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Above & Beyond

When DJmag catches up with Above & Beyond they're in a hotel in Singapore, bags packed and ready to fly off to Bali. The trance trio, comprising Tony McGuinness, Jono Grant and Paavo Olavi Siljamäki, had also just played four shows in India, a country that in recent years has embraced Above & Beyond's mixture of sleek dancefloor rhythms, epic hooks and song-writing sensibilities.
"India's now a big place for our music," says Paavo, "we were known for a while, but once more people got high-speed internet, our following went to the next level."

While the world has shrunk thanks to new technology, there are still some places that switched on to Above & Beyond in 2010. "One of the best gigs we did this year was in Moldova, which I'm ashamed to admit I had barely heard of," Paavo adds. "It has a lot to do with our radio show - we play a song on the radio and at the weekend, wherever we are, people come up and request that song," Jono explains.
"Music used to be localised, but now you can go anywhere in the world and people will request a song. When we started off, it used to be all about Radio 1, but the internet has widened the audience. Sometimes we go to a place and we didn't know we had an audience there."
With an increasingly busy diary, it's no idle claim that the world has become smaller and more familiar. Above & Beyond are also refreshingly honest when it comes to discussing the financial imperative of touring. "Sales are down, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise," says Jono. "We were one of the first acts to have a digital store, but we have to go on the road to earn a living."
They also readily admit that they have noticed signs of the global recession's impact on clubland and that some events have lost sponsorship, but that "people still want to go out and have a good time". Thankfully, the trio's Anjunabeats label and attendant support structure has helped them confront falling sales and the worldwide financial crisis.
"We are very lucky in that our label is like a family of fantastic people working together," says Paavo. "We have access to great music and we try to break our acts in the live circuit."

It also helps that Above & Beyond don't take things too seriously, despite the fact that they are self-confessed perfectionists, making sure that every element at every show clicks - no small order when they have to perform to stadium-sized crowds.
"It has gone from having a house party to performing to 75,000 people at events like the Electric Daisy Carnival in the US this year, which was one of the most spectacular shows we have done, but no matter where we're performing, we try to give people a great show, to make sure that the venue looks and sounds as good as possible," says Paavo.
With all of this focus on touring and performing across the globe, how do they find the time to make music? Jono admits that "tiredness really, really messes with your brain" and that consequently, getting anything done in the studio is difficult. For that reason, the trio took two months off at the start of the year, which they felt made a considerable difference.
"It's really important that we have time to make music," says Jono. "It is an art and there is a danger for some DJs that they treat their names as brands and then just add some music to that brand like an afterthought," he adds.
Indeed, with remix credits for Madonna, Britney Spears and Dido, Above & Beyond see themselves more as a song-writing group than DJs - Paavo says they "feel lucky to be a group" - and as such need to spend time in a studio instead of churning out tracks on a laptop.
They also believe that 2010 saw trance influences infiltrate house music. "It's amazing how much the core trance sound has fed into house," says Jono. "We played with Steve Angello this year and he sounded more commercial than we did."
However, they also point out that trance itself is slowing down. "Two years ago, most of the stuff we were playing was between 136bpm and 138bpm," says Paavo. "Nowadays, we're finishing our sets slower and funkier, but they still have that energy."

While 2010 only yielded one Above & Beyond single, 'Anphonic' (they also released 'If I Could Fly' as Ocean Lab), they are working on a new single for their Tranquility Base alter ego and are preparing for the release of an artist album next year, although Jono says, "we said the same last year - but we are further down the road now".
The untitled album will feature a mixture of club tracks and more chilled out music, and they are unwilling to categorise it. "We're just trying things out and hopefully it'll sound good," says Jono.