Underworld (band)

Underworld (band)

Underworld live in New York, 2007. Left to right: Karl Hyde, Rick Smith, Darren Price.
Background information
Also known as Lemon Interupt, Steppin' Razor, Mr. and Mrs. Christmas
Origin Romford, UK
Genres Electronic, techno, progressive house, progressive trance, Alternative dance
Years active 1980–present
Labels Om Records, Junior Boy's Own, V2, Wax Trax!, Sire, underworldlive.com, Traffic, Different Recordings
Associated acts The Screen Gemz, Freur
Website underworldlive.com
Karl Hyde
Rick Smith
Darren Price
Past members
Baz Allen
Bryn Burrows
Alfie Thomas
Pascal Consoli
Darren Emerson

Underworld are a British electronic group, and principal name under which duo Karl Hyde and Rick Smith have recorded together since 1980.[1]



Early years: 1979–1986

Hyde and Smith began their musical partnership with the Kraftwerk and reggae-inspired sounds of The Screen Gemz while working together in a diner in the city of Cardiff, where both had been studying. They were then joined by bass player Alfie Thomas, drummer Bryn Burrows, and keyboardist John Warwicker and formed a proto-electroclash/new romantic band whose name was a graphic squiggle, which was subsequently given the pronunciation Freur. The band signed to CBS Records, and went on to release the albums Doot-Doot in 1983, and Get Us out of Here in 1986. The band disbanded in 1986.

Underworld Mk1: 1987–1990

In 1987 Hyde, Smith, Thomas, Burrows and bass player Baz Allen formed the band Underworld which tried a more guitar-oriented funky electropop sound. The band signed to Sire Records and released the album Underneath the Radar in 1988, and following the departure of Burrows the album Change the Weather in 1989. This version of the band disbanded in 1990. (The Underworld of this period is now often referred to as "Underworld Mk1".)

Darren Emerson joins the duo: 1991–1994

After a break (to concentrate on, among other things, art/design project Tomato), Hyde and Smith recruited Essex DJ Darren Emerson, and after several minor releases and remixes as Lemon Interupt and Steppin' Razor readopted the Underworld moniker. They produced danceable techno as a trio ("Underworld Mk2").

The addition of Emerson completed Underworld's techno/rock fusion and seemed to moderate some of the poppier elements in the original duo's work. Their first album, dubnobasswithmyheadman, was considered more accessible than the group's earlier material and crossed a large spectrum of dance music. The signature Hyde lyrics were in place: poetic, hypnotic and whispered; mixing conventional songwriting with the use of found material from overheard conversations, answering machine recordings and the like. Hyde had been the lead singer in Underworld Mk1. But the original Hyde/Smith dance material was lyric-free as was most of the electronic music emerging from the aftermath of acid house.

Trainspotting breakthrough: 1995–1997

The band's 1996 album, Second Toughest In The Infants, was their second studio album with Emerson and achieved a degree of commercial success, due in part to its release coinciding with that of the film Trainspotting. The film featured "Dark & Long (Dark Train)", as well as the band's most commercially successful track to date, "Born Slippy NUXX", which was originally released only as a B-side of a single and does not appear on the Second Toughest album. Both the single and the album showed Underworld maturing as a trio, mixing elements of techno, house, drum and bass and pop music to spectacular effect. "Born Slippy .NUXX" is one of Underworld's best-known tracks, and is celebrated as one of the greatest dance tracks of the decade. It was originally released in 1995 as a b-side to "Born Slippy", but failed to catch on until it was included in Trainspotting. The track has since sold over a million copies, and appeared on countless compilations, mashups, and remixes.

