Music / Underworld

Underworld is a British electronic group featuring duo Karl Hyde and Rick Smith since around 1987. The band's music ranges from House, Trance, electro-pop and pretty much everything in between. Hyde and Smith had worked together in a bunch on New Wave and synthpop bands including The Screen Gemz and Freur, before moving on to their own funkier brand of synthpop under the name Underworld. This phase of their career, now called "Underworld Mk 1", produced two decent albums with moderate chart success, even opening for Eurythmics on a 1989 tour.

By the start of The '90s, Smith began collaborating by a young DJ named Darren Emerson, who was keen on working in a professional studio; Smith in turn wanted to feed his interest in UK club culture. Smith introduced Emerson to Hyde and the rest is history. Underworld returned in 1992 with a string of hit acid house and techno singles — some under the name Lemon Interrupt — before releasing their third album, 1994's dubnobasswithmyheadman. It is this phase, dubbed "Underworld Mk 2", that the band is most famous for, releasing two additional, highly acclaimed albums and a plethora of singles, exploring breakbeat, trance and hardcore techno. Two of their most famous songs come from this period: "Dark and Long (Dark Train)" and "Born Slippy .NUXX", two songs which propelled Underworld into international fame after their use in Danny Boyle's film adaptation of Trainspotting.

Emerson left Underworld in 2001 to focus on his own recordings and record label management, leaving Underworld as a duo. Smith and Hyde have continued to record under the moniker "Underworld Mk 3", releasing (as of 2016) four additional albums and numerous EPs of new material. Underworld also directed the music for the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. They reside in Essex, UK and are part of the art collective Tomato, which has provided all of the artwork and photography for their albums.

Underworld's music has been featured in numerous films and television shows, and the band have enjoyed a special relationship with director Danny Boyle, who has used their music in nearly all of his films — to the point where they have written exclusive songs for them. The duo have also composed film scores, including those for Breaking and Entering and Sunshine.

Band Members:

  • Karl Hyde (Born 10th May 1957, Worcester, England) - Vocals, guitars (1986–present)
  • Rick Smith (Born 25th May 1959, Ammanford, Wales) - Keyboards, mixing, production (1986–present)
  • Darren Price - Keyboards, mixing and live assistant (2005–present)
  • Darren Emerson - Keyboards and mixing (1991–2000)
  • Alfie Thomas - Guitar (1986–1990)
  • Bryn Burrows - Drums (1986–1988)
  • Baz Allen - Bass (1986–1990)
  • Pascal Consoli - Drums (1989–1990)



  • 1988 - Underneath the Radar
  • 1989 - Change the Weather
  • 1994 - dubnobasswithmyheadman
  • 1996 - Second Toughest in the Infants
  • 1999 - Beaucoup Fish
  • 2000 - Everything, Everything (live album)
  • 2002 - A Hundred Days Off
  • 2007 - Oblivion with Bells
  • 2010 - Barking
  • 2016 - Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future


  • 2004 - wordimagesoundplay
  • 2006 - Breaking and Entering
  • 2008 - Sunshine
  • 2011 - Frankenstein (stage play directed by Danny Boyle)
  • 2012 - Isles of Wonder: Music for the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games (directed by Danny Boyle, with collaborations by High Contrast, the London Symphony Orchestra, Arctic Monkeys, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Mike Oldfield and Emeli Sande, among others)


  • 2003 - 1992-2002
  • 2011 - 1992-2012 The Anthology
  • 2011 - A Collection (companion release to 1992-2012, featuring radio edits)

Trope Examples:

  • Album Title Drop: Barking comes from a line in "Always Loved a Film," while the live album/DVD Everything Everything comes from the "Cowgirl" part of "Rez/Cowgirl" in the playlist.
  • Ambient: A notable example is "To Heal", aka "Capa Meets The Sun" on the Sunshine soundtrack.
  • Arc Words: "Romford" pops up often.note 
    • "Push Upstairs" (and the softer version "Push Downstairs") and "Moaner" off of Beaucoup Fish feature the lines: "I know about you I been told about you" after a lyrics about kissing, then followed by some version of "I've been waiting for you and the air's thin."
  • Design Student's Orgasm / Minimalistic Cover Art: Underworld is split fifty/fifty on this. Their middle period featured simple, fluid statements while their early and later period album covers were bold, messily busy affairs.
  • Electronic Music: All their music is made electronically.
  • Epic Rocking: Many of their songs (and almost all of their remixes for other artists) go on for over ten minutes. "Dark & Long" takes the cake, with two mixes that run over 20 minutes each, and another that's a few seconds short of 18. It also says something that their greatest hits albums only have one or two songs under 7 minutes in length.
    • Their debut album Underneath the Radar was recorded in sequence in one take, just to show how technically proficient they were as musicians.
    • Second Toughest in the Infants opens with their two longest non-remixed songs back to back: the 16:36 "Juanita : Kiteless : To Dream of Love", followed by the 15:22 "Banstyle/Sappys Curry". The lead single off of that album, "Pearls Girl", runs 9:38.
    • A stable of their live shows for most of The '90s, thanks to heavy use of Fading into the Next Song and bridges between songs. The 'European Club Gig' bootleg, recorded in 1996, has its first soft break at the 80 minute mark, with the first real break coming at the 80 minute, at which point Karl Hyde announces a brief break of 15-20 minutes!
  • Improv: Most of their live performances feature heavy improvisation, especially in the early years as they didn't have much material to work with otherwise.
  • New Sound Album: dubnobasswithmyheadman signaled the departure from guitar-based Synth-Pop to straightforward Electronic Music (specifically techno, big beat, hardcore and trance.)
    • A Hundred Days Off began showcasing softer arrangements, with interests in Latin percussion and ambient music.
    • Barking signaled a return to synthpop, and was their first album to feature an array of guest producers, including Mark Knight and High Contrast.
  • Old Master: Underworld has been going strong for thirty years, with its longest members having performed for even longer prior to that. The group has shown no signs of slowing down, and they're largely considered one of the most legendary electronic groups in existence for this very reason: any electronic producer worth his or her weight has given some sort of tribute to Underworld at some point.
  • Refrain from Assuming: Their two greatest hits, "Dark & Long (Dark Train)" and "Born Slippy .NUXX", are actually remixes. The original songs actually sound nothing like their remixes. Not helping matters is that other musicians have dropped the "(Dark Train)" and ".NUXX" parts of the names when covering or remixing their work.
  • Shout-Out: The names of several Underworld tracks are actually taken from greyhounds that raced at Romford Greyhound Stadium. "Born Slippy", "Pearl's Girl" and "Sappy Curry".
    • Karl Hyde has revealed, to his own surprise after becoming sober and recognizing the face on TV, "Born Slippy" has a shoutout to Bill Bailey.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: "And I Will Kiss" and "Caliban's Dream" are references to The Tempest, both used during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games in the segment celebrating the Industrial Revolution and the lighting of the Olympic Flame, respectively.
  • Trance: "Two Months Off" is a great example of Underworld's brand of this genre.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Most of the time, due to Hyde's very colourful metaphors in his poetry ("I am a rack of ribs left alone in a full moon," he sang on "Moaner", a song about a relationship gone south.) The lyrics to "Born Slippy .NUXX" were released publicly after its single release, so people knew just what the hell he was singing about.
    • Lampshaded in "Downpipe": "Don't give me that pain / Don't corner me on that 'poetry' thing".