Widening the Angle on Hybrid
by Shannon Petrick
Hybrid. The name says it all. Their breeding of breakbeat, trance, jazz, classical and hip-hop took the music world by storm when they released their much-lauded first album, Wide Angle in 1999. Since then, the trio (Lee Mullins, Mike Truman and Chris Healings) has been in a constant state of motion. They've worked with artists such as BT, Moby, Julee Cruise (known for her work with David Lynch) and Chrissie Hynde. They've performed at venues around the world including Wembley Arena in London and even a gig on the top of Mount Fuji. In other words: they're unstoppable and they've changed the face of dance music forever.
I had the chance to talk to Hybrid's Mike Truman in his London studio.
Lunar: How did you guys get together?
Mike Truman: We met at a local club about nine years ago. I'd been working in studios and putting tracks together. Chris was the resident DJ of a club and I went to him and wanted to get some of my productions played and he was foolhardy enough do it. Lee's the other member of Hybrid. Chris and Lee were the two resident DJs in this club. That's how we met, really.
Lunar: So you've been together for nine years?
Mike Truman: Yeah, under various guises. We've been taking it seriously enough to make a career out of it for five or six years. Before that, we wrote loads of stuff that we never thought about releasing. We were doing bootlegs of other people's tunes. We made a house track out of a Kate Bush tune. We'd be in the studio during the week and then we had a club with 800 people in it every Saturday, just to try our tracks out. It was perfect. We spent 2 years doing that, just learning and seeing how they worked on crowds. It was the best testing ground you could ever want.
Lunar: What music did you listen to when growing up?
Mike Truman: All sorts. Chris was originally a U.S. house DJ. I was taught by a hip-hop DJ so I was heavily into hip-hop and drum n bass. Lee was more of an old rave DJ. Lee's a big Cure and Pixies fan. I was brought up on Stevie Wonder, Isaac Hayes, Quincy Jones and that kind of stuff. And Chris... I think he was more into the psychedelic stuff, like Pink Floyd and Hawkwind. Luckily, he's got better music taste now. We all listen to everything outside of dance music.
Lunar: There are influences from all sorts of music in your tracks, like jazz and classical. Do you consciously try to integrate them into your music?
Mike Truman: Not really. I think you're making a conscious decision to bend the track one way or another if you're working with orchestras or certain instruments. The big thing for us is making tracks that sound very atmospheric. It's like a chat I had with someone; it made so much sense. This person said, "The mood of a track is what propels it." It's the kind of thing you hear on British or European radio: the boring, repetitive Euro trance that doesn't have any soul or emotion to it. The stuff that grabs you has real atmosphere and soul to it; that's what we're striving for. We don't make a conscious decision, "Jazz today and classical tomorrow." It's whatever comes out. We've always had the philosophy: if it sounds good, do it, as long as it conveys the message. We've always had strong mental pictures for the stuff we've done.
Lunar: You thought of the track, "Beachcoma" while walking on the beach after clubbing. Do you often make tracks based on emotions after you saw or felt something?
Mike Truman: That one was the most graphic representation. We lived on the coast and after clubbing we would walk on the beach even though it was bitterly cold. We had like, eight jumpers on. We would drive around in a battered old VW Beetle and listen to music while the sun was coming up. We wanted to do a track that embraced that after-clubbing mood.
Lunar: In a lot of ways, dance is the classical music of the future. You used the Russian Federal Orchestra in some of your tracks. Does this mean you feel classical music is the essence of dance music?
Mike Truman: Yeah, completely. In the U.K. we used to think the American term for dance music, "electronica", was not a good name. But it's a brilliant name because a lot of dance music isn't designed for dancing but it's electronic in origin. If the old composers had digital sounds and laptops 200 years ago, think about their sound. The composer [Richard] Wagner was into bass so he'd be churning out huge drum n bass basslines. Wagner did "Ring of the Nibelum" which is fourteen hours long. That is definitely a Sasha breakdown! That's epic. It's exactly the same thing as then. We try out different sounds and textures but we're using different tools. Instead of having an orchestra, we're using samplers, keyboards and computers. The analogy of electronic and classical music is a good one. Take Paul Van Dyk. I listened to a piece by a Lithuanian composer from twenty years ago and it has the chord sequence from "For an Angel". If you listen to "For an Angel" in this way, it could easily be a piece by Bach with its big, emotional swells of chords. It's all loosely based around the same thing.
Lunar: You've used very influential female vocalists in your songs like Chrissie Hynde and Julee Cruise. What do you look for in vocalists?
Mike Truman: We picked Julee for the sound of her voice. I'd heard the demos she had done and I thought they were amazing. Chrissie Hynde was a project we were offered. The tune was already chosen and were were lucky to be picked. She was this twinkling old rocker with this Stetson hat on, bossing all the sound guys around in the studio! She was brilliant. Chrissie and Julee have really distinctive voices. Now we're working with Kirstie Hawkshaw from Opus 3.
Lunar: Did you ever think your music would be this influential to so many people?
Mike Truman: Never in a million years! We thought we'd sell 3,000 copies if we were lucky. Apparently, there's an unofficial fan-site where there's hundreds of people having discussions about us. It's very bizarre but incredibly flattering. We thought our music was a bit too obtuse and sideways for people's liking. It's still quite shocking that we're getting to a second album. We're over the moon, really!
Lunar: Speaking of people liking your music, there's a website called londonfetish.com. They said your music is great to use while doing S&M!
Mike Truman: That's wicked. A friend said she always listens to "Wider Angle" when she's getting it on with her boyfriend. I was like, "Are you sure?" At least it's got a purpose! If our music makes someone calmer or happier... or hornier... that's great.
Lunar: How did the signing with Distinctive Records come about?
Mike Truman: Through a friend I met Richard Ford, who set up his own label, Distinct'ive Records. I kept in contact with him and we stayed friends. They let us do whatever we want: "just get on with it, write an album, we'll sell it, thanks!" They're a great label. We've been dealing with a label in the States as well. We're probably going to sign with Kinetic Records.
Lunar: Is there going to be a follow-up album to Wide Angle?
Mike Truman: We're working on it as we speak. We're not far through it but we've made everything bigger and wider. It's been a while since our last album and I know everyone's expecting a new one so it's going to be ready by summer next year.
Shannon thanks: Andrea Zarate, Mike Truman from Hybrid and Mark Dowling from Distinct'ive Records
Wide Angle (+5 Bonus Track)
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