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Ritualistic music is an important strand within the post-industrial genre, represented at various times by Current 93, Lustmørd, Zero Kama and others. Other groups share the interest in ritual but let it have less influence over their music, such as Coil or Psychic TV. An overlap also clearly exists with the percussionists of the Fourth World style, like O Yuki Conjugate, and the popularity of this music shows no sign of waning.
The nucleus of the Belgian group Hybryds consists of a duo of Magthea and Yasnaïa, who first made music under this name in 1986. Their first available recording was 1988's Mythical Music from the 21st Century, recently released by French label Nuit et Brouillard as a limited art edition. I interviewed Magthea by mail in 1993.
"I have always been in contact with friends making music, but I got bored very soon with rock and guitar music. When I was a teenager, my parents lived in Africa. When I once visited them, they took me to a native village, where we were invited to take part in a fertility ritual. The music and the trance of the people took me with so much intensity that I got involved in ethnic music. Rock and roll, white people's music, seems from one day to the other so ridiculous.
"In 1982 I got involved in networking and started to do a radio show on Radio Centraal in Antwerpen. Making my own electronic music I got invited for a small tour in Norway. My musical skills were not then good enough so I invited a few friends to form the Absolute Controlled Clinical Maniacs. After the tour we decided to release these live recordings on LP on my 3RIO label: Sabotage by the Klinik was born. Later, our ways got separated."
Hybryds continue to work with several other musicians and artists, most of whom retain their own projects outside the group. Amongst others these include Djen Ajakan Shean, Francoise Duvivier, Pier Luigi Andreoni, Alpha Project and Vidna Obmana. But the nucleus remains constant and their artistic vision remains very personal.
They have three main releases; the two live CDs The Ritual Should be Kept Alive Part 1 and Part 2 have been released by 3rio Art and Dark Vinyl (respectively), both of which are excellent examples of ritual music combined with an experimental edge. The studio album Music for Rituals is available from Artware. Hybryds' music cannot be separated from their interest in religion, spirituality and the occult. They're (thankfully) not just another band who pepper their titles with the word "ov" and sprinkle their artwork with psychic(k) crosses. For the most part, Hybryds keep the spiritual dimension of their music oblique, trying to make it sufficiently universal that it will have meaning for other people. Sure, there are influences you can detect and isolate, like the occasional nod to the ubiquitous Wickedest Man on Earth, Aleister Crowley, but Hybryds are not a one-track band.
"It is said that in tribal societies, music is a way to communicate with the Gods. We state: 'The only God to believe in is Yourself'. Religion is inherent to the human race. Through centuries the Jewish / Catholic and Islamic religions have transformed the original gnostic information into systems that suppress. Religion has become a tool to possess power to rule, to conquer, to kill, and destroy, but real religion is a very individual and personal, and, paradoxically, atheistic feeling; religion should only be practiced inside yourself, by yourself.
"Hybryds music is created to help you to communicate with the distant parts of yourself. It does that by creating atmospheres and magical moods; we believe firmly in the influence of sound on the human brain. That's why we try to recreate our inner reflections and mind moods in music. Music that sounds different and that should take you away on the floating nerves of your brain. In this point of view, we actually don't mind if someone sees us as entertainment. All forms of communication can be entertainment. Entertainment can cut down borderlines. We don't want to be gurus. We give information in bits and pieces, nicely packed, so people get curious and can find out by themselves what they need for an inner equilibrium."
Some of Magthea's sentiments about the individuality of religion are only commonplaces in a capitalist, egoist society, where you buy into any ideology of your choice, but I find his lack of antipathy towards entertainment to be more reassuring; it's good to see people working on avant-garde music who don't feel any kind of elitism. It's also notable that even though we live in a society where we can try on ideologies and philosophies much as we try on new clothing - mixing and matching and colour-coordinating yoga with crystals with Santeria - Hybryds are careful to point out that they view spirituality as an internal, personal creation.
I asked Magthea how Hybryds felt about the use of drugs for spiritual ends. It's a topic on which occult and religious groups differ widely; while drug use might be important to the Rastafarians or the Neo-American Church (who treat peyote and LSD as a sacrament), other groups, including most Christian churches condemn it as offering 'false enlightenment'. Hybryds fall clearly into the latter camp.
"If you want instant karma, put on a virtual reality helmet, or take some LSD, smoke pot, drive a heavy motorcycle, do some bungee jumps, anything that gets you out of this normal mental state will do, except keep in mind: this is only temporary.
