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It's been a bit more than a year since Hybrid Magazine last caught up with Glen Hansard from Irish musical dignitaries The Frames and sat down for a cup of tea (or in this case, coffee). Way back in September, the band had begun its North American tour for fall of 2005, and David DeVoe had the opportunity for a quick sip with Glen, to discuss the year, the pitfalls and joys of touring, great Bob Dylan moments in history and what the future holds for the Frames.

It went a little something like this:

Hybrid Magazine: How was Australia?

Glen Hansard: It was tough, actually. I mean, the first couple of times we went down there all the shows were sold out and we had an amazing tour. And then this time, all the shows were sold out again, and we were in bigger rooms again… you know, everything was moving forward. But for some reason, I don't know if it was that last time I didn't notice it or what, but it struck me this time that even though, you know, we weren't playing the enorma-domes or anything, we were playing like 2000 seaters, but it struck me that all our tickets had sold out way in advance… this is a classic first world complaint I'm going to give you now, but you know… they were all Irish people. I won't say one hundred percent, but definitely eighty percent of our audience in Australia was Irish. Which, for me, kind of disheartened me a bit… not because we weren't playing… but for me it was like, what's the point in coming all this way to play for people you can play for at home?

HM: So it was Irish tourists?

GH: Well, basically Australia's become the new New York, if you like. Instead of getting the J1, nowadays, what they do is they go to Australia, because the work opportunities are better and so on. So, you know for Irish people, Australia has become the new place to go for a summer job, you know, because it's such a beautiful place. It just really struck me this time that it was all these people that were coming to see us, and buying up all the tickets. Which meant that even though we were playing really big rooms, Australians weren't really getting a chance to come and see us. Because they wouldn't be so interested in coming to see The Frames until they heard it on the radio or they were convinced to go buy a ticket… and then they'd go buy a ticket. But by the time they kind of got themselves together to go buy a Frames ticket, they were all gone. So, all I'm saying is… Australia was cool, you know. The gigs were great, we had a great time, but for me it was more a reflection of how big we are in Ireland than how big we are in Australia. Do you know what I mean? And it was kind of frustrating to me, because it's kind of a long way to travel.

HM: Yeah. That's very interesting.

GH: Whereas, over here it doesn't happen as much. Over here it's been gradually less and less Irish people at our concerts in America. Or if they are here, they are blending into the audience more. They're not making so… 'cause basically, you'll always know an Irish person's in your audience, because they're always the loudest. And it's a good thing because their enthusiasm is unparalleled. I meet American bands all the time who come to Ireland and say that Irish people are the best audiences in the world… them and the Scots, because they're just so enthusiastic. And as much as that can be a great thing, it can be destructive, also. Because you can get people in the audience shouting at you, you know, about your hometown or some kind of local colloquialism… and basically what it does is it ends up excluding the rest of the people at the gig. Because these people are almost saying, "I know you. I know you better than everyone else in this room." And if there's enough of them, it can often destroy the atmosphere of the gig. But, you know, I've spoken to Steve Earle about it and he's telling me that it's the same thing that happens to him. I spoke to Jeff Tweedy about it and he says exactly the same thing happens to him. Where you get these frat boys who come to see him play in… Hawaii. Well, not Hawaii, but I'm trying to think of someplace he would play… Just somewhere, and it's just again, the same thing.

HM: Yeah, I would think that that would be a little bit unsettling in some ways.

GH: It's a really good thing for any band to play in front of an audience… the last thing I would ever do on stage is complain about it or wince about it. But there are times when… when you come to Denver, Colorado, you'd like to play for people from Denver, Colorado.

HM: Right. That's kind of the whole idea behind touring.

GH: The point, yeah. I mean, if we were the kind of band that depended only on an Irish audience, we'd be playing in Fado… not at a theater. And it's something that we've not consciously pursued, but it's something that whenever we've been offered a gig in America at an Irish bar, we've always refused it. Because we know what happens when you play at an Irish bar in America. People will come out and it will be a great night, but you won't have come all this way to play in front of people from the town. And that's really what we want to do. So Australia was really good, but on the other hand it was frustrating. We get played on the radio there, and we sell records there, so all that adds up.

