Underworld’s Early ‘80s And ‘90s Electronic Inspirations

Underworld full bleed
Nov 26, 2019
Underworld are one of the most celebrated groups in electronic music, getting their start during the first rave explosion. To celebrate the remix package of their Border Country EP, which sees Adam Beyer and Ø [Phase] rework the duo, Karl Hyde and Rick Smith relive the glory days with a chart featuring the electronic tracks that inspired them in the ’80s and ’90s.

Our love of electronic music really began with the purchase of a Sony Walkman and the release of the Kraftwerk album, Computer World, in 1981. Like many people of our generation we had grown up listening to the early sounds of electronic pioneers and the pop versions that occasionally found their way into the UK charts. But it was listening to “Computer Love” and “Numbers” on those tiny headphones that was the game-changer for us.

As musicians, we’d previously followed a post punk/power pop route, but with little success. Then we started to introduce new elements into the mix, and changed the lineup of the band to accommodate a video V.J. and any synths we could get our hands on.

Our main influences came from Germany rather than the UK, and we quickly landed a record deal that brought us into contact with the fashionable bands on Stevo’s Some Bizarre label; the exotic New Romantics and then into the studio with both Conny Plank and Dennis Bovell — two of the leading lights of the Dub Electronic scene.

We released a couple of albums, changed our name a number of times and toured the world, but we never quite hit the dizzy heights of some of our contemporaries and towards the end of the ‘80s. We all felt things had run their course for us.

But all through this period, our love of electronic music never waned. And as the band was breaking up, the music spoke to us again. House, rave, acid, balearic — whatever you want to call it, a new excitement was gripping the forward-thinking kids and producers around the world. The rule book was being rewritten and we knew, somehow, we had to be part of it.

Released in 1983 and still played in club. It has been remixed and sampled countless times. This track is loved by ravers, breakdancers and goths. Played by Afrika Bambaataa, Rusty Egan, Alfredo and every house and techno DJ worth their salt.
This is still one of the greatest morning after records ever. Forget you’ve heard it in a yoghurt ad or something, and just listen as Jon Marsh whispers in your ear and you meet the new day full of love and positivity. A4 beautiful piece of music.
Manuel Gottsching’s “E2-E4” remixed into Italy’s finest piece of house music from ’89. If you feel you need more, there is a fantastic Derrick May remix, but the “Paradise Mix” has always been enough for us.
Joey Beltram brought new sounds to the house and techno scene, and encouraged producers to push the boundaries sonically. Loved by hardcore ravers and house-heads alike, “Energy Flash” stood out like a beacon on its release, and still sounds otherworldly today. Oh, and any record that said “Ecstasy, Ecstasy” repeatedly was massive in 1990.
A breakbeat monster that influenced so many producers: The Chemical Brothers, FSOL, Andrew Weatherall, Youth, and The Orb to name a few. It is also claimed as the first drum & bass track, the root of the hardcore scene and an inspiration for Liam Howlett and The Prodigy. It is probably all of those things, and the best use of a Boney M sample ever. Underworld’s Border County The Remixes is out now.

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