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artist information


Underworld is the principal name under which British electronic music duo Karl Hyde and Rick Smith have recorded since the late 1970s. The band is perhaps best known for two tracks, Underneath The Radar in 1988 and Born Slippy .NUXX, a track made popular in the hit 1996 Danny Boyle film Trainspotting.


Hyde and Smith began their musical partnership with the Kraftwerk and Reggae-inspired sounds of The Screen Gemz while studying together at Cardiff Art College. In 1983 they recorded two albums for CBS Records with a proto-electroclash New Romantic band whose name was a graphic squiggle, which (this being a relatively unknown band and many years before Prince became "Love Symbol") was soon given a pronunciation, "Freur".

Freur disbanded in 1986. In 1987 members of Freur created the band Underworld and tried a more guitar-orientated funky electropop sound on two albums (see: Underworld discography) for Sire Records before disbanding in 1990. (The Underworld of this period is now often referred to as "Underworld Mk1".)

After a break (to concentrate on, among other things, art/design project Tomato), Hyde and Smith recruited Essex 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") until Emerson left in April 2000, and as a duo ("Underworld Mk3") since then.

"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 the 1996 film Trainspotting. ".NUXX" has since appeared on countless compilations, mashups, and remixes.

Albums (Underworld Mk2 and Mk3)


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.

Second Toughest in the Infants

The band's 1996 album, Second Toughest In The Infants, was their second studio album with Emerson and achieved no small degree of commercial success, due in part to its release coinciding with that of the film Trainspotting. The film featured 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. The unusual name of the album as released derives from a comment made by Rick Smith's six-year old nephew Simon Prosser when asked on his progress at school.

Beaucoup Fish

After the release of third 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, Underworld Singles Box Set, which was a retrospective of all 4 singles came out.

Everything, Everything

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".

A Hundred Days Off

After the release and promotion of Everything, Everything Emerson decided to leave Underworld to focus on his solo projects and record label. Hyde and Smith decided to continue, once again, as a duo. They recorded a new album, A Hundred Days Off, released to general approval. Despite its status as the band's first studio album since Emerson's departure, its general sound and feel was, perhaps surprisingly for many Underworld fans, not completely dissimilar to the previous albums on which Emerson had had input.


A 2 disc anthology was released in 2003, called 1992-2002, which covered the previous Underworld MK2 to Underworld MK3 era. A re-released version of Born Slippy, called Born Slippy .NUXX 2003 came out as a single. This was the first appearance on an album of previously unavailable single tracks and B-Sides, such as "Bigmouth", "Spikee", "Dirty", and "8 Ball".

Live 2005

While touring in the summer and fall of 2005, the duo was joined on stage by Darren Price, a DJ well known by the band who had remixed Underworld releases in the past. During their tour, they released a 3xCD set called Underworld Tokyo 2005, which was sold after the concert in Japan, and later through a special online offer, copies were sold by the band to fans who could not be there.

The Riverrun Project

In late 2005 they released two compilations of new songs with accompanying photographs on Underworld Live, Lovely Broken Thing and Pizza for Eggs. These were only released online, with no physical release (except for a promo CD). On June 5, 2006, they released their third installment in the Riverrun series, I'm a Big Sister, and I'm a Girl, and I'm a Princess, and This is my Horse.

On July 10, 2006, they released a special retrospective mix, called The Misterons Mix, which is comprised of tracks from the three previous Riverrun releases. This was an exclusive free download for those customers that had purchased all three previous Riverrun releases.

In September 2006, Underworld released five limited edition (10,000 copies each) 12" vinyl releases, containing remixes of various Riverrun tracks. These tracks were also made available for purchase by digital download on the Beatport website.

There are more Riverrun releases planned for the future.

Breaking and Entering (film soundtrack)

In 2006, Underworld and Gabriel Yared composed the music score to Anthony Minghella's film Breaking and Entering. The soundtrack was released in the U.K. on November 6, and in the USA on December 5.

Future Projects

Underworld are currently recording their fifth studio album, expected to be released in the autumn of 2007. A single from the new album should be released in spring 2007. A full world tour is also expected in 2007 in support of the new studio album.

Underworld recently completed the soundtrack to the upcoming Danny Boyle film, Sunshine , which should be released around the time of the film's release in spring 2007. The soundtrack is a collaboration with composer John Murphy.

Band members

  • Karl Hyde (b. 10 May 1957, Worcester, Worcestershire) - vocals, guitars (1986-present)
  • Rick Smith (b. Richard Smith, 25 May 1959, Ammanford, Wales) - keyboards (1986-present)
  • Alfie Thomas - guitar (1986-1990) (also in Freur)
  • Bryn Burrows - drums (1986-1988) (also in Freur)
  • Baz Allen - bass (1986-1990)
  • Pascal Consoli - drums (1989-1990)
  • Darren Emerson (b. 30 April 1971, Hornchurch, Essex)- keyboards and mixing (1991-2000)
  • Darren Price - keyboards, mixing and live assistant (2004-present)


  • Underworld has not had a US Top 40 single (highest position was #69 for "Stand Up" in 1989).
  • Freur provided the original music for the 1985 Denholm Elliot film Underworld (aka Transmutations).
  • The title track from Underworld Mk1's debut album Underneath the Radar was chosen for the opening scene in the Miami Vice season 5 debut episode in 1989.
  • Baz Allen (Underworld Mk1) is now in D-Influence.
  • Karl played guitar on Debbie Harry's 1991 tour. The Wembley gig on this tour was broadcast live on Radio One and has been bootlegged.
  • Karl played guitar on PIG (Raymond Watts)'s album The Swining.
  • Freur appeared in Tim Pope's "I Want To Be A Tree" video.
  • Former Big Brother 2006 Australia housemate Danielle Foote released a cover of Underworld's "Underneath the Radar" as her debut single.
  • Karl's "Top 20 Albums", as per the Guardian of Friday, 19 Sep 1997:
  1. The Isley Brothers - 3 Plus 3
  2. Miles Davis - Bitches Brew
  3. The Prodigy - Music For the Jilted Generation
  4. Kraftwerk - Computer World
  5. Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band - Trout Mask Replica
  6. Ella Fitzgerald - The Cole Porter Songbook
  7. Black Uhuru - Red
  8. The Groundhogs - Split
  9. Toots and the Maytals - Reggae Greats
  10. Arvo Part - Tabula Rasa
  11. Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
  12. Miles Davis - Sketches of Spain
  13. The Beastie Boys - Check Your Head
  14. Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band - Strictly Personal
  15. Goldie - Timeless
  16. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young - Deja Vu
  17. The Beatles - Revolver
  18. Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works
  19. Stevie Wonder - Songs In The Key Of Life
  20. Sly and the Family Stone - Fresh