Music built for film

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Underworld 2 Smith Falls For Technology
And that was it. Smith went on to play in gospel choirs, until one of the choirs he played for bought him a synthesizer. “It was an old Roland which had these little preset tabs. It was in the early days and the Rolands were almost like synthesizers that home organists would put on top of the organ,” he explains.

“I fell in love, and since then, I’ve always loved technology,” admits Smith. “I was a sad hi-fi buff as a young boy, pawing through magazines, dreaming of being able to afford that loud speaker, you know, I didn’t know what it would do, but I wanted one anyway! And that was it, once I discovered synths.”

Hooking Up With Karl
Smith went on to study electronics in college, hoping to learn how to build synthesizers. “But it was a disastrous choice,” he says, “because there was no practical work at all, it was all high-level math, and I despised it really. At the same time, New Wave was at it’s peak in the UK, in the very early 80’s and I loved that so much,” he says. “Then I discovered Kraftwerk, and about then everything started getting clearer for me.”

“My best friend was in a band with Karl, and their keyboard player was really disastrous, not turning up, and turning up drunk and that sort of thing, so Stuart said, ‘I know somebody.’ So I joined their band for a year. I flunked my university class, left and said ‘This is the best band in Cardiff, it’s all kicking off, it’s so amazing...’ And then, of course, I was so disillusioned after about a month, going ‘What have I done?! I’ve left university, this band isn’t that special, i had no money, and now I’ve got even less!’ So in a year I left. Three weeks later, Karl and I were back together and talked, formed Freur, and that’s it. We’ve been together 22 years now.”

Film Scoring
The band name Underworld came from a movie that Smith and Hyde scored the music for in the 80’s. It was an adaption of the Clive Barker book of the same name. Since then, Underworld songs have made it into several films, including their breakthrough hits “Born Slippy” and their song “Dark & Long” in “Trainspotting,” “Moaner” which was featured in the blockbuster flick, “Batman & Robin,” and more recently, three songs — from both Freur and Underworld — made it into the movie “Vanilla Sky.”

“It would absolutely be wonderful to score more films,” says Smith. “I really enjoyed the experience. Working with film is so exciting, but it’s also so time consuming. But if somebody specific asked us to do something that was exciting, I think we’d make plans to make the time.

“What’s lovely about music alone is the ambiguity, and I really like that and it’s open to interpretation, but equally there’s something exciting about being very specific with a visual which is hitting people first, and then using the music to play with what’s happening with what’s going into people’s eyes and I think that’s fascinating,” he adds.

“Sound design is a personal obsession of mine, really. The guys who do Foley that stuff leaves me breathtaken,” says Smith. “Freur was all about film music really, and we never really changed, we just added groove to these pictures that were in our heads and it was like, ‘Oh, good god, it works, and people really like it. Well, let’s carry on then.’” Digg!

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Technology on Tour

PowerBook-based Studio
Today, on the road, Smith uses a PowerBook running Mac OS X. “With Mac OS X, I’ve really noticed the difference. Before, using when Logic with the Digi kit, it would freak out if you brought in something with a different sample rate, and you couldn’t use 48K through the Mac itself,” explains Smith.

“But Mac OS X is just so forgiving. It just doesn’t seem to care. It’s taken away problems, which is just fantastic because that’s what we really need — less problems,” he adds.

“We spent a lot on the audio path on this last album,” says Smith. “If we did spend any money, it wasn’t on new synthesizers, not on loads of software, we were just using Logic and the plugins. I’ve got the Waves Platinum bundle and it’s fantastic. But I get to a point where I go, “that’s really great. Now I’ve gotta stop exploring and write songs.

“I have to find a balance,” says Smith. “I’m a songwriter and a producer, so I have to balance how much time I spend learning something with actually making it do something that’s different.”

The band currently uses Final Cut Pro to generate images and make movies for the Underworld site. “Final Cut Pro is a piece of software I would like to take some time out to explore a bit more,” he adds.

Useful Links


Digidesign’s Pro Tools
Emagic’s Logic Audio
Emagic’s Software Instruments

Power Mac
Cinema Display
Akai samplers

Audio Interfaces
Digidesign’s A-D Converters

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