The global electronic dance music community celebrated a victory last week as Underworld conquered a first for EDM groups in the States. Never before has an electronic act performed live on late-night television. But that all changed when Underworld's Karl Hyde, Rick Smith and Darren Emerson treated "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" viewers to a live performance of "Always Loved a Film," a collaboration for which they brought along electronic music staples Mark Knight and D. Ramirez.
Along with that feat, Underworld are also toasting the release of their latest album, Barking. Prior to the release of their new LP, Underworld hadn't much tested the waters of collaboration, but Knight and Ramirez reached out to Hyde late last year to ask if he'd be interested in providing the vocal for their track "Downpipe."
"That was one of the things which made it possible for us to think about collaborating with people," Hyde tells MTV News of Knight and D. Ramirez, who also joined forces on the Barking track "Between Stars."
"The whole collaboration thing on this album comes out of 20 years of having our work remixed, and you hear all these cool remixes, but it's too late to collaborate with those people. The album is out and you're on tour, but you're thinking, 'That guy did something fantastic!' and, 'If [only] we had that track on the album, instead of the one we had.' After 20 years of that, Rick was like, 'Enough is enough, and let's start jamming with these people!' "
That's just what Underworld did. Their eighth studio album embraces their classic sound but adds an undeniably fresh vibe. From "Scribble," the euphoric drum-and-bass collabo with fellow Brit High Contrast (a.k.a. Lincoln Barrett) to "Diamond Jigsaw," a guitar-laden electro-pop track co-produced by veteran Paul van Dyk, to the piano-laced ballad "Louisiana," Barking serves as a refreshing symphony of sounds and emotions.
"Every time I hear that song ['Louisiana'], I think, 'People might not get this when I say it, but it's kind of dark.' I had written the verse and the chorus with a piano and it was in the archive, and I said, 'I think there's something here, something really strong and I think we need to make the rest of the tune,' " Hyde recalled. "So I said [to Rick], 'Let's try something radical. We'll get into the room with you on piano, we'll have a beat box, and I'll have a microphone!' " he explained.
The move was a radical experiment for Underworld who typically work via the Internet. "Eventually, this song appeared and there it was, and we sort of crafted it in a really, really traditional way. When it was finished we just felt, we don't want anyone to work on it; it's done, it's complete."
Underworld continue to embrace the collaborative process, pairing up with dance music download giant Beatport for a remix contest focused on the album's first track, "Bird 1" (itself a collaboration with Deep Dish's Dubfire), in which fans can compete to win a bag full of studio gear and more.
Hyde explained their reasons for agreeing to the Beatport initiative.
"If we remain an island, then people will think, 'These guys don't want to interact. We can't get in — they don't even know we exist!' And for us, it's about communicating. It's about keeping the doors open to the idea of finding something out. We're not expecting anything; that's kind of the best way to do it, but let's see what happens. So if we found somebody, it might be somebody we end up collaborating with or it might end up being somebody we write for or somebody that we just support and give them all of our traffic."
And what advice can Karl offer young hopefuls? "I say be honest, look inside yourself and [ask yourself], what do you want to do, not what do you think we want you to do. That would be the complete opposite of what we're looking for. Just be yourself and keep doing that because that's the thing that will connect with a lot of people."
What do you think of Underworld's new album? Tell us in the comments!