Interview:Then There Were Two



 

Part 1: Underworld Without DJ Darren Emerson / The Follow-Up to Beaucoup Fish

Part 2: Mixing to DVD Specs / Next Up: An Acoustic Folk Album?

Part 3: Rick Smith's Recording Setup

 

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Underworld: Then There Were Two


 

Part 1: Underworld Without DJ Darren Emerson / The Follow-Up to Beaucoup Fish

 

 

It's not quite John Lennon leaving the Beatles, or even, in a general scheme of things, Peter Gabriel leaving Genesis. But to fans of trancy techno mavens Underworld, the recent departure of DJ Darren Emerson from the group is discomfiting.

 

The concern is understandable: before Emerson signed on, founders Karl Hyde and Rick Smith were making B-Grade synth-pop and languishing in relative obscurity. Emerson, a world-class progressive house DJ, joined in 1990, around the same time that Underworld started making tracks that better fit the ascending sounds of acid house, then the descending--and soon to be dated--styles of, say, Duran Duran. The trio went on to release three studio albums, a recent box set of some of their remixed singles, and of course, steal the star-studded show on the Trainspotting soundtrack with "Born Slippy." Now, as if a swan song for Emerson, comes "Everything, Everything," the just-released, live-performance soundtrack for the DVD of the same name, to follow in a month.

 

The DVD is a work of pure interactive genius for the properly equipped techno fan. "You get to play mad genius, a la Karl Hyde, at home," says Smith. It's no exaggeration. One option on the DVD is to create visual sequences triggered by the 26 letter keys on a keyboard; another lets you mix segments of music with bits of spoken word and random sound; still another allows mixing and matching of extended concert footage to create your own Underworld show. It's the tour de force that fans of the band's live show--a syn-aesthetic overload of images, ideas and fluid melodies--would expect.

 

The album, Everything, Everything, delivers a greatest hits-like batch of tracks spanning Underworld's career, including hits ("Born Slippy"), classics ("Rez," "Jumbo"), and show staples. But is it a last chance to hear the Underworld you've known and loved, before they are forced to revert to the synth-pop days of yore? Has Darren's departure left the group in electronic limbo, with no theramin to guide them? Musician.com sat down with Rick Smith and asked him to say it wasn't so.

 

Musician.com: What are your emotions regarding Darren leaving the group?

 

Rick Smith: We feel great now, because we feel Darren made the right choice. He definitely made the right choice for himself, and it's worked out fantastic for Karl and I. Things have gotten so much simpler, which is very nice, because we do so many different things. We don't need complications. Simplicity is always the great pursuit in the music itself.

 

Musician.com: Can you be more specific? Some Underworld fans are really upset.

 

Smith: We've always been very private about how we write what we do, how we do it, and who does what. And I'm not going to change that. Even though Karl and I have been together 20 years, it's still kind of private how we work. People always get it wrong. The great thing about keeping quiet is, nobody becomes wrong. It's like these endless debates of "What's the real lyric to `Cowgirl.'" Well, you're not going to know because it's not printed. And so there's a joy in seeing people's interpretations.

 

Occasionally, when it comes down to who does what in the band, it has been upsetting. For me, I live in the studio. I make records, I've produced all these records. So it's like "Oh yeah?" Because people will make these assumptions that Darren Emerson is a DJ, so therefore, all the dance and all the groove is Darren. Right, Ok. So that's a bit upsetting. And that couldn't be further from the truth.

 

Musician.com: Are you guys are working on the studio follow-up to Beaucoup Fish?

 

Smith: Started, yes. It's very disrupted, of course, with the DVD and live album coming out.

 

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3