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Underworld chat about their new album Barking and take us Behind the Scenes


This is why I am a music writer: recently, I had the chance to have a friendly chat with Karl Hyde of Underworld  to gain a bit of insight into the Underworld psyche and what has kept them making great music for 30 years! It was an absolute pleasure, and I’m looking forward to their show at Roseland this Wednesday, which I’ll post a review about afterwards. Till then…

Like many others, I first came to know about you when I was blown away by the track, “Born Slippy” on the Trainspotting soundtrack. How did you guys go about becoming a part of that soundtrack, and how did it change Underworld?

The story we heard was that Danny Boyle (The Director) was listening to our first album (Dubnobasswithmyheadman) whilst he was shooting the film & that he had originally intended to use it in the sound track. It was his editor who played him the two twelve inches (Dark Train & Born Slippy Nuxx) that eventually ended up in the film. Although we initially hadn’t wanted to be part of the film (due to our initial misguided belief that the film glorified drug use), Danny convinced us in a private screening of some of the more shocking scenes that it was a film with a very different message. Being a part of such an extraordinary film opened up a lot’ve doors for us & introduced us to audiences that we would otherwise have been invisible to.

That soundtrack is such a brilliant one.

Yep, Danny loves music.

Every song is so different but also complements the one before it.

I agree.

If you guys could be a part of another soundtrack, which other artists would you like to be on that soundtrack?

Arvo Part, Gyorgy Ligeti, John Cage, Thomas Tallis.

How has Underworld evolved in the last ten years? What is the message of your current album, Barking?

Evolved? Well we don’t make some of the same mistakes that we used to, yet somehow find ourselves still making some that we really should know better! Message? Essex is a state of mind.

I’m such a big fan of the album Everything, Everything because it does such a great job of capturing the live Underworld experience.

I agree. It was the vision of my partner (& Underworld producer) Rick Smith. It’s my favourite live album & even my mates who’re into Rock say the same.

I think you guys exude a kind of optimistic energy that is very contagious.

Thank you. I find that live audiences do the same for me….the kick drum has got it, too.

How do you prepare for a show and get yourself into the right mindset after spending lots of time traveling and little time sleeping?

Switch off, clear the head of preconceptions, open up to the possibility that everything could go counter to all our plans (wrong) & that the show will most likely be all the better for it. Let go of Ego & go with the flow. Then do some stretching exercises, drink hot spice tea with honey, concentrated ginseng & eat a banana. Then sing the very lowest notes I can for five minutes, Then focus only on Rick & Darren as we walk to the stage – don’t speak with anyone but them & clear the head one last time, hug, step out on stage & feel the electricity.

Who were your earliest influences? Who do you think are influential musicians today?

Earliest influence was late night radio, particularly the pirate radio stations off the shores of the UK playing music that was more exciting & challenging than most of the music on day time radio. Then along came John Peel on late night BBC Radio 1 & he became my greatest music teacher until he passed away. For me radio, other people & the Internet are the most influential conduits for music today.

I just recently came back from Iceland Airwaves. I wish I could have seen you guys there. Have you ever thought about going?

I love Iceland. We played there with Bjork at her country’s 50th anniversary of independence. I’ve been back many times since, because of the friends we have there & of the fact that it is such an extraordinarily beautiful place, with an energy unlike anywhere else on earth.

I could not have described it better. Ok, back to your current album.

Ok.

I read that you gave your tracks on Barking to different producers to reinterpret.

Kind’ve.

Which would you say is the best reinterpretation and why?

Ha ha! this is the ‘who do you think is best?’ question – you don’t catch me out that easy……(I’ve been up since 6am!). Truth is, we got inspired by everyone who worked on this album, from the famous names, to the names behind the scenes that keep this Underworld machine running. What a joy this job is – jamming with talented, open minded people who’re up for a journey of exploration with no certainty of where we’re going, but we’re going anyway…….it’s all about PROCESS & CHANGE. It’s what drew us to dance music in the first place & why we invited these artists in particular to work with us.

What is something people get wrong about you guys or musicians in general?

That we’re all filthy rich &/or out of our heads on drugs.

I read about a radio show that will be featured on your website. Tell me a bit more about this.

We’ve been putting out live web casts from our studio & various locations around the world for many years. Jamming live & re-inventing our tracks, playing out music by other artists we admire, running web cams & chat rooms so that there’s a two-way flow between us & the world. It was John Peels’ death that inspired us to try & carry on the work he did on radio, – turning people on to unlikely combinations of musical genres, promoting new artists & reminding us of the roots of where our current contemporary music came from. New music is only part of the story, it should be accompanied by the sounds of the roots of where it came from.

Where do you see electronic music in ten years?

Using solar power.

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About Christine Thelen

Christine is a music writer, photographer, and English teacher living in New York. She's been writing for Short and Sweet since 2008 but writing about music since 1999. She loves photographing and interviewing bands most of all. Notable interviews include Underworld (England), Supergrass (England), Gorky's Zygotic Mynci (Wales), Hefner (England), Zero 7 (England), Nylon Union (Slovakia), Clinic (England), Hundreds (Germany), Nive Nielsen (Greenland), Alcoholic Faith Mission (Denmark), Captain Fufanu (Iceland), and the Postelles (NYC). Watch her on the ShortandSweetNYC Youtube Channel.
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