Remember the song Sun and Moon? The lyrics went a bit like, “...I’m sorry baby you were the sun and moon to me, I’ll never get over you, you’ll never get over me...” - yes. Those guys. That’s exactly how I heard some friends discuss Above & Beyond. Let’s get a little in deep: these guys have released three studio albums, two remix albums, one side-project album.
Their own two labels - Anjunabeats and Anjunadeep, and are among the most respected imprints in the global dance music scene and have released some 23 Above & Beyond albums and compilations in the last 12 years.
There have been dozens (and dozens) of singles and mix albums and offshoot projects, all snapped up by a devoted worldwide fan base that has happily, passionately followed this London-based electronic trio since their formation in 2000. Phew.
We spoke to Tony McGuinness about their next album and much more. Read on...
How did Above and Beyond come together? What started it all?
We came together to do a remix for Warner Brothers – Chakra Home. We were all doing other things at the time but the remix was very successful and pretty soon Above & Beyond became the main thing for all three of us. The name came from a guy in the States called Jono Grant who was a motivational trainer – “Above & Beyond” was his tag line. Our own Jono had found his web site and printed the front page out and stuck it on his bedroom wall. When we’d finished the mix we needed a name and it just jumped out at us.
How easy (or difficult) was it for Above and Beyond to make a mark in the music scene?
It’s hard to know what things we’ve done have had the biggest impact since we’ve never stopped making music and touring, but we’ve had some amazing opportunities and, thus far at least, have risen to the challenge of doing something great when we’ve had the chance. Our first remix was of a club classic that, even though we were unknown, became the lead remix on the package and went to number one in the club chart. Our remix for Madonna was on spec, but she loved it so much she made the video to our mix instead of the Radio edit.
We got the chance to do an Essential Mix for Radio 1 in 2004 and the mix won Essential Mix of the year. And our first album, Tri-State, got great reviews across the board. So we’ve had some great bits of luck to get some great breaks but we’ve made sure we do a great job when we do. In addition, what we do, which is act like a band and write songs about our real life, sets us apart from almost all our peers, who usually draft in external singer/songwriters. That doesn’t really result in any consistency or connection.
Who and what influences you and your music? Who are your favourite musicians?
We each have quite different tastes in music outside of what we make together and sign to the label, which keeps our music very diverse and, hopefully, rich in context. Personally I love singer songwriters like Damien Rice, unique singers like Goldfrapp, FKA Twigs and Kate Bush, bands like Kings of Convenience, Blonde Redhead, Royksopp and War on Drugs and electronic producers from Joris Voorn to Seven Lions. Paavo is especially keen on soundtracks, Jono loves a lot of 80s pop like the Pet Shop Boys.
Tell us about your favourite tracks? If you could pick one track from your repertoire to go down in history (over the others) which one would that be?
Hmm, it always used to be Tranquility Base Razorfish, but I’d probably pick Thing Called Love or Sun & Moon as they seem to have a life of their own, even now. But the new album is just out and there are lots of great tracks on there just bedding in, so let’s see how it feels a year from now.
How has Above and Beyond witnessed the change in the music scene from the time you started to now?
We started just as trance music was losing its pop credibility and moving underground, so we’ve always eschewed pop music, per se. But recently a lot of pop EDM has created an explosion in public interest in the scene and whilst we haven’t been deflected by that and remain outside it in many ways, it has provided a lot of oxygen to the scene and we’ve certainly benefitted from that.
If you could change one thing about the music industry right now - what would that be?
The idea that musicians should not get paid fairly for the work they do is ridiculous and the slow but severe eroding in revenues for recorded music is hurting everyone without the means to support themselves in other ways, like DJing. That sucks.
If you could change one thing about the world with your music - what would that be?
The internet promised a more connected world and in the music business it delivers that emphatically. But politi cally it seems to be dividing us, extreme views which would have dwindled in a locally connected society gain weight in an interconnected world in a way nobody foresaw. Now anyone with a crazy way of seeing things can find people who share those views in another country, which in turn gives validity to the extreme views. The world is more and more divided by issues of ‘race’ and religion and bigotry is rife. As touring DJs we see things differently. We travel to countries that have supposedly different world views and find that people, on the whole, are all the same. We’ve done shows in the same weekend to countries who remain violently opposed and found the same reaction to our music, the same hopes and fears, dreams and aspirations in the people. It’s one planet, we’re one human race and the sooner we realise that the better things will get.
What’s next for Above and Beyond?
We’re touring the world in support of our new album We Are All We Need, including our biggest ever US tour - six weeks of high intensity touring to over 100,000 people. Then we have a sold out UK tour to look forward to in April.
Tell us about the top five songs on your playlist right now.
Our new single is called All Over The World and it’s about a broken father/son relationship, illustrated perfectly by the video which is based on Catch Me If You Can. The next single from the album will be Peace of Mind. There’s an extraordinary new single from Andrew Bayer and Asbjorn, a new Danish singer we’ve hooked him up with. It’s called Superhuman and it’s fabulous. Our recent remix Salva Mea is going off in our sets, we’re super proud of that one. All That Matters by Kolsch feat Troels Abramsen is a particular favourite, it’s a beautiful song and the production.