College days…finest days of your life. Except you spent it being held the other way up in a bathroom, having your Panini sticker assortment surgically eliminated out of your pockets.
If Underworld had been at your college, they’d have had your again. They need everybody to get alongside. Particularly relating to all their musical heroes. Usually, in an album that featured such a variety of influences, one fashion would come out victorious. Not on Second Hardest…
Everybody was BFFs of their world. They made electro, dance, reggae, DnB, rock, gospel and jazz shake palms and make up.
“The album options a number of usually competing musical influences, as a result of all of us had a love for all sorts of music,” says important manufacturing expertise, Rick Smith. “I had a powerful feeling that we may carry one thing new to membership music. We simply adopted our noses, and nonetheless it made this sense inside you that made you wish to dance.”
Journey to the Underworld
Launched in 1996, Second Hardest… delivers the identical jaw-dropping normal of their debut, Dubnobasswithmyheadman, however ramps up the subtly and selection, proving as soon as once more that Underworld had been one in all main lights of the mid-’90s Dance music fraternity.
On the time, they described their album as a “curler coaster… a journey from begin to end”, which sums up the journey completely. From the peaks of upper BPMs, to the mellower dips that allow you to catch your breath, this album by no means rests at one style or tempo for too lengthy.
The trio of Darren Emerson, Karl Hyde and Rick Smith pooled their abilities and easily astonished right here. Hyde equipped uncooked guitar licks and lyrics twice as catchy as your indie-pop darlings, and twice as rambling as any drug-addled beat poet. DJ Emerson introduced the power and data of the trendy membership vibes to the studio. And Rick Smith dealt with the engineering, manufacturing and keyboards.
Second Hardest… manages to hit a close to good stability of tight, sonic backdrops and a few of Hyde’s profession finest vocal performances.
A Melody Maker stay evaluation from March ’96 declared the singer “manner higher than Damon Albarn, and on par with Jarvis on the very least”. Dazed and Confused in contrast his fashion to a “phrase conflict between Ginsberg and Mark E. Smith”.
It was the final album the band did in Smith and his spouse’s spare bed room in Romford, and he squeezed as a lot tools into that tiny room as he may.
“It was most likely about twelve foot by about fourteen,” he says. “And noise was a difficulty. My missus’ endurance was deeper than the deepest ocean. The racket that will come out… Repetitive beats for months on finish.”
Moreover the cramped situations, instances had been additionally tight. Smith needed to promote a number of gear, together with some prized keyboards, to repay the band’s current money owed. The claustrophobia of their working house, and the moths of their wallets, appeared to have fuelled their want to create such huge worlds of wealthy music.
The components proved a success. Second Hardest… made most end-of-year lists, and was nominated for the Mercury prize.
It stays a excessive level of the profession of an always-breathtaking outfit. And as a aspect be aware, boasts the best title in dance music historical past since David Holmes’ This Movie’s Crap (Let’s Slash The Seats). So there.
Monitor by observe with Underworld’s Rick Smith
“The primary three tracks run collectively like a triptych. Funnily sufficient I used to be trying via previous DATs the opposite day to search out the unique materials so we may play these out stay, as a result of over time it has simply morphed into variations of a model of a model. Once I found the originals it simply shocked me that these tracks had been made up of an actual assemblage, an actual labour of affection.
“The entire thing got here collectively from at the very least three completely different items of music, from throughout a interval of almost a yr. I believe it got here collectively within the kind you recognise on the album within the final two months of that interval. It got here collectively from these numerous items that appeared to have one thing about them, both a temper or a sense, or with vocals with a sure lilt to them, they usually wanted to kind into one thing to make all of them extra substantial.
“At the moment in dance music, dancing was completely different. I used to be actually having such a good time going out to golf equipment and actually having fun with the sensation of the rhythm, grooving about with my pathetic little dance in a nook with my eyes closed. I actually loved the – and I hate the time period – trance. I wished to make music like that, stuff that had small modifications, however felt a lot bigger when you had the endurance.
