After nearly three decades, Hybrid has seen it all – and whether it’s club music, movie scores, or interviews, they always entertain!
Over the years, Hybrid has taken many forms and produced an enormous range of material. You could say that the one constant with them has been that nothing is constant! But if you look more closely you’ll see several consistent threads throughout their history. By producing music in styles “of the mood of the moment” they’ve always been relevant and wildly entertaining. And by staying true to themselves before anyone else, they’ve been able to explore corners of the music world the many producers only dream of exploring!
Take their triumphant 2018 studio album, Light Of The Fearless, for example. While this is undoubtedly a Hybrid album, it’s a very different mood and style from what they’ve done before and quite different from the recent Black Halo release. Hybrid is unapologetic that every production takes a unique shape based on so many factors, especially the mood of the duo at the time. And both of these albums stand on their own when stacked up against the plethora of other albums or remixes Hybrid has done over the years as well.
After the release of Black Halo we had the chance to chat with Mike Truman of Hybrid about their history, genre-defying style, movie scoring, and filmmaking as well. They took the time to answer our ranging topics with thoughtfulness and depth, all while being immensely entertaining as well! This is the sign of true artists – entertaining at every turn while able to dedicate themselves fully to their craft. So read on a get to know these legends in the scene!
Listen to Hybrid’s Black Halo on Spotify:
Hello Mike, thanks for talking with us today! Hybrid has seen quite a lot over the course of its 25+ years. You’ve adapted well to changes in band members and the musical landscape in general over that time. Has the COVID pandemic been the biggest challenge of your time and how have you navigated this period?
Hello! To be completely honest, we were already knee-deep in writing the last album when it all happened, and like most musicians, we were holed up in our studios without too much external impact. Had we been touring or just releasing a record it would have changed the playing field considerably but the main drawback for us was worrying about friends and not being able to see our families, the same considerations as the rest of the planet really. Like all problems, you find a way to get a positive, and being afforded time to write a record was just that.
You have said previously that you don’t put labels or tags on your music. Yet a common thread throughout your career could be described as “broad atmospheric soundscapes”. How have you kept such a strong thread for so long while never being pigeonholed into a genre?
Probably to our detriment, we cover a lot of ground musically and that can flummox a few supporters. There used to be two main sides to our sound, one being from club culture with DJ sets and remixes, the other are albums and scores which are generally influenced by each other and don’t feel like they’re part of the club landscape, quite often with a stronger band influence such as this album. We often shift like the tide depending on what kind of music we’re making and we’re fortunate to have a certain sound we like to make and that can move between club and electronic to score and rock on a whim, regrettably, we’re not a very consistent band to stick on dinner parties!
There was a period in your career where you were releasing remixes at a breakneck pace and the range of originals you selected was truly impressive. From pop stars like Sarah McLachlan and Alanis Morissette to electronic legends Carl Cox and BT. What inspires a terrific remix? And how do you go about selecting these and getting a sign-off from the original producers?
We certainly had a really busy period for remixing and were given the keys to a ton of music we loved. Quite often we’d be approached to remix a track because the record labels wanted something out of the ordinary and we loved the challenge of taking perhaps an intimate and buoyant song and turning it into something dark and malevolent. You can’t beat a good juxtaposition. We still believe that a remix should take the core elements and go musically somewhere new, not just an amplified version and we always want to be reverential to how the artist will perceive the final mix, it’s their hard work we’re messing with.
When Hybrid was getting its start in the mid-90s, I was just finding my way to electronic music by way of Orbital. I note some similarities in your sounds and early trajectories, including lots of movie soundtrack credits. But where I see movies as something Orbital found its way into, Hybrid feels as though it was born of movie scores. Tell us more about your movie music magic!
We’ve always been in awe of the feeling you get from listening to film music as it’s got a completely different reason to exist than club or rock, it’s there to amplify an emotion or even misdirect and that is hugely inspiring when you’re writing an album. We were hands down in the right place at the right time when we made Wide Angle, a bunch of lads from a small city who loved film scores and club music being offered the chance to record with a full orchestra in Moscow.
By total chance, the orchestra’s business promoter was in London doing the rounds meeting labels to drum up some work and they came to meet Avex (Distinctive’s parent company at the time) and we were in the middle of recording the album. I guess listening to all those scores had a bigger influence than expected, we were even fortunate enough to attend one of John Barry’s last live performances at the Royal Albert Hall in London the night before we flew to Moscow, there was something in the air during those years.
Movie scoring requires producers to look well beyond obvious sounds, and in Hybrid’s case, often includes a complex mix of electronic, philharmonic, and organic sounds. How do you go about bringing such contradictory styles together into a sound that not only comes together completely but can tell a story well beyond its movie backdrop?
