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Interview with Karl Hyde of Underworld


Karl Hyde - Underworld


Dance artists rarely make it past one album, much less to a greatest hits album. Underworld is not a typical dance artist and Anthology 1992-2002 is not a greatest hits album, but rather a collection of songs that document ten years of music from white labels to major soundtracks by one of the most important electronic music artists. Karl Hyde spoke to us about the progression of Underworld through their unique live shows and creative visions that keep us all jumping on the dancefloor.

DJ Ron Slomowicz: What made the group decide to do a greatest hits album?
Karl Hyde: It’s not a greatest hits, it’s really more of a retrospective. We agreed to do it when Junior Boys Own Records came to us with the idea and we said to put something together. They came back with this collection of tunes that they saw as more than a historical document that charted the development of the group. From selling records out the back of a car, through the underground and then out to where we are today, they saw these songs as big tunes for both our development and the development of the UK dance scene and we really enjoyed listening to it. Coupled with their story, we felt it made an interesting document and, knowing us, it would be twenty years before we ever came round to being open to this situation again, so they had one shot and it worked.

RS: Were there any songs on the new album that you wanted to have on there but didn’t make it on there?
Karl: Yes, there was a lot. On the anthology it was originally going to be a triple album and the third CD was much more chilled and ambient, the aspect of Underworld which is really important that some people know us for “Born Slippy” type tunes. You’ve got people who know us for a lot of high-energy tunes because we tended to play whatever, main stage or late at night at-large events. But people who know our records know there’s a very important other side to us that goes very deep, just music for chilling out to or music for driving to late at night, it’s a whole different kind of head and it would have been great to have put that third CD on the set.

RS: You could always put it on the web site.
Karl: Well, what stopped us was it was pretty clear to us that it was going to be so expensive to buy in the shops that we couldn't do that, you know, that records are expensive enough as it is and we just kind of felt no, that would be just taking the piss. So, our thoughts have been about how we can put that third CD out in a more interesting way.

RS: Do you guys have your own studio, or do you have more than one or do you record other places?
Karl: We used to pay a lot of money to record in expensive studios in the 80s and it was always really depressing. We’d had like a four track at home and we’d always have like a little studio set up at home for writing, and then we’d go and record these albums and then, just when you were up to speed, you kind of get finished an album, you get kicked back out on to the street again.

Towards the end of the 80s, when we were with Sire Records, we used the advance to build our own studio, and when we went bankrupt Rick salvaged some of that studio and set it up in his back bedroom at the house he was living in at the time. And that’s where the DubNoBassWithMyHeadMan album was made, and then we kind of moved into another little house and that’s where all the other records have been made. We’ve got a couple of studios in there and a video studio, and that’s where a lot of the internet activity is run from. Now, of course, we carry other studios on our PowerBooks, so therefore the last, this new album has been mostly recorded on the road in hotels and airplanes on our PowerBooks.

RS: Speaking about that, a friend of mine noticed on your site how you list the Nord Lead Three synth on your site as your favorite things. Is that one of your favorite instruments or are there other ones that stand out in your head?
Karl: It’s certainly something that Rick is very good with. One of my favorite instruments that he uses is the DX7, the Yamaha DX7, it’s kind of something that I think is synonymous with Rick Smith. But really anything, just really picking up on anything, whether it’s a vintage guitar from the 50s or a drum from Africa or the latest piece of software. But a lot of what we’re using at the moment it either software-based or using beautiful microphones to record live acoustic instruments.

RS: Going back to that 80s sound, have you every thought about revisiting those songs or re-doing them?
Karl: No, we haven’t. They were part of what formed where we are at today. We had to go through all of that in order to be quite certain that we didn’t want to go there again. That’s the experience of the 80s, a lot of mistakes and a lot of the things that we did in good faith, but kind of misguided good faith, really have stood us in good stead for what we’re doing now.

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