I'm not sure who has seen this and who hasn't. I, for one, hadn't seen
this particular interview before.
Hybrid are one of the best new electronic acts to come out of Wales in the
last few years, well, ever in fact. Sarah Davis talks to them about their
debut album Wide Angle, sampling sounds and the Swansea club scene...
Hybrid are A collective who see nothing wrong with layering different and
styles, as their debut album, Wide Angle will attest. The albums was
recorded in an 18th Welsh country house and the idyllic surroundings have
perhaps influenced the end result of vast soundscapes, intricately layered
yet full of space.
Yet the differing backgrounds and characters of Chris Healings, Lee Mullins
and Mike Truman have also resulted in the fusion of dance breaks and beats,
techno and trance sounds and 60s' filmscore touches with the haunting
quality of a classical orchestra. Add the occasional ethereal vocals of
Julee Cruise (best known for her work with filmmaker David Lynch) and
you've got a hybrid of art. Hence the name we can only presume.
Hybrid in da house
Despite the eclecticism of today, Hybrid's collective roots are in house.
They met around six years ago at Strictly Groovy in Swansea, a house night
promoted by Chris and Lee. Mike approached the DJs with a DAT of an
unauthorised remix of Pink Floyd's Another Brick In The Wall, they played
it the very same night, the 700-strong crowd were drive wild and Hybrid
were born. "We all went back to my place," says Mike "and talked until the
sun came up and we've been making music together ever since."
Through the club, they met most of the top DJs and they'd give acetates to
the likes of Sasha and Kelvin Andrews who played them to death. A turning
point however was meeting DJ Richard Ford, also Distinct' ive Records' A&R
Richard was duly impressed by their dabblings and signed them, later
organising an impressive roster of Hybrid remixes including Carl Cox, Moby,
DJ Rap, Salt Tank, Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince and last summer's smash
Café Del Mar.
Although it meant they had to put their original work on the back burner
(more of that later), it meant the lads got to grips with working with
vastly different types of music which in turn must have helped them develop
their own style. "Salt Tank were really tricky," says Mike. "All we had to
work with as a hook line was one piano riff and we had to try to work
It wasn't all difficult though. "We had a wish list of people we really
wanted to work with. Distinct'ive sent tapes out to all of them and
suddenly Julee Cruise got back to us saying she'd really like to work with
us!" laughs Lee in disbelief.
Certainly her delicate style is a perfect complement to Hybrid's swishing
orchestral backings and the experience taught them a lot. "We went over to
New York to record with her," recalls Chris, "and once we heard her we
realised where we'd gone wrong!"
Hybrid's original style is heavy on sampling and their gear is as about as
digital as it gets, connected by ADAT links wherever possible. A publishing
deal gave them the readies to convert and kit out their studio properly and
this was the boost that propelled them on their way, despite upsetting the
ladies. "Our girlfriends were a bit upset that we spent it all on gear,"
jokes Mike, "but I did buy mine a sofa!"
Unlike most dance acts Hybrid boast no bits of classic gear. Mike was the
first to get into making music when he was a nipper, writing on a Yamaha
step time sequencer. From there he progressed to Akai samplers but has
never looked back. At the same time, despite Mike having spent some time as
an engineer at State 51 in London recording with the likes of Coldcut, Jon
Pleased Wimmin and Smokin' Jo, he has no real pro-gear aspirations.
Hybrid's oldest bit of gear now is the Roland JD-990 keyboard which, Mike
reckons, is "really good. Even the filters are brilliant and it's a doddle
to program." It gets more use than their 2080 which they confess they've
only used about six times.
Back to the samples
Thanks to their two S3000s and two S6000s the band have a load of sampling
memory:292Mb. But isn't that overkill? Mike defends the band. "I love Akai
samplers, I've had each one starting with the 950. I owned one S3000, Chris
bought his own and now we've got the 6000s everyone's got a workstation
where they can work on their own. Plus we're a very sample-heavy band, we
get loads of samples from our DJ as well as from our own records. We get
our breaks from old record collections and this way we can chain link them
to the computer, although we have had some problems with the S6000 crashing."
It seems that Lee has to be kept away from the samplers though. Chris
laughs: "Just recently we'd got loads of samples from our DJ and all Lee
did was to come over and look at and it crashed and we lost the lot! Hours
When they're not retrieving the stuff that Lee's lost, the guys spend a
long time perfecting tracks; morphing sounds and using filtered sounds and
a dash of one-shots for atmosphere. They are also conscious of the coldness
of digital sound so, as well as vocals and orchestration, they use their
guitarist for a warmer live feel. They're also planning on more effects.
"The DUY Spider looks awesome," reckons Mike, "and we're going to get some
tube technology and more compressors for a warmer, analogue sound."
Through a mutual contact they collaborated with maestro Sacha Puttnam. "He
showed us ways of doing things, layering things and using woodwind," says
Mike. "He was also interested to see our dance way of doing things, like
keeping the same thing going on for ages. Working with the orchestra, an
85-piece Russian-based group, was enlightening too, although it wasn't all
plain sailing. "Playing classical brass is so different to the parts we
wanted and the brass section found it hard to play brass in a dance way,"
says Mike, "but it worked in the end."
Meanwhile they've got two more albums on the go. One will be a step on from
Wide Angle using more live instruments and vocal tracks. "On Wide Angle
we've gone for the biggest drums and basslines. The next one will be
minimised and more introverted." They also want to do a club album. As
Chris points out: "It's the DJs playing us that got us where we are today
so we want to do an album for them and it'll be something that's fresh."