Mike Truman, Chris Healings, and Lee Mullins never were typical rave DJs. Even as they paid their dues on the decks, the three Welshmen known as Hybrid were breaking down breakbeat barriers. The three turntablists honed their skills in the clubs of Swansea, a seaport town in southern Wales, where they first bonded over Truman's house remix of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall."
It was 1991, and the small college town on the Bristol Channel served as a sound lab for the lads, who unleashed similarly unusual tracks upon a typical weekend crowd of 500 to 1000 clubbers otherwise immersed in early rave/techno cuts.
"There was this club we all used to go to in Swansea," says Truman. "Chris and Lee were kind of residents there. I brought in our mix of "Another Brick in the Wall' on a portable DAT and asked if they minded playing it. The response must have been positive, because we're still working together eight years later. We just started putting tracks together after that for each Saturday night, and things grew from there."
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In addition to the Floyd remake, the trio turned other art-rock cuts upside down, an early indication of its goal to make smart dance music.
"We'd be working in the studio during the week just to try the tracks out on the dance floor at week's end," recalls Truman during a phone interview from the group's studio in Wales. "We started out remixing things like Kate Bush's "Experiment Four.'"
The Hybrid chaps learned their lessons so well that they were soon sought-after studio whizzes, producing tracks for the likes of DJ Jazzy Jeff, Carl Cox, and Alanis Morissette. Hybrid's growing reputation led to a multi-album deal with Distinct'ive Records, which released the astounding Wide Angle in the U.K. in 1999.
Issued stateside the following year, Wide Angle found the Hybrid crew mating dance beats, pop-song structures, live vocalists, and lush, orchestral melodies. But the trio does far more than mix and match source material for dance-floor consumption. Hybrid has gone far deeper in its effort to make dance music that can actually be enjoyed while sitting down.
To pull off this pluralism, the producers kept their roots in house and breakbeat even as they incorporated the pipes of Chrissie Hynde, the talents of the 90-piece Russian Federal Orchestra, and the ethereal voice of Julee Cruise. Much of Wide Angle was recorded at Mosfilm, the former Soviet film complex in Moscow, a fitting locale for a project steeped in movie music.
"You get inspired by different stuff," Truman recalls of the album's genesis, mentioning "loads of Quincy Jones scores from the late '60s. We just listened to the orchestration and were just blown away.... House music is still kind of the roots of what we do; that's where the passion comes from. But we just wanted to bolt on some extra kind of armor, really. God knows how, but we actually got the knack for getting a very wide kind of cinematic sound."
And at the end of nearly a year and a half of touring for the first record, it's now all about album number two, which is set for completion next spring.
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"Your music definitely gets influenced by what you're listening to," Truman explains. "And we're listening to a lot more guitar-based stuff."
For example Truman currently has the Linkin Park album in his car's CD player. He and the boys are also listening to the American funk-rock outfit Soul Wax and British band The Dubs.
"Our CD collection is schizophrenic," Truman offers. "You look through it, and there's a couple of guitar bands. Then there's a BT album. Then there's an Aliens film score. Then there's a Kodo drummers CD. It's just right across the board. We just hoard all kinds of bits of music and textures and different sounds and things. We've still got a huge passion for the strings, and we're going to be doing that on the next album, but we're going to get a lot more into the songwriting structure and still head for those big melodies."
Obviously Hybrid is living up to its name, crossbreeding distinctly dissimilar sounds to produce something vigorous and beautiful. "You don't have to just stick to the normal kind of noises," Truman concludes. "At the end of the day, it's all about finding sounds."