A 4 star winner – A Hundred Days Off
Warm, strings-soaked, whirr-driven, clinically-human, robo-drone optimistik-funk.
‘Mo-Move’ – scalpel house, drifting and winding under and over Hyde’s listless cooings.
‘Twist’ – piano-step shuffling, gentle groove based number that is like baptism.
‘Little Speaker’ – Analogue tape playing backwards in a fishtank.
‘Dinosaur Adventure 3D’ – Grandiose, shimmering bell-funk layered in a stomping tech-house workout.
The Lagered Lunatic - Karl Hyde – Poured himself into the album 120 percent.
The Studio Sensei - Rick Smith – Proved his timeless relevance and played real instruments.
The Departing DJ – Darren Emerson – Left them underneath the radar once again
The Man On The Inside – Steve Hall – Label head of JBO who brought Stanton Sessions, Oxide and Neutrino
The Femme Fatale – Juanita – Lends breathy vox to Two Months Off and Little Speaker. Formerly receptionist
The Doubting Muzik Columnist – Carl Cox – Wrote them off after Emerson jumped ship.
The Rumour – The Big Day Out 2003. SCOOP!!!!!
The Interview Icebreaker:
Karl Hyde: “We’ve got a nice little delay going but I’ll ignore that – deep sea wire (chuckles).”
RA: I just got the album and it is an absolute corker, reminiscent of Dubnobasswithmyheadman. You guys seem to have a very deliberate approach on this album. Was it a much clearer process?
“Thank you very much Mikey. As with all of the albums, apart from the very first, soon the plot has been forget about Underworld and cut loose. Probably because of the DVD, that being a definitive statement of what the group had been at the end of the nineties and probably because we’d been touring live for the previous three years it was a lot easier to cut loose and get on with it.
Did it feel like the DVD gave closure to Underworld 1992-2000. Does it feel like a new chapter has begun?
“Not really because me and Rick have been together for 22 years and the two of us were the ones making most of the albums. It feels like the same band really. If we had to stop Underworld altogether we could have done it. At least it would have been something to show our kids y’know (smirking).
You sound fairly emancipated through the experience of Darren Emerson leaving…
“It’s amazing what a weight that lifts off you…when you know you haven’t got to keep walking the boards if you don’t want to, just to show your kids what your old man used to do. That in itself is a liberating experience. So Underworld came back to us naturally because there wasn’t the pressure.”
How the hell are you still able to get out on stage and jump like a bullfrog on heat? Some strict health regime?
“(laughs) I sleep when my body tells me to sleep. I hang out with people who are positive. The music does a lot for me. Particularly when we’re on stage, when Rick drops those grooves that he writes and the crowd responds. I’m caught in the middle of that wave of energy. I can’t help but get off on it. You have to pace yourself sometimes.”
Can you remember shows where you went too hard too early and you were buggered on the bench after two tracks?
“That used to happen a lot in the early days. I used to run off the end of the pier. Invariably there’d be moments when I would kind of walk off stage and say ‘Right! I’m going to get it back together again.’ I’m not sure, it may even happen this year. It’s happened on all tours where sometimes as well I just lost the plot. I have to walk off stage and say to Rick – ‘Look…I’ll be back’. I’ll walk off stage and clock what he’s doing and get back into the groove again.”
How has the chemistry changed on stage? Is it just the two of you/You can make it if you try/Just the two of you?
“It’s just the two of us. When we went out to promote the DVD it was just the two of us and it worked much better than it’s ever worked with any incarnation. Me and Rick have a connection that is born out of 22 years together. It’s a laugh. Most of the time we‘re having a laugh looking at each other. We’re going ‘Look at you, you old sod! You’re still turnin’ it on! You pulled that one out, bloomin’ heck!' (old nutter voice). Kind of taking the mick but at the same time patting each other on the back.”
Speaking of taking the piss, Beaucoup Fish was going to be called ‘Tonight Matthew We’re Going To Be Underworld’. Were there any alternative titles for ‘A Hundred Days Off’?
“Probably. There was a lot of swimming around. Probably because the release of Beaucoup Fish, which was held up because we couldn’t think of a title, which is pathetic really; we said that’s not going to happen this time. It was Rick’s kids who were saying on the way to school ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t go to school anymore and took a hundred days off instead. We went ‘That’s it! Jobs done!’
You’re vocal gymnastics and (gasp) singing on the album seems to have stepped up a notch. I notice you aren’t overcrowding the tracks at all, and even pull a Maynard Keenan (Tool) cross-bred with Paul Simon vocal in the banshee-wailing ‘Dinosaur Adventure 3D’. Also the lyrics on Ess Gee ‘Hey Classic Coca Cola’ leave an indelible mark rather like ‘An Eraser Alert’ did on Cowgirl…
“Quite a lot of people pick up on that line. Funnily enough all those lyrics were written quite a long time ago when I was on holidays in St Lucia in the Caribbean. I sat down on this harbour writing all the things that were going on around me at the time. All the lists of events.”
Do you listen to anyone for lyrical inspiration before recording?
“Not at all. I just get in the studio and respond and open up my books of words. I’ll find some words that correspond to how I’m feeling about the music and then I’ll start improvising. And first take Rick will just turn around to me and go ‘MmmmNaah!’ (disapprovingly). He suggested I stopped listening to the sound of my voice (for Dinosaur Adventure 3D) and listen to something else instead while I was doing the take and consequently that was that vocal performance. I’ve been reassessing my voice again in the last twelve months. Rick suggested I go and see a voice coach again, something I haven’t done in 12 years. You can get quite arrogant and say ‘I’ve been doing it for 34 years and I don’t need no-one to tell me’ (smug). Brian Eno turned me on to this amazing voice coach and she’s way more than that. We worked on attitude and states of mind that affect your posture, your peace and have a direct result on your voice.”
A Hundred Days Off is a very upbeat, cosy-sounding and optimistic hour of music. This obviously reflected your states of mind and, for you, the triumph over the bottle…
“What’s been going on in our lives in the last couple of years has been way more positive than any previous album. I know the music usually sucks that up. We stopped everything apart from our internet activities for the past two years with the Underworldlive.com site. We sat down and listened to Ali Farka Toure, violin players form Madagascar, field recordings of Africa and delta blues. It all has an enjoyment of the sound, just like when we’re listening to dub reggae. We’re live players. He pushed me to play a lot more guitar. He played a lot more piano and keyboards. The pair of us really started getting off on playing percussion.