Arthur Galestian Interviews Jonathan "Jono" Grant and Tony McGuinness of Above & Beyond.
TM: We were both... Jono was working with Paavo. Jono and Paavo met when they were at university in London, and they were making music together, and I was doing some music with my brother, and for a number of different reasons we, sort of, crossed paths. And Jono and Paavo did a remix of a track that I was working on with my brother and it sounded much better than the ones that my brother and I were working on and a little bit later on we got asked to do a remix for Warner's – Chakra - "Home" – and I asked Jono and Paavo if they'd help finish it off... well, work on it with me, I should say. So we sorted of started one off; we were doing our own other things at the same time, it went really well, the remix became really popular. And so Above & Beyond kept getting more and more work. So our other things dried up...
JG: I think it was at the time of the Madonna mix really, wasn't it? I think that's when we had our, kind of, lucky break, if you like... if you want to highlight one point. But I think we would have – without wanting to sound arrogant – I think we would've plowed on through with what we were doing anyway somehow and found a way. I think if you're really passionate about something, you always find a way to do it.
AG: So before Above & Beyond became an actual group, what were you guys doing separately – as Tony, as Jonathan – what were you guy doing?
JG: Well, when Above & Beyond formed, I was about 19 or 20, so I was still at university at the time and that's when me and Paavo set up Anjunabeats – that's our record label. So I've always done music, really, I've never had a proper job.
AG: Now, the Anjunabeats record label, comes from Anjuna Beach in India – the name. Why don't you tell us a little bit more about that?
AG: Now that you guys are pretty successful in what you do – you're ranked #6 in DJ Mag's Top 100 poll in '07 – what would you do differently knowing what you know now? Or what is it you wish you knew when you were on your way?
JG: That's difficult to say, really, 'cause I think the nature of what you do comes from the mistakes you make and some of those mistakes become positive things, so I'm not sure if I would do anything differently, really. I think there are certain things that's best – I think a lot of dance artists will agree with this – it's best to put all of your work under one name, because traditionally, when dance music was born, it was quite an anonymous form of music. And, you know, you have seventy twelve-inch records going out under different names and they're all being made by the same guy, whereas now it's more artist-led than it was as DJ/artist led... DJ/producer led if you like. So yeah, I think, putting everything under one name.
JG: Once you get on the stage, you're awake, but, you know, sometimes – I was joking about it last night – 'cause I had just flown in, and I must've got up 45 minutes before we were on stage. And so it was kind of like doing a gig at breakfast time, and you know, you walk into this crowd full of people... for them it's night time. And, you know, that can be quite challenging just to switch mindset like that.
JG: And people don't understand – "Why don't you wanna party?!" Look, we do this, this is our job! [laughs]
JG: What's a typical day? Sometimes it can just involve just resting and sorting out – it sounds mundane – but sorting out a lot of things at home. But, in my spare time, I like cooking or going to the gym. I do some magic stuff as well.
AG: Are you an active magician on the side?
JG: I think musically we've taken some risks sometimes. I can't identify what they are – the biggest risks, but...
TM: Well, the great thing about being a DJ is you're exposed to pretty much the crème de la crème of new releases every week. We get between a hundred and two hundred tracks sent to us every week for Trance Around The World consideration, and that's our major, kind of, listening to records. That takes the place of going record shopping for us, for the most part. So you're hearing all these records out, and then you'll pick a few... very few of the ones we get sent ever get into the record box. And then you can hear the effect that they have on the crowd, and that sort of stuff seeps in. You think "actually this is a really nice direction if you try this..."
TM: We're hopefully going to be – well, I mean we've already started in a quiet way working on the next Above & Beyond artist album. We're probably going to be using Zoe Johnston a little bit more than we did even on Tri-State. And also Richard Bedford, who sings the songs from a man's point of view. So, we'll try and concentrate on these two guys in terms of the vocals on it, and maybe take some time to do live stuff on there.