Hybrid Minds have trodden a long path since the days of rinsing out jump-out at Inno In The Sun some 10 plus years ago. Now, the duo stands without a doubt among the foremost acts, not only within the realm of liquid drum and bass but also as pivotal players in the ongoing embrace of authentic drum and bass sounds by mainstream listeners
Today Hybrid Minds release “If Love Could Have Saved You” with chart topping vocalist venbee. Together Hybrid Minds and venbee have created a powerful song that moves the feet and touches the heart. The artists and record label, Room Two have partnered with the charity Joe’s Buddy Line to help raise awareness of young people’s mental health.
We had a chat with one half of the duo, Josh. As our conversation unfolds, we journey through their electrifying live experiences, from the euphoria of playing at Glastonbury’s iconic Arcadia stage to the nerves and exhilaration of selling out the iconic Wembley Arena, and of course finding out about the new single.
Hi Josh, what have you been up to today?
Working on music. Went for a walk and that’s it, trying to enjoy the sun a bit. It’s been quite rare this summer. I’ve been working on music every day,
Do you work in the studio every day?
Yeah. If we do gigs at the weekend, we try and get a day back in the week, but we tend to work every day Monday to Friday, sort of quite office hours. Which is good and has been productive. We got into it in lockdown and have just kept it up.
Is that a decision you made for productivity or mental health?
For productivity and being disciplined. I think sometimes we need to force ourselves into the studio. The routine can be hard, you end up uninspired. But we’ve got enough out of it at the minute, so now we’re just enjoying the summer a bit more, wrapping some songs up and focusing on the festivals which has been great.
How’s festival season been for you?
Good, very busy. Just been nuts. We’re sort of ready for it to calm down now as it’s getting towards the end of the season. We’ve been pretty flat out, but it’s been amazing. We’re lucky to have as many gigs as we’ve had, do as many festivals and travel, everything we get to do. It’s been nuts.
Have you had any stand-out shows?
Probably Glastonbury. We played Arcadia. Which is one thing we wanted to do for years and years and years ever since we saw it back in the day, sometimes those big sets that you look forward to so much end up being a bit underwhelming but that one really wasn’t. It was even more fun than we expected. It was just so nuts to just be doing a set on this pod with fire coming out the head of it. It was so busy and everywhere you looked there were people all around. We kept popping our heads out and looking underneath us and there were people there too. It’s just really, really fun and the energy at Glastonbury is just amazing, it’s just so friendly and good. We were playing a set towards the end of the festival on the Sunday so we were concerned about everyone being a bit knackered, but Elton John finished and there was an exodus to Arcadia. I think a lot of people ended their festival there which was great, it got really busy and we were just blown away.
Were you on straight after Elton John?
I think so or maybe an hour after he finished We were on after Shy FX, and it started getting really busy for him. An hour before Shy FX started there were about a hundred people underneath the spider and we were stood under it with them preparing for that to be the case, we would have still enjoyed it but then we were sat backstage and there was a TV in the Green Room and we could see during his set it just got and busier and busier.
It was a while ago but I did want to talk about Wembley, it’s absolutely huge for any artist, but especially a drum and bass artist. How was that for you?
Scariest gig of our lives. Matt was particularly nervous on the day. I was randomly really nervous the day before and had a gig in Amsterdam, and was freakishly nervous for that gig. I couldn’t place it. It was only a 500-cap venue and I was freaking out about it. It was because Wembley was the next day and I was thinking about the flight back from Amsterdam and all the anticipation of it just came out just before. The day of Wembley, I was chill, because I think I got it all out, and then was completely calm the next day. All of the London headline shows have a lot more pressure on them, whether it exists or not, there’s just something way more nerve-wracking because. Even though in theory it’s not that different to what we do, we’ve played to big crowds before, we shouldn’t be getting more nervous about it but it feels like there’s tremendous pressure on them.
