Even if you're talking to someone completely unaware of electronic music and its history, mentioning the name Underworld is likely to garner a look of recognition. Thanks to its storied, 30-year musical career and notable involvement with filmmaker Danny Boyle, who basically broke Underworld internationally through his use of "Born Slippy .NUXX" in Trainspotting, Karl Hyde's and Rick Smith's pioneering outfit is as close to a household name as respectable electronic artists are likely to get. Now on the eve of Underworld's eighth full-length album, Barking, we've taken Hyde aside to get the scoop on what's kept his Essex, UK-based band ticking for more than three decades, and discover what old bands of his and Smith's might reunite if they lose their minds.
XLR8R Name three of your favorite bands from when you and Rick first met.
Karl Hyde: Kraftwerk, Bob Marley, and Gyorgy Ligeti.
Your live performances are world renowned. What have some of your favorites been over the years?
New York Giants Stadium, Rainbow 2000 ([a rave] in the mid-'90s) on Mount Fuji in Japan, Glasgow Barrowlands in Scotland, Megga Dog in London (1990), Borealis in the Roman Amphitheatre in Nimes, Cream in Argentina, Glastonbury in the UK, the Lowlands Festival in Holland, I Love Techno in Belgium, Cocoon Club in Frankfurt, Germany, an impromptu performance in the Blue Mountains in Australia, The Fillmore in Denver, Colorado, and Hyde Park in London.
Were you ever asked to contribute to any of the Underworld movies?
Follow up: If you did give them any music, name two songs you'd put on the soundtrack.
Note to self: Always leave that kind of decision up to the director.
"Born Slippy .NUXX"
What's your design house/art collective, Tomato, been up to lately?
Making brilliant TV commercials, installations in Japan, art exhibitions around the world, publishing books, and creating films to accompany all of the tracks on the Barking album.
What three things were most important in keeping Underworld alive and kicking for more than 30 years?
Not dying, being inspired by one another to want to work together, and [my] stopping drinking.
What did you guys do between making Oblivion with Bells and your new record, Barking?
We toured the world, performing live for three years, during which time we wrote and developed new material in front of live crowds, who helped us create the sound and basis for the new album. [We] pulled off the road at the end of November 2009 to be in the studios and finish Barking.
Which of the co-producers on Barking was your favorite to work with?
All of them. (Did you think I was going to say anything different?)
Which is worse, Underworld's bark or bite?
What was the hardest part of working with Danny Boyle on Sunshine?
Stopping working with him when the score was completed.
Your latest single, "Scribble," is written from parts of an unreleased track, "You Do Scribble." What parts do the two songs share?
We're going to release a special edition of all the versions of the tracks that were sent out to our fellow producers. It's something we've wanted to do for years, and will give our fans the opportunity to hear how the tracks developed, what parts they share with the originals, and the journey they were taken on.
Any plans for a Screen Gemz or Freur revival?
Only if we become clinically insane.
What's one of the worst things Underworld's ever been called?
And the best?
If you had to switch out "Born Slippy .NUXX" for any other of your tracks, which would you want to hear in Trainspotting?
The other track of ours that's in Trainspotting: "Dark Train." It's in the cold-turkey, train-wallpaper, baby-crawling-on-the-ceiling scene.