Above & Beyond’s Tony McGuinness: “We’ll Stop Touring When We Die!”

What artist are you interested in these days? Who is inspiring you and that you see has potential, significant staying power and influence on the scene?
The very weird nature of our job means the people we get exposed to are people we now hold. I think one of the other guys that we’re really excited about is Maor Levi from Israel. We signed him when he was 16 I think and he struck out on Anjunadeep all those years ago. We thought, “Wow, child prodigy.” He went away and did a military service for a while and was kind of lost to the world for a couple of years. e’s back now and for the last 12 months everything he’s done we’ve played in our sets. He’s just an extraordinary guy. House and trance have been cross pollinated and Maor manages to do stuff that’s really grooving, that really works in a big room. That’s actually quite a challenge.

“If you say the world isn’t changing then you get left behind.”

There has been a love/hate relationship with so many genres over the years in particular happy hardcore, trance, and now dubstep. Armin van Buuren’s recent A State Of Trance show artist, Fei Fei, took some heat playing what one person described as, “90% dubstep,” during her set at this trance-named show (although 90% maybe a slight exaggeration.) How do you feel about this experimental effort on her part?
Firstly, we put on a trance-named show that’s as broad as we want it to be. If you’re clinging to the old idea of trance and you clearly haven’t been out in a club for the last five years, then I think maybe that’s the issue for some people who kind of cling to that. To me genre is what you want to make it. Dubstep is clearly a new musical form which has some hallmark elements but those elements are already turning up. I’ve just been listening to Gabriel & Dresden playing on the radio and every now and again you’ll hear that moody bass thing and you think, “Wasn’t that dubstep?” But it’s only there for a half a second. There’s a new Sunny Lax remix which I just heard the other day. He’s the last person I would ever expect to use dubstep, but it’s in there. Once these tricks are out of the bag, if you’re an educated producer, then you’re going to experiment with them. I think there’s a dubstep mix of “On My Way To Heaven.” This is a song that we wrote together and we think we’ve produced the best version, and then I heard a dubstep remix and then I think, “You know what, I think that’s the best version of this song.” And that’s the great thing about our world is to think people are coming into it from different areas and different directions. If you say the world isn’t changing then you get left behind.

The very real difference between being a music fan and being an artist is as a music fan you can get your record collection and you can sit on it. You can say, “I like these five things; and that’s me.” Unfortunately as an artist you just can’t do that. Every time we go out to play there are new, young people in the audience that weren’t there last week and there are people that used to be in the audience three years ago who have children and don’t come out often. You cannot, as an artist, stay still. You have to embrace change. You have to embrace the future. It does make people uncomfortable because they don’t have to do that. Well, then they’re not working as a musician because if they were they’d understand it. I think it’s that failure to accept change which is their prerogative.

If you like The Cure from 1981-1983 and hate everything after “The Love Cats” like some people might do, or you like the first album from My Bloody Valentine but you don’t like the second one, well, that’s great for you. But whether you’re Madonna or Avicii or Kylie Minogue you need to keep doing new things if for only to keep yourself interested in what you’re doing. The privilege of resting on your laurels and doing the same thing over and over again is a privilege that’s not given to artists.It just has never been I think particularly with electronic music which has this 3-year life cycle in people’s lives. You go out clubbing when you want to meet a girl or a boy and music is a background to that. There are new people coming in all the time with new sounds and there are new producers and we as label owners, as DJs, and as producers ourselves, have to acknowledge that change. In the end, the tracks that Fei Fei played, great for her she did it. Dance music predominantly is for your arts. If you’re spending too much hate time on it then you’re missing the point.

When will you finish up this latest touring adventure and what are a few of the first things you’ll do when you’re finally back home and stay put for a while?
We’ll stop touring when we die. It’s relentless. It’s unfortunate but fortunate at the same time the reality of where we’re at now. People used to make records and make money from records and tour when they wanted to tour. Now because of the money being more on the touring side, unless we keep doing that, we haven’t got a living so we just have to keep doing it.

Live images by Andy Willsher

Kathy Vitkus

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