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Monday 27th, September 2004
Above and Beyond (Australia)

[b]Above and Beyond are without doubt one of the most successful trance acts in the international dance scene today. The group consists of Tony McGuinness, Paavo Siljamaki and Jono Grant and is responsible for productions under many guises such as Aalto, Dirt Devils, Free State, Mike Koglin vs. Jono Grant, Nitromethane, Oceanlab, P.O.S and Tranquility Base. Their label Anjunabeats has also become one of the most influential trance labels releasing some of the biggest trance tunes over the past year. Jono and Paavo recently toured in Australia to promote the launch of their new cd Anjunabeats Volume 2. The guys kindly took time out from their busy schedule to chat with Trance.Nu contributor Lisa before their gig at Sydney’s ARQ nightclub on Friday 3rd September.[/b]

So you’re here for the launch of your new CD Anjunabeats Volume 2. Can you tell me a bit more about it?

Jono: It’s our second cd in hopefully a long running series. Basically it’s the best of Anjunabeats, so it’s our favourite tracks from the last year on Anjunabeats this time. The first cd we did Anjunabeats Volume 1, was kind of a history of Anjunabeats as we hadn’t released any cds up until that point and on Anjunabeats this one is kinda the last year or so. It’s got stuff like No One on Earth on there, tracks from Smith and Pledger, Super 8, that kinda stuff and some upfront stuff as well.

Paavo: And up until now we haven’t really released cds so it’s a good way for us to let people who don’t have decks hear our stuff.

Jono: Yeah as a dj it’s sort of easy to think that everyone has record decks but it’s not the case really.

Lisa: And when is it to be released?

Jono: That comes out I think at the end of September in a couple of weeks.

Lisa: In the UK?

Paavo: We are doing a world-wide release so it will come out here as well.

Jono: Yeah it’s been really good generally cause last time we did the cd we just released it in the UK and this time we’ve got major partners around the world even wanting to release it so we are really lucky that we’ve managed to get a release in lots of countries.

The past year has been very successful for you guys and in particular your record label Anjunabeats. Can you tell me what have been the highlights for you?

Jono: Well one of the most recent highlights for me was seeing everyone singing a long to No One on Earth cause we played it last Sunday and it was in London. The trance scene in London can be a bit up and down so if you get the right sort of crowd they’ll be really into it. But yeah everyone was singing along to No One on Earth and that was great to see because when we originally did the track it was quite different from other trance tracks out there and we didn’t know how well it was going to be received. And to start with, the reactions were quite negative and then over time suddenly everyone really got into it. I think its just one of those records you need to hear a few times. So yeah in a sense for me one of the highlights of the year is being No One on Earth getting such good reception and it being a little bit different from our older stuff so it sort of moved things up a bit.

You have recently started up your own radio show called ‘Trance around the World’ on Ministry of Sound Radio. What prompted you to do this and can you tell me how it is going and where you see the program heading in the future?

Paavo: Well first of all, I think we started the radio show just because we were asked to do quite a lot of mixes for different radio stations so we were thinking we might as well start doing our own because we can really stay on top of it and build tunes that are a lot better cause I think when your doing a lot of separate mixes for different people you aren’t actually taking new records and start really hammering it and then making records big.

Jono: Yeah and we sort of did that with the White Room track this year. That was something from a radio dj point of view that I think we’re quite proud of really cause we sort of broke that record into the public eye a bit more so that was good.

Paavo: But yeah…I think we were quite lucky cause we were sort of thinking that way and then Ministry of Sound called us up and asked us if we wanted to do a show.

Lisa: Yeah it’s a great show….and I’ve noticed you have been featuring a lot of new and unreleased tunes which really makes the show stand out.

Jono: Yeah with the show we try to play the latest stuff. We sort of try and play a mixture of the latest stuff and also some slightly older stuff as well cause its good to have a balance you know not everything has to be really new all the time and the fact a track being a month old doesn’t make it any worse really does it. Most of the tunes we play we really love on the show we often like if there is a new record from a famous producer we’ll play it once or twice just to show people here’s a new record from blah blah blah and then if we really like it then we’ll support it for six weeks.

Paavo: And I think it’s very cool also for us through the net have the whole feedback from people so we can see what really resonates with people.

Jono: And they are sort of getting up the track listing quicker than we can sometimes (laughs). Sometimes we play the record and we’re not quite sure of the spelling of it or the name of the mix cause you know someone has just sent us a cd-r written on it ‘new Armin track’ or something and then someone on the internet has gone on there straight away and given the name, the label, the artist, everything! It’s amazing how up to date the fans are.

Lisa: Yeah I know (laughs)…but considering these new tunes are being played on the Internet on your show is there an issue with the people grabbing the tracks and playing them out before they are released?

