Hybrid — Wide angle. Story behind best progressive breaks album of the 90s

George Palladev

Hybrid — Wide angle. Story behind best progressive breaks album of the 90s

The creators of Hybrid (Mike Truman and Chris Healings) met during the decline of the British rave scene in 1993. Chris was a resident at a club and Mike brought him his bootleg to listen to; he worked as a sound engineer in a London studio with very expensive equipment. It soon became clear that they had many records in common. They joined forces and, at night, when no one was in the studio, they created free remixes for the Distinctive label where they later released their debut album Wide Angle. On week nights, they developed their music; on Saturday, they premiered the results at the club. They had been doing this for several years to refine their style.

In the end, they got tired of pop house variations and, inspired by the booming progressive breakbeat movement, began to move towards a hard, melodic, less poppy and more musical mix. They thought about combining different styles and live instruments. A true hybrid. Here everyone’s interests were present: Chris loved house, Truman loved hip-hop, and together they loved film music. Wide Angle, with the name hinting at a wide-angle camera lens, the main theme, opening credits at the beginning and a reprise at the end, looks like a soundtrack to an unreleased movie. Everyone who wanted to become a film composer more or less got what they wanted. Hybrid is no exception.

“Wide angle was definitely developed as an album. We’re right picky bastards, from the name of it to the artwork, down to ensuring that all the tracks link together… we spent like a month and a half sorting out the track selection. In the end we only cut three tracks.
Well we already had lots of string libraries and samples. The early demos already had a lot of melodic content on them. When we were first talking about strings we were expecting maybe a 12-piece or an 18-piece… we didn’t really know what we were going to do. And then it was just by luck that the orchestrator for this Royal Russian Federal Orchestra called the label and asked them if they knew any artists who would want to use a 100-piece orchestra. And stupidly A&R asked us and we said, ‘Yeah we want to!‘

We’d never recorded an orchestra before so we had Sacha Putnam help us, who was David Putnam’s son — the guy who did Chariots Of Fire. Sacha was a very talented man himself too. He was actually training the Prime Minister’s children in piano at the time. So he’d be giving Tony Blair’s kids piano lessons and then coming over to the studio every night to help us score and write the strings and have them ready for the orchestra. He came to Moscow with us too, we really couldn’t have done it without him. He spoke Russian and helped us with the notation when it sometimes wasn’t quite right. Did he have much of an understanding of electronic music? Not really, no. It was kind of a new project for him as well. It was all very exciting.

Wide angle image of album creators

So anyway we went off on a plane to Moscow and we had a practice day where we had to shed off a couple of people like the brass and flute sections, some of the woodwinds, and we were still left with about 90 people. What was the orchestras’ reaction like when they heard your music that they had to play along to? They were these big old guys that had never heard anything like it before really. They were 50 or 60 year old Russian guys for a start and we’ve got storming breakbeat going down the headphones to them. But you know they were really only using it as tempo. There was one guy who was the lead violinist and he was was quite into it. Actually there was a couple of young guys in the control room who got it, but the guy who was mixing it for us, he didn’t really get it.

We recorded onto an awful, uncalibrated, 2-inch tape machine which when we took back to London it sounded like shit. So we had to uncalibrate which took us about four or five days just to get it to sound any good. But it all came out well in the end!”

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