HM: What about Austin City Limits? How was that gig, the first of this fall tour in America.

GH: It was amazing. Absolutely amazing. I didn't really know what to expect, to be honest… I'd heard about it and I'd heard that it was a really good festival, but I was kind of thinking to myself after playing South By Southwest, would it be any good or what would the atmosphere be like. It was outstanding.

HM: It seems to be better anymore, than South By Southwest…

GH: It's better in that it happens all in one place, and there isn't that secret gig happening two miles up the road, and you can't get a ticket for love or money because the place only holds a hundred. But you know, South By Southwest is all based on the gigs that you can't get into… that's what makes it sort of intriguing, if you like. Whereas this thing was just a sort of big, open festival. I flew in from Prague and I got in to New York and made my flight to Denver, and from Denver to Austin, sped in a car and made it within three minutes of going on stage. So within three minutes to stage time, I made it from Prague… 26 hours of traveling, but we made it. We had a really great gig, really enjoyed it. It was a fantastic atmosphere.

HM: Did you get to see some other good music?

GH: I got to see a couple of things. Of course, because I was so… fucked… I kind of just pretty much flaked after we played, I went back to the bus and kind of just laid down. I saw Bloc Party, and I have to admit, I'm just… I'm shocked at how popular they are.

HM: I'm a little bit shocked at how that entire sound has been forced back on the listening public.

GH: I don't mean I'm shocked at how popular they are. I just couldn't… I just didn't like them, at all. And usually I can find something in a band that makes me go, whoa. Whereas with them, I was just like, Jesus…

HM: Honestly, with them… they were a huge buzz band I think at South By Southwest this year, and I've still never really heard them. I think I've maybe heard five or ten seconds of a song here or there.

GH: I can understand all that. I can understand the buzz band thing and getting behind something that's kind of new and fresh… But I saw them and I watched their set and I thought, "Okay, this is doing nothing to me. So I'm going to watch it even more intently. Give it my attention." And I didn't see… I don't see it at all. I don't get it. Which is quite rare, you know. I get most bands.

HM: Well, they're doing that whole disco pop thing, right?

GH: Yeah. It's kind of up-tempo tunes.

HM: Like the Franz Ferdinand, Bravery thing.

GH: Well, Franz Ferdinand has songs. Franz Ferdinand are a band that… you know, you can see what Franz Ferdinand are doing. They're not pulling any punches, they're not calling it high art. What they do is pretty much straight up rock in kind of an 80's style. And it's really good. I like Franz Ferdinand… but the Bloc Party thing went totally over my head. There just doesn't seem to be any songs in there at all. Unless I'm just missing it completely. I was probably just jet-lagged. That's probably what it was. Probably shouldn't even put this in, I'm just…
(laughter)
I was standing there with my band, and I was like, "Does anyone else… is anyone getting anything from this? At all?" And everyone was like, "Nope." Very strange.

HM: That's a fairly good consensus. So, Austin City Limits started your fall tour here in the States… the gigs have been good so far?

GH: Yeah, really good. From Austin we drove down to Tucson, because we've been recommended to take some time off there. It's a beautiful place, but I must admit, I couldn't breathe down there. The heat was insane. Really enjoyed it though, had a great couple days there. Hung out with Joey [Burns] from Calexico and he showed us around a bit. We played in Tucson and we played in Phoenix, then went north to L.A. We had a great show in L.A. The best show we've played in L.A. hands down… at the El Rey theater. Then went north again to San Francisco and we played the Fillmore. Had a great show at the Fillmore.

HM: I don't think you can have a bad show at the Fillmore. I think that takes a lot of work.