Jono: Yeah it is a problem, I mean it depends on how you view it, on the other hand you can say it’s a really good thing because the music spreads around and people hear it. I think the problem is that the industry hasn’t caught up with the Internet and stuff but its catching up now I mean finally…I remember being at university and my friends downloading mp3s and stuff and like that was about five years ago (laughs) when I first went to university and people were doing it then. Only now can you buy mp3s as downloads…but yeah I think the problem is the industry haven’t caught up with that new business model and stuff spreading around early is a problem.

Paavo: But I think definitely the fact that its become so about the latest thing is a bad thing because a track needs a bit of time I think to build for people to start hearing it and for it to sorta catch on to lots of other people. We might have a new tune of ours and then we play it on the show for like four shows and people think its old but we haven’t even given it to anyone. And there is definitely a case for I think that records need a bit of time and you need to be a bit more patient with it. And there used to be like three years ago…there were situations where we might give a few tunes to a few djs and held it back on purpose a little bit because the records would actually benefit from it and get more hotter.

Jono: The other thing is playing stuff in clubs but not on the radio is a trick we sometimes use and that means people wanna come see us dj as well (laughs) cause that track they can only hear in clubs.

Anjunabeats has emerged as one of the most influential labels in dance music today. What do you look for when signing artists and tracks to your label and do you find it difficult to maintain the quality and sound it is renowned for?

Jono: We look for something that doesn’t sound like the last release we just released (laughs) which is often what we get sent. We get a lot of producers that send stuff that sounds like some of our tracks and remixes from a few years ago or you know the last release we did on Anjunabeats when they wrote the track that kinda thing. So we are looking for distinctive stuff, well something we would play in a dj set normally.

Paavo: And at the moment I think if we’re all really looking forward to something that doesn’t fit the formula of a classic trance record. There’s so much stuff out there at the moment. It’s always with the tunes that kind of stand out in some way…its necessary they have to be a completely different style or have something unique about them and it’s not always easy actually cause there’s so much stuff out there!

Jono: Yeah so just something that has something really special about it and unique.

Many people have said for years that trance scene or the trance sound in particular is dead. What is your response to this?

Jono: It’s just not true. I think the trouble is particularly and in England the media like to kill off something when its big that’s the way it works but this music’s been going on for years now and people keep saying ‘oh it’s dead its dead’ and it’s always coming back. It might die off sometimes and it has done and I think about a year ago it sort of died off a bit but its coming back again now.

Paavo: And what really I think at least in Europe what really to me killed it is that trance got so big it went so…well it started to be a big thing that you get these pop producers thinking now we can cash in and it’s a bad thing for us.

Jono: We need to change the name of what we do I guess. But they need to change the name of what they do.

Paavo: What it did though was it became uncool because of that but actually it wasn’t the real stuff that got uncool so the only thing that happened was it went quite underground and the music is getting better and I think the parties are getting better because its more back to the source of what the whole clubbing scene is about.

You guys produce under many different aliases. Can you tell me what the reason is for this? Is it because it allows you to experiment with a lot of different styles?

Jono: That’s one of the reasons….there’s a number of reasons, that’s one of them. The other reason is sort of contractual reasons with record companies cause you can’t if your Madonna say, you can’t sign another track you’ve done as Madonna to another record label because they own Madonna so if you do it under a different name you can do that. Yeah stylistically it’s different to a lot of our stuff. We used to do stuff as Dirt Devils which was quite banging (laughs).

Lisa: Yeah I was really surprised that was you guys as it’s very different to your usual stuff…

Jono: Yeah we were just having a laugh when we made that track and you know we wanted to release it so we released it and we did it under a different name. The oceanlab stuff is a project with Justine Suissa but it’s produced by Above and Beyond if you like just to sort of separate that out from Above and Beyond really.

I recently heard your new track ‘Tranquility Base - Surrender’ and it appears to be great follow up from ‘Razorfish’. Considering that ‘Razorfish’ is one of your most popular tracks why did you wait so long to produce again under this alias?

Paavo: Basically what I think happened really was cause when we do get the time we try and just write tracks and see what comes up. And that especially surrender after it was half done we thought well this sounds just like a tranquility base thing.

Jono: Yeah we kinda decided after we started yeah that can be tranquility base.

Paavo: Cause we didn’t want to put a full vocal in it or make it into that kinda thing so we kept it like it…and the filterheadz have now done a really nice mix of it.

Oceanlab – Satellite has had massive airplay world-wide and is now one of your most successful tracks. Did you expect it to become this popular?