“Your entire album was all about not going for it, and never hitting the pleasure zones each 16 bars. What else shocked me after I was listening again to it was that it was almost 17 minutes lengthy. However it appeared so pure.”
“This was two items of music that might have existed on their very own, however I used to be caught up with the concept of fusing issues collectively into extra epic journeys. It was sort of difficult.
“Barnstyle was completely influenced by what I used to be listening to in drum ‘n’ bass on the time. Trippy folks like LTJ Bukem and stuff like Goldie’s Timeless. I used to be actually loving the beats and the playful manner they sounded and the busyness of them. Barnstyle was a way more mellow Underworldy tackle it, relatively than so fierce. It’s a bit that I nonetheless take pleasure in to this present day, truly.
“Sappy’s Curry was a straight up, very closely dub-influenced rhythm and feeling. And it sat actually properly with the drum ’n’ bass, because it does at the moment, what with dub and reggae types nonetheless flying round in jungle and dubstep.”
Confusion the Waitress
“This was a quite simple piece, primarily based round a quite simple chord and loop, and a barely modulating Nord bass. All of it hangs on what you get within the observe within the first 30 seconds, actually. It’s additionally one of many first items on the album that has that gentler method to Karl’s vocals in it.
“It’s kinda feeling darkish by this level. It’s not an uplifting sound – it’s extra mellow with a driving rhythm, and subtler. It holds a very unusual stability between emotions and feelings.
“Through the years it’s one I consider, not with an incredible sense of dissatisfaction, however one I believe would have been nicer to have developed extra. On the time of creating a observe, any observe, it feels good whenever you’re doing it, however every week after mastering it feels garbage. Together with this album. We by no means sit round considering we’re going to make a observe that may final eternally. That sounds a bit lofty to me. We simply adopted our hearts. It’s a quite simple course of. It’s a case of, ‘does this flip me on? Sure it does. Thanks very a lot’. ?”
“This was a really deliberate observe. It got here on very late within the album. It might need even been the final one we did. I say this quite a bit in interviews, however albums take me a very long time to do. I don’t work actually shortly.
“So that they cross fairly giant time intervals. Albums, as much as the final one we’ve simply carried out, find yourself being about 80% there. Eight out of ten tracks are in place and we’ve obtained two weeks to the deadline once we’ve obtained to grasp, or I’m a lifeless man. There’s all the time a scrabble round on the finish to get it down.
“I bear in mind there was some excellent onerous home music going round on the time. Acid Home was turning into much less well-liked and sounding a little bit dated to lots of people, however I nonetheless liked the sensation of it. So Rowla had an acid observe sort of really feel to it, with a Roland 303 roaring at you, distorting a bit, however carried out on this Nord synthesizer, which I completely adored, and didn’t have for the primary album. I used to be attempting to focus and take my time and do a slowly constructing, aggressive piece in that fashion.
“We performed this observe a lot stay over time. And after I take heed to the album model I personally discover it a bit disappointing. Once we play it stay it’s a lot rawer and louder, and hammers alongside, actually.”
“That is additionally actually good to play out stay. It’s simply easy, chopped up drum loop vibes. I say ‘chopped up’, however in a playable manner, as one would re-trigger a pattern, ?
“I do know this observe got here collectively fairly shortly, over the interval of a few month. Karl, Darren and I had been jamming on an concept, which by no means actually appeared to go wherever, however there was one thing there. So I revisited it once more a few month later, and a chap that works with us, Mike Nielson, an engineer, did a fast combine whereas I used to be midway via the tune.
“That actually helped within the observe’s growth as a result of he actually nailed the sound of it, because it wasn’t a home or apparent techno piece on the time, it was a lot rowdier. I liked the way in which it virtually crossed over between a home and techno, and a drum ’n’ bass really feel. The absence of a four-to-the-floor was uncommon for us.”
