Hailing from Romford, England, Karl Hyde and Rick Smith started out in 1983 as members of quirky new-wave pop band Freur. Freur became Underworld in 1987 and in 1988 the band struck chart success with single PlayUnderneath The Radar. This incarnation also had a minor hit on the US pop charts and a moderate hit on US alternative radio with PlayStand Up, which remains their biggest hit in that country. This initial lineup consisted of Hyde, Smith, Alfie Thomas, Bryn Burrows, Baz Allen and Pascal Consoli before sinking back into obscurity and disbanding in 1990.
British DJ Darren Emerson hooked up with Hyde and Smith in 1992 and helped them refine their sound into something more sleek and beat-oriented, yet still shot through with tinges of blues, rock and spoken-word streams of consciousness. After several releases on Junior Boy’s Own as Lemon Interupt, the trio re-adopted the Underworld name. Their first full-length, Dubnobasswithmyheadman, was released in 1994 to rave reviews and is still considered a landmark. It spawned several hit singles (PlayDark & Long, Cowgirl, PlayDirty Epic) and was followed a couple years later by the PlayBorn Slippy single and sophomore album Second Toughest in the Infants. Underworld’s much-praised remixography also grew, including Björk, Saint Etienne, Simply Red, Massive Attack and Leftfield.