Words: Tamara Samardžić
Hybrid Minds is easily one of the most talked-about names in drum and bass for the past few years. And it’s not without a reason. Creatively, technically they are among the strongest players in the game, but it’s one thing that makes them so special – the emotion. Every track they put out is filled with emotion and meaning. Stepping up from their debut LP ‘Mountains,’ in 2017 they released their latest masterpiece, ‘Elements.’ With a new album under their belt, Hybrid Minds will headline Shuriken Summer in Novi Sad, Serbia, and we literally can’t wait to see them again!
On your upcoming European tour, you will once again play in Novi Sad and Serbia. Do you remember the first show, and what do you expect from the upcoming one?
Josh: Of course, we remember the last show, it was an awesome event. I remember the crazy visuals watching Prolix smash the place up, and a cat with laser eyes behind him. So we can’t wait to be back in Serbia to play for everyone, you guys go super, super hard. It has been a while since that first show, so it will be nice to bring our new tracks along and see how it all goes down.
Last time here, you played a club show, but this time it will be an open-air event at the beautiful Petrovaradin Fortress. Which setup do you like more, and where do you think your music fits better?
Josh: Tricky question, they both have their own place and purpose. I think it depends on the stage and size of the space, some of our favourite shows have been playing smaller festival stages and clubs. You get a closer connection to the crowd which is very enjoyable. Then, on the other hand, you have the massive festival stages that are just an absolute buzz to play on. I think our music definitely fits in with an outdoor stage if the weather is nice. It’s a bit more relaxed so fits in with the surroundings.
You are no stranger to Belgium and the Belgian crowd, but there are two festivals that deserve a special mention. How does it feel to be part of the events such as Liquicity and Rampage?
Josh: Liquicity has got to be one of our favourite festivals. The vibes there are amazing, the whole place is super chilled and full of happy people. No agro or aggression from anyone, it’s like heaven for chilled drum and bass. The festival site isn’t too big either, so it’s easy to get around, not get lost, and have an awesome day in the sun. Rampage was just insane, the size of that crowd is crazy. I can’t see us ever playing to more people than that stadium. It was quite daunting but we really enjoyed it. They have a very diverse lineup, from heavy dubstep guys to jump up, so it’s always quite worrying when playing softer music. But luckily, everyone seemed to be into it!
Last year, you released your sophomore LP ‘Elements,’ four years after your first full-length ‘Mountains.’ Why such a long break, and did you ever feel the pressure of the previous success?
Josh: We didn’t have a break as such, it just took so long to get the next album done. Our first album took a lot out of us creatively and we felt we had to evolve as producers, technically, in order to make our second one as good, if not better. We felt a fair bit of pressure, it’s a well-known fact that most second albums are never as good as their first. We really took our time over each track to try and get them as full, rich, detailed, and emotional as we possibly could.
What I like about you, is the way you approach making albums. It’s never just a random collection of songs, both times you went an extra mile creating a story and an atmosphere. How hard is it to do it over and over again, and try to top yourselves every time?
Josh: Thanks, this is the part that takes a long time. It’s kind of like the icing on the cake. What’s the point in doing an album unless it works as an album? We wanted each track to blend and work with the next. We got obsessed with those small details, but it’s worth it if at least one person notices it. You need a lot of bonus energy to go that extra mile to turn something into a full-blown album. An album is like an artist’s baby so you want to spend the time making it a work of art that you are happy with, taking pride in the small details. I don’t think we try to top ourselves, just have our own methods and new ideas for how you can create that journey when it comes to piecing an album together.
Also, it seems like you pay a lot of attention to your lyrics and guest vocalists. How does the process work? How do you choose who to work with, and how does the writing process look like?
Josh: We keep it pretty simple, we have a bunch of vocalists that we love and we send them instrumentals and ask them to do what they want with it. The best way to get someone’s best work is to let them create and interpret something in their own way. Once we have a vocal we love, we will work with the artists to get it perfect and then process and play around with the vocals in the studio.
On your last show in Novi Sad, I remember a moment that gave me chills. I remember you playing your remix of Daughter’s ‘Youth,’ and the whole crowd singing back at you. How does it feel to experience something like that, and what does the song need to have to make you consider it for a remix?
Josh: It never gets old. We have had that recently with our track ‘Touch.’ On some shows, the whole crowd will be singing it. It honestly doesn’t get better than that, no matter how big the crowd is. It’s super overwhelming to see that people listen to our music and enjoy it, and there’s no bigger display of that than people having fun singing it together. When it comes to making remixes, we need to have some kind of understanding of the original, what makes the original great, and can we add to that in any way. If we’ve answered “yes” to these questions, we’ll get to work, trying to keep the original vibe whilst throwing our own elements into the mix.
Do you think the music industry is sabotaging itself by putting pressure on the artists by creating a single-centric system and expecting them to release hit after hit in a very short period of time? Do you think you somehow managed to escape it?
Josh: Good question, and a tricky one to answer. I think the way people consume music has added that pressure, yes. I don’t think it’s an intentional thing by any big corporation, it’s just a sign of the times. The whole streaming platform and being able to listen to everything at once means that people just make their own playlists rather than listen to any album. This means that every single track you release has to be that big single from the album. I used to buy a CD based on one track I liked and then the rest of the album was crap. I think people just don’t give music the chance they used to and have to instantly fall in love with every single track, or else they never listen to it again. There is a beauty in listening to a full album. Over time you appreciate tracks you didn’t at first, and then dislike the ones you liked before. That magic seems to be missing from the industry now but I still listen to full albums myself.
Social Media, and the Internet, in general, made access to music easier than ever before. With so many artists out there, it seems like every note and every melody has already been written and recorded. With that in mind, how do you manage to stay original and creative today?
Josh: You are right. Pretty much every chord progression has been done somewhere else, before without you even knowing it. I don’t think that really matters if you are working in a different tempo or genre. We just try to make sure we aren’t using similar melodies to other drum and bass tracks. It’s what you do with those melodies that make it creative a lot of the time. The different sounds that surround the generic notes can give a simple four-chord piano loop a creative and original feel and your own sound.
You have been around for some time now. From your beginning as Sensa & Haste to nowadays, how much has the scene changed?
Josh: I think it has changed a lot, you pretty much have to be a producer to get gigs these days. That was not the case when we started. People were more interested in seeing DJs than people play their own music. That has definitely shifted in our eyes. People come to hear us play our own music now, and it’s sometimes hard to accept when you want to go nuts playing other people’s tracks behind the decks. I also think that artists have to work harder now on the more boring side of things in order to keep up with Social Media, etc. That wasn’t so big back when we started. The thought of just being able to make music without having to worry about all of that seems like a dream.
One last thing – what was the first drum and bass tune, or release that got you into the genre?
Josh: I think the track that really got me into drum and bass, and made me start to learn to DJ was ‘Masochist’ by Pendulum. Very far away from what we do now but it was like nothing I had ever heard before and got me hooked when I was a teenager.
Matt: For me, the first track would have been Shy FX – ‘Wolf.’ As soon as I heard that for the first time I was hooked, it’s pretty night & day compared to what we make now but I’m a sucker for the old drum & bass/jungle tunes.