After the gig was overwhelming too, just seeing the response. Wembley was a venue that I used to go to as a teenager to see the big American bands that I loved and to be looking over that same crowd, and knowing that they were all here for us was crazy. After the day, I think it all just sunk in for me and Matt, and ever since we’ve had a lot of pressure relieved from us. because we knew that people, at least up until that point, liked what we do and we should trust in what we make and enjoy it. It felt like a massive payoff. If we ever manage to top that then it’ll be a bonus. Wembley Arena is mad, the plaques are on both of our kitchen walls.
Does it have a picture on it?
The guy who owns the venue gives everyone a plaque if they sell the venue out. You get one backstage before the show. There’s a silver plaque and a fancy glass frame, it’s awesome. I just put it in my kitchen in case I get an Amazon delivery, the driver can see it through the door. I can just be like “Yeah, yeah that’s right I sold out Wembley!”
It’s a highlight of anyone’s career and to see everyone else doing it, like Sub Focus and Dimension is really cool.
Yeah, it is really cool. Well done!
It’s well done to the people that bought the tickets really because if they didn’t, then, we’d be playing to a very big, empty space.
I wanted to talk to you about your relationship with Tempza and Charlotte Haining, how did you meet them and why are you guys such a good live combination?
I think we’re such a good combination live because we’ve known each other for so long and we’ve worked together for so long and that comes with experience. I met Mike in 2011 at Innovation In The Sun. I was DJing in room three as a jump up DJ And that week Mike won the MC competition. I was there watching that and I thought “This guy is really good.” So then I got in touch and he MCed my set the day after or something, and then just stayed in contact. Since then we just got him booked for all our shows and just over time, we all moved from jump up into what we’re doing now.
And with Charlotte, obviously, they’re married. So there’s that connection so it’s so relaxed. They met in Amsterdam when I was doing a gig with Mike, I was actually the third wheel on their first date. We went to a nice steak restaurant without them knowing that they’d end up getting married.
I love that!
So you think your on-stage chemistry comes from how long you’ve known each other?
Exactly, when Tempzaa is on stage with Charlotte, it’s literally family. So There’s no awkwardness, there’s no ego, it’s all just Love and fun. Which then is what reflects back and forth between the stage and the crowd, and it’s so important.
If someone has never seen you play a set before, they might be surprised to find out you don’t just play liquid, you also play jump up, dancefloor a bit of neuro, a Hybrid Minds set is very varied. Do you think that’s part of the appeal of watching you?
I think so, it’s hard to know without taking a clipboard around a crowd and asking everyone, but we do spend an awful lot of time finding ways to play our music and add energy to our tunes live in raves by mixing bangers. Especially when you’re playing somewhere like Let It Roll and you’re on before a neuro DJ and after a jump up DJ. If liquidity it was or Hospitality On The Beach then you can just do a full liquid set, but at those other festivals, you need to keep the energy up especially festivals where it’s multi-genre lineups. There’s a part of keeping the people in the room that were there before you got there, who were they seeing? Because it might be us but it might not be. So we’re trying to please as many people as we can, whilst also focusing mainly on the people that are there to see us and make sure that we play our music. It needs to sound good and then inject some energy into it and that’s always been the formula for our sets, and it seems to be working. Hybrid Minds is always going to be girls singing, that’s our USP I suppose. But we also play bangers, so we try to keep their boyfriends happy as well.
I love that. I can go and sing and then have a skank face two minutes later. It’s such a fun way to dance and party.
Too much of anything can get a bit boring. If you played a set of bangers. When does everyone get to calm down? And have some feelings or whatever. We try to mix it all up really and find the right balance, which can be tricky.
When you go to see a big band everyone expects to hear a certain song, do you have to consider that these days?
