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THE POWER OF MUSIC: VIDEO GAME SOUNDTRACKS AND BLACK HALO INTERVIEW WITH MIKE AND CHARLOTTE TRUMAN OF UK BAND HYBRID

Charlotte and Mike Truman

Editor’s Note: You can find my short review on their album Black Halo here.

Hybrid is an electronic rock band that you may not have heard of and if you haven’t don’t worry! In this interview with Charlotte and Mike Truman, you will get to know them and learn about their latest album Black Halo. Some of the video game soundtracks they’ve worked on are Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future, Driveclub, Lotus Challenge, Metal Gear Solid 4, and more. Let’s get started!

I was listening to all the video game soundtracks that I got with the press kit and I could feel myself relax and calm down. It’s been helping me during this pandemic. So how has music helped you guys through this pandemic?

Mike Truman: I think we’ve listened to a lot of music—

Charlotte Truman: Probably more than we usually would’ve done.

Mike Truman: Yeah because we’ve had more time in the garden and our children have been home from school quite a lot last year especially. So I think because the weather was really good and we, fortunately, have a garden around the back of the house so we’ve listened to more music on playlists and probably dug out music that you wouldn’t have a chance to listen to. On an average busy day, you don’t get to go through back catalogs of artists that you enjoy so I think it’s been nice. We are both huge Solo R&B fans but Charlotte has especially been digging through that kind of ’60s and ’70s Motown.

Charlotte Truman: Even going back to the ’20s. We are going Billie Holiday, we’re going Dizzy Gillespie— just being able to wade and trawl through loads of amazing tracks that we haven’t been in contact with, and it’s been fantastic! It’s been nice to get back to the stuff that inspired you originally when you first started doing music.

Mike Truman: We don’t listen to music while we’re writing music Charlotte especially. You were terrified of accidentally copying somebody or picking up on a lyric.

Charlotte Truman: But it’s great because we finished the album [Black Halo] in October of last year. We delivered it then, but because of the pandemic, routine, and timing, it ended up being released tomorrow. [July 9th, 2021] As Mike said we never listen to music when we’re writing because of the absolute dreaded fear that you’re accidentally going to copy or absorb something that you might accidentally repeat and you don’t even realize you’ve done it. But this gap has just made it completely possible to listen to as much music as I wanted! [laughs] And it’s just incredible because most of the time I can’t listen to anything for fear of duplication— this has been great!

Mike Truman: Yeah you think that being musicians we could listen to music all day long but it’s kind of the reverse. You know you use it for relaxation occasionally but generally because you’re around it all day long day in day out sometimes I just want to be at peace. Just being quiet.

Charlotte Truman: Also we can’t talk to each other while we’re listening to music so if there’s something on it’s just dead silence. So when it’s multi-tasking when it’s music and talking it’s not possible.

Do both of you feel refreshed that you can listen to music as much as you like at the moment? This pandemic has drained everyone’s energy.

Charlotte Truman: Absolutely. And I think that’s what we tried to put into the new album as well, just about the internal struggles that people have had during this pandemic— external and internal and it’s you know having to get over this really strange situation that everybody has found themselves in. Not being able to see your relatives, not being able to see your friends, not being able to be there when somebody needs you. It’s just been difficult for a lot of people and that’s the story arc of the album!

Hybrid was formed in 1995 (I was only a 5-year-old child, I was just a baby then [laughs]) and at the height of the BreakBeat Era. What was that era about?

Mike Truman: Oh Nadia you make me feel old now! [laughs]

Charlotte Truman: [laughs] Madness!

Mike Truman: It was the culmination of a lot of different people making a lot of different music but in very close proximity. So we recorded the first album in Soho right in the center of the creative district in London so very cool kind of area but on a Friday night because we were living there you could go to Ram Records for bass nights or you could go to Bar Rumba where DJs were playing a kind of early breaks or you could go to John Digweed’s Heaven Night for his Bedrock night and go and see him.

So it’s the balance between the three so I think musically you had the beauty and intricacy of the Bedrock nights, you had the dirt and the weight of the Ram nights, and then the breaks and funk of the nights at Bar Rumba. So the culmination of those fuses the sound and we’re both huge fans of electronic music but I think at that time that is what influenced what was going on.

Charlotte Truman: It was an exciting time to be clubbing because it was a completely new dance scene and it was just exciting music to listen to people would just experiment and do new things, and it was just really a unique time.

Mike Truman:We’d finish a remix on a Friday night and then we’d look at the clock and go: ‘alright if we finish it in the next half an hour we can make it down to Bar Rumba and take a CD down and go hear it in the club and the DJ would be gracious enough to play it. So you get to hear things you made half an hour previously being played to a packed club. We were hugely fortunate. It was just a creative, really mad time to be in the center of London, where it was all happening

Does the BreakBeat Era continue to be very influential today?

