Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Above & Beyond

Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Above & Beyond

Dance music is a passion of mine. I don’t produce this stuff, but I listen to it more than anyone I know. In the world of dance music, it is tough living in the Midwest. We just don’t have a very good scene here in Indiana. You need to go to Chicago, LA, Miami, or New York to see some of the bigger and better DJs. Every now and then, however, this city will feature a huge name like Paul Van Dyk or DJ Irene. And last year, when these guys came to town, there was no question we would be in attendance. They played at Talbott Street, located in downtown Indianapolis, and they played an incredible set of tracks. Now, what makes these guys different is that there are three of them. You don’t see that very often. But when they were done playing that show in Indianapolis, all I could think about was seeing them again. They are going to be performing at Electric Zoo this September, a two-day music festival in New York City, and I can’t wait to see them again. Sit back and get to know one of the biggest and best names in the business, Above & Beyond.

What is it like being considered one of the biggest and best DJs on the planet?

(Laughs) What is it like? Pretty normal actually. I think the best part about it is that you are famous for only five minutes. Then you go home and everything is normal. It’s just a dose of fame when you first walk into the club or festival. You are quickly brought back down when you get back home and step off the plane.

Do you like living in London?

I really like it here. The weather is nice today. We don’t get too many decent summers and this summer has been really great. It makes a mass of difference when the weather is nice. London is such a cultural hub.

The name Above & Beyond came from a poster you had hanging on the wall if I am not mistaken. Do you still have that poster?

That’s right. I don’t. I don’t know what happened to it. It’s a part of history now I guess. It’s probably sitting in some closet somewhere or something. I don’t know; wish I still had it.

What is the largest crowd you have ever played for?

In 2007 on New Year’s Eve we played to a million in Brazil. I think that is the biggest gig we have done. You don’t really realize how many people you are paying to. It was a big crowd going down the beach. It didn’t feel that much bigger than any other gig really. We just did EDC in LA. I don’t know the numbers but I think the event had over 100,000 estimated to appear and in the main stadium (where we played) I think there were 50-60 thousand.

You guys looking forward to Electric Zoo this September?

Definitely. To be honest, all the gigs we do in North America are always fantastic. Things like satellite radio help our scene. Dance stations are always being played and people are really starting to get educated about this stuff. The scene is bigger in other places like London and Amsterdam, but America has a great scene thanks to the satellite radio. The radio has actually gone less dance over here than anything. It is good for the scene here, as it has made it more underground.

At the same tine, the gigs where we play to 100 people on a Monday are really important to us. If you can do that it is important to make use of those nights. I would much rather be doing a gig than sitting in a hotel room. Those gigs don’t make us a lot of money, but they are a great way to spread the Above and Beyond name. We are just playing to more people that way. We are giving people a chance who wouldn’t normally get to see it on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday night. We save the weekends for bigger cities. Like I said, we would much rather be working.

Tell me a little bit about your new disc.

I think it’s more progressive than some of the other ones. It’s reflective of some more of the music we are getting into at the moment. Perhaps a little bit more groove laden and with a little more classic trance. We have some mixes on the disc that are more techno and funk. It covers the middle of that range I guess. I hope it’s a journey for some people.

You guys are also known as Rollerball and Tongue of God. Any reason behind those other names?

You are digging deep there. Years ago producers would work under different names so they could put our more material. The scene has changed and now it makes DJs put everything out under one name. These different names would produce slightly different sounds. Above and Beyond was for the lyrical stuff. The Ocean Lab stuff was specific to tracks and what not. Some of them were for even instrumental tracks.

What advice do you give someone thinking about a career as a DJ?

I think to learn off other people and copy other sounds. Learn the craft of producing. Listen and learn and then copy it. The most important thing is to always make sure there is an original edge to a track. We get sent stuff that sounds like Deadmous5, even though its good, it’s still a direct copy of that sound. Try to be original. You don’t have to be 100% original, use idea from other tracks, but if you copy a complete track and do everything the same, it will sound just like everything else. Take a bit of the Deadmous5 sound, then a bit of trace, then some house, then you have something original. There isn’t anything truly original, and it is all relative to something. This year we have had a guy called Archie, from Russia; he has done just that. He has taken some classic trance and has mixed it and it s a new sound that hasn’t been heard before.

