For decades now, drum & bass has symbolized not just revolutionary sound, but the constant evolution of sound. Countless artists have all had their hand in developing this wonderfully diverse genre, and its influence can be felt in practically every facet of breakbeat culture in nearly every country around the world. While many artists’ legacies can be defined by this one genre, there are select handfuls that continue to push the boundary of what defines them, some to a point where words cease to describe the essence of their art. Among those elite few stands Hybris, an artist whose sound is as unique as it is groundbreaking.
Since the turn of the decade, Hybris has been steadily releasing tunes that both stand out to the ear in style, as well as in technicality. With a back catalog of releases spanning across prestigious labels such as Dispatch Recordings, Metalheadz, Invisible, and Subtitles, and having collaborated with some of electronic music’s most talented producers, including Noisia, DLR, and Rido, Hybris has forged himself a permanent home in the hallowed pages of electronic music history.
With his vision set before him, though, Hybris invites us all to say hello to the future, a future he is ringing in with a cutting edge 4-track solo EP set to be released on his brand new label, Pseudoscience. The ‘Say Hello to the Future’ EP is a stunning display of the wide spectrum of his talent, featuring a mixture of tunes that adhere more to the traditional standards of contemporary drum and bass, as well as tunes that venture off into the territories of breakbeat electronica that have yet to be explored or defined by any artist or genre. It is songs like these in particular, though, that remind us all that sometimes a definition can be a limitation, and instead of letting a genre characterize the music we enjoy, all that should truly matter is the expression of the artist in relation to the experience of the listener.
Like many long-time Hybris fans, there were many questions that crossed my mind when I opened the unassuming email that contained the news of his newest EP and his intention to start his own record label. Thankfully, I recently had the opportunity to touch base with Hybris to ask a few simple questions, the answers of which truly highlighted to me the integrity this man has as both an artist and craftsman.
There almost seems to be a trend of drum & bass artists venturing off and starting their own labels (i.e., Sofa Sounds, Guidance, etc.). Is their some sort of a common denominator here? With so many outstanding labels releasing some of the best music we’ve heard in years, why start your own?
For me, starting a label was the best way to move forward, push the sounds I want to push, and not have to answer to anyone. When you work with labels (and I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some great ones) they are part of the selection process, and that can be very beneficial. However, if you’re a niche artist like me, making somewhat bizarre music, sometimes only the most normal of the bizarre ends up being released, and that doesn’t really do me many favors. I don’t want people to see me as watered down, kinda weird, drum and bass. I want this shit to be off the radar, I want people to wonder “wtf just happened?!” I want them to be confused and intrigued by how it sounds. So taking 100% of the risk and responsibility is the only option in that case. I can’t speak for any other labels, but that’s why I’ve started my own!
Also, if I’m not mistaken, you’re a US expatriate and have been living in Europe for some time now. Would you say that this moved help you to develop artistically, sonically, personally, etc.? Is there anything you miss in particular about living stateside?
I’m actually from near Washington DC, but my folks live in Colorado now. I moved to CZ to see how it would be trying to tour around Europe playing dnb, and I just never ended up coming back. There’s definitely plenty I miss about my home town, we had an endless supply of amazing restaurants from all over the world, some of my best friends still live there, and it was a great place to grow up. But on the other hand, I do not miss the traffic and how expensive everything is. I don’t really see myself moving back anytime soon.
While I will admit that my favorites from you will always be Raindance, Macrophage, and the Cleaner, some of our mutual friends have shown me some exclusive bits of yours recently and I’d say they are all a far cry from the sound you were pushing in your earlier days. Your music is still absolutely golden, and you have managed to maintain your signature sound, but what do you attribute most to the evolution in your sound over the years?
Wow, that was a long time ago! My early tunes were me just realizing that suddenly it had become acceptable to use small snares again and make dark, broody, minimal dnb. I was just going all in on that, and making everything on some pretty shitty monitors in my bedroom. So in a sense, making really minimal, sub-heavy music was more a matter of necessity than a choice because I wasn’t able to hone in on the sound in more detail on the equipment I had. Over the years I’ve refined my techniques, gotten some better speakers and headphones, and have really been able to work on tunes at the micro level. For a while I was gravitating more towards my neuro roots, but with the complete explosion and European takeover of neuro, things have become quite homogenized, and I’ve realized that what I love about electronic music is really much different from what most neuro-kids these days like. So I’m done trying to cater to what tends to do well. These days I’m just trying to do what I want, nothing else, and trying to consciously make an effort not to make any tune to impress anyone. If people end up liking it, great, but I’m not keeping that in mind while making it.
Your debut LP featured works that some self-proclaimed drum & bass critics may dismiss as being ‘non–dnb‘ or undanceable. To them, I say “grow up and listen closely” but is there anything you have to say to the heads out there who might not yet understand how to appreciate some of your more experimental, less traditional, choppier tunes? Do you currently have any plans to include similar tunes on future Pseudoscience releases?
I might say the same, if I’m in a bad mood. But really the way I look at it is, if you don’t like it, you can go listen to the hundreds of other artists making more “normal” drum and bass. No need to get hung up on the fact that I’m not doing what you want me to do. I think Jay Z once said, “If you like my old music, buy my old album,” and I agree with that 100%. Sometimes people get a bit to caught up in what they want an artist to sound like, but the thing is, I am Hybris, and what I do is what Hybris sounds like. I plan to include all sorts of weird and choppy music on Pseudoscience, and the second EP, which is already pretty much done, is very choppy and syncopated, and all non-dnb.
Now just to wrap things up, do you have any artist collaborations you plan to feature through Pseudoscience? DLR, the Sofa King himself, has proven to be an artist whose complex production style complements and is complemented by your own. I would personally love to see some more intermingling between the boss mans at Sofa Sounds and Pseudoscience, as I’m sure many fans around the world would agree.
Funny you should ask, we just had a very productive couple days in the studio at the ever so creepy Pseudoscience HQ, and I dare say some of it might come out on a future release
So there you have it. Hybris, the American expatriate known for his face melting, mind bending, and boundary pushing sound has directly confirmed that he has boldly taken a leap of faith into the depths of the electronic music industry to start his own label, giving his creations a greater platform capable of reaching a far broader audience. If this first EP can serve as any frame of reference for what is to come, though, the entire game is about to get a much-needed shake up. Hybris has brought the future straight to our doorstep, and it is with open minds and open ears that we graciously say hello.