"In ancient esoteric systems it is written: it is the path to your goal that's important, not the goal itself."
Magthea is happy to sum up his attitude to magic: "Magic is a force from our Bacchanalian past (Magick is the system of Crowley). Science is a part of our Apollonic western world, and Hybryds music is a small stone in the bridge between these two systems. Everyone should look for his own personal magical system."
It's difficult to see the recent expansion of the "new age" movement as anything more than a phobic reaction to the stresses of the modern world, the pressures of the information age and the increasingly essential bed of rationalism that has underlain technological progress. Like the conventional religions, they appear to appeal to the simple-minded, to the terminally dependent, to people who just can't face up to reality, but Hybryds of course deny that their interests in ritual and the occult have anything in common with this possibility.
"In fact it is a way of living to confirm our reality and our references to the outside world. The revival and interests in esoteric knowledge is because people discover the oppression of the three big religions. They discover the lies and the hypocrisy in it. Unfortunately, people limit themselves to esoteric knowledge as they did to contemporary religion. They follow leaders and gurus and believe everything that they are told. Nowadays we have to approach the ancient knowledge on a different level. Translate it in a way that's purely personal and individual. Never follow leaders. Find out everything by yourself."
Given Hybryds viewpoint and the raw, uncommercial nature of their music, it's inevitable that they can only find a home in the "underground" scene (a misnomer, I know!) While The Shamen, Psychic TV and others place their faith in an electronic beat, MDMA and a rash of Terence McKenna samples, Hybryds can continue to produce music of genuine magical and musical value outside the mainstream. They believe that although drugs have always been used to communicate with "a higher force", they are not a spiritual solution on their own. According to Magthea, "The underground music scene is the only place where we can operate and keep our personal freedom and artistic demands. We have been in contact with big and official labels and they buy their artists. That's why we want to be in the underground, not getting involved in 'pop-star' attitudes (that's also why we don't want our real names and faces in the magazines)."
Hybryds other activities include presenting a weekly radio show. 3rio Art is their personal label, which they use to release their own and others music, such as the tape compilation Fairy Tales and Myths. 3rio Art also makes available a low-budget live video from a performance in St Baafs abbey, and Hybryds would like to make an original video, if they ever gain access to the right facilities and money. They don't often perform live, stating that they don't find the experience enjoyable, and this is no doubt why the trilogy of The Ritual Should be Kept Alive releases has not yet reached a conclusion.
"Because Hybryds try to cross the bridge between the knowledge of the past and the present we use all kinds of ancient approaches to music (acoustic instruments, the use of the human voice, the structure of primitive trance music) but transformed with technological music devices. For the first three releases we worked only with a portastudio, a mixing desk and an effects processor. No samplers, nor synths were used. We often recorded live directly on DAT. Mostly basic recordings are created in a kind of improvisational and trance-inducing state. Later, these recordings are moulded into the music sculptures we want.
"We want to go further in our search to the influence of music on the human brain. Our new recording facilities will make it easier to create the music we have inside us. Although we are looking for the knowledge of the past, we also love technology. We are born in an age where high technology is needed to survive."
The imagery on Hybryds album sleeves draws from many sources. Much of it is sexually oriented, and this includes both reproduction of primitive fertility symbols and photographs with S&M / fetishistic overtones. Sex has often been an important part of magical ritual, whether in more obvious manifestations such as tantra or as a major element of the Western system adopted by Aleister Crowley.
"Nowadays sex is completely abused. Contemporary religions have loaded mankind with guilt and fear, religion created a taboo on nude bodies and sex, and this has led to a frustrated male dominated and twisted image of sex and women. We have to rediscover that our body is a temple, being nude is a natural state and everybody should take care of their body. You can paint your body, decorate it, tattoo it, pierce it, reshape it. You have to become very conscious about your body because there is a God living inside. People who associated the nude body with sex have a twisted and frustrated image of the human race. Nudity is beauty and should get its respect again.
"Fetishism is an atavistic feeling. Contemporary fetishism is a reflection of our ancestors' references to the world of spirits and Gods. In S&M, it's very clear that the leather, the rubber and especially the masks are translations of the atavistic feeling of worshipping an image as symbol of the higher power ... This is a very Bacchanalian feeling. Jewish / Catholic and Islamic religions put a taboo on the image. Paganism will restore the power and the beauty of the image."
Interview by Brian Duguid 1993. Contact: Hybryds, Magisch Theater, Juliaandillenstr. 22, 2018 Antwerpen, Belgium.