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Friday 11th, April 2003
Above & Beyond - Part I

Above and Beyond are producers Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness and Paavo Sijamäki. The trio have been responsible for remixing a series of high-profilers over the last few years, including Madonna, Delerium, Three Drives, Armin van Buuren and Ayumi Hamasaki. Not only synonymous with peak-time trance remixes, the group also work behind a catalogue of hugely popular guises, from Above & Beyond, Oceanlab and Freestate, right through to Tranquillity Base, POS, Nitromethane and Dirt Devils. ‘Far From In Love’ represented the first solo offering under the Above & Beyond pseudonym late last year, and received huge support from the world’s DJing elite. Other popular productions include Oceanlab’s ‘Clear Blue Water’ and ‘Sky Falls Down’, as well as the groups harder Dirt Devils ‘The Drill’. Amid the busy production schedule, the boys also run two successful record imprints – Anjunabeats and Hard On Recordings. And recently the group are carving a name for themselves on the international DJ circuit, with gigs at Passion, Ministry Of Sound, Room At The Top and Velfarre already under their belt. It was only right to catch up with the most successful trance trio out.

Firstly, how do you conjure up the names for all your different projects?
Tony - We close our eyes and imagine the sound of the music and a name just appears by magic. Well it does if you have been immersed in scuba diving, electronic music production, music marketing, chemistry, space travel and working very late.

How is it working in the studio as a three? Do you ever disagree on how the final track should sound?
Paavo - Having three people bringing in their views in a song – sometimes it takes a bit longer but we believe that if we all love the end result, we’ve got something special. We all have home studios too so we often work on a few things at the same time – it’s really handy for keeping things fresh.

You’ve been ultra-busy recently – remixing, producing and DJ’ing. How do you manage the time?
Jono - Day to day we're in the studio. One of the benefits of having three of us is that we are able to achieve a lot at once. For example, whilst one of us is out of the country DJing, the others can be starting to work on the next single, or even DJing in another country. We try to spend most of our time producing though, as without this we'd have never got a chance to show our DJ skills, aside from the fact we'd probably go insane.

Sometimes we spend our time in a song-writing capacity. Instead of going into the studio, it can be great just to sit at the piano and see what comes out. That way you're not distracted by sounds and you focus on fundamentals - the song!

When it comes to remixing, I find it’s worth setting a target date. With three people involved, there's a lot of opportunity for change, so it's useful to have a target to avoid changing things for the sake of it. With the exception of the Madonna remix and a few others, we tend to spend about a week on a remix. Most of the best remixes come together fast. I often feel it's better to move on to something new if you feel you're spending too much time on it.

How did your deal with Colombia and Vivian Green come about? How was it remixing an R&B / soul track? What can listeners expect from the mix?
Jono - This was an interesting collaboration as it came about through a lot of hard work on James's part (James helps run the Anjunabeats and Hard On labels). He had met a lot of people at an American dance event in New York and learnt a lot about how different the dance music industry is in America! James had to wait for an hour to meet Steve Ramirez who A&Rs Vivien Green just to hand a show reel of our work. Luckily Steve knew who Above & Beyond were and asked us to remix Vivien Green's single "Emotional Rollercoaster". We were all really excited about this as it wasn't trance, and it was a great chance to do something different. We wanted to use a lot of the original vocals as she has such a great voice, and I feel many trance vocals lack soul.

You’ve also remixed Billie Ray Martin’s classic cut, ‘Honey’. What was the inspiration behind remixing this one? Or did Nervous contact you about remixing it? What can listeners expect from the remix?
Tony - I don’t think we knew the earlier mixes, to be honest, but Your Loving Arms was a big tune for us and so we were keen to have a go at a Billie Ray martin vocal. We were trying to do a mix for US radio (our mix of The Sound Of Goodbye was a big radio hit last year – that’s why Nervous got in touch with us). So the Radio Edit was the start point, aiming to make a great pop record. It has some housey elements in there: we’re always keen to mix it up when we can.