“It’s techno, with an digital pulse. It’s obtained a very attention-grabbing vocal journey from Karl. We had been very a lot into not doing the identical factor once more. We wished to do one fashion and transfer on. I’d take no matter lyric or vocal had been put down and edit it collectively. Keep in mind, this was at a time when it wasn’t onerous drive-based, so that you needed to make selections earlier than you set stuff again on tape once more. The vocals had a very attention-grabbing movement, they didn’t want a number of editorial, or prettying up.
“We additionally used a vocoder in a fairly a powerful manner, which we’ve all the time carried out. It’s an important piece of package for us, the Roland Vocoder VP-330. We have now three of them within the studio now. It’s the best vocoder on the planet, for the way in which I exploit it, anyway, which is for vocal help. It’s simply an astonishing piece of apparatus.”
“They had been actually thrilling and busy instances once we made this album. Which appeared to hold on for an additional 15 years, to be trustworthy. So we would have liked some mellower tracks to calm us down. This observe was one of many issues we did. I did a number of ambient music with the primary album, and proceed to. Virtually esoteric.
“On occasion we do a observe that has a delicate feeling to it. It makes for a superb break within the album. We’d like the document to movement. I used to be actually into the concept of creating albums that you just’d play and take heed to right through. It wasn’t about simply taking part in one observe and going ‘that’s my favorite’, and placing one thing else on afterwards. It was a response towards what we’d gone via within the ’80s. So I believe tracks like this had been wanted.
“I prefer it nonetheless. It’s a lovely piece, primarily based round actual easy uncooked Karl guitar, and processing loops.”
“This was carried out in two phases. Karl and I had been upstairs within the bed room studio and neither of us actually wished to work. I bear in mind the day – I used to be feeling down and drained and Karl mentioned ‘come on, let’s simply put one thing down, even when it’s solely half an hour’s work’. I bear in mind simply feeling actually humpy [laughs], however getting on with it as a result of it made sense. You don’t all the time write your finest stuff whenever you’re in your finest temper. It doesn’t work like that sadly. Get actually joyful and write an incredible track? I want.”
“In order that was the temper we had been in and I started, like we all the time do, by firing up a fast rhythm observe, a primary click on and a kick and a woosh and a ding…then we performed keyboards stay over that. I believe the principle piano factor is the DX7 Mk1, which I’ve nonetheless obtained. It’s proper up there, quantity two in my all time favorite keyboards.
“So, it’s stay. We made it up as we went alongside. With Karl singing and no chord sequence. I trimmed it up a bit later, eradicating the odd bum be aware. It turned out to be one in all my favorite tracks of that decade. It’s very me and Karl that tune. It’s our essence – the way in which it’s written and the unusual depth it has.”
Rick Smith on recording Second Hardest within the Infants
“The desk was a Soundcraft S600 sequence. Stunning, very primary, sort of uncooked. We had an Atari ST 1040 laptop, operating C-Lab Creator, which was dynamite and I nonetheless miss it. Sound sources operating via the desk weren’t all clocked off the identical digital clock, so you bought this magic showing between house, which was beautiful.
“I additionally used an Akai MG14D 12-track tape recorder, which was synchronised to the Atari with an previous Fostex synchroniser. I may run a sequence and lock up tape on the identical time. It was a bit contact and go. Sampling was restricted. I had a Casio FZ-1 – I couldn’t afford an Akai S900.
“Mic-wise we had a Neumann TLM 170, which is gorgeous, and we’re nonetheless utilizing it. We additionally had the vocoder, an ARP 2600, an OSCar, 303s, 909s , a Nord for bass, a Yamaha DX7 Mk1, two [Yamaha] SPX90s, a Roland MT-32 unit and a Roland SD-3000.
“All of the recording was carried out on an early Sony transportable DAT machine, battery operated. There was no onerous drive recording, though I rented one later to assemble the album and blend tracks collectively.
“Primarily, mixes had been very stay, via the console, operating a number of MIDI and tape tracks, with results stay within the console. Very primary. One of many SPX90s ran stereo pitch, the opposite a stereo delay. Then the Roland SD-3000 mono delay line for suggestions and dub delays. That was it. No plugins, no compressors, no gates… I don’t understand how I did it!”