Beaucoup Fish era: 1998–2001

After the release of fifth studio album Beaucoup Fish in 1999, Hyde declared in his interviews that he had sorted out earlier problems with alcoholism but all the members admitted that the sessions had been fraught with problems, with the individual members working in their own studios and only communicating via mixes of the raw material passed back and forth on DAT. After the release of the album a large number of mixes of the album tracks seemed to surface on singles, magazine promotional CDs and similar ephemeral formats perhaps indicating the number of revisions the tracks had gone through to get to the point where they were acceptable to all three. The album's name derives from a sample of a Cajun fisherman in Louisiana on the track "Jumbo". The band originally wanted to call the album Tonight, Matthew, I'm going to be Underworld (a catchphrase used by contestants on the UK ITV programme Stars in Their Eyes), but were persuaded by their record company, Junior Boy's Own, that the name would not be easily understood outside the UK. Finally, after all the singles had been released, a boxset, Beaucoup Fish Singles, which was a retrospective of all 4 singles came out.

Underworld embarked on a spirited and well-received tour in 1999, which resulted in a live CD and DVD drawn from several dates on the tour. Called Everything, Everything, the project captured the live Underworld experience very faithfully. A companion DVD was released separately soon after the album's release. The DVD features live footage of the band mixed with videography and artistic effects by the design group Tomato. The DVD also features several songs not on the album: "Moaner", "Puppies", "Kittens", and "Rowla". The disco scene in Vanilla Sky features Underworld's 1993 hit "Rez".[2]

Back to a duo: 2002–2003

After the release and promotion of Everything, Everything, Emerson decided to leave Underworld to focus on his solo projects and record label. Hyde and Smith decided to continue, once again, as a duo. They recorded a new album, A Hundred Days Off, released to general approval. Despite its status as the band's first studio album since Emerson's departure, its general sound and feel was, perhaps surprisingly for many Underworld fans, not completely dissimilar to the previous albums on which Emerson had had input.

A 2 disc anthology was released in 2003, called 1992-2002, which covered the previous Underworld MK2 to Underworld MK3 era. This was the first appearance on an album of previously unavailable single tracks and B-Sides, such as "Bigmouth", "Spikee", "Dirty", and "8 Ball".

The RiverRun Project and soundtracks: 2004–2006

While touring in the summer and fall of 2005, the duo was joined on stage by Darren Price, a DJ and producer well known by the band who had remixed Underworld releases in the past. During their tour, they released a 3xCD set called Live in Tokyo, which was sold after the concert in Japan. Copies were also later sold online.

In late 2005 they released two compilations of new songs with accompanying photographs on Underworld Live, Lovely Broken Thing and Pizza for Eggs. These were only released online, with no physical release (except for a promo CD). On 5 June 2006, they released their third instalment in the Riverrun series, I'm a Big Sister, and I'm a Girl, and I'm a Princess, and This Is My Horse.

On 10 July 2006, they released a special retrospective mix, called The Misterons Mix, which is composed of tracks from the three previous Riverrun releases. This was an exclusive free download for those customers that had purchased all three previous Riverrun releases.

In September 2006, Underworld released five limited edition (10,000 copies each) 12" vinyl releases, containing remixes of various Riverrun tracks. These tracks were also made available for purchase by digital download on the Beatport website.

In 2006, Underworld and Gabriel Yared composed the music score to Anthony Minghella's film Breaking and Entering. The soundtrack was released in the UK on 6 November, and in the USA on 5 December.

Oblivion with Bells: 2007–2009

Underworld's seventh studio album, Oblivion with Bells, was released on 16 October 2007.[3] The first single from the new album, "Crocodile", was released on 5 September 2007.[4] U2's drummer Larry Mullen Jr helped out on the track Boy, Boy, Boy.

Underworld completed the soundtrack to the Danny Boyle film, Sunshine, in late 2006.[5] Well over a year after the film's release, the official soundtrack was released on iTunes on 25 November 2008. The soundtrack is a collaboration with composer John Murphy.[6]

On 16 June 2007, Underworld were forced to cancel their show at the Ejekt Festival in Athens, Greece. Approximately 30 masked Greek anarchists stormed the stadium while the Beastie Boys were performing. Rick Smith was one of the people injured in the ensuing violence, and he was taken to a nearby Athens hospital for treatment.[7]

On 19 October 2007, Underworld cancelled the remaining dates of their European tour due to illness in the band.[8] The tour was picked up again on 28 January 2008, with a concert in Cologne, followed by 16 dates in Europe, including some festivals.

