Underworld are a British electronic group formed in 1980 in Cardiff and the principal name under which musicians Karl Hyde and Rick Smith have recorded together. Darren Price has toured with the band since 2005, after the departure of Darren Emerson in 2002. Known for visual style and dynamic live performances, Underworld have influenced a wide range of artists and been featured in soundtracks and scores for films, television, and the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Their eighth studio album, Barking, was released on 13 September 2010.
Pre-Underworld years: 1980–1986
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 joined by The Screen Gemz' bass player Alfie Thomas, drummer Bryn Burrows, and keyboardist John Warwicker in forming a proto-electroclash/new wave 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. Freur 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
After a break—to concentrate on, among other things, art/design project Tomato—Hyde and Smith recruited 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".
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, entitled 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 autumn 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. The first single from the new album, "Crocodile", was released on 5 September 2007. 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. 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.
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.
On 19 October 2007, Underworld cancelled the remaining dates of their European tour due to illness in the band. 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 similar to those that led to the group canceling the show in Athens two 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.
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.
On 13 May 2010, the band released a track called "Scribble" for download on the band's site. 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 a collaboration with High Contrast, a drum and bass DJ also from Cardiff. 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.[dead link] The group also released a video clip for "Scribble" on YouTube. It has been commercially released on 28 June as the lead single from their latest album.
On 7 June 2010, Underworld announced the details of their eighth studio album, Barking, which was released on 13 September 2010 in the UK. The album features collaborations with German trance producer Paul van Dyk and British house artists Mark Knight and D. Ramirez, among others.[dead link]
On 25 Aug 2010 Rick Smith released a limited edition solo album Bungalow With Stairs 1, music to accompany "What's Going on in Your Head When You're Dancing" an exhibition of paintings by Karl Hyde at the Laforet Museum, Harajuku, Tokyo during 2010. The album was available from the band's website, and was packaged with the exhibition catalogue.
In December 2010 it was announced that Underworld would reunite 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 a soundtrack release on Underworld's website in March 2011.
In February 2011 Underworld confirmed that they would play a huge London summer show on Saturday 27 August on Clapham Common as headliners of South West Four.
Anthology and the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremonies: 2012–present
In November 2011 Underworld announced the release of two new albums, A Collection and 1992-2012 Anthology. A Collection features many of the band's biggest tracks alongside recent collaborations with High Contrast featuring Tiësto & Underworld ("The First Note Is Silent"), Mark Knight & D Ramirez ("Downpipe") and Brian Eno ("Beebop Hurry"). 1992-2012 Anthology is a 3-disc set and is a refreshed and revisited version of the 1992-2002 Anthology including more material, unreleased tracks and rarities to go some way to completing the picture of the first two decades of Underworld.
In December 2011, Underworld were chosen to direct the music for the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics, reprising their partnership with filmmaker and ceremony director Danny Boyle. The band also contributed two original tracks for the opening ceremony: "And I Will Kiss" (ft. Dame Evelyn Glennie w. The Pandemonium Drummers) and "Caliban's Dream" in collaboration with the Dockhead Choir, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Only Men Aloud, Elizabeth Roberts, Esme Smith (band member Rick Smith's daughter) and Alex Trimble. Underworld contributed 11 of the 36 tracks on the soundtrack, Isles of Wonder. For their work on the Olympics, Underworld won the 2012 Q Award for Innovation in Sound.
Karl Hyde released a solo album entitled Edgeland on 22 April 2013.
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" (referring to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing). The album was issued on 5 August via iTunes and on 19 August in music stores around the world.
Underneath the Radar (1988)
Change the Weather (1989)
Second Toughest in the Infants (1996)
Beaucoup Fish (1999)
A Hundred Days Off (2002)
Oblivion with Bells (2007)
Bungalow With Stairs 1 (2010)
Someday World (2014) (with Brian Eno)
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 No. 65 in Triple J's Hottest 100 Of All Time, voted by the Australian public.
Current band members
Karl Hyde - vocals, guitars (1986–present)
Darren Price - keyboards and mixing, studio engineer (2005–present)
Rick Smith - keyboards and mixing, vocals (1986–present)
Past band members
Baz Allen - bass (1986–1990)
Bryn Burrows - drums (1986–1988) (also in Freur)
Pascal Consoli - drums (1989–1990)
Darren Emerson - keyboards and mixing (1991–2000)
Alfie Thomas - guitars, keyboards, bass (1986–1990) (also in The Screen Gemz and Freur)
John Warwicker - keyboards (1986) (also in Freur)
Discography: Freur/Underworld/Lemon Interupt - Detailed discography to 1999
The Underworld Gigography
Underworld at Rolling Stone
Underworld at the Internet Movie Database
Karl Hyde interviewed in Chaos Control Digizin (2007)