100%. If we don’t play ‘Touch’ we can expect to get things thrown at us, I would throw things at us. I suppose for bands, it can get a bit tedious, especially as they’re playing their own songs, they have to play the same songs every night. But you have to remember that the people watching you weren’t there yesterday, they weren’t at that gig on Thursday or Monday. They deserve to see and hear what they want. So we will play our biggest tracks, for sure, every set. I’ve seen bands and then when they don’t play the old albums it irks me, and I feel a bit disappointed and let down. I don’t want that for people that come to see us even if it does mean we have to play ‘Touch’ for the next 20 years. You can’t complain about people liking your songs, so I think you should be playing them to people rather than being too self-serving.
Talking of ‘Touch’ I could play that in a room to people who have absolutely no connection to the drum basin and they will know it. So as you understand both sides of the coin I wanted to ask your thoughts on the commercialism of drum and bass. In the past, it’s been looked down upon however I do think in the midst of this peak we’re currently experiencing the commerciality has been a lot more accepted by the underground…
I think at the minute the successful commercial drum and bass isn’t the same sound that it was the last time. It’s not changed, altered, or made with radio in mind whatsoever. If something’s popular and we’re lucky at the minute, that drum and bass is popular. Then people need to get over it and carry on doing it. I think all the “gatekeepiness” has come out of drum and bass compared to 10 years ago. We would make decisions on our productions based on what we thought our peers would think, and when we stopped caring we enjoyed our job a lot more. And I think people should just be able to do what they want. And that’s it. And I’d rather ‘Baddadan’ was in the charts than ‘Crazy Frog.’
I agree I feel like the scene is more accepting than it was ten years ago. You get a lot more like cross-genre nights, or albums either. And whether it’s played on Radio 1 or not, I think it’s a happier, more accepting place.
Yeah, and I just don’t, I can’t speak for other producers but I don’t really think people are particularly making songs with radio in mind. You’ve got jump up on the radio now, I just think it’s incredibly healthy. Although all the majors trying to find their golden goose is a bit weird, I hope that it’s not a flash-in-the-pan thing, and people don’t sign deals that they’re locked into for long periods. It’s smart to just do what you enjoy, if you’re smashing the charts great but if it goes underground again you’re still part of the scene.
The genre has had this chart/underground cycle for the last 20-plus years, we’ll see it again…
You’ve got a track with chart-topping artist venbee, how did that come about?
It came about via Charlotte Haining. She played a massive part in it, she had a session where she wrote the lyrics and the chords with her and someone called Ollie and then sent it to us. It wasn’t a drum and bass track, it might have been the right tempo but it was just piano or guitar. I can’t remember which but it was basically acoustic and vocal. Every now and then we get sent something and it’s just so exciting, and it was one of those moments. Then we just worked on it and then met up and worked on it some more. It’s a really, really powerful song with a really powerful message that stemmed from Charlotte’s experience and we really wanted to keep that organic feeling in the song. We kept adding too much and feeling like we were overproducing and it was losing its feeling. It sounds a bit arty, but when we listened back to it we added too much stuff in the verses, it just started sounding like a song. Whereas before it was making us terribly sad or have emotions, so we wanted to keep that in. So we kept it quite stripped back in the verses and then let loose on the choruses and the drops and it fell into place. Fingers crossed it streams well, but it’s just been a really important song for all of us to release.
Did you ever get all in the studio together?
It was mostly remote, but we all got in the studio together to do the final arrangement. That was the only time we all got in the studio together. We wanted to have some vocals and piano recorded and replaced all the parts with our own instruments and things like that. It’s been a real easy one.
You mentioned in an earlier interview that you do most of your work remotely. Is that still the case?
Me and Matt rarely get into the studio together, we will with another artist to get song ideas. But we don’t like to sit in studios with loads of people wasting everyone’s time, whilst we spend hours Working on a single hat or the sort of really boring stuff that we’re quite particular about. That we do in our home studios and put the hours in there, there’s no point in having a vocalist sit in the back of the room whilst you’re doing that stuff. So we get together exclusively for the creative. And then we split up for the production.
I spy a couple of guitars there. Do you play?
