This story is over 5 years old.


Underworld’s Karl Hyde Loves That America Loves Dance Music

The band continues its 'dubnobasswithmyheadman' anniversary tour this week.
Al Overdrive

"The purists have never liked us," says Karl Hyde of his band, Underworld. "Our tastes are so wide and we draw on such a history of music that when making records like dubnobass, we had no preconception of it ever being something that the dance fraternity and the indie crowd would fully embrace."

Yet, embrace it they have. More than 21 years after its release, Underworld's breakthrough album, dubnobasswithmyheadman, remains as relevant now as ever. After what was intended to be a one-off performance of the LP in London last year, vocalist Hyde and bandmate/producer Rick Smith have been traveling the northern hemisphere on an extended anniversary tour. They return to the US this weekend for a show at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, the group's second time playing the iconic venue in a decade. The show is a study in presentation with Hyde and Smith both performing the album note by note, prompting memories of when they first made the record.


"Rick's vision was that we recreate it exactly, that I sing exactly as I did 20 years ago," Hyde says. "All the bum notes and the weirdness and everything. It's a bit like method acting. I have to be back in that place, lyrically. I have to be back on the streets of Manhattan, I have to be back on the prairies of Minnesota, on the last train out of London full of drunks."

At the time they made dubnobass, Underworld was a struggling upstart group, not quite rave-enough for the clubs and not quite band-enough for the rock scene. While the two albums that precede their breakthrough form a solid foundation many artists today don't have the benefit of drawing upon, Hyde still looks back at those efforts with some ambivalence.

"In those days, we had failed at trying to get in the pop charts; we had failed at being a populist rock group," he explains. "Now, I'd say our failure was in not being ourselves, in trying to be somebody else or trying to be somebody else's idea of what a band needs to do to have a career. I look back and a lot of the bands that seemed to be having lesser careers than the bands that were riding high in the charts—they're the bands that are more interesting to me now."

Released in January, 1994, dubnobasswithmyheadman went on to become one of Underworld's three certified gold records in the UK. Though it barely made a dent on the stateside charts, many in the US got to know Underworld through one of their most-loved tracks, "Born Slippy." Though it was not included on the album, it was released as a single in 1995, and gets a live performance in this show. That Underworld will find a ravenous audience this weekend in Los Angeles is not an achievement lost on Hyde.


"I'm thrilled that America has found its contemporary voice in dance music," he says. "It took a long time and a lot of us tried and a lot of American artists tried to ignite a scene that would erupt."

Hyde is less concerned with the commercial opportunities for his music than he is connecting with an audience. His gratitude for the interest in an album made over two decades ago is the kind of appreciation that comes only from someone who has paid his dues.

"We came out to [California] in the mid-90s and performed at a techno festival in Big Bear," he recalls. "A lot of artists came but it just didn't take off. And now it has. It's an enormous sigh of relief. When America gets ahold of something it goes global again. The scene has found new momentum and that's a great thing for all of us."

Underworld on Twitter

If you're in LA and want to go to Underworld at the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday, June 21, on our tab, we got you! We'll even throw in a special dubnobass box set. To win, email us at by 12 Midnight PST tonight, June 17, with your name, address, and one solid reason why you should go to the show. If you win, you will be notified by 10:30 AM PST Thursday, June 18.