There’s a different disciple to make a film score than to make an album as you’re facilitating someone else’s vision and writing music to help tell that story. We do get a chance to add our own personality into that and develop a style within scoring but any ego has to take a back seat and the deadlines can be brutal. Like most composers, we’ve developed a shorthand for making music quickly but effectively which uses a lot of techniques we’ve learned over the years. The fun for us is covertly adding tricks like waves of modulated bass and crazy bits of sound design masquerading as a film score and see how much we can sneak in.
In 2019 you took your strong connection to movies even further, producing the short film for your single “Hold Your Breath”. For this, you both played several parts on both sides of the camera. Do you have aspirations to produce and act in films beyond your music? Or was this a one-time event?
[Laughs] Financially, that was definitely a one-time event! Through Charlotte’s contacts in film (she’s been a music producer on several feature films) we asked our friend John Stephenson to direct the video and took the script Charlotte wrote to him and he gathered a crew including his long time collaborator and DP (director of photography) Mike Brewster. The scary thing about the video was watching the trucks of lighting and equipment turn up then seeing the crew with Star Wars: The Last Jedi crew T-Shirts and that definitely hit home that this wasn’t an ordinary music video.
We’ve been making short films and little scenes for about a decade with the bits of camera equipment we’ve bought over the years. Technology has now gotten to the stage that you can make a pretty convincing anamorphic short with limited means although what you shoot and how you shoot it is still by far the most important consideration.
We’ve definitely got a couple of Hybrid related film projects in development and one, in particular, is going into production next month. We’re fortunate to have some very talented friends who seemingly enjoy working with us so that makes a whole world of possibilities feasible. Our VFX and co-director buddy Matt Westrup sends us files while we’re working on scenes for a video and it’s like Christmas morning for grownups watching what he’s made arriving in our inbox.
After the long-awaited 2018 release of Light Of The Fearless, it’s really wonderful to see the Black Halo release. Was this album planned pre-pandemic? How did the extraordinary times of the last year and a half impact the creation and release of this album?
Black Halo was finished about a year ago, mid-way through the pandemic so you just roll with the punches and that has probably dictated the delay between finishing it and releasing it with Distinctive Records. The one main drawback of sitting on an album for so long is that we became increasingly protective over time so the inevitable conversation of removing tracks to extend the release schedule felt more personal and like having children snatched away from you! Perfectly normal for the label but that delay made us hypersensitive to change.
What should fans expect from the new album? Each previous album has been truly unique, but fans can always find the Hybrid style throughout. Does this one follow that pattern as well? New and different, yet somehow familiar?
We felt that Light of the Fearless had quite an optimistic quality to the songwriting and to be honest, that’s how we felt at the time and we’re immensely proud of tracks like “Superpower” which are probably the most ‘un-Hybrid’ we’ve ever written but each album is a snapshot of how you’re feeling and it’s a process we care about deeply.
This one definitely has a more introspective and melancholic feel which might well have been influenced by the madness in the world outside the studio window but I think we also missed the heaviness and weight of previous albums so it was a nice return to the darker side of storytelling which embraces themes of life, perseverance, mortality and that bittersweet point between joy and failure. Our natural setting it seems is emotionally charged and we’re happy to be back there!
Is there anything you’ve done on the new album that you’ve never done before? Have you experimented with new technologies, unique samples, or engineering that you’ve never tried before?
We worked continuously with Stu Morgan (guitars and vocals) and Simon Hanson (drums and percussion) on this album after getting them involved back in 2018 for the videos for “Light Up” and “Hold Your Breath.” They’re fantastic and accomplished musicians in their own fields and we wanted to let their influences add whole new layers and directions to this album.
Light Of The Fearless was literally just me and Charlotte so broadening the range of musical ideas has been really rewarding and we feel like we’ve finally got the right group of people to make records and tour with. We’re very family orientated and the band are our extended family and a huge part of our personal life too. We’re a bit all or nothing as we feel like we need to commit 100% to people we care about, you’re all in it together for a good reason, we think that’s how music that means something should be made. For us at least.
As we wrap up the discussion, let’s explore something beyond your music. As the world slowly re-opens from the pandemic isolation, what non-music things are you most looking forward to getting back to now? Or is there something you never did before that you hope to start doing now?
I think the idea of long road trips around Europe with our family is something I’d like to do which even though we could have done before, that fact it was taken away has made me want to explore what’s on our doorstep more. There are so many beautiful cities, towns and cultures only hours away from where we live so being able to travel again is really exciting to me. We can make it to Rome in 20 hours which takes you through France and Switzerland so all that incredible history and art is tangibly close. Might have to look at how far an EV can go as it would be a bit selfish to make such a big carbon impact but I’m sure there’s a way…