Yeah, I try to play on a few of our songs, but it’s a hobby. That I’m going to learn and it’s good to just get solive elements in songs.
Do you have lessons?
Yeah, just teaching myself on YouTube, but enjoying it. It’s really good. I started A couple of years ago, it’s good to have a hobby that Can lend itself to our work as well.
I wanted to talk to you about your recent artwork because it’s incredibly beautiful. Where are the concepts from?
I used to make all our artwork myself, but we wanted to level it up. So we briefed Andy from Army of Few who’s been our guy over the last few years. He’s made the decagon out of different things, there was a perspex one with LEDs in it that he photographed in the Brecon Beacons or he chucked it in some hedges. Then for the recent stuff, he made a metal decagon. But it is actually…
What! It’s real?
Yeah. So that’s the thing that we’ve been really strict with. We want the artwork not to be Photoshopped.
I love that so much. I’ve been staring at your artwork for ages trying to work out if it was photoshopped because it looks so real, but I just thought because of the locations it couldn’t be… That honestly makes me so happy…
Josh: Yeah. It is and they’ve had some stories. They almost drowned once getting photographs of it. It is a physical thing that they’ve been taking all over the country and now over the world to photograph. People will say why don’t just use Photoshop, no because then it doesn’t look real. I’ve got a graphic design background, and I can always tell if something’s been Photoshopped, I don’t think it cheapens it but we want our artwork to connect to people and be real-life things. Now every release is a photograph. A lot of it has been water, he’s just been going around the country, taking photos of the decagon in nice environments. Originally we wanted them all to look quite bleak and very British. But now, going forward we’re going to switch it up and get some sunshine. We pride ourselves on it always being a real photo even if our designer has to risk his life to get it.
What is the actual story behind the decagon?
I don’t think there is one. It’s a branding exercise. We wanted to create a logo that had a shape. You know, UKF is in a circle, Hospital the H, Ram has the horns. So it was while trying to brand ourselves I had that in mind, and a decagon ended up being used.
It reminds me of the Eastern symbol of all the elements…
Yeah, that’s a way better idea. The next time I’m interviewed, that’s what it will be. It wasn’t though it was just our name in that shape, eventually, we took the middle out of the shape. We just thought if we use this shape, every time we release music, when people see this shape, they’re going to know there’s a new single coming and we’ve done it for 10 years and people recognise it. So to any DJs trying to work on their branding, I think just pick a shape and stick with it, anything as long as you stick with it.
What have you got coming up soon?
We’ve got the track out with venbee, then following that singles leading up to an album, which we’re working on at the minute. The idea is to start chucking out singles.
Are they going to be album singles or are you having a little patch of stand-alone singles?
The releases will definitely be on the album. We’re sorting out the playlist now and finishing tracks and doing the collating. Which is exciting because we’ve not done one for five years. Releasing that track is not necessarily the smartest idea if you want songs to perform that well. But it’s important for us to get this music finished and have stuff that doesn’t sound like a single and have the creativity to just make one track, release it and then move beyond it.
How many have you got finished?
I don’t know, but we’re getting it all in front of us now, going through it. Finished is a loose term But it is taking shape. We should hopefully get it sometime next year in the early half of next year.
Ready for the sunshine again? Perfect. And we got any big shows that we need to watch out for?
We’re working on one, to be confirmed, but we’re just going back into club season. We’ll do some tours, maybe leave the UK for a bit. Come back. And then we’re going to try and do something big. Even just saying it has now started to make me nervous.
Very nice. The final question which I ask absolutely everybody…What should we be talking about in the scene that we’re not currently talking about?
I’ll say up and coming the rootsy liquid the artists that are coming through, people like Emba. I’m not seeing that sound enough in the clubs. I can’t dictate what people pay to see because I’m not going there. But I feel drum and bass with feeling is taking the back seat a bit at the minute. I’d like to see that come back. But I mean, people don’t have to talk about it. I could just do it, but that’s what I think is missing for my taste and what’s out there.