Ranked #4 DJs/Producers for 2009, Above & Beyond announced their best Gig for 2009 was in Beirut.
The group page on DJ Mag top 100:
Podcasts, passport stamps, productions, internet TV shows, CD mixes, a label family that keeps chucking out anthem after anthem by the week… you’ve got to wonder just how Above & Beyond keep on top of it all.
“Our manager comes into the studio and puts Post-It notes under our nose with all these things we need to do because we’re too busy to remember them,” jokes the trance trio’s Tony McGuiness. “We have someone that answers the phone for us, walks into our studio, hands it over and says, ‘DJmag interview’ and then we just get on with it. It’s great to be busy. It’s one of the surest signs of success when you’ve got lots of to do.”
You can hardly blame the guys for needing a bit of a helping hand, either. Yet again they’ve blitzed through another head-spinning 12-month schedule that has been as exhausting as it has inspiring.
By the end of March they’d already clocked up over 30 gigs across South America, the States and Europe; mixed the first label compilation for their James Zabiela championed Anjunadeep label, which showed off their deeper, more progressive sonic explorations, and beat off dance goliaths like Daft Punk, Justice and Pendulum to seize the Best Group title at Miami’s annual International Dance Music Awards.
By July, they had another accolade to add to their list when they became surely the first trance act to perform in a hot air balloon with a live acoustic set of their Oceanlab material.
“I loved the balloon ride for the ride, I loved the rehearsing of the songs, but the actual performance was quite awkward!” admits Tony.
Jono Grant adds: “We decided to perform our first acoustic set in the most remote location – thousands of feet up in the sky – so no-one could actually hear it!”
Banter aside, there was no such hiding when Above & Beyond were finally exposed as a fully-fledged live concert experience in August. Joined by drummer Sebastian Beresford and their enduring vocalists Zoe Johnston and Richard Bedford, the trio played a mixture of live keyboards and guitars when they took to the stage in Beirut’s La Marina, in front of 7000 fanatical fans – airing classics evergreen and unreleased in an hour-long show.
“It’s something we’ve been meaning to do for ages and have been talking about in these interviews for years but haven’t had the time to do it, so it was a real highlight for us,” relays Jono.
“The night itself was amazing, but it was very much about the preparation, which took months and months,” adds Paavo Siljamäki.
It’s not all been about their own music, though. Once again, their Anjunabeats label has matched quality with quantity as upcoming leftfield talents like the multi-talented Mat Zo (also known as Hospital Records’ euphoric d&b trailblazer MRSA), London duo Solarity and Russian newcomer Incognet contributed to a constant fountain of future trance sounds.
“We are getting more and more music sent by new artists from around the world and our stable of artists is growing every year,” explains Pavo. “When we came to collect tunes for our ‘Anjunabeats Volume 7’ CD we started from a really fortunate position.”
“This is the first double CD we’ve done without really dipping into the Anjunadeep material so the trance side of things is healthier and rosier than ever,” believes Tony.
But with the compilation now flying off the shelves, Above & Beyond can get down to some long-awaited business. Edging out some DJ downtime in their sleep-starved schedule, they’re finally knuckling down to the follow-up LP to 2005’s hugely acclaimed ‘Tri-State’ – an album hailed for adding both musical depth and home-listening longevity to the modern trance sound.
“We’ve had trouble focusing on the second Above & Beyond album so we’re actually taking a month off DJing right now,” explains Jono. “I don’t know how some people do it when they’re on tour. I know some people get work done on laptops but we just find it best when the three of us are focused and in the studio together. I guess we’re a little bit old school in that respect.”
“We’ve got about 20 tracks in various stages of production,” adds Tony. “Some are finished, some are just three notes in a row, so we’ll be pulling it all together.”