Above and Beyond have racked up more than 200 single releases, a best-selling debut album and an award-winning compilation series – but they aren’t slowing down this year – with a host of residencies across the Globe and upcoming album Group Therapy.
They are headlining Cream this Saturday at Nation, and we caught up with the mighty, yet modest Tony McGuiness from the trio to find out what their world domination plans are.
Hey Tony, what have Above and Beyond got lined up for 2011?
“Even more madness! Our long awaited second Above & Beyond album (long awaited by us, that is!) is coming out in May. It’s called Group Therapy and is packed to the brim with new and rather wonderful songs, some happy, many sad, which we will be supporting with DJ shows all over the world.
We’ll be hosting Group Therapy stages at some of the better festivals and taking up a couple of residencies, including one in the Marquee in Las Vegas. It’s going to be rather full on.”
This is your first Cream gig of the year, what do you have planned for us?
“Hopefully a heady mix of loud singing, carefree dancing and general debauchery from the audience helped along by us in the booth playing some (hopefully) great tunes and whipping up the atmosphere.”
Tell us about your other label Anjunadeep?
“Anjunadeep does exactly what it says on the tin, the euphoria and melody and quality of Anjunabeats but a bit deeper. When we launched the label, the space between trance and house was a pretty empty road, but now it’s all going off in that area. We’re proud to say we have the oldest establishment on the street.”
What would you say is Above & Beyond’s greatest achievement to date?
“We’ve had some fantastic milestones in the last ten years, but these things in isolation don’t help you sleep at night. We’d like to think that we have remained true to our original values: to make and release high quality, innovative, honest, emotional, uplifting electronic music, to actively and openly engage with our audience and to not take ourselves too seriously.”
You ensure that there’s a lot of interaction with the crowd when you play, as people begin to expect more from DJ shows, do you think this is becoming increasingly important?
“Absolutely, yes. It’s a bit easier for us since there are always at least two of us up there and so we get lots of time to dance, wave, sign plaster casts, currency, passports and fake CD covers, dance a bit more, make hand signals, quick swig of drink and off you go again.
“All the while the other guy is mixing in the next tune. I take particular pleasure in goofing off in the style of some of my favourite performers, notably Michael Stipe from whom I have at least four moves on loan at the moment. But the most important thing is to get the energy from the crowd and use it and amplify it somehow.
“For us this is not only a physical thing, although that is the most important part of a dance music performance, but we use live video of us and the crowd in the show, encourage sing-alongs, write messages on screen about the track that’s playing, the gig in particular or even world news if it has a relevance to that moment. Add lights and visuals and hopefully you have a pretty engaging show.”
How’s the North American tour going and where’s your favourite US spot to play?
“It’s a great place to tour. They speak English here so they really get our music on all levels, plus satellite radio has infected the entire land mass with our music and our radio show Trance Around The World so we can pitch up in Indianapolis on a Tuesday and pull 1,000 people out of the woodwork on a school night.
“Los Angeles is probably our biggest market (that’s what the music business people call it here, a market,) as there are an awful lot of people living in driving distance of Downtown: we did EDC in LA last year and there were 70,000 people there.”
What inspired you to make Sun & Moon?
“We originally wrote it for the OceanLab album but for a number of reasons it didn’t make it on, so we got Richard to sing it and it really came alive. We performed a different version of the song at our live show in Beirut two years ago and this “riff-tastic” version evolved in the studio in the last year or so and really rocks.
“The lyrics are about how past relationships live on in your memory: every relationship you have enriches you in some way, sometimes significantly, even though it may not last forever. I really believe there are no such things as failed relationships if you concentrate on what you learned and how you grew as a person. Maybe that’s a man’s point of view.”
Are there any particular artists you look to for inspiration?
“All of them, really. People from the whole range of electronic music, people on our label, each other, soundtracks, acoustic music. I’ve been vibing on Joris Voorn quite a lot this year, and Kings of Convenience and Bon Iver and Andrew Bayer.”
Can you tell us a bit about your new album – Group Therapy?
“It’s the follow up to Tri-State and features two of the vocalists from that album, Zoe Johnston (Good For Me) and Richard Bedford (Alone Tonight). Thing Called Love was the first track from the album to emerge, on our last Anjunabeats mix CD, Sun & Moon is the first single proper and before the album we’ll release one of the Zoe tracks to complete the introduction.
“It has similar lyrical themes to Tri-State, doubt, longing and love in all its guises. Rhythmically and production wise it is a bit chunkier but hopefully it is no less widescreen than its predecessor; there are some goose bump moments on there for sure. And real strings.”
In the easiest way you can describe it, how does Above & Beyond set about making a track?
“We write a song, throw away the backing like a snake shedding its skin and build the track around the song. When it reduces the dance floor to rubble and your mother to tears we put it out.”
What DJs should we look out for this year?
“Mat Zo, Arty and someone who’s really making a comeback, Kenny Dalglish.”
What are your Top 3 tracks at the moment?
“There are so many great tunes around at the moment it seems a shame to pick just three, but how about Andrew Bayer “From The Earth” [Breakfast Remix] – a track from the forthcoming mind-blowing album made even more mind-blowing by this remix, Mat Zo “Superman” – another eclectic, helium fuelled monster from Mat, and Maor Levi “Devotion” – deeper than you’d think, better than you need. All available on Anjunabeats from a shutdown record store near you.”
Above & Beyond perform at Cream @ Nation, Liverpool on Saturday March, 5, alongside Laidback Luke, Wolfgang Gartner, Sidney Samson, Funkagenda, Chris Lake, John O’Callaghan, Michael Woods and Gareth Wyn.
Tickets on sale now: £23.50+BF / www.ticketline.co.uk / Tel: 0844 888 4401