Random Facts With… Karl Hyde

Where the thick amber glow of Londons streetlights fade out – thats where the edgeland starts. Its somewhere near the end of the Roman road 
where the all-night offies and the kebab shops work overtime; just down the overgrown pathway to the disused shoe factory that looks like an 
Eastern Bloc Relic, Essex style. Its there outside the greasy spoon where the radio crackles with traffic reports from the periphery and its on the 
bankside of the river that meanders slowly towards the Thames and out to the sea. As much the darkness at the edge of town as the rabbit holes  that let you escape the rat race, the edgelands are the inspiration for Karl Hyde. 

Underworld have certainly played an incredibly important part in the fabric of R$N’s musical make up. So when we were presented with the opportunity to interview Karl Hyde ahead of Underworld’s show @ We Love… in Ibiza it’s not something we thought twice about accepting. However there’s been a million interviews with the man in the past so we thought we’d approach it from the Random Facts angle to find out something a little different. 
The first part of this factoid extravaganza is loosely based around cities as like ourselves he has an obsession with them which is reflected within his lyrics.The second part is based around completely random facts which are just, random. 
Read on.

London is the biggest city in Britain and in Europe and has the highest population density in Britain, with 4,699 people per square kilometre. Tokyo is the largest metropolitan area in the world  13,500 km with more than 35 million people living in greater Tokyo giving it a population density of 2,642 person/km. 

Not actually as dense as London which surprises me. What is it that fascinates you about cities?

They are full of free poetry! People talk loud, giving words away freely & I’ve accepted their gifts, turning them into lyrics since the early 90’s. The rhythm of cities fascinates me, the smells & colours & signature ‘grooves’ of cities make them infinitely attractive to me and they have influenced my lyrics & artwork for over twenty years giving me unlimited source material for the images & stories I post on karlhyde.underworldlive.com

The Paris Metro boasts being both the second-most heavily trafficked subway system in the world, carrying 4.5 Million people every day, and having more stations closer to one another than any other system 245 stations in 41 square kilometers. 

Do you use the ‘metro’ where you live? Do you draw inspiration from it?

The underground is where I used to be found most back in the days of trawling the night, the rhythm of trains the smell of dust the noises coming out’ve dark holes underground & wasted stragglers waiting for the last train home they have all featured heavily in Underworld’s music. 

The underground trains of the cities of the world are all so different they are part of the ‘Real’ signature of a city 

that’s why I love to use them to get close to a city & it’s people by riding their trains.

New York now has 34,600 kilometres of bike track. Where do you live now and do you cycle in the city?

We still live in Essex a place a I love & probably will never leave. We cycle out here between the fields,  although it’s a dangerous place when it turns into a race track for tweaked sleek low slung machines with fat chromium wheels & tinted glass (all of which are beautiful but deadly if you don’t keep your ear peeled for them coming!) Cycling in the city isn’t something that appeals to me, too many cars,  air’s dirty… and I like to walk, go where bikes can’t go, be free to go wherever the mood takes me. 

Some countries have more than one capital. Bolivia has two capital cities, and South Africa has three. Nauru, a tiny island country in the south pacific ocean does not have a capital.

What’s your favourite capital city in the world?

May sound cheesy but it has to be London for me. The city has changed so much since I left Birmingham years ago

now it has great food, galleries, theatres, venues, clubs, bars & the river fronts are vibrant places. There’s always something new to discover in London & the excellent tube system, coupled with the development in over ground trains 

makes it easy to get around go down one hole & pop out of another.  The music & arts scene here is still evolving 

always stimulating, challenging, moving on. Yep I love London. However…there are some fantastic cities in the world I love to spend time in …..that’s another story 

With Detroit filing for bankruptcy, suddenly everyone is an expert on the city.

What do you know about Detroit that not many people would know. If nothing tell us a city fact that we wouldn’t know. 

I’ve always been attracted to Detroit  since first hearing Mowtown records on Pirate radio then after we started playing there in the 80’s witnesses the extraordinary architecture ther like no other city in the world. I began following sites like forgottendetroit.com for years the beauty in the decay of cities is something I’ve been fascinated by most of my life

& Detroit has (sadly) been inspiring in this area.  

