Above & Beyond, the U.K. trio of Jonathan Grant, Tony McGuinness, and Paavo Siljamäki, does everything one can imagine in the electronic music world – produce, write, remix, DJ, and run a record label. With their highly-acclaimed debut album TriState and Anjunabeats label compilations as well as relentless touring, they have built a huge fan following, resulting in Radio One Essential Mix of the Year awards (2004 & 2011), a top 10 position on the infamous DJ list (2011), and 5th position in DJ Mags’ Top 100 DJ’s poll last year (2011). They are a true trance force to be reckoned with!
Jono Grant and Paavo Siljamäki met at the University of Westminster in London, where they were both pursuing degrees in Electronic Engineering. Having discovered a common interest for electronic music, they decided to collaborate. Following Paavo’s suggestion, they launched their label in the summer of 1999 with the release of their first single “Volume One,” under the alias Anjunabeats. Following the success of “Volume One” and a string of singles and remixes under their alter egos Free State and Dirt Devils, they caught the attention of Marketing Director & Manager of the Warner Music Group Tony McGuinness. Having been recently commissioned to remix Chakra’s “Home,” Tony McGuinness recruited Jono & Paavo to help him complete the remix. While searching for an alias to use for the Chakra remix, the group found inspiration on a web page belonging to an American motivational speaker (coincidentally named Jono Grant). The motivational slogan? Above & Beyond.
Interest in Above & Beyond’s music immediately emerged from established trance labels, and new remixes were requested as their career began in 2000. The trio remixed Aurora’s “Ordinary World”, Fragma‘s “Every time You Need Me,” Perpetuous Dreamer’s “The Sound of Goodbye” and Adamski‘s “In the City” These tracks served as the foundation for Above & Beyond’s reputation as one of the UK’s leading vocal trance remixers. Their most famous remix to date was Madonna’s single “What It Feels Like for a Girl.” Madonna was so impressed that the music video for the song was shot to the Above & Beyond remix instead of the album version. Later, Above & Beyond did remixes for Delerium, Three Drives, and J-pop artist Ayumi Hamasaki.
In an interview with Ibiza Spotlight, McGuinness explains the group’s dynamic – “I think what has worked so well for us is that without any pre-planning we ended up being a pretty complete team, with complementary skills and experience that enabled us to do so much of the writing, producing, online, tech and record company functions that comprised our made up business model between the three of us. And as our team has grown and we’ve gained much needed support and professional assistance in all areas, the three of us remain highly involved in every area of the Above & Beyond and Anjunabeats Empire, so the original vision is still intact.”
The members of Above & Beyond are songwriters as much as they are DJs, their songs range from beautiful melodic masterpieces to dance-inducing trance tunes and club bangers. Above & Beyond’s focus is always on getting closer to their crowd and making them part of the action, whether by bringing fans up on stage to press play on their CDJs or communicating with the fans via visual screens – the goal is to make everyone in the room feel like they are part of an experience that is epic, immersive, and interactive all at once. Above & Beyond continues to release forward-thinking instrumental club music – such as their own tech-fused rollercoaster “Formula Rossa” – on their renowned Anjunabeats label.
Over the last 12 months, Above & Beyond has taken the sound and ethos behind the critically acclaimed Group Therapy album across the globe. Their loyal following increases as they expand on various music projects – Above & Beyond’s weekly radio show has built a fanatical global following on the Internet and worldwide syndication on FM stations and XM Satellite Radio in the US. The show features the epitome of trance music and has been responsible for breaking many of the scene’s biggest records. For the group, this summer will be no different from the last, filled with studio hours and plenty of time on the road (or in an airplane) touring. Although their music’s popularity continues to increase, in a recent interview with DJ Ron Slomowicz, McGuinness explains that “the future is totally unpredictable, and I’m not really sure where trance is going in terms of its sound. I think the rejuvenation of house music with that kind of darker baseline-driven sound has eclipsed electro as being the next big thing in House music.”
While they might not be as flashy as Armin van Buuren, their mixing skills tend to surpass that of most top DJs, and their live sets promise hours of uplifting and progressive trance with lots of substance. Above & Beyond has gained massive airplay and recognition over the past few years. In modern dance music, their purpose has evolved to focus on setting a mood rather than overwhelming the listener with repetitive beats and cheesy lyrics. What Above & Beyond’s music accomplishes is moving us physically and perhaps at times emotionally, all the while keeping the beats and blips rock-steady – in a state of trance.
Here is a great video that sums up the group’s journey throughout the last year.
Have you had a chance to see Above & Beyond at any of the recent music festivals? Share your experience – your feedback is always appreciated. And be sure to catch them at the upcoming A.W.O.L. Strip in Las Vegas! Above & Beyond will be headlining Sunday, July 22nd at Tao Beach at the Venetian Hotel.
For A.W.O.L. Strip tickets, click here.
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By: Angelo Castañeda