My second crack at an Underworld Interview is up at Urb.com
:: Interview with Karl Hyde
By Jorge Hernandez Photography by N/A
08/06/09 :: URB web
In 1980 when Karl Hyde and Rick Smith first got together in Cardiff, England, MP3s, iPods, even MTV didn’t exist, and Apple computer was in the middle of a lawsuit with the Beatles’ Apple record label. The experimental electronic band by Hyde and Smith was formed but undefined; the name was represented by an abstract squiggle and pronounced “Freur.” By the time “Born Slippy” appeared on the Trainspotting soundtrack and DJ Darren Emerson joined and left, Underworld had burned through several genres, line-ups, and personal dramas, marking their evolution with Underworld MK1-3 sub-brands. This summer Underworld releases its back catalogue on iTunes, launches an iPhone application and aims to stream a live concert to Apple’s ubiquitous handsets. We caught up with front man and “beat” poet Karl Hyde a few days before their tour of select North American cities to chat about the Internet, flashing fans, and why inflatable dildos belong on stage.
URB: I’ve been following your Twitter. It seems with all the snippets of dialogue that run around in your head and make it to your lyrics, this would be a perfect platform for you.
KH: [Laughs] When I first heard about it, I said, Oh great, they created something else I need to see. Fantastic. It’s okay. Fortunately, I haven’t switched it on my phone yet, so I’ve been saved. In the studio, I have to close my laptop. Otherwise, every second I’d be doing it.
URB: Were you involved with developing the iPhone app? How did you select which loops and which songs to include?
KH: That was Rick’s baby. Isotope Studios approached us, so Rick worked with them to reprogram the tunes for the app. I stood by and said, Oh, that’s nice. It’s nice sometimes not to be so involved with some things.
URB: You’re also re-releasing your back catalog. That must’ve been a massive project.
KH: We’ve been fortunate to own our catalogue from day one of this group, and that’s… that’s a smile. We’re starting with the albums, then we’ll roll out all the twelves, then the singles.
URB: Are you going to include the River Run material?
KH: A lot of people have been asking us about that. It’s been coming up. People have been asking for hard copies of that, on quality vinyl, which is quite extraordinary.
URB: But at the moment?
KH: No, because we’re also involved in writing and recording and testing out material on the road as we’re going. People have already been finding new material on YouTube. We’ve always done that. It’s invaluable, when you play something live onstage, and you see, Ah, that’s really working or Oh, that’s really NOT working, we need to look at that again. The dynamic and the energy of the audience tell you a lot about how successfully the music is communicating a vibe. Early next year we’ll start to roll out the new material and release it throughout the year.
URB: Will it be an album, or just stuff that trickles out?
KH: Eventually, it will culminate in an album. But for many years now, I haven’t been drawn to the album format. It starts getting silly, you can only have so much material.
Aaargh! What happens if you want to release ten tracks after you just released these ten tracks? What the Internet has allowed us to do is release things in whatever shape or form we want – CDs, albums, MP3, or giving it away through our radio show. That feels much more exciting to us than dropping an album and making a big hoo-hah for a couple weeks then forgetting about it. We’ve been doing that for years. We need to feel something fresh, too.
URB: So, why aren’t you coming to NY?
KH: Because there’s plans to return to the East Coast later. I’m not supposed to say that. But you can’t tour the states and not play New York. It would be a bit odd.
URB: So is this like your pre-Broadway run?
URB: In concert, you always have a video camera with which you project the audience onto the stage. What happens with that video? Do you save it? I heard you’re having a contest where fans can submit clips that could be played in their cities.
KH: We’re still talking about how it. I didn’t know that information was out. So, well done! I like being pushed. Are you living in my garden shed? Yes, we’re planning on using fan-made videos during the show. We’ve been putting some backstage footage online as well, everything from audience shots to some obscure stuff, which we wonder about putting out. Occasionally, you get an exhibitionist, so you have to cut away. Unless it’s an exhibitionist the audience wants to see more of.
URB: Besides naughty groupies, what else can fans look forward to this time around?
KH: It’s a new show, really. We’ve got new video material, new songs, and we have more inflated structures. The inflated structures have kind of taken on a life of their own.
URB: About those things… I’ve heard people call them everything from glo-stix to dildos.
KH: We just call them structures. They remind us of the toy Pick Up Sticks. With most shows, people put stuff on the floor, and they put things on the wall. But what about that 3D space? How do you fill that? The lights inside the structures really make them come alive.
URB: Will you be playing “Jumbo” on this tour?
KH: There’s a strong possibility. There are some tunes that if we don’t do, people would be disappointed. But there’s more new material than we’re able to integrate into the live set. So we’ve had to make a call.
When the publicist chimes in that it’s time another kind of call, Karl adds, “Thanks for helping us get the word out, mate.” This from someone name-checked by Radiohead as a major influence. Normally, it would seem a courtesy, but in this case, Karl remembers your name and the gratitude feels earnest and intimate. It’s enough to make you want to flash them.
Music :: All Points West ’08 Photos
Review :: Underworld, Oblivion with Bells
Video :: Highlights from All Points West ’08