GH: Yeah, it's just such a perfect room. Did the Fillmore and then went north again to Portland. Had an amazing gig in Portland. One of those… it was a Monday night, the audience was full, everyone was there. Everyone had come up to the front, just stood up front, but everyone was just in… It was almost like a workshop more than a gig. Everyone was, "I like that song. How old was that?". It was one of those shows where the audience and the band became sort of a living room scenario. And then we went up to Seattle played the Showbox and we had a fucking amazing gig there. I wasn't sure it was going to be a good gig after seeing the venue, I wasn't sure I liked it, and we got in there and the place was packed, the atmosphere was amazing, everyone was listening. So it's been an incredible tour. And Josh [Ritter] has been really great as well. It's been really good for us to play in front of his audience and for him to play in front of ours. It's been a really good choice to bring him out, because it's been a really nice mixed bag of people.

HM: That's good. I would assume that that can really make or break a tour when you are touring with the same opener. Having compatible audiences is kind of a big deal.

GH: As far as I know, his audience has been very gracious to us. As in, there's no talk when we're on stage and it's not crazy… it's been very nice. And then we did a thing yesterday that was absolutely brilliant. I was really happy to have done it, and it was a great diversion. We did an in-store in Boise, at the Record Exchange, that was absolutely wonderful. Just played for an hour in this record store, maybe a hundred people showed up… and again, just that really nice, no expectations, no… it was really nice. It's been a really easy tour so far, it's been great.

HM: Well, that's good. There's nothing wrong with that.

GH: No, it's been the easiest tour so far… and maybe it's because I'm sober. I don't know whether it's that or not. It just seems to be coming…

HM: That shouldn't make it easier…

GH: No, well… The only problem I have is that I want a beer after I play. But apart from that it's been great for me.

HM: Playing mostly songs off of Burn The Maps? Are you breaking out a few new songs? What should we expect tonight.

GH: We're breaking out some new stuff, yeah. We played four songs… mostly four songs a night of new… We're doing about five off Burn The Maps, maybe three off Dance The Devil, maybe three or four off Fitzcaraldo… and four off For The Birds. We're doing a good mix. Whereas on the last tour, there were a few gigs where we just did the whole Burn The Maps album from top to bottom… which was kind of risky, but it worked in the places we did it.

HM: How's that record been doing?

GH: Good, I think. I don't… I actually don't know.

HM: I guess, more than numbers, more than sales, how do you feel about it now that it's been out for a while. It's been almost a year now.

GH: I feel great about it. I feel it was the best we could have done at the time, and it's our there and it's doing its thing. You know, people generally keep saying to me that it's a slow burner, but they like it.

HM: I think everyone that I've talked to, everyone that I know, feels that same way. It takes a while to hit you.

GH: Yeah. I can't see us changing that too much on the next record. I think that's kind of… we hit a pattern. Maybe it's just getting older, we're doing it a certain way… you'll hear a couple new songs tonight and tell us what you think. But I really felt good about that record. I don't want to make it again; I'd like to make something that's slightly different next time. But I really liked what we hit upon there. It was a nice collection… Making records is a bit like clearing yourself, you know. It's a bit like clearing your closets or getting the ghosts out. And when it's all done, then a few months pass by, maybe six, eight months pass by, and you're totally clean, you're feeling good, and it's all out and done. And then the dirt gathers up again, you know, the dust and cobwebs, and before you know it you've got another album in your system. So that's kind of where I'm at now; just ready to go into the studio and knock it all out. So we booked it for January… Generally speaking the best way for us to work is book the studio time before we even have a song written, just so we have a deadline to work with.

HM: It's that college mentality… You know when the end of semester is, so you have to get everything done by then.

GH: Exactly. It's like, book the launch party before you've even written a song.
(laughter)

HM: We've talked a lot in the past about books. We always tend to speak a little about books. And I know a couple of years ago, you had been reading John Fante. And two… three, actually… three British or Irish people that I've spoken with, whether to interview or just met and talked with, in the past year, are big into reading John Fante.

GH: Really?

HM: Yeah. The one that comes to my mind most readily is Johnathan Rice

GH: Don't know him.

