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Underworld talk Trainspotting, the Olympics and making a mark at Glastonbury

Karl Hyde (right) and Rick Smith of Underworld (Jay Brooks/LOCOG/PA)
Karl Hyde (right) and Rick Smith of Underworld (Jay Brooks/LOCOG/PA)

Karl Hyde and Rick Smith make up the pioneering British electronic music group Underworld.

Formed in 1980 in Cardiff, their music soundtracked Danny Boyle’s classic 1996 film Trainspotting, and formed the core of the 2012 London Summer Olympics opening ceremony.

Underworld, now a duo after years of line-up changes, have released DRIFT Series 1, the culmination of a year-long project where they dropped new or previously unheard music weekly.

Vocalist Hyde spoke to the PA news agency from Underworld’s recording studio, dubbed the Pig Shed, in Essex…

– On the new album

It’s been an invigorating process. It’s been a process that has been very testing because of committing to releasing something every week. But I have got to say, that’s been the upside of it too. It has driven us closer together. It’s driven us to find solutions that we might have walked away from in the past. That commitment to a release every Thursday has meant that there is no get-out clause. For an artist, that’s a good thing.

– On reworking Born Slippy for T2 Trainspotting in 2017

T2 Trainspotting
Director Danny Boyle with the cast of T2 Trainspotting (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

What (Underworld’s producer) Rick did was really quite beautiful. It retained its melancholic state. The lyrics and Rick’s original music took it to a really euphoric place. His reworking of that released some of the original melancholia.

– On the sadness in their music

If I could put it into one word, I would say Wales. There’s a beautiful melancholia that exists within Welsh culture. Whether it’s John Cale or any of the great bards and poets that have come out of Wales, or whether it’s that rip-your-heart-out beautiful singing of the miners coming up from the mines, or the singing at the rugby matches.

– On their performance at the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony

London Olympic Games
Fireworks light up the sky during the opening ceremony (Lewis Whyld/PA)

What Rick did was extraordinary in delivering that music. Danny Boyle was the great genius of that show. He was never going to get it wrong, focusing on the NHS. A lot of friends who were cynics called me after seeing that and apologised. They thought it was extraordinary – and it was.

– On his fractious relationship with Smith

We didn’t start off so great. And then it got worse. And then it got really bad. And then it got terrible. Then something clicked in our heads and we became mates. Really brilliant. I would have it this way round. That was three or four years ago. It was around (2016’s Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future album). That’s when it started. There was a big switch that clicked in both our heads… We changed to a ridiculously positive extent.

– On headlining Glastonbury’s West Holts stage in 2016

Karl Hyde on stage
Karl Hyde on stage (Niall Carson/PA)

That was fantastic. If you see any of the clips on the internet, we are happy. We are really happy. I would say that was the most happy we had ever been until that time with each other on stage. What you see is a genuine coming together of people who are just happy to both be back together on stage. That has got to be the first time ever. It is a special moment for us.

– DRIFT Series 1 is out now.

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