Henry Johnstone, Sydney - Australia - on 7/8/12
Ever since their dramatic and melodically expansive debut in 1999's 'Wide Angle', Welsh outfit Hybrid have been wowing devoted fans with their own take on breakbeat; that of rich electronic textures fused with epic string arrangements and moving vocal accompaniments. It's a journey that has seen them work with some suprising collaborative choices such as Perry Farrell, Peter Hook, and even the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and the Russian Federal Orchestra (as you do).
No longer simply a duo of Chris Healings and Mike Truman but a trio that includes singer/songwriter Charlotte James, the band, as we discover in a coversation with Chris Healings - soon to be on tour in Australia in DJ mode as Hybrid Soundsytem - have been keeping busy scoring films and video games, covering Depeche Mode and writing material for a new album.
Pulse: What’s been happening for you guys since the release of 'Disappear Here'? Did you tour much off the back of that? We did a load of live and DJ shows mainly in the UK, Europe and the US but didn't mange to get that tour over to anywhere past that, mainly because we were offered work on film and video game scores such as Fast and Furious 5, Ghost Recon, Future Soldier and recently the new Total Recall movie - work we really couldn't turn down as this is something we are striving to explore more.
That album certainly saw you guys utilising more song-based structures throughout. Is this something that you’re striving to achieve further as time goes on? 'Disappear Here' and teaming up with Charlotte was a turning point Hybrid have been pursuing for some time. All our previous albums have had various brilliant vocal talents, but for us no one stuck musically like Charlotte has and with her we went in a direction we have wanted to explore for some time. Charlotte is more than a new Hybrid vocalist though, she's the third Hybrid band member and a brilliant melodic key to do what we wanted to experiment with, which is more traditional indie song based ideas fused with forward thinking Hybrid electronicness.
There is definitely more ways we want to take this new marriage of sounds and what we have been working on recently is also another musical turn for us and an unexpected further journey into something new and exciting.
So we can look forward to a new album in the future? Absolutely and it won't take long we promise. We have some surprises up our sleeve and our work with Charlotte is integral. We are all in it together.
You’ve just released your ‘Classics Album’. What was the idea behind putting out such an album, particularly given the current climate of not so great music sales? Music sales don't really push us into releasing albums these days, it's more because we have achieved something worthwhile sharing with everyone. The Classics feels to us like it's now time to remind everyone who we are and what we've done so we can keep on pushing our sound beyond that and turn some more corners, which we think is what following a band or sound is all about. We want to take anyone who's with us further and releasing our previous 13 years work is a way of saying, "Here's what we've done now, watch what's coming next".
One of the tracks on the album is a cover of Depeche Mode’s ‘Enjoy The Silence’, which does the original track justice whilst also sounding distinctly like Hybrid. How did that come about and how did you approach covering the song? Did you have any personal rules you wanted to adhere to? This cover all started with us asking the Hybrid appreciation club (fans) and what track they would want us to cover. We had over 5000 suggestions and we picked some that we thought would work. Some almost worked, some didn't work at all, but the one that did was Depeche Mode’s ‘Enjoy The Silence’. We always knew that it would work, but we picked the most unlikely tp work first and went from there.
From a personal aspect it's all gaged upon an internal quality control that I hope after all these years we have mastered and hope again that people who have been listening are tuned into as well. If what we've done to 'Enjoy the Silence' doesn't work for you, well, we have the other covers we did and about another 4995 suggestions to get through!
You’re touring Australia in DJ mode off the back of the Classics album, so can we expect lots of classic Hybrid tracks to be dropped in those upcoming sets? As always when I come to Australia I find myself playing 5 hour sets and a least one to two of these hours are Hybrid, and as ever there is always something new and old.
You’ve made many trips to Australia in DJ mode, though your live tours down here tend to be rather scarce. The last time you played live in Australia was in 2007, which included a set on New Years Day in Sydney for Field Day. Why the limited live tours down under? It's not because we don't want to, it's all about the cost i'm afraid. We live in darkest Wales and you guys live right underneath us on the other side of our planet in a not so dark and stormy oasis. If we could come straight down through the core of the earth and arrive there with you guys we would on a weekly basis, but the travelling Hybrid crew and band is over 10 people, so its all about how to get there and get back in one piece whilst paying the mortgage.
I think I speak for everyone in Australia when I say that what we’re hanging out for most is when you guys decide to perform with a full orchestra again. Will that ever be on the cards? We work with orchestras more and more in our live shows now and it's safe to say we wouldn't come over and not get the real strings out. We're just waiting for the right opportunity to do it so stay tuned.
We just had Rennie Pilgrem and Lee Coombs tour here recently, though in general you could say that breaks have, like all genres do as times change, waned in popularity, not just here but the world over. What is it about Hybrid’s music that is so enduring? I think it's all in the title 'Hybrid' really, we have never really just played one style and try to mix up the genres of music we like. Also i think it's how much melodical content the track has and think that's its enduring quality. Music with heavy, dirty, beautiful and timeless melody stands the test of time better than something that is less sparse. We've always thought that way and I hope the music does last as long as you need it too.
Dubstep and ‘UK bass’ are now the flavour of the day. What are your thoughts on these genres? Do you touch on any of them when you DJ? Are they influencing you in any way in regards to making music? It's an amazing musical journey from where i was standing over 20 years ago in a field listening this new acid house. I love and appreciate all new styles of music and what we have in the UK at the moment is brilliant, I'm loving it. Some of the sounds are a bit heavy and boisterous for me to play in my sets these days, but I have found a few artist doing the dubstep style in a more reserved manner; ThermalBear is one, also Hedflux and Habersham I really like as what they are doing is something altogether in-between everything. Quality.
What have you been listening to lately that has blown you away? There is a Flipper remix of a Beckers and D-Nox track (who i also love for the club) which is pure underground aggressiveness at it's best. As for something more in keeping with daylight I love The Choir Of Young Belivers and their stand out track at the moment 'Hollow Talk' something quite special indeed.
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