Underworld DRIFT Series“Drive boy dog boy/ Dirty numb angel boy…”

The song that put Underworld on the world map was initially released as Born Slippy – a standalone, instrumental 12” single (1995) – before Born Slippy .NUXX (the B-side, avec lyrics) was released in 1996 and peaked at #2 on the UK Singles Chart thanks to Trainspotting, which synced this banger to great effect during the film’s closing scene.

Fat Boy Slim closed his set with Born Slippy .NUXX at the Melbourne edition of Big Day Out in 1999, which was baffling since Underworld were up next. But when those echoing, celestial chords eventually entered the mix to signal Underworld reclaiming their song, the Boiler Room went absolutely apesh-t – cue one of this scribe’s most biblical dancefloor moments ever.

When asked to describe the view from the stage when that Born Slippy .NUXX beat drops, singer Karl Hyde offers, ”That’s the thing that’s consistent over the years, is the sheer explosion of happiness that occurs. And it still takes us both by surprise, I think; there’s this happiness that has just transcended generations – and time – that explodes when we drop that track.”

Fast forward to 1 November, 2018: Underworld launch their DRIFT experiment, which promises the electronic wizards will drop new material every Thursday for a whole year. We’re tipping the reality of this multimedia project was even harder than it sounds. ”Sometimes certain aspects [were] even harder and sometimes quite the opposite: way more uplifting than we could’ve imagined,” Rick Smith allows.

Hyde then acknowledges that DRIFT Series 1 was ”very different to any other project that [they’ve] been engaged in in the last 40 years”. ”[The pieces are] in flux right up until – hours, even – before it comes out, which was very positive. It felt truer to how we work, and how we feel, than any other time.” So does this mean Underworld are ready to ‘drift’ straight into another 365 days of weekly releases? ”We’re going to start another series at some point soon,” Smith reveals (even though we were kind of joking), before Hyde clarifies, ”But not the same as this series – that would just be repeating ourselves.”

Collaborators for DRIFT Series 1 include The Necks, techno producer Ø [Phase], Ichirou Agata (Melt-Banana), economics writer Aditya Chakrabortty, and members of British band Black Country, New Road. ”When we started back in ’79, ’80, it was tape machines and, you know, huge reel-to-reels,” Hyde reminisces. ”If you wanted to collaborate with someone, you either had to be in the same space or you would make a copy of your 24-track tape and you would have it couriered to wherever they were in the world, and they would record their parts onto it and then send it back to you.”

As well as the DRIFT Series 1 boxset (7 CDs, 1 Blu-ray, plus exclusive 80-page book), Underworld have released DRIFT Series 1 – Sampler Edition (CD or double LP) on the first of this month, with the preview single, S T A R, released back in September. ”Part of Rick’s idea for this track was that there would be a bunch of… perhaps what we might traditionally think of as ‘stars’. But that each phrase – each group – would conclude with someone that was a peacemaker, someone that had made hugely significant positive changes to the world. They were often names that were more hidden whilst we were engaged with the day-to-day stars, you know?” Hyde enlightens. (Think Dalai Lama versus Tom Cruise, within rhyming couplets.)

”Karl had taken the original children’s playground rhyme and re-conceived it, shall we say,” Smith continues before Hyde admits, ”We laughed a lot, you can imagine: taking on being kids again and realising that there wasn’t any sets of highbrow rules; there was a bunch o’ names, and we wanted them to fit in this pattern in the way that a kid might.”

When asked what it was that curbed his enthusiasm for scaling the scaffolding during Underworld’s live shows, Hyde chuckles, ”There’s still the tendency to want to do it ’cause there’s some amazing climbing possibilities, but, you know, you roll the dice too many times and sooner or later it’s gonna come up seven. So I knocked that one on the head – there’s no need to do it any more…”

”There was never any need to do it in the first place!” Smith interjects. Hyde laughs: ”You’re right, actually.”

DRIFT Series – Sampler Edition is out November 1 via Caroline.

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