Mike Truman: Hugely!

Charlotte Truman: Yeah massively!

Mike Truman: It’s a different sound and different scene but the beauty of club culture is that you get a very experimental scene without any commercial pressures. People just literally make music and they make what they want to make and you get all this cross polymerization but it’s not made to be commercially viable, it’s made just for the art of it which is great.

Charlotte Truman: That’s the glorious thing about music I mean you start with classical music then you’re moving on to jazz, moving on to funk, moving on to rock n’ roll, and you go back to funk again and you’re like combining all these amazing styles. Then you’re into dance music and then combining it with rock and then people are combining it with orchestral like we do it’s just brilliant— the branches just are endless of how music evolves and influences everything else.

Mike Truman: You only need a handful of people to come up with a great idea for everyone to go: ‘That’s genius what do you think of that?’ And then it becomes a scene and it kind of builds up from there. I think the electronic music industry is hugely creative and fabulous. We are so pleased to be a part of that.

You can keep the creativity alive as well especially when life gets so busy it can be hard to stay creative and alive, right?

Mike Truman: Yeah absolutely!

Charlotte Truman: It’s brilliant! I think one of the benefits we’ve had is that we haven’t been pigeonholed so much because nobody can pin us. We’re quite difficult when we try to put ourselves on iTunes or Spotify and they’re like: ‘Which genre are you?’ What we’ve found quite freeing is that we’re not tied to one genre. It’s not like we have to keep on making the same thing. It’s very freeing creatively because we can just come up with the music that we feel at the time which is still obviously going to be Hybrid but we’re not chained to a complete genre. So it’s always inspiring and experimental in a way.

Mike Truman: Keep your options open!

How did you both get involved with video game soundtracks? What was the inspiration behind it?

Mike Truman: We were invited to come and work on a few scores with a very good friend of ours a British composer living in LA Harry Gregson Williams who’s known for doing the Shrek films, The Chronicles Of Narnia, and all these amazing Tony Scott films. So he mentored us and then got us actually working on film scores. So game scores kind of came from the back of that and we got known for having a certain sound and it’s quite visceral as we come from “club culture” it’s got quite of a weighty kind of sound to it so we fit it into game scores quite well.

Is there a video game soundtrack that you both like that you listen to or would you rather create soundtracks?

Mike Truman: I’ve got two in particular that I like. The score for No Man’s Sky is clever and the way they’ve made the music regenerative, and the way they put it together— I forgot the name of the band they’re a British band but they are really really clever.

Charlotte Truman: I was going to say No Man’s Sky! It was amazing! It’s so beautiful! It’s so easy to get lost in it and it’s just all-encompassing. You are completely immersed in it and then you’ve got this constantly evolving music it’s just absolutely gorgeous.

Mike Truman: And also Lorne Balfe who we’ve gotten to know in a couple of projects he did the score for Assassin’s Creed III which I think is beautiful. I really really like that one. So game scores are now kind of equal to film scores as they have the same kind of budgets and same kind of composers as well.

Charlotte Truman: This is a basic thing but the soundtrack for Minecraft is just amazing. I mean god! The kids will be in creative mode and they would just be walking through the house and it’s just gorgeous.

Mike Truman: You walk past the living room and go: ‘What’s that?’ And they’d go: That’s Minecraft! That’s the score for it.’ That’s amazing. I start checking it out on Spotify! [laughs]

Charlotte Truman: [laughs] And you start following all the composers! It’s really really cool.

I think what’s also really cool is that when you go on YouTube people have taken the relaxing music of a soundtrack and have created a playlist for people that want to study or are stressed out.

Mike & Charlotte Truman: Yeah!

One of the things that I am very curious about is your process in creating this music as you mentioned earlier that you don’t listen to music while you’re creating the wonderful sounds and melodies that make up the heart of your music.

Charlotte Truman: This one was a bit different because we started with the title for the album anyway, soundtracks and game scores are completely different because you already have a map. You already have a strict guide especially for game scores you have a strict guideline of exactly what mood they’re looking for, you got references to what kind of tracks they’re thinking about whilst they’re imagining what music should go with it.

As for album stuff, we came up with the title to start with which was different for us because usually we get to the end of an album and it’s ten minutes before the album gets mastered and we’re sitting in a coffee shop panicking like what the hell are we going to call it?

Mike Truman: The mastering engineer has got to have a title to write down on his key sheet.

