemed like really nice people!”
Other fans shared funny clips of the star – including this one, which recalled a case of mistaken identity:
Flint’s local paper, Essex Live, recalled how the star would respond to negative reviews of his pub, The Leather Bottle, on Trip Advisor.
After one customer complained “the radio was playing as background music and the service was not what I was expecting,” for example, Flint took the blame.
“The thing is, if I’d been in there on the real ales or had a couple of Jagers inside of me, the radio will creep up…
“You can always tell who the landlord is because he’s at the end of the bar drinking halves, but if he’s been there eight hours – he’s had about twelve halves.”
One fan who visited the pub even revealed that Flint had installed a “swear jar” for anyone who mentioned Firestarter.
“A few years ago out cycling in Essex I stopped at a country pub for lunch, and found that Keith Flint was the owner,” wrote Matt Drinkwater.
“There was a swear jar above the hearth for mandatory donations from any drinkers who made the obvious joke while he was tending to the coals.”
Of course, the contrast between Flint’s private life and his public persona shouldn’t be a surprise. Most performers adopt a character – even if it’s an exaggerated version of themselves – to put some much-needed distance between the “star” and the real person.
But while some musicians get lost in their character, BBC 6 Music’s Matt Everitt revealed that Flint could turn off the rabble-rousing reprobate he inhabited on stage at the flick of a switch.
He recalled watching Flint from the side of the stage at Japan’s Fuji Rock Festival in 1998.
“During some songs, he’d come off stage and he came to stand next to me.
“I was like, ‘alright, how are you?'” he remembered asking, to which Flint replied: “‘Oh, very well, you enjoying the show, yeah?’
“So I’d just seen this wild, crazy-eyed, demonic-haired individual whipping this huge audience into a frenzy, and then we have a very polite chat.
“Then he goes, ‘hang on a minute, I’ll be back in a bit,’ and he runs on again and leaps on to the stage like a dervish.”
“It’s amazing. He took this role of the firestarter and turned it into this tangible persona that meant something to audiences, generation after generation after generation.”