I had the pleasure to sit down and chat with Karl from Underworld the other day about their new album, Barking, what it is like after 20 years of making music and the love they have for NYC.
Check it out below.
BBC: Hello Karl, hows it going?
Karl: I’m good, I’m really really good its kind of dark, but good
BBC: Its been 3 years since the last album, how was it to go into the studio and have a fresh approach on the music.
Karl: It was good process, we write all the time and most of the tracks on this album were developed live in front of audiences, which is why they sound the way they do, its why we kind of knew where the tunes were going over big in the right setting, there was a short period of time the middle of dec to spring of 10, when we finished the album, and normally its much longer. Really excited to open the door of jamming with other people
BBC: You said the songs on Barking were made in the live setting. I noticed that there are lots of dance-floor ready tracks with catchy melodies that can introduce Underworld to a broader audience. How do you feel about that?
Karl: I know what you mean. Its surprised a few people who have grown up with the long journeys Underworld’s sound has taken. After 20 years of this group, Rick and I felt with this record that we were making a different kind of film and the film we wanted to make had a more contemporary sound to it and was based on what the audience were telling us. In the album previous to this one, there was not really much we could take from it to the live show, so the live show sounded pretty old and we didn’t like that. It was the first time the group sounded liked that and it was not the type of group we wanted to be, so we knew we had to create a lot more tunes so that we could change the live show quite radically.
BBC: I believe it, it’s a great album, I could never get into the older stuff, but then I put this one on and I was like wow! I listened to it for a week straight.
Karl: I know for Rick and me a a lot of what we do is all about celebration when we are out there playing on stage, it’s about people coming together to celebrate, it’s about people having a positive time, going away with a smile on their face. It is quite a heavy thing to get together, kind of celebrate and get some positive energy to go in the night when their is a lot of pretty rough things going on in the world. For all of us to come together and have a good time for a couple hours, it’s not a bad thing.
BBC: Not a bad thing at all, this album can be something a lot of people can discover. You guys have been around for a while, but now this whole new generation of young people, are discovering electronic music, and I really feel this album might be a way for them to hear wonders of electronic music. What do you think?
Karl: I can see that in America, I see a whole new germination, its really kicking off there now and its very exciting, its kicking off in a way that is familiar to us. The grass roots, word of mouth, it’s not coming from the kind of big machine of the industry, it’s coming from the way we understand people who are really into it. These people are telling their mates and the crowds are swelling.
It’s interesting, we just came back from touring in Japan where the album was number one for a while and all the shows are sold out, they were largely brand new audiences.
BBC: You excited to play NYC at the end of the month?
Karl: I’m always excited to play in NYC, for me that was where all my lyrics use to start, for the first 2 albums at at least, I walked the streets of New York, because it was a technical place to get poetry off the street, the sound, the colors, the people and everything that was going on. I sat at the end of the street corner and write what I heard and it was so vibrant, NY is a very intense place for me. I walk the streets and am inspired by every inch of the way I walk in NY, I sometimes leave there with a bit of a headache because it such a intense experience for me, but every time we come back the crowds are fantastic and I can’t wait to walk the streets again, more stuff!
BBC: I had read that you collaborated with different producers on the album, how was that different from the other albums where it was just you and Rick?
Karl: Well, an interesting part of the process was that Rick went out and found Emerrson, a 17 year old DJ, to bring his point of view of the scene into the writing process. Also, with 20 years of putting out music, some of it gets remixed and we were getting inspired by peoples point of view of our music, and having the opportunity to get into the studio with them to jam and exchange ideas and a few years ago when we st to Breaking and entering, we put some stuff out with Eno, the stuff went so easily, we had such a good time with it other artists, the stuff collaborative,
BBC: Sounds cool, going back to how you said NYC was the inspiration for a lot of your lyrics, I found that on this album they were very poetic, metaphorical. Do all the lyrics come from you? Is it collaborative?
Karl: They come from me, everything is autobiographic, but Rick will say things, strategic things that might take time to settle, to come through, but on this one he said one really simple thing, he said “you know, if you cant do it it is ok, but if you just build a couple of windows into your lyrics, just let people in let them have a clue what it is you are about” and I was like, that is a very interesting problem, I’ll see what I can do. For most people writing lyrics that where they be coming from, they want I guess I come from a traditional Lou Reed, capture big hearts mindset. My lyrics are more a collections of words that tell you about my state of mind. They are journeys.
BBC: I guess ‘Always Loved A Film’ was a primary example of this?
Karl: Yes, I think it was, it was taken straight out my my notebook of things I write every day; l’ll sit in a cafe, walk the streets, catch a train and I’ll write. When it came to sing and improvise the melody for “Always Loved A Film” I was like, you know, I’m just gonna change these words, which is a very new thing for me to do, for the last 20 years I never really did that.
BBC: Times are changing, got to adapt…
Karl: Yeah. It’s quite radical to be using a more regular system
BBC: The album came out in a time when album sales are dwindling, the industry is in disarray, how do you feel about that and releasing albums now a days?
Karl: You don’t make money off the album, but what it is is a calling card, it is an opportunity to pass on new material, so you can bring that to the live show, It is a way of telling people we got something we want to share with you and we are coming back out with it live if you are into it, we are gonna bring it to you in a very dynamic way through the live show.
BBC: Thats all the questions i have for you today Karl, thanks for the interview!