Hybrid: How to Disappear Completely
In the ever-changing world of breakbeat few acts can claim such longevity and popularity as Hybrid. Two producers from Swansea, Mike Truman and Chris Healings, plus a long line of guest vocalists, have created some of the finest albums of the genre. From the groundbreaking mix of live orchestral elements and defining nu-breaks on debut Wide Angle, through to the latest incarnation of their epic a multi-layered sound, Hybrid have always pushed the boundaries of dance music production.
Data Transmission got the chance to talk to the Welsh duo and their new band-member, Charlotte James, and started by asking what the latest classical cohorts, composer Andrew Skeet and the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, bring to the new album?
Charlotte: Andrew has been our orchestrator for this album, so basically Andrew put the orchestral parts that Mike and I had written onto paper and acted as our translator to the orchestra, not in a linguistic sense, but in the sense of translating what we wanted the orchestra to do and how we wanted their expressions to feel. Andrew has been an amazing asset to this album, because he's able to gauge the feel of the music and take it a step further, really pushing the orchestra's sound upwards and outwards. The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra were simply amazing players and we were really fortunate to be able to work with them. Their performance is testament to their unique abilities. They're an orchestra that does a great deal of work on film music as they generally re-record many a film soundtrack due to trade union rules in certain areas of the States that mean that if you use that soundtrack, you have to pay the orchestra again, so many soundtracks get re-recorded to get around that... This makes the CPPO quite unique and used to playing in a variety of styles. I think they were quite amused when they heard the backing track in their headphones, particularly ‘Can You Hear Me’, but were clearly enjoying themselves by the end! (as were we!). A truly incredible experience.
For the studio boffins among us, what kit did you use to create Disappear Here and have you used anything new since the last album?
Charlotte: We used a special kit called 'The Brynleigh'. Bryn our drummer was recorded at Priory Studios, then took what he'd done and built it up from there. Mike uses a combination of Bryn's expert drummage with his own programmed drums, usually all made by his own fair hand and then piff paff poff - Hybrid kit for Disappear Here!
Can you give us a rough idea of how a track is made, from start to finish, or do tracks evolve in different ways?
Charlotte: Each track tends to tell you where it wants to go, but we've tried to guide the process using the theme of the album as a corner stone. From a lyrical and emotive point of view, I had an idea of what I wanted the album to say in words, and the three of us talked about what we wanted the album to feel like. Disappear Here for example came about from a gated effect that Chris had created. With the planned ideas and themes of the album in mind, I wrote the song on top using my piano, cello and a few guitars. Then from what I’d done there, Mike sculpted it and used what Chris and I had done to create the finished article. Other songs have been created in totally different ways, and each one of us start it off and they get passed around the studios until we all congregate around Mike and thrash out the arrangement and infinitesimally small details that no one else would ever notice, but we think they're life and death at the time. So sometimes a track starts with a bassline, sometimes with just a few loops, sometimes with just a few chords, or just with me fiddling about on the guitar or the piano... you never know where it’s going to take you and that’s what’s exciting about all three of us constantly coming up with ideas – inspiration will always take you somewhere else.
What/where have you got planned for the tour, how has your live set-up changed and will Adam Taylor and Tim Hutton still be involved?
Mike: We haven't worked with Adam Taylor since Morning Sci-Fi back in 2003 so that's unlikely, but Mr Timothy Hutton is indeed involved and has at long last been writing on the album.
You've seemingly had a different core vocalist for each of your albums, is that intentional and why did you choose Charlotte James this time?
Mike: We've used a variety of vocalists on all our albums, but we've been working with Charlotte for about three years now on a variety of projects and on Disappear Here we've introduced her as a permanent member of the band. Whilst we've all been working together, we've managed to combine all our skills into one melting pot that works really well. We all do different things but the way we can combine our skills just adds to the sound we create. Mike's production, Chris' sound design and Charlotte's instrumentation and song-writing all fit really well together. Plus we're all good mates which is invaluable. We can all get really passionate about where a certain noise should go and how the arrangement should sit and then all go for a pint and a bag of pork scratchings.
What have you been up to in the last four years since the last album?
Chris: Lots and lots of DJ touring and film scores, in the last four years we have been fortunate to have worked on Price of Persia, X - MEN Origins: Wolverine, The Takings of Pelham 1 2 3 and also The Prince Caspian movies. We have a few more big projects this year lots and lots of live and DJ tours and then it's album writing time again for Hybrid album 5.
Would you like to do more film score work?
Chris: Absolutely we would yes! Being lucky enough to work on movie scores is fantastic and also a lot of fun. Being able to write for film is like a little holiday away from the Hybrid album songs and club remixes we do, it's a treat to be given someone else's story line to write music to and when you’re responding to this already written story it's not like writing a traditional song based piece with verse, bridge, chorus etc. It's all about a two or three minute slices of action, climaxes, builds, drops or maybe meeting a mood with a piece of subtle sound design. Two very different worlds of writing music but for us we can't exist without them both. It's like once we have finished an album and toured it we just can't wait to get on and do some film music but then once we've done a chunk of film music we can't wait to get back and start the next album; both jobs complement each other perfectly and we're very lucky to be doing both.
Is your base still Swansea, what's the music scene like there?
Chris: Well we have 3 studios that we use these days: the new Doghouse studios in Swansea which is our sound design lab and the home city for me. Then we have the Ark studios in Derby for all recording and mixing. And also we use The Blue room in Wavecrest Studios in LA for a lot of the film work. Also we have one more studio, it's the Apple Mac Powerbook and it works really, really well at 35,000 feet on and 8-10 hour long haul flight! With a Gin and Tonic of course!
As for Swansea's music scene it's brilliant right now, recent artists to the city have been Adam Freeland, London Electricity, Deadzone, Red Snapper, D Ramirez, Swiss FX's and Pendulum.
You’ve said that the album isn't a departure from your sound, but have either of you ever fancied trying something completely different, and if so what genres would you like to try producing?
Chris: We've always had a massive soft spot for the more experimental drum ‘n’ bass. Artist's like Spore and Noisia are what really excites us, in fact the new Hybrid Kill City Sounds Dub of our new single 'Can You Hear Me' takes some influences from that D&B world, check it out and hear what techno/dubstep/drum ‘n’ bass sounds like; Hybrid style.