You are good friends with Armin van Buuren. What’s he like?

(Laughs) We have known each other for ten years. We had dinner with him a few times but have never worked together. He is really professional at what he does. He knows exactly what he wants. He knows how to bring the scene together and sort of bridges all the genres of trace together. He is a very good leader.

Where are you originally from?

I am from the southwest of England. But I now live in London.

How do you usually prepare for a show?

It used to be a case of vodka and tonic. These days I hardly drink at gigs. I do sometimes, but in terms of the music we do a lot of preparation. We want to have an idea of which tracks we are playing. We know which of the big tracks we want to use. We leave some room to play what we want, but we try to prepare this stuff in the studio before hand. Some of the tracks might go on too long or we have even added drums to track when it didn’t sound right in the club. We add some more percussion to beef it up, we can do bootlegs, and we just make it fit the club and make those adjustments. We have even done stuff by remote desktop. Say we are in New York, get to the hotel, and go, “Oh god, the bass isn’t right.” The changes are something small, a little tweak here or there, and we will remote home, login and rebounce it.

Tell me why there are three of you.

It was just something we decided on; we just ended up working together. With any kind of band, unless you are missing a member of the band, you need a drummer in a there. What happened was I was working at university on my degree, and that is how we all met. Meanwhile Tony’s brother got in with him and introduced us. I used to work for Yamaha, and I made a sample CD that wasn’t too readily available. His brother bought the CD and we got talking and he gave it to Tony who was working at a record label at the time. He was at Warner Music. We ended up going out to listen to the music all together and they asked us to do a remix. We did a remix and Tony got offered a remix from Warner and that was the first we did together. That is how we started. It wasn’t a coincidence; it was just made sense. It makes us a bit different as opposed to what you are used to. Normally it’s always ones or two DJs. That gives us an edge in the studio as well.

Do you have a favorite club you like to perform in more than another?

It’s about the crowd. That said it is more than the club. Overall it’s about the crowd. One really club is Government in Toronto. The crowd is what makes it incredible. I like Decision in Chicago. Most of the gigs we do in the states are fantastic these days. Going back to the point about satellite radio, they hear it, know the songs, and are hyped up when they come. You don’t get that too much where they don’t have radio. In Poland and Russia you get that. They have a lot of radio support as well. With the Internet and radio, you will have a good night.

You have remixed tracks for Madonna, Britney Spears, Dido, and more. Do you get to meet these artists when working on their music?

Generally no, we don’t get to meet the artists. You get sent a link online, all the vocals are there, and then you put the remix together. They say yes or no, change this, and so forth. Can you just change this, or change that, and it is a very interesting musical cycle. Then finally its finished. They do make some really good changes to some things. The artist maybe you pump into them at an industry party. But not usually. It depends on the artist, really. If a small artist the chances are better.

Where do you see yourselves in five years?

In five years (laughs). Funny, I will probably be doing fewer gigs and do less work in the studio but to be honest I will be doing just that in five years. I want to take more time with the music and develop the stuff more. You find that you are very tired when you return from a tour. It takes sometime to get back into it.

What do you want to be remembered for when this is all said and done?

I am not sure if there is one thing. I will be happy being remembered for the fact that some people used our tracks at weddings. A few people have gotten married to Skies Fall Down. That I find touching. It doesn’t seem like the obvious choice for a wedding. It is nice to get into that area for people’s lives. Fans that send us letters are also really sweet. There was one guy who I met in Australia and he was having some medical treatments. He said that our music helped him recover from cancer. What can you say to something like that? You can just stay humble music helped him stay positive in more than one-way. You are not thinking about these when you are making these tracks. To have these tracks have that effect is kind of freaky, amazing, and all sorts of emotions are spent.

I always let the artist get the last word. Go.

Thank you for supporting our music. We try to think about the fans in the things that we do, as a company as Anjunabeats and as a band and I hope you continue to enjoy what we are doing and if not, I hope that you enjoy what we are doing!