On 8 August 2008, Underworld appeared at the All Points West Music & Arts Festival festival in Liberty State Park, New Jersey. Radiohead dedicated their final song "Everything in its Right Place" to Underworld with a special remix.

Karl Hyde appeared with Brian Eno on the final day of the Eno curated Luminous Festival at Sydney Opera House. "Pure Scenius" consisted of three live improvised performances on the same day, featuring Eno, Hyde, Australian improv trio The Necks, electronic artist Jon Hopkins and guitarist Leo Abrahams.

Underworld has released two new series via their underworldlive.com site, in mp3 and WAV formats. The tracks are 020202, and the phonestrap/autotrader series.

On 3 July 2009, Underworld debuted a new song tentatively titled "Between Stars" at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Shortly before that, a post was made on the band's diary page showing a piece of paper with the song's first verse on it.

On 8 August 2009, a show at Los Angeles' Forum was canceled in circumstances eerily similar to those that led to the group canceling the show in Athens 2 years prior. Some of the crowd were climbing down the seats and onto the main floor, a potential safety hazard. The group apologized on their website for having the show called off.[9]

On 8 March 2010 Mark Knight and D. Ramirez released the single 'Downpipe', which featured vocal contributions from Underworld's Karl Hyde. The song, released on Mark Knight's Toolroom Records label, has a music video featuring the "Playhouse", a lighting setup on Liberty Hall, the tallest building in Dublin.[10]

Barking: 2010–present

On 13 May 2010, the band released a track called "Scribble" for download on the band's site.[11] The track shares elements with "You Do Scribble", an unreleased song which they featured many times since 2005 in their live performance shows. The track is made in collaboration with High Contrast, a drum and bass DJ from Cardiff.[11] On 14 May, the full version of "Scribble" was featured on Pete Tong's Radio 1 radio show, declaring it as Essential New Tune of the week.[12] The group also released a video clip for "Scribble" on YouTube.[13] It has been commercially released on 28 June as the lead single from their latest album.[14]

On 7 June 2010, Underworld announced the details of their eighth studio album, Barking, which was released on 13 September 2010 in the UK.[14][15] The album features collaborations with German trance producer Paul van Dyk and British house artists Mark Knight and D. Ramirez, among others.[16]

In December 2010 it was announced that Underworld will be reuniting with Trainspotting director Danny Boyle to write the musical score for his production of Frankenstein at the Royal National Theatre. The production was broadcast as a part of National Theatre Live on 17 March 2011, with an imminent soundtrack release announced on Underworld's website on 2 March 2010.

In February 2011 Underworld confirmed that they will be playing a huge London summer show on Saturday 27 August on Clapham Common as headliners of South West Four.


In 2008 the band participated in an album called Songs for Tibet, "to express our support for the Tibetan people... at a time when the eyes of the world are on China". The album was issued on 5 August via iTunes and on 19 August in music stores around the world.[17]


Remixes by Underworld (Darren Emerson, Rick Smith, Karl Hyde)

For a complete list of the remixography, see Underworld discography. Remixes in the Lemon Interupt/Steppin' Razor period included such varying acts as Shakespears Sister, Saint Etienne, Björk and Simply Red.

Hottest 100 of all time

In 2009 "Born Slippy .NUXX" came in at #65 in Triple J's Hottest 100 Of All Time, voted by the Australian public.[18]

Band members

  • Karl Hyde (b. 10 May 1957, Worcester) - vocals, guitars (1986–present)
  • Rick Smith (b. Richard Smith, 25 May 1959, Ammanford, Wales) - keyboards (1986–present)
  • Darren Price - keyboards, mixing and live assistant (2005–present)
  • Darren Emerson (b. 30 April 1971, Hornchurch, Essex) - keyboards and mixing (1991–2000)
  • Alfie Thomas - guitar (1986–1990) (also in Freur)
  • Bryn Burrows - drums (1986–1988) (also in Freur)
  • Baz Allen - bass (1986–1990)
  • Pascal Consoli - drums (1989–1990)

