In Conversation With DJ Hybrid

DJ Hybrid was just days off the biggest tour of his career with his bag packed and ready for a full send across New Zealand, Australia and beyond when we last interviewed him.

That was March 10, 2020. We all know what happened next.

From feeling on top of the world, with a massive tour ahead of him, his label Audio Addict fully revamped and rebooted and a studio album pretty much completed, DJ Hybrid’s life changed dramatically. Like so many of us, he had to switch up quickly and find other ways of putting food on his table and his plans changed drastically.

18 months later, summer 2021, the world started to look vaguely familiar again and the Brighton-based, Coventry-born artist (who also runs Deep In The Jungle) was finally able to tease singles from an album that he’d started over three years before and at points thought he’d never finish.

Out now on Liondub International, Diary Of A Junglist is his most ambitious body of work to date that flexes across his many styles from savage breaks to smooth and soulful and features an army of high grade vocalists and MCs from Navigator to Rider Shafique.

His third album to date, and his first that he hasn’t released on either of his own labels, it’s the sound of a fully recharged and inspired artist who’s frequently bigged up by his counterparts and described as one of the hardest working men in jungle, including by Joely and Nectax in recent interviews on this very site. Read on and find out why this accolade is more than deserved…

Are you a diary writing type of guy?

Haha no, I’m not. But the way I organise and file my music is kinda like a diary. I can go back to any points in time and tap into memories when I look at my files.

Nice. I’m the same with my writing. Are you a serial documenter? Do you feel the need to take pictures or mark the moment?

Yeah I’ve always wanted to document and film things I’m doing but at the same time I’m not a big fan of being on camera. I like the idea of it though and would like to do more of that. Especially as now there’s much more of a demand need for things like that on social media.

Totally. So I’m sure you told me about this album a few years ago. The original plan was to capture the history of jungle culture and like a love letter to the culture. Is this that album?

Yeah totally. My original idea was exactly that, but you can’t confine your creativity too much, can you? I had a cool idea but when my creativity started coming out, I had to go with whatever way it took me. I didn’t want to force it into any format. There are a few tracks which still hold on to that idea, but it’s not quite the comprehensive history I’d planned. But that’s also down to how long I’d been working on the album. I‘d been putting aside tunes for it and there were also tunes I really liked and wanted to put on the album and not have on their own EP. And over that time it mutated into what it is.

Plus over that time other acts have done that heritage thing. This is much more personal to you. It’s the history of DJ Hybrid with all your different styles and sounds…

Yeah you’re right. That’s how it mutated into a collection of styles that I love. It’s funny, I’ve been doing this for a long time now, but people still come up and say, ‘Oh do you just make jungle?’ Sometimes you get typecast in certain genres don’t you? So this was an opportunity for me to show I’m not a one trick pony, and I love making other styles as well depending on the mood I’m feeling.

Excuse me while I do a little LOL at people who just think you make one style. They’re not paying much attention – you run two labels because of your range as an artist!

Yeah right! That’s how I ended up with two labels – I’ve always made and wanted to release jungle stuff and the harder dancefloor stuff.

What’s interesting is that you’ve got these two labels, but this is the first time you’re releasing an album on someone else’s label!

That’s right. The thing with the labels now is that they’ve taken off in their own unique ways. Last time we spoke on this site we chatted about how Audio Addict is focused on up-and-comers and new talent, for instance. Deep In The Jungle is doing its thing as well. So when it came to releasing an album it made sense to join forces with someone else. Me and Liondub have a lot in common, we do a lot of the same stuff but we’re in other parts of the world and come from different backgrounds but between the two of us we have a greaet understanding and knowledge of how the scene works. So we’re able to promote the album together and pool our resources and have much more of an impact.

Interesting that an established a UK artist with two well recognised labels has chosen to release the album on a US label. I think that’s testament to Liondub’s passion and standing in the genre…

For me I’m just impressed by how Erick does business full stop. He’s a workhorse like me, we share a similar sound and a vibe. Location didn’t even come into it, but it is interesting that I’m releasing on a US label and a sign that drum & bass is in a great place internationally as well as here in the UK.

You mention workhorse… You come up in interviews a lot. Always with the same description ‘hardest working man in D&B’

Haha, yeah I do see that a bit. It’s not necessarily through choice, to be honest. I’ve felt I’ve had to work hard for my place in scene. It’s never been an overnight success thing. I’ve not made one big tune that’s blown up and allowed me to live off the fat of that. I’ve climbed my way up every rung of the ladder. And because of that I’m now used to the high levels of work I’ve had to do to get here. I’ve helped a lot of people start labels over the years too and put people in touch with distributors and tell them things they need to know. Sometimes I’ll be hit up by a group of people who run one label and want to know the best way to manage two labels when I’m just one person running a group of labels!

Haha. It’s a wicked vibe helping people out though, isn’t it?

