Underworld is an English electronic group, and principal name under which duo Karl Hyde and Rick Smith have recorded together since 1980. The band is perhaps best known for "Born Slippy .NUXX", a track made popular in the hit 1996 Danny Boyle film Trainspotting.
Early years: 1980?1986
Hyde and Smith began their musical partnership with the Kraftwerk and reggae-inspired sounds of The Screen Gemz while working together in a diner in the city of Cardiff, where both had been studying. 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.
Underworld MK1: 1987?1990
Freur disbanded in 1986. In 1987 members of Freur created the band Underworld and tried a more guitar-oriented funky electropop sound on Underneath the Radar and Change the Weather for Sire Records before disbanding in 1990. (The Underworld of this period is now often referred to as "Underworld Mk1".)
Darren Emerson joins the duo: 1991?1994
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").
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.
Trainspotting breakthrough: 1995?1997
The band's 1996 album, Second Toughest In The Infants, was their second studio album with Emerson and achieved a degree of commercial success, due in part to its release coinciding with that of the film Trainspotting. The film featured "Dark & Long (Dark Train)", as well as 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 Smith's six-year old nephew Simon Prosser when asked on his progress at school.
"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 Trainspotting. The track has since sold over a million copies, and appeared on countless compilations, mashups, and remixes.
Beaucoup Fish era: 1998?2001
After the release of fifth 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, Beaucoup Fish Singles, which was a retrospective of all 4 singles came out.
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".
Back to a duo: 2002?2003
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. This was the first appearance on an album of previously unavailable single tracks and B-Sides, such as "Bigmouth", "Spikee", "Dirty", and "8 Ball".
The RiverRun Project and soundtracks: 2004?2006
While touring in the summer and fall of 2005, the duo was joined on stage by Darren Price, a DJ and producer well known by the band who had remixed Underworld releases in the past. During their tour, they released a 3xCD set called Live in Tokyo, which was sold after the concert in Japan. Copies were also later sold online.
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 instalment 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 composed 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)