Your DJ careers have really kicked off recently. How was your stint at Passion on 8 February? What was it like playing alongside Steve (The Thrillseekers) Helstrip and resident, Marc West?
Jono - The vibe was even better than I could have expected. I've met Steve Helstrip before, and he's a really nice guy and his music is excellent too. The crowd at passion were very welcoming. Marc West is a keen supporter of our stuff, and was very friendly. I was pleasantly surprised with the reaction to the "Skin On Chakra" record I've been banging on about recently. It was also really nice to be see how big “Let The Light Shine” was for the Passion crowd as I spent a long time working on that one with Darren Tate. We've got some new mixes of that coming out soon too.

You’ve also got a mini-tour of Scandinavia lined up for the end of April. What are your opinions on the Scandinavian scene right now?
Paavo - Well we haven’t been touring there before so all we know is through friends and the internet – it seems people are really active, but the prog stuff seemed to take it’s toll in the Scandinavian scene too. I’ve been DJing in Finland a couple of times and absolutely love playing there – it seems people are really on the same wavelength about what rocks in a club there.

Paavo you’ll be staying on for a gig in Helsinki on 1 May. Do you prefer DJ’ing on your own or as a trio? And why?
Paavo - This one is actually a live gig I’m playing with my mate Elo – we’ve got this project called Aalto and are launching our live gigs on home ground – first one in Illusion, Helsinki on the 1st and a second gig in London on the 9th at this wicked night called Planet Angel.

I definitely prefer not DJing alone – it can get a little bit lonely out there if it’s a long gig. On the other hand, three can sometimes be too much if we only have two hours to play so we sometimes play as a duo. With a bit more time I think it’s best – we all have very similar but very different tastes so having three DJs really keeps it interesting.

Where else can we expect the three of you DJ’ing over the coming months? Any destinations/venues you’d really like to play at in 2003?
Jono - Tony and I have just come back from Estonia & Russia and the atmosphere at both gigs was unbelievable. Also there are gigs in Sweden and Norway next month. In Sweden we're also going skiing - can't wait! Also, we'll be returning to Passion in May. Aside from the DJing, I enjoy experiencing the different cultures of countries. The biggest shock was going to Japan - it made me rethink everything!

What are your top ten tunes right now?

1. Sun Decade – I’m Alone (Mirco de Govia dub)
2. Mark Norman – Faith
3. Aalto – Rush (Super8 vs. Orkidea Remix)
4. Solar Stone – Solarcoaster (Midway Remix)
5. Jono Grant vs. Darren Tate – Shine
6. G.T.R. – Mistral
7. Signum vs. Katana – Third Dimension
8. Dirt Devils – The Storm
9. Matti Laamanen – Flakes
10. P.O.S – Gravity

Jono (of the top of my head, 10 of my favourite records at the moment are):
1. Unknown - Skin on Chakra
2. Sun Decade - I'm Alone
3. Oceanlab - Beautiful Together
4. Aly & Fila - Eye of Horus (Ronski Speed)
5. Holden & Thompson - Nothing
6. Darren Tate vs. Jono Grant Shine (Jono's Vocal mix)
7. Midway - Monkey Forest
8. Plummet - Damaged (Antillas mix)
9. Solarstone - Solarcoaster (Midway remix)
10. John Askew - Shadows After Dark

Tony (and not including my tracks, here is my top 10 at the mo):
1. Aalto - Rush (Super 8 Remix) (one of my favourite mixes this year)
2. Solarstone - Solarcoaster (Midway Remix)
3. POS - Remember (One of the best chord changes in trance history from Paavo)
4. Plummet - Damaged (Antillas Mix - my favourite vocal trance record since DT8)
5. Jono Grant vs. Darren Tate - Let The Light Shine In (Instrumental mix)
6. GTR - Mistral
7. Sun Decade - I'm Alone (Mirco De Govia dub).
8. DT8 - Destination (Original mix)
9. Aquanauts - Deep Sea (Martin Eyrer mix - I never tire of this)
10. Scooter - The Logical Song (not really!)

Don’t miss Part II tomorrow – Above & Beyond talk about recent and forthcoming productions, the Above & Beyond album and a whole lot more!

Many thanks to Paavo, Jono and Tony and cheers to James for arranging.

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