Yes it is and it’s not something you expect when you get into this. I set up the labels to release my own music but then I started linking with like minded artists who were at a similar stage and I was really into their music. So it’s all grown from there. I get hit up by a lot of artists who’ve been recommended to speak to me by people who’ve released music with me. So, as much as it started off with me launching my own career, in the later stage of my career I’ve invested a lot of time in other people and I take a lot of fulfilment and satisfaction from that. Like when you sign a new artist and launch them with their debut EP and it gets to number one on Beatport or Juno Download. That’s a brilliant feeling.

Totally! There are two sides to you. You’re clearly very happy to be a bit of a lone wolf, but you’re also a great collaborator. Just the amount of collabs and vocalists on the album alone…

I’m definitely very comfortable being that lone wolf guy and doing everything on my own to the point I forget how much I enjoy collaborating. It’s good to be a team player and you can’t do everything yourself. That links back to doing the album with Liondub – it’s about strength in numbers and helping each other do something much bigger than you could do on your own. And with the collaborations on the album, that’s another reason I wanted to release with him. He’s got a community of vocalists that I haven’t got as much access to. Like working with Navigator for example, that wouldn’t have happened without Liondub. I’m really happy with the vocal presence on my album and it’s something I’ve always wanted for my previous albums. Half this album is vocal which has been a dream of mine since I started thinking about releasing albums.

Wide range too! Rider Shafique, Foxy, Madrush, Diligent Fingers…

Yeah I’ve been a huge fan of all those guys for so long.

Diligent Fingers is quite a prominent voice on there…

Yeah there are two tunes with him on there and actually the first track I did which I knew I wanted to keep for the album. I’ve been a big fan of Dilli and his style for years and that track in particular is something I completely held off so it would still be fresh for the album.

Even in your sets?

Yeah I’d hold off from playing it too much. Maybe once or twice. I’ve kept all these tracks for the album so I wanted to wait until it was ready to present to the world as a body of work instead of bringing it out in dribs and drabs.

Was the album ready before lockdown?

Most of it was done, yeah. It was going to come out a lot sooner that’s for sure. Here’s the thing, the last time we spoke on this site I was a few days off my first New Zealand tour. I had my bags packed ready – I was heading to New Zealand, Australia, Vietnam. My first time over that side of the world, it was a huge deal for me, and the album would have come out a few months after that. My whole 2020 was planned around that momentum. Covid fucked me and with that I pushed the album out as well. It was very frustrating. I had a week of sitting around feeling sorry for myself then started to think, ‘Okay, what am I going to do with this time?’ I had to push my own profile and my own music to one side and graft again. I got busy making sample packs, I spent the first month or two of covid making them and getting artists from the label to make them. I knew that’s how we could generate some income and I focused on that.

Making the best of a rubbish situation! On the flip side, how was your first gig back after lockdowns?

It was so good I caught Covid! I was in Leeds with Sl8r on the first night, which was really cool, then a big D&B weekender in the Black Swan in Bristol which was just wild. The vibes were great, and it was nice to feel that enthusiasm and energy from the crowd and everyone just happy being able to go out again. It was a relief after the sit-down raves which were okay but not something I’d want to go back to again.

Some security loved it didn’t they!

Yeah man! In the Volks there was this big sign saying ‘no dancing’ and it might as well have read ‘no fun!’

Haha. So since then you’ve been building up to the release…

Yeah. I put it aside for quite a long time and then when we got the announcements of when things would open again and had that little bit of hope I started to hit up Liondub to organise the release, work out which tracks would be singles and when they’d come out. I was testing a lot of the singles on those first few weeks back in the club.  One thing I wanted was for the album to come out this year and not trickle into another year. I think October was the original date and we were pretty close to the plan.

What’s the plan moving forward? If the album dates back a bit then I reckon you’ve got a whole stash of things to drop in the future…

Yeah last year I had my Born On Road EP and the Let Me Be Your Fantasy remix which everything was planned around. This year it’s been about the album and in and around that I’ve been writing tracks and I have a nice collection of tunes ready to drop once the hype from the album has died down. It’s a nice position to be in – to look at my tunes and think about which labels I want to release with. Usually when a label hits me up I’ll write a release for them but now, for the first time in my career, I’m able to send tunes to labels. I can hit up whoever I want. I’ve got a tune coming out on Device next year, I’ve got a release planned with Onyx, so I’m looking forward to doing more of that next year.

Looking forward to hearing them! So what do you want to see more of in 2022?

Well I’d usually say new artists but we’ve had so many new people come through that maybe we don’t need new talent. What I love is how much the scene has grown and the more it grows the more there’s a place for everyone. So yeah, I guess I’d like to see more inclusion. The scene is a lot more open now and people who, 10 years ago, would not have felt comfortable going to a D&B rave now feel like they have a space here. So as we go into the future I want to see more and more inclusion for everyone. That’s the only way we truly grow – by being accepting of everyone, no judgement, it’s all about the music and good vibes. We’re in a good position to do that right now so let’s move forward.

DJ Hybrid – Diary Of A Junglist is out now on Liondub International

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