If you're six feet underground, you're probably dead, as per the expression "six feet under."
"It's about death in a small town environment," Chris Corner of Sneaker Pimps said in his Songfacts interview. "You grow up in this s--t town and you yearn to get out. A lot of artists, we just can't survive in a place like that. So, the essence of that song is that living in a small town is like dying. For us it was a huge release to get out and to explore the world. To see what everything else is about. We all wanted that. You know, the northern industrial s--thole. And that's really what that song's about."
The small town where Corner grew up is Middlesbrough, England, whose famous sons include Chris Rea and Paul Rodgers.
The song was written by Sneaker Pimps founders Chris Corner and Liam Howe along with their friend Ian Pickering, who helped out with lyrics. At first, Corner was their lead vocalist, and when they wrote the song, he sang on the demo. Before releasing their debut album Becoming X, they added a female vocalist: Kelli Dayton, who was with a band called The Lumieres. She became their lead singer and the focal point of the group - pretty much every article written about the band around this time comments on her diminutive stature and brio, using terms like "pixie firebrand."
As the album took off, the venues got bigger for the band, which played gigs opening for Neneh Cherry and Blur, and also collaborated with Marylin Manson on the song "Long Hard Road Out of Hell" for the soundtrack of the 1997 movie Spawn. The pace was brutal, and a rift formed between Dayton (who often uses the name "Kelli Ali") and the guys. They fired her in 1998, with Corner taking over on vocals. Their next album, Splinter, was released in 1999 and sold poorly. Bloodsport followed in 2002, and the band split up a few years later.
There is a sense of detachment in this song, especially in the line, "I'm open to falling from grace." This reflects the pushback Chris Corner got from his family and friends when he left to pursue music, and how he felt about return visits to his hometown. "When you go back to your family, or you go back to your friends and you visit those places, which I try to do very infrequently, it instantly suffocates you," he said. "People do feel like you've made a mistake. You left them."
The main musical theme was sampled from "Golden Girl," an instrumental composed by John Barry for the 1964 James Bond movie Goldfinger.
The "A one, two, a one, two" vocal that plays throughout the song is a sample from "Breakadawn," a 1993 track by De La Soul.
The song got a big boost when it was featured in the 1997 Val Kilmer movie The Saint. It was later used in the movies Cruel Intentions (1999), The Watcher (2000) and Remember the Daze (2007). TV series that have used the song include Beverly Hills, 90210 ("Friends in Deed" - 1997) and Roswell ("Tess, Lies and Videotape" - 2000). It also appears in the video game Grand Theft Auto V.
The version released as a single and used in movie The Saint is a remix by the British producer Nellee Hooper.
The video was directed by Toby Tremlett, who mostly works on commercials. The clip did well on MTV and gave viewers a good look at the photogenic Kelli Dayton.
Tremlett told us: "'6 Underground' was a really early video for me. I think I had only really done three or four prior to it. I'd shot a video for Moloko's 'Fun For Me' a few weeks before, and was really lucky to have a chance to do such a great track as '6 Underground.' The band were really collaborative and supportive, even though for them it was their first real video.
I found the track really oppressive in terms of themes and I wanted to reflect that in a visual way. I liked the idea of these windows into small town life, where everyone appears normal to each other but has their own secrets and so we created these little windows into peoples private perversions that surrounded the set where the band performed.
I remember one poor guy who had to eat tinned spaghetti all day... a real trooper... and the paint in his room was a bit toxic, and he ended up vomiting everywhere and then went back to work. He was brilliant."