Studio Equipment

  • Akai MPC2000 percussion sampler.
  • Akai S3200XL sampler.
  • ARP 2600 modular synth.
  • Casio FZ1 sampler.
  • Clavia Nord Lead.
  • Emu Orbit sound module.
  • Korg ER1 drum machine.
  • OSC Oscar synthesizer.
  • Peavey PC6100X MIDI Command Station.
  • Quasimidi Technox sound module.
  • Roland TR909 drum machine.
  • Roland JP8000 synthesizer.
  • Yamaha DX7 MkI synthesizer.
  • Apple Mac G4 with Recycle and Logic Audio version 4.5.
  • 64-channel, 24-bit Digidesign Pro Tools system.
  • TL Audio VTC 24-channel in-line desk.
  • Behringer Ultrafex 2 enhancer.
  • BSS DPR901 compressor.
  • DBX 160S compressor/limiter (x2).
  • Drawmer DS201 noise gate.
  • Focusrite ISA115HD EQ (x2).
  • Neve 33609C stereo compressor/limiter.
  • Roland SRV330 reverb unit.
  • Sony V77 multi-effects.
  • TC Electronic Finalizer Plus.
  • Yamaha SPX90 multi-effects.
  • Access Virus synth.
  • Akai S3200 sampler.
  • Behringer Composer compressor/limiter.
  • Behringer Ultrafex 2 enhancer.
  • Clavia Nord Lead synth.
  • Joemeek VC1 voice channel.
  • Novation DrumStation drum module.
  • Sherman Filterbank.
  • Sony MP5 multi-effects.
  • Spirit Absolute 4P monitors.
  • Waldorf Microwave XT synth.
  • Yamaha SPX90 multi-effects.
  • Native Instruments Maschine.

See also


  1. ^ "Underworld: Reborn slippy", The Independent, 19 November 2006
  2. ^ "IMDB.com". http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0259711/soundtrack. Retrieved 20 February 2010. 
  3. ^ "Oblivion with Bells". http://www.darktrain.org/dirty/forums/showthread.php?t=6092. Retrieved 2007-07-31. 
  4. ^ "The information of Underworld and new work sale. You record also the first bonus track in band history in the new album". http://trafficjpn.com/news/show/52. Retrieved 2007-07-18. 
  5. ^ Dirty - View Single Post - The Sunshine OST Thread
  6. ^ Dirty - View Single Post - The Sunshine OST Thread
  7. ^ "UNDERWORLD DJ INJURED IN RIOT". http://www.pr-inside.com/underworld-dj-injured-in-riot-r157510.htm. Retrieved 2010-08-31. 
  8. ^ "Underworld cancel tour after severe illness member". http://www.side-line.com/news_comments.php?id=26653_0_2_0_C. Retrieved 2007-10-24. 
  9. ^ "?". http://www.underworldlive.com/archives/years/months-for-2009/weeks-for-aug/3-9-aug/090809.html. 
  10. ^ "Downpipe music video". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbghaUtVfJg. Retrieved 2007-10-24. 
  11. ^ a b "?". http://www.underworldlive.com/news/newspage.asp?DID=1311. 
  12. ^ "?". http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006ww0v. 
  13. ^ "?". http://www.underworldlive.com/news/newspage.asp?DID=1315. 
  14. ^ a b "New Album details!". UnderworldLive. 9 June 2010. http://www.underworldlive.com/news/newspage.asp?DID=1360. Retrieved 7 June 2010. 
  15. ^ "Underworld announce new album tracklisting and release date". NME. 7 June 2010. http://www.nme.com/news/underworld/51363. Retrieved 9 June 2010. 
  16. ^ "?". http://consequenceofsound.net/2010/06/07/underworld-details-new-album-barking/. 
  17. ^ E-Online (22 July 2008) Sting, Matthews, Mayer Gamer for Tibet Than Beijing
  18. ^ "Triple J Hottest 100 Of All Time". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/hottest100_alltime/countdown/cd_list.htm. Retrieved 17 July 2009.  The song is listed as "Born Slippy" but it refers to "Born Slippy .NUXX", as is explained on the blurb of the song at "?". http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/hottest100_alltime/countdown/cd_61-70.htm. 

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