To celebrate every 50 episodes of their Group Therapy radio show, London-based trance trio Above & Beyond organised a spectacular live show. Due to the pandemic, for their 400th edition, they were compelled to host a virtual event, which they live-streamed from a boat on the River Thames via Twitch. With live events shut down, it offered another way to stay in touch with their legion of loyal fans and was composed mostly of classic tracks to mark 20 years of their Anjunabeats label.
In addition to “taking a welcome forced break from touring and catching up on other aspects of life,” Above & Beyond used the downtime to get back in the studio. After their last record ‘Flow State’ found the group exploring ambient music, they’re diversifying their sound again, working on a film score for the first time. This year, they also released a host of singles, including ‘Reverie’ featuring longtime collaborator Zoë Johnston, and a cover of evergreen New Order classic ‘Blue Monday’, which found fresh mileage in its already trance-like arpeggio bassline. Considering how productive they’ve already been in 2020, there’re bound to be more tunes before the year is out.
What three things have most helped you through Coronavirus Lockdown?
“Writing music, cooking, cycling/exercise.”
What lessons should the industry learn from this crisis?
“Nothing lasts forever, and don’t take anything for granted.”
What steps need to be taken to address the racism in the dance music scene?
“Using music to bring people who disagree together is the key, as is the case historically with many movements.”
What industry changes are you personally pushing for to make the dance music scene more inclusive?
“The whole approach from Anjunabeats and A&B has been about inclusivity from the beginning. We won’t rest on our laurels, however, and will try and further diversify our artist roster on our labels.”
What’s the greatest dance music track of all time?
“This is a problem in our industry — the obsession with ranking and rating things, and it certainly doesn’t help at all with inclusivity or foster an environment to promote true artistic expression.”
Tony McGuinness, Paavo Siljamäki and Jono Grant, aka Above & Beyond, have had another monumental year. Much of their main focus has been “touring incessantly, releasing the best music we can make across all our iterations and both our labels”, McGuinness tells DJ Mag.
This is reflected in the continued success of both their imprints Anjunabeats and Anjunadeep, releasing EPs from Gabriel & Dresden, Grum, Moon Boots and Eli & Fur this year, plus their fifth studio album. “Our Yoga/Mindfulness album ‘Flow State’ has been a big one,” McGuinness continues, referring to their latest LP released in July. ‘Flow State’ features 14 new compositions and three remastered ambient tracks, and focuses on creating transformative experiences. “We have always enjoyed shape-shifting — as ‘Acoustic’ [a compilation the trio released in 2014] showed — and with the recent focus on mental fitness and wellbeing, the album’s release has been particularly timely and adds another lovely string to our bow,” Tony says. Archery at its finest, Above & Beyond continue to score their targets well into 2020.
Do you submit your DJ setlists to the relevant royalties collecting society?
“Yes, we do.”
What more can we do to combat the mental health crisis in our scene?
“We have been highlighting this issue in our comms for some time now, honesty and dialogue seem to be the best policy. We recently released our ‘Flow State’ album to directly help people take better control of their mental fitness through yoga and meditation, and hosted events all over the world in support of it.”
Are you personally doing anything to improve the gender balance of line-ups?
“We always have mixed line-ups on our Anjuna stages where possible. We don’t care what kind of body you’ve been born with, it’s your musical mind we’re after.”
What changes have you made this year to be more environmentally friendly?
“It would be disingenuous of an international DJ to claim to be environmentally friendly, but in our personal lives and our business we have been moving towards sustainability for a long time.”
What was your favourite toy when you were a kid?
What’s your guilty pleasure?
From: London, UK
DJ style: “Enthusiastic.”
Best known for: “Our awesome Anjunafamily.”
Fave tune of 2018: “Gabriel & Dresden ‘You (Myon x Elevven Remix)’.”
Breakthrough DJ/producer of 2018: “Spencer Brown.”
“Last weekend we hosted the 300th edition of our radio show Group Therapy in Hong Kong,” says Tony McGuinness of trance trio Above & Beyond, “with an all-star line up, and debuted half a dozen new productions of our own.” It’s a neat encapsulation of just how high the London crew behind the hugely popular Anjunabeats label is flying at the moment.
In 2018, Above & Beyond released their fifth album ‘Common Ground’, which featured collaborators such as Zoë Johnston and Richard Bedford, and spent much of the year performing it for their devoted fan-base around the world. Their almost constant touring took them to Ukraine, Japan, Canada, the US, Australia and Indonesia, while they managed to squeeze in a few new singles along the way too, including ‘Rocket Science’ and ‘Red Rocks’. And as if that wasn’t enough, their label Anjunabeats continued to pledge its allegiance to the deeper end of trance; McGuinness is particularly chuffed at signing one of his favourite duos. “We got Gabriel & Dresden onto Anjunabeats, where they belong, after years of trying,” he says. “Their second album has done rather well.”
Words: BEN MURPHY
When we catch up with Jono, Tony and Paavo to chat over A&B’s last 12 months, initially at least the chaps are considerably more focused on their last 12 days. Shows at the Hollywood Bowl, Sydney Opera House and the Royal Albert Hall throughout 2016 whetted the collective appetite for gigs in iconic spots — an inclination that’s continued into this year.
"We've just returned from our first Group Therapy Weekender at the Gorge Amphitheatre near Seattle”, says Tony. “For us, it’s one of the most scenic venues we’ve played yet”.
The event, thrown to hail the 250th episode of their Group Therapy radio show, involved “25,000 people joining us, 16 Bit Lolitas, Yotto, Oliver Smith and Seven Lions for the weekend,” says Jono. “We live streamed it worldwide on YouTube in 4k, and took the opportunity to break news of ‘Common Ground’ — our next album — while we were there. We just knew it was going to be the right moment!”
Musically, back in February, the 13th volume of their annual Anjunabeats mix-comp arrived right on cue, while singles ‘1001’, ‘Balearic Balls’, ‘Alright Now’ and ‘Another Chance’ kept floors hot. Looking to the end of 2017, December will see the trio release the documentary shot in the run up to, and during last year’s acoustic gig at The Hollywood Bowl.