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Q&A with Karl Hyde of Underworld

Half of the electronic music duo weighs in on improvising onstage, inflatable props and having an app for that

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It’s been about a decade since Underworld played in Vegas. Can we say it’s about friggin’ time?

Vegas is the band’s first stop on this tour and you haven’t played here in about 10 years. What are your expectations?

Our point is to put something unique on. We’re live and the stage show is improvised. It’s a new, bigger production than shows that we’ve brought out in the past. Lots of live projections, cameras, inflatable illuminated structures. The whole crew is also improvising as we go along. We walk out on stage and have absolutely no idea what is going to happen next.

Have you ever been hit by one of the giant inflatable props?

Constantly, yeah. (Laughs.) It’s not like a rehearsed show where everything has to be slick, in fact, quite the opposite. We’re not the kind of people that enjoy putting on that kind of show, and so we always say to the crew, “Look. If I’m in the way of what you want to do, just push me out of the way.” If I don’t like it, I’ll just push back.

Calendar

Underworld
August 6, 9 p.m., $35-$246
The Joint
Underworld

Would you consider Darren Price to be a replacement for third member Darren Emerson who left in 2000?

Darren Price is with us on stage; there’s way too much to do up there for just two guys. (Laughs.) We tried that and it nearly killed us. In many ways, Darren Price has a lot more responsibility on stage than was needed back in the day. That’s no disrespect to Darren Emerson—he was great—but there’s a lot more going on on stage now… Price has a hell of a lot that he has to take care of.

Have groups like Daft Punk or Rabbit in the Moon raised the bar as far as being visually impressive?

We start with music and real performance, and build from there. We are interested and passionate about spectacle. We come from two cultures: a dance-based rave culture, which was a totally immersive experience and spectacle that we remember from back in the ‘80s. And also from an art background, where you want to walk into a room and go, “Wow!” We want that. It’s very, very important to our show.

Why play at The Joint versus a nightclub in Vegas?

Living so far away from anywhere, unless we know the specific venues, we really have to take advice from people on the ground. This is the first time that we’ve come over with the William Morris Agency, so we’ve gone, “If this is what you think, that’s cool. Let’s come over and see how it works out.”

It seems like everyone in electronic music is getting in on the iPhone craze. Tell us a little bit about the Underworld app.

A company called iZotope developed quite a few applications for the iPhone. A friend of ours, Dave Spiers, who develops software synthesizers with his company GForce, reprogrammed 12 of our big tunes for the iPhone, [and] one of our partners redesigned the graphics. It’s something we want to try using in the live show as well. It’d be a really funky thing to have all this kit and then pump one tune out of this little socket on an iPhone.

What’s next for Underworld as far as albums and life after the tour?

At the same time as the iPhone app, we’re rereleasing all [of] our back catalogue as downloads on iTunes. On the 7th of August, we’re scheduling the first ever live gig broadcast to iPhones with Apple… I just came back from Australia where I did three improvised shows in a day at the Sydney Opera House with Brian Eno. I know that’s being mixed for a series of albums and DVDs. Primarily, Rick and I are focused on writing, finishing the recording for new releases next year and then coming back with a major tour next year.

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