RS: How has your live show developed over the years?
Karl: Well, weve tried to maintain that notion of improvisation. We still dont rehearse or have a setlist. We are inspired by the best DJs that dont have a setlist who respond to the moment as well as jazz improvisation. Our intention is always to create something which is of the moment and is changing depending on where you are in the world and who youre playing to and what their response is. Things have changed and obviously technology enables us to develop our instruments so that it becomes more expressive and enables us to do more of the things that weve always wanted to do.
Were continually looking to being in that place where were unsettled so whenever we get comfortable it just doesnt work. If something works one night, we deliberately set out to not do it the next night. Except if things are really slick, we deliberately set out to make a horrible mistake so that we can kind of get out of a kind of slick state of mind.
RS: So, tell me one of your strangest stories behind a live gig?
Karl: To be still here after twenty-three years is pretty damn strange. I dont remember these things, because for me theyre extraordinary experiences. The last twelve years of playing live with this version of Underworld and with Rick has been extraordinary, pretty much every show weve done, playing to people who are giving you back so much energy and joy that you are lifted and taken somewhere else. Never needed drugs, never took drugs and never took anything on stage, because the energy that was coming back to us was extraordinary. For all the time previous to that, wed never experienced anything like that, it was a fairly lackluster affair, mostly because we were pretty lackluster people ourselves. These things have turned into extraordinary events: weve played on mountains, weve played on beaches, weve played in deserts, weve played in ancient Roman amphitheaters. Were pretty lucky to have been part of this thing and everything becomes extraordinary. I will say probably two gigs spring to mind, one is in New Jersey this year at Giants Stadium, where the Field Day Festival was transferred from a two-day event to one day in the pouring rain. Instead of headlining a stage with all our production, we go on at three o'clock in the afternoon in the pouring rain with the equipment breaking down and instead of to a full stadium to about fifteen thousand people. The spirit there was amazing, from the people in the crowd through to the people working the stage and the organizers. Everybody had a smile on their face and everybody was kind of pulling out their very best to make something special, and thats probably one of the most spiritually uplifting experiences in my life actually.
RS: Will you be doing anymore live dates or are you doing the USA, Ibiza, et al?
Karl: I dont anticipate doing any live dates now until weve finished the next studio album. There is some discussion about something out in California around July, but as yet thats still kind of being batted about as to how it could be made special. So, theres been no intention to play any more live shows, weve just come back from playing live in Japan, and we have one more thing to do which has been an ambition for thirty-odd years and thats to play the John Peel show, here on the BBC. He is a legendary man whos probably done more to inform my musical tastes than anyone else, so thats pretty special. So next Wednesday on the 10th were playing live to air, which is a buzz, to be playing live to air is so exciting. Great, because anything could happen.
RS: I am very happy with what you said because there was this rumor that I heard on Radio One that you all were planning on retiring, and Im glad thats so not true.
Karl: I think we retired from the music business about 1989, and weve been having fun ever since.
RS: Lets also go back to your first live performance at Glastonbury back in 92, what was it like hitting the stage that first time?
Karl: It felt exciting, like we were going into unknown territory. A large group of people had come together; people that build sound systems, people like Function One who used to own Till Bass Sound. There was Sheba Photonic that were the projection people. There were people that had built the stage at Glastonbury who built this two-level tower and the quadraphonic sound system around the outside. We played from this tower in the middle of the crowd. Everything about it was from the point of view of not being in a band and not conforming to making something that a singers ego could roam around and explore. It was a very, very tight space that was filled with DJs and us, a big console took up most of the space and a drummer friend of ours, Trevor Morace, had an electronic kit.