Then there’s the extraordinary Outsider Art that comes from the city projects like the Heidelberg Project.

sites such as Melaniemenardarts raw outsider art and a wealth of street artists expressing themselves outside of the established art gallery system. Sadly there’a is little left of old Detroit what I’ve found over the years are alarmingly expanding areas cleared of all buildings with only the occasional part of a street block remaining like a city caught in the aftermath of a terrible war so much good has come out of Detroit and a lot of it has been responsible for inspiring me to pursue a career in Music.

Last week, the police department of Palo Alto, California announced that it would be deploying a powerful new technology to monitor its residents movements.

The technology is called an automatic license plate recognition system, and according to a new ACLU report, it is proliferating across Americas streets, in cities large and small. 

Have you seen this We Are Data site. Scary!  What is your view on surveillance in the city is it just an unavoidable in this day and age? 

I’ve lived for years in a city renowned for it’s vast network of surveillance cameras – London. We live our lives under the watchful eyes of….? A fact of modern life? Yes. Not yet spotted too many cameras nailed to trees….

One ton of grapes makes about 60 cases of wine, or 720 bottles. One bottle of wine contains about 2.8 pounds of grapes. 

Ever made your own wine? Any interests like that we may not know about?

I’ve not made any wine as, when I used to drink, I was too impatient to wait for it to be ready, but I’ve drunk a lot’ve other people’s  home made wine. My reputation preceded me, so that friends would hide their wine when they knew I was coming round.

A fish with a large penis on its head was recently discovered in Vietnam. Its nickname is penis head.”

Inspired nickname there. What’s the weirdest thing anyone’s ever called you? I’m not calling you a penis head you understand! It’s merely for reference for the question.

Weirdest thing I was every called?  – Sensible 

Sharks dont get cavities probably because they are constantly shedding teeth. Sharks can go through more than 30,000 teeth in a lifetime.

How are your teeth these days? I’m 36 and got told I had the teeth of a 46 year old. VEry flattering! 

Teeth are my friends – I look after them & they look after me….I love food

When you go swimming, it’s estimated that you swallow as many viruses as there are people on Earth.

Nice. What’s your most grotesque fact?

When we travel on the underground, the dust we breath contains the dead skin of millions of people

The world’s shortest scheduled airline flight is only 1.7 miles between two islands and lasts 2 minutes.

Most interesting journey you’ve ever been on?

A train ride at sunrise in Sri Lanka from Kandy to the coast, through lush green jungle on a train that looked straight out’ve a Jules Verne novel.  A ragged thing that looked like a 1930s space ship on rails which clung to sheer cliffs on tracks precariously supported on ancient wooden pillars  – fabulous & unforgettable 

Hearing sarcastic remarks makes you more creative.


No – it fuels my lack of confidence.

The average computer user blinks 7 times a minute, less than half the normal rate of 20.

How do you get on with technology?


Bolivia holds the highest turnover of governments. Since their independence from Spain in 1825, Bolivia has had almost 200 governments. Since 1945, Italy saw more than 50 governments and more than 20 Prime Ministers.

The youngest active system of governance is communism, which was introduced in 1848 by Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx.

Do you think we’re in an age of political apathy? Has the internet killed our reactionary spirit?

Ha ha ha I can see a lot’ve reactionary people using the internet to take to the streets in their tens of thousands to express an opinion about the way their governed – they don’t look very apathetic. 

There is a spacecraft that sends us pictures of what space is really like outside our solar system. http://bit.ly/15OXkGG

What’s your relationship with space? My girlfriend is completely obsessed with it and gets pretty stressed out when posing the question ‘How big is space?’

Space is great for looking at on cloudless nights.

A snippet of Kraftwerk’s ‘Autobahn’ was used as the theme tune to a 1978 BBC children’s drama, Out Of Bounds. Two teenage gymnasts cartwheeled in slow motion to it over the opening credits. The Quietus.
Where’s the strangest place you’ve heard an Underworld record?

On Breakfast time radio

The flamingo can only eat when its head is upside-down.

Any strange eating habits we should know about?

Yes, but all of them secret……he he he

Dreams help keep you mentally on track. 

Studies show that participants who were woken up at the start of each dream showed signs of psychosis after just three days. Good to know.

Do dreams inspire your lyrics?

Nope but they set the tone of my mood for the start of the day

(I used to look forward to nightmares as a kid…not sure what that says about me!)

The ice cream you see in ice cream ads is often mashed potatoes because they will not melt during production.

Strangest food you’ve ever eaten.

Stuff that’s still moving (once was enough!)

Underworld play We Love… this Sunday