Jono/Paavo: No, not really! (laughs)

Jono: With the oceanlab stuff we’ve sort of been quite relaxed about it…oh you know that’s the next oceanlab single we’ll put that out and its been a really nice project we do and then suddenly Satellite became really big and you know if anything we would have expected Sky Falls Down to be really big cause that was really huge in the clubs but I think what’s happened is we built up our names as a result of those records and then suddenly you do a new one and everyone has jumped on that. But yeah we’ve heard it so much and we’ll probably end up playing it tonight but we’ve heard it so much and it gets boring after a while to hear the same record (laughs) but then its always great to see the reaction so that kinda pays off.

Paavo: With that one there’s quite a few remixes of it anyway so we can always play one of the other mixes.

You have done remixes for some very famous artists including Madonna and more recently Britney Spears with your remix of ‘Every time’. Is there any other big artists you would like to remix tracks for?

Jono: Well we’ve just done one for Dido. Yeah that’s a slightly more chilled out mix and we were really happy with that one aren’t we.

Paavo: Yeah, definitely. But there hasn’t been many trance tracks out there that we wanted to remix.

Jono: Yeah….also I mean over the last year it’s been good cause the press have started to take us a bit more seriously cause the press in the UK have been a bit snobby towards trance music so we’ve sort of had to position ourselves with the people who are going to make trance credible.

Who would you say are your major musical influences?

Paavo: Well I think when we were really starting up with trance then Ferry would be one of those.

Jono: Ferry and Matt Darey. But also a lot of the stuff on Hooj tunes that kinda stuff. Tracks like Pete Lazenby - Sacred Cycles. But outside trance music I used to be into stuff like Pet Shop Boys and New Order those sort of electronic bands. Yeah a bit of everything really.

Which producers do you rate now and is there any new talent that we should look out for over the next few months?

Paavo: Well I think now there’s been a lot of really nice sort of more proggier sounds like Quivver and Tilt.

Jono: Yeah The World Doesn’t Know…gorgeous track and they have a new one called Twelve. And Leama and Moor is another one. It’s a bit more progressive than what you might expect from Above and Beyond but yeah that’s the kind of stuff we like to play early on in our sets.

Paavo: And I think Randy Katana as done a lot.

Jono: Yeah top of the night stuff.

Lisa: Yeah like his track In Silence.

Jono: (laughs) Yeah we hammer that one to death but it’s quite funny actually cause last Sunday we didn’t play it but I heard it three times actually and yeah it got a bit much.

What can we expect to see from you guys in the near future?

Jono: We’ve just been talking about this and we really ought to get our asses into gear and finish off an album.

Paavo: We’ve been doing so many gigs now and most of the time we are somewhere else or that we come back and we are absolutely knackered. We’re doing a new oceanlab thing at the moment and we’ve just been working on a remix of Ferry Corsten cause he did a remix for us of Clear Blue Water so we did a mix for him.

Jono: Yeah the oceanlab track is nearly finished. At the moment we’re just putting the final touches to it and then were going to do another mix of it probably. So yeah lots of things really.

This is your second visit now to Australia. How do you rate the scene here compared to the rest of the world?

Paavo: Well last time cause we played here and then in Melbourne and Brisbane and obviously with Sydney we played to a small place and I think it was really great to see that in such a small scene in Sydney what we did people like really seriously knew so much about it (laughs). Its like you come so far and its great cause you think people don’t really know but its almost more clued up than in Europe.

Lisa: Yeah there is quite an underground following here…

Jono: Yeah and its interesting as a dj, cause when your playing a set you’ve got to consider those people who are at the front who know every single record that was released last week and the week before (laughs) and the year before as well. And those people who are just out you know they’ve heard its going to be a good night tonight and you’ve got to try and sort of cater for everyone really so its quite challenging to do that anyway.

So you are playing at ARQ in Sydney tonight. What should the crowd expect from you and do you have any new tracks or surprises in store for us?

Jono: We’ve got a couple of classics, we’ve been told that a couple of our old remixes are quite big so we’re playing to that a little bit and we’ve sort of brought a couple of those along. And we’ve got a few new things as well. We’ve got our Dido remix that we could play. You know we don’t tend to plan our sets record by record we sort of see how it goes.

Paavo: I think its good to know a few of what’s going to work but then I sometimes even thought, yeah I’m gonna play this sort of set and in almost this kind of order and then you go to play it and you end up playing something totally different (laughs).

What else do you have planned while you are out here? Any sightseeing

Jono: Not really…we’re actually flying to Auckland tomorrow to play at St James which is a really nice venue so we are really looking forward to that.

Lisa: Well I guess that’s it then…thanks guys for your time!

Paavo/Jono: Thank you.

Special thanks to Jono and Paavo for chatting with Trance.Nu!

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