HM: He's got an amazing record out. Anyway… a lot of things he had to say about Fante were very parallel to things that you've said… I think that's kind of odd that musicians - I can't comment on the general populace of Great Britain or Ireland - but the musicians I talk to, there's something in his writing that kind of…

GH: Well, he's so lyrical… He's almost kind of like Mark Twain in a way. He draws a line right out, and seems to do it so naturally. It seems, whenever I picture John Fante writing, I see him pounding a typewriter… I don't see a guy sitting there pondering. I see a guy just burning, you know. And I see a typewriter just fucking murdered. And his books read that way, they just come straight off at you. And yet, there'll be a line that'll catch you in the way it's written, it just flows so correctly that you just… you know, stop. He's the only person that I put pencil lines under lines in his book, because the line just comes off so clear. So, yeah, I'm a huge fan of his.

HM: What else have you been reading?

GH: Reading a book right now about the Celtic underworld. I've never really thought about Ireland in any kind of deep, mystical way and recently I've felt this kind of hankering towards knowing about it. Mysticism. So I'm reading a book right now called Meeting The Other Crowd. And it's basically a book about people's encounters with faeries. And it's an incredible read because it's written in the vernacular of the local people, and it's just very powerful. Just simple light stories about how in the everyday working life of a farmer, there is this otherworldly magic that he absolutely accepts. Perhaps there are certain bushes you don't touch, there are certain places you don't go in the field… The way these really common, simple people absolutely, without question, believe that there are certain laws you must follow as a farmer living in this land that's million of years old. You know, millions of years older than you know. And basically, the belief is that Ireland's earliest people, the Tuatha de Danaan, went into battle with another tribe, and instead of winning or losing they just changed form. And that now they live in Ireland as another energy; as the energy of the elements. For me it's fascinating that in my country, and as a country becomes more modern it's kind of hard to grasp it, but it's so… for me, I'm really happy that I live in a country that accepts magic so readily… doesn't question it at all. It's fascinating. That's a good book. What else am I reading? I haven't read a book in a while. I actually almost bought On The Road yesterday, which is really strange. I've got this real hankering to read it again. I haven't read it in years and I remember it having a big impact on me… I want to go back to it. I guess I wanted to go back to it after reading the Dylan book, Chronicles… which is probably the most inspiring book I've read in recent times. I mean, I didn't even read it… I just breathed it in. And Fante and Dylan have a lot in common as well. The book didn't stop for a second; there was no breath in it. That book absolutely knocked me out. Because I'm such a Dylan fan, I didn't even care if it was true or not. I just took it at its face, the same way I take Fante at his face. I know there's truth in it, I don't need to know how much. Dylan's a good man for not spoiling a good story with the truth. He just lets it flow.

HM: Yeah. That's a magical trait that too many forget.

GH: I also read Walter Yetnikoff's biography. He's the guy who basically worked himself up from the bottom at Sony Records. He was the guy who signed Michael Jackson… He was responsible for Michael Jackson's career, you know, and Madonna. Oh no, not Madonna, actually. I lie. But a bunch of amazing, like huge, artists… Springsteen and people like that. And it's basically his own story and it's an absolutely stunning read because it talks about how he just didn't care. And how he just let himself personally go to pieces and how he just lived sort of by the seat of his pants for so many years and was hugely successful. He was hugely successful, but really unhappy. And how eventually he crashed and got himself into rehab and got his head together, and now he doesn't work at Sony anymore, he works at a homeless shelter. How, basically, he went from being a corporate giant to working with homeless guys; and that's where he is now. And he's just like, "that's where I found myself. That's where I want to be." It's very interesting. And it talks about phone calls with Michael Jackson during certain periods of his life and, you know, if you're interested at all in the mindset of the head of a record company as big as that, then you'll… and it's a very human story.

HM: It sounds like the kind of story I can get behind… the story where success isn't found in the big stuff, but in the important stuff.

GH: Yeah, exactly. He was unhappy. You should get that, I think you'd really like that. It's called Howling At The Moon.

HM: I'll check that out. Right now I'm dipping into this… it's not really a biography of The Who, but it's this book about this thick, and it's called Before I Get Old. It's the story of the early Who, and it's been a lot of fun to read. There's the story down the middle about The Who, but there's also the stories on either side; The political stuff going on, and the cultural stuff going on in Britain - especially Britain, with the stuff I've read so far.

