Electronica liberated by Tomato
By Stephanie Jorgl
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Rick Smith and Karl Hyde are two true godfathers of electronic music. From the time of their early stint as the atmospheric band Freur, through the driving electronic advent of and sonic world takeover by Freurs sequel, Underworld, Smith and Hyde have consistently found ways to crush any limits to their creativity.
Yet, both realized a while back that being rockstars alone wasnt going to lead them to creative liberty and financial independence. So the duo figured out a way to be able to create the art they wanted to make, and get paid well for it. They did this by joining an art collective media company called Tomato. Smith and Hyde now regularly contribute their creations to the agency which, in turn, then blends the music with video and other media to be used in commercials for companies like Nike, Adidas and others.
At Tomato, we make things because we need to make them, whether its film, sound, sculpture, or whatever, explains Smith. With Tomato, our completed personal work is taken and then used to sell a product or something, or to make a video for Underworld. Its really just a way in which that purely personal work is used, really.
Two Fingers Toward The Music Business
Underworld wouldnt be here today if it wasnt for that, really, because both Karl and I have earned a very decent living from making music for the directors for advertisial clients like Nike and Adidas, which allowed Underworld to stick two fingers up to the music business and go, No, we wont become what you want us to. Well do what we want to do. And well sell records in our way, says Smith.
When youve been in a band, and youre living off of advances because we never sold that many records then youre always living off of borrowed money, he adds. It was so empowering to do a piece of work and get paid an amount of money, and then the job is over and you can move onto the next thing. It was fantastic!
From Freur to Underworld
Smith first formed Freur with Karl Hyde in the early 1980s, and the bands single, Doot Doot, quickly topped the charts. But when New Wave became passe, the duo kept on, taking Freurs sound to a new dimension by adding groove to the atmospheres they were used to creating. This shift hailed the birth of Underworld.
In the mid-90s, this new sound broke through when the cult hit film Trainspotting featured the music of Underworld. Underworld managed to cultivate a dedicated audience, and still sells out shows across the U.S.
Sowing the Seeds of Genius
Smiths music teacher mother planted the seed for songwriting in his mind at an early age, starting him playing the piano when he was four. Thank god she did, because I never would have stuck at anything in my life if she hadnt done that really, he says. He continued with piano until he was 11.
I gave it up for two or three years until I was 14, and then I discovered rock music and I thought, Wow, now what is this?! Then I started playing piano for my own amusement, you know, when my mother was out of the house I couldnt let her know that I was playing again.
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