Charlotte Truman: So yeah we have to think of a title! But this time we had this idea of the Black Halo and it kind of guided how the way the whole album goes because we did the album like a book. You start from the beginning and go all the way to the end and it takes you on this journey and it’s not so much a religious thing it’s more of a very spiritual thing whereas the black halo for us is a very spiritual metaphysical interpretation of the internal struggle that you have above you constantly, and nobody can see it but it’s always there and it’s how you deal with it and accept it and how you move on and persevere through your life experiences. So that’s the tone of the album and that sort of guided us musically and lyrically through the start and the end of what we were writing so it was quite nice to have that idea in the first place.

Mike Truman: Also we took a few ideas from our own scoring background and we didn’t want the album to feel like it was a film score but we wanted sections like the intro for Lost Angels, and Voices In The Static— we wanted that arc so it felt like a score in the respect that you’d have those moments where you have a section where it goes into a completely different vibe and then towards the end, you have the big hurrah and as Charlotte said we wanted to have it as kind of an experience from start to end. I know in the days of streaming most people just pick individual tracks but we tried to make something that could trend and could actually make it as a whole arc from start to finish.

Charlotte Truman: We’ve intentionally made it so that hopefully the listener will be guided through the whole experience from start to finish in their own personal way so they’re seeing it through their own eyes and not through ours.

Mike Truman: We understand it’s a leap of faith to ask someone to actually listen to something for 60 minutes as everyone’s got a very busy life and are used to picking individual tracks, so we’re hoping that some listeners have that kind of arc, but we’re not expecting everybody being able to do it.

Charlotte Truman: Yes we are! [laughs]

Is there a song on Black Halo that you guys feel is the most emotional for you both personally and professionally?

Charlotte Truman: I’ve got one but it’s not on the album. [laughs]

Mike Truman: Well that’s not very helpful. Come on help Nadia out! [laughs]

Charlotte Truman: [laughs] Okay I’ll explain! So we delivered 12 tracks for the album to the record label and they said that we had to take one off and put it on the special edition box set so it was an extra for people buying that thing, so we had to lose this one track called Where Madness Lies which comes out on the CD box set but for me that was heartbreaking because it’s my favourite one.

Mike Truman: I think for me it’s probably Lost Angels because Charlotte wrote that about her Grandad and on the surface it’s quite a bright sort of warm track but like most of our stuff there’s always the dark around the current.

Charlotte Truman: It’s quite a sad song actually.

Mike Truman: Yeah but we love the perverseness of actually having something quite emotional and quite intimate and it’s quite sad but if you surround it in a kind of brightness then when people get into the lyrics and the meaning of it and what it means to them it has a bigger emotional impact. It’s a little curveball and we do that all the time.

What would you say would be one of your greatest challenges when you were working on Black Halo?

Mike Truman: I think it was finishing it. The in-between was fine but the very beginning is terrifying because we are [familiar] with having video in front of you. If you’ve got a video in front of you, you can see what happens. You know how everything is going to play out.

Charlotte Truman: Also you have a deadline if you are doing like film scores and game scores because you HAVE to deliver everything by then, whereas with the album stuff it’s up to us. For any artist, it’s like when is it finished? When is it as perfect you’d think you’re going to get it without overkilling it? That’s why it’s stressful.

Mike Truman: It’s the many billions of layers of self-doubts as you’re actually making it going ‘does this sound good enough? Or are we wasting time on this and should we do something else?’ A lot of artists might have 40- 50 songs then cut them all down but we don’t do that, we literally write as many tracks as needed and we keep regenerating them until it all actually works.

Charlotte Truman: I think on the last album we had over 400 different versions of Light Up— we went over it over 400 times trying to change it and it was like: Something not quite right it’s just like Sky Full Of Diamonds [a song on Black Halo] it was literally down to the wire when they were about to master it and there were just a couple of things that still weren’t working. We’d probably had written it a year and a half ago and we’re still looking at it going: ‘There’s something that just not working. It’s just not there.’ So we were tweaking up until the day before mastering as we usually do but it’s just figuring out when it’s finished! [laughs]

What is the one thing that you are most proud of with Black Halo?

Mike Truman: Finishing it! We’ve got a few hours tonight to actually get a few social media videos and some things done, and then come midnight [Black Halo] is released globally.

Charlotte Truman: Which is why we’ve been feeling sick all day. I’ve been asking Mike for sick bags.

Mike Truman: I was just nervous but happy nervous! I’m excited, terrified, and all those kinds of things in between. We finished the album a while ago but we’ve lived with it for a while it’s like our children.

As of August 4, 2021: After 20 years Hybrid is no longer with Distinctive Records and is now flying solo! Consider supporting them on Patreon.

H Y B R I D (@HybridBandUK) / Twitter

Hybrid | Facebook

About Nadia

Hey! I'm Nadia! I am a big fan of RPGs and you can almost always catch me playing one in my spare time. Writing is my passion, and my intention is that you all learn something through my work!

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