GH: It's good to get a book that shows you a sort of slice of the nation at the time.

HM: And I just finished a book called How The Scots Invented The Modern World. It's really fascinating, you should read it. Everyone should read it. It deals a lot with the philosophy… To me, it's very interesting because as an American it sheds light on a lot of how their culture created so much of early America, and Europe.

GH: Interesting. I'd like to read that.

HM: It's an amazing book. How about music? Are you listening to music?

GH: Ummm. Yeah, you know… my relationship with music is kind of developing, like anyone's I suppose… I'm trying now not to own any records that I don't need. I've got a lot of CDs at home, I've got a lot of vinyl, and it came from a period a few years ago where I suppose I was much more idealistic. I was collecting every Magnetic Fields, every Will Oldham e.p. I could find… all the SMOG records. I was just basically gathering up objects because whatever was going on in me, I felt the need to collect these things. And somehow, for some reason, owning these objects would somehow make me a better person or would somehow make me a cooler person… and would mean that I could dip into it at any time and be inspired. Now, I'm like… I only need one SMOG record, I need Red Apple Falls, and I don't need any of the rest. I need maybe three Will Oldham records, I need all the Bob Dylan records…
(Laughter)

HM: Everyone does.

GH: Yeah. I need all the Leonard Cohen records; I need all the Van Morrison records… That's the stuff I need. I only need the medicine that's good for me. I only need the stuff that's going to make me better. Self-prescribed music, if you like. Joni Mitchell Blue, Fleetwood Mac Rumors… records that have had a huge part in my growing up and records that I will always go back to. And they're the ones I want to own; they're the ones I want to have in my life. Like Kind Of Blue by Miles Davis or Gorecki… solo piano. All records that are medicine. Only medicine is all I want, I don't want entertainment anymore. I'm not interested in music that only makes me want to dance… I only want music that makes me feel fucking good. And because we spend a lot of time as a band… and I don't mean to be whiney, but we spend a lot of time touring, and I only ever need music that makes me feel good. Music that salves me; Music that sort of takes the place of your mother's arms or something… the rest of the music is unnecessary. So, recent music that's sort of been medicinal - I'm trying to think of stuff that's really hit me, stuff I really want. The Arcade Fire record is a record I really want in my life. It has it… whatever it is, it has that thing that I come back to.

HM: I don't really get that band either. That's one band that everyone is all gaga about and I don't quite get it.

GH: Yeah, I get it. I saw them live before I heard them on record, and I was floored. The energy is… huge.

HM: I mean, they're obviously brilliant records, from my point of view I can't argue that, but…

GH: That's actually very interesting. We played Sasquatch and they came and they gathered up around the stage just before we went on and it was really sort of shocking because I'd seen their set earlier in the day on the big stage… and the guy came up to me and said "Are you Glen Hansard?" Yeah. "Dude, I emailed your website, I fucking love your band." And it was really amazing to have a band that - you know they're all like 21 or 22 years old, but to have a band that really blew me away, genuinely blew me away, come to us and tell us that we blew them away, it was amazing. It's a powerful feeling.

HM: You're a rock and roll statesman.

GH: It was weird. It's the first time that it's ever happened to me where I was kind of shocked by something like that. I was like, "Nice one. I'm really glad you've heard of us. That's really cool." What's more, you like it.
(laughter)
But, yeah. They're really good. And I haven't had much of a chance to get into the Sigur Ros record, the new one, but I'm looking forward to sitting down with it.

HM: I haven't even opened my copy.

GH: Why?

HM: Those guys, I have to sit down and listen to. And I have not had the time to sit down and listen to, and fully digest, a record in a long time.

GH: Yeah. The other thing I've been listening to a lot lately is The Life Aquatic soundtrack. I bought it because I saw the film and it really made me feel really good. So I bought it for the Brazilian guy…

HM: Yeah, yeah… doing all the David Bowie songs.

GH: Yeah. He just floored me. I've ordered all of his records now.

