is the lyric writing and vocal half of Underworld, and is the
maddest (in the nicest way) member of the group.
A self confessed
alcoholic, Karl was probably the main man responsible for starting
the Underworld phenomenon.
Karl had a pop
band, the Screen Gemz and badgered Rick Smith into joining whilst
at Cardiff art college. A single with cover artwork by Karl is exists
- see on the right - the single is like a cross between Elvis Costello
& Ian Dury, and sits very much in 1979 when it was released...Much
to their surprise a full record deal was offered to the two, who
had formed a more sturdy collective known as Freur. see history
for more details.
Freur grew into
Underworld, Mark I. The highlight, or lowlight depending on the
perspective, was touring with the Eurythmics, after which the band
spilt and while Rick returned to Romford to marry his girlfriend.
Karl stayed on in America recording session tracks at Prince's paisley
park studios - notably with Terri Nunn. Then, as a session guitarist
ended up on tour with Debbie Harry even playing Wembley Stadium
in the process. Karl has appeared as a session musician for many
artists all of which are listed on the discography
of Underworld Mark II happened during a fallow period. Rick and
Karl were both now involved with Tomato and wanted to re investigate
their dance music leanings of the early 80's. When Rick and Karl
met up with Darren a DJing friend of Rick's brother-in-law. The
young fresh faced Darren claimed the 'old' Underworld sound was
'shit', to which Karl and Rick took note and the Underworld of today
Karl is the
band's writer of lyrics. Most of these he notes in his journal whilst
touring with the band.
Many of the
band's lyrics were collected on regular missions into the seedy
world of bars and clubs around Romford and East End London. It was
this quest for lyrics that Karl blames for his past alcoholism.
Born Slippy's lyrics bearing some testament to this fact...if you
spend too much time in bars you end up drinking, which was what
happened to Karl. Now clean Karl has a tougher time writing but
the sound is fresher and perhaps better for it.. Beaucoup Fish proving
Karl has never
done Ecstacy and all of the early Underworld rambling lyrics had
come purely from the drinking forays and overheard conversations...He
writes incessantly, listing every word that he has overheard...conversations
on the bus...people in the street, he even records conversations
on his trusty dictaphone / tape recorder and also his own camera
- for his own art projects within tomato.
Many of the
samples on the 'Beaucoup Fish' LP come from such recordings, and
one such observation inspired the 'second toughest in the infants'
album title, which Karl took from one of Darren's family videos.
Darren's nephew was proudly boasting that he was the 'second toughest
in the infants'. (he later claimed he was now the toughest after
beating the his rival up!!)
Karl, most of the lyrics for Beaucoup Fish were inspired from a
road trip he took with a friend across America whilst helping him
to move home. Traveling in a Ryder rental truck, towing a merc,
the trip took 6 days and resulted in possible the best written (lyrically)
- Karl is also part of
the Tomato collective and is part responsible for many of the
band's Album covers and artwork, and has had many exhibitions
showing his work to the trendy art collective around Europe
- The underworld Live website conatins daily art updates from
Karl, and he has worked fairly recently on projects entilted
sofa and abandoned, which focussed on sofas and abandonned cars.
- Karl wrote a book with
John Warwicker - once a memeber of the old Underworld - which
was entitled Mmm...Skyscrpaer a Typographical Journal of New
York - Karl is currently working on a follow up book r which
is set to focus on London
- Karl has gone through
many image changes in his 20 or so years in the music business
from indie rocker to punk goth to leatherclad cowboy, to mickey
mouse wearing loon, to the trendy tracksuit wearing messiah
he is today...check out a few of the images of him on the various
pages in the site as well as the press photos here
- Karl's energy sums up
underworld and the scattered images on this page are testament
to his frontmanship of the band...Rick is the genius behind
the music and production and Karl is the energeitc front man...crazy