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 2000. 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.
In 1987, Hyde, Smith, Thomas, Burrows and bass player Baz Allen formed
the band Underworld (named after a Clive Barker-scripted film which was
scored by Freur), 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
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.
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
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".
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
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. 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.
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.