HM: He has a bunch of records?

GH: Well, I think he's got three maybe, and that soundtrack. So, maybe when I get home they're waiting.

HM: To me, that was definitely one of the highlights of that movie. But it was a very… compelling movie.

GH: No script. No real story line, just sort of…

HM: The fact that there was really no acting.

GH: Just Bill Murray being who he is. Owen Wilson… that guy. I can't think of his name, the Brazilian guy. He was in City Of God, as well. Let's pretend we knew his name… Just those people, the way they are… the atmosphere of the film just made me feel really, really warm. It's the kind of film I could watch over and over… it wasn't about making sense of it, it was just an atmosphere. Like The Royal Tannenbaums. Another film I just absolutely adore, but have no idea why. It just makes me feel good. He's a very talented guy, that director. The colors… There's an incredible moment in Royal Tannenbaums where Owen Wilson's climbing out the window and Gene Hackman says - hey! I know who you are. And Owen Wilson just looks up and goes… and it's one of the best moments on film that I've ever seen. It just completely compels you. And it's only a moment… it flashes past.

HM: Yeah, he's a great director, sure…and I think that his films are fairly universal in their appeal. There's enough cinemagraphic stuff to appeal to the art crowd, there's enough weirdness to appeal to the off-center crowd, and somehow, also, there's stories that somehow appeal to the mainstream crowd as well. I think that there's a lot of stuff there. But I think that's good… it's that wordless feeling, you know? That's a good thing. It's nice for me, having known you for a while and having spoken with you over the years to kind of hear you talking more about comfort.

GH: Yeah. Well, it's important, you know? I'm going to make a fool of myself in January… I'm going to act again.

HM: Are you?

GH: Yeah. Me and a few friends, very small time, we're making a film about a busker. And I'm going to play the busker. He's basically a guy who is in his early thirties, he's kind of disillusioned, but he's good, you know. He has something. He has some songs… and his girlfriend's gone away… And myself and Damien Rice are writing all the songs for it. And basically he meets this Eastern European girl who's selling this magazine, and she somehow inspires him to get off his ass and to get into the studio and make a record and basically go see his girlfriend in London… to get her back with these songs that he's been writing because she's been floored by these tunes he's been writing. It's a very simple story… but we're going to start shooting in January. The script is really good, I'm really happy with it.

HM: So you and Damien Rice are friends? You're tight?

GH: Well, yeah. I mean I guess like anybody, we're the same animal so we both love and hate each other. Well, don't love and hate each other, but we like being in each other's company and at the same time we're a little cautious of each other. It's kind of strange, man. I like him a lot, though.

HM: The tour that you did with him last year, was that the first time you'd met him?

GH: No, no. Geez, I've known him years. He toured with us, he opened up for our shows when he left Juniper first… That's how he started. He first started touring with us, just him and his guitar. So I've known him for a long time.

HM: I didn't realize that he had been in a band before.

GH: Yeah, he was in a band before.

HM: He's another one I don't quite get. Some of his songs I really enjoy, but…

GH: I know what you mean. He's kind of an acquired taste.

HM: I was hoping that seeing him live would help, that it might make it all click… and it didn't. Maybe I just wasn't in the right frame of mind… you know, so much of that kind of thing is frame of mind.

GH: No, I know what you're saying. A lot of my friends do not get him. I guess if I'm being really honest, I go to myself, his music isn't the strongest element of my friendship with him… he just does what he does, and I do what I do, and somehow we end up getting on in the middle of it. I don't think we ever really talk about each other's music to each other. We just talk about cooking, or…

HM: So how is that going to go, writing these songs with him?

GH: So far, it's been really good. We've sat down and written together, and basically taken the guitars out and… right, here's the scene where I'm playing this song for the first time on the street. This girl walks by and she hears it. What kind of song is it? Where are we? Okay, what have we got? One of us starts playing some chords and we kind of take it from there… and it's been really organic, really simple. You know, what he has to offer and what I have to offer are two very different things, and when they combine they seem to work really well…

-David DeVoe

The Frames
www.theframes.ie

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