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

British trance trio Above & Beyond continue to push the envelope with their productions, live show and Anjunabeats label, constantly innovating and moving their music forward. For their new video for “On My Way To Heaven,” the triumvirate, who recently Cream Ibiza Mixed by Above & Beyond,  tapped actor Steven Berkoff (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, A Clockwork Orange, The Krays) to perform a dramatic Shakespearean soliloquy set to the group’s track featuring Richard Bedford. With Above & Beyond returning to the States over the summer for select gigs for their ongoing Group Therapy tour, we thought it was high time to publish our chat with A&B’s Tony McGuinness conducted back in March in Miami.

You recently finished up your Group Therapy bus tour in the States. You made unprecedented stops like Norfolk and Baltimore. Why the deviation from the usual stops like New York City and Washington DC?
Tony McGuinness: That’s the whole point of that particular tour was to fill in the gaps of some of the big markets where we go to regularly. The crazy thing is some of the shows were only about 50 miles apart on consecutive nights and they still sold-out. It’s an amazing thing really to realize the size of the United States of America and how many people live here. nd thanks to the reach of the Internet and Sirius XM and a truly global-in-a-macro-state nature of the music market now it’s fantastic to go to little towns like Syracuse. Maybe I saw somebody with a football team t-shirt 20 years ago or something but I’ve never been there, and would never go there and that’s what’s really great about the bus. You just put your production on the bus, you’re not worrying about having to sort out the production in the venue every night, you’re taking a trailer and you walk up to town, and you put on a show like nobody’s seen. It’s very exciting to do. It’s actually very relaxing. You’re not at 30,000 feet for two hours every day which is actually very bad for your body.

What do you recall about the road trip? What were some of the more memorable moments?
To be honest the highways aren’t as picturesque as they might be. It would be really nice to do it all on the smaller roads. I drove across America a long time ago, from Boston to Beverly Hills, and the great thing about a road trip like that is you could go wherever you want. You see some lights in the distance, you get off the highway, and you go. When you’re on a big bus with a trailer you’re a little limited to going along the major routes. Flying is tiring because you’re spending a lot of time at low pressure so there’s not so much oxygen to breathe and it’s bad for your skin. So if you’re flying every day, which we would be doing because we’re playing every night on those kinds of tours, you just get wicked whereas on the bus it’s joyful. You get out of the hotel in the morning, you get on the bus, you can relax, you can move around, and if really want to stop you stop. We stopped at a truck stop somewhere near Amish country. There was a man with four or five women dressed in head scarves and clearly Amish-looking clothes. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, I don’t know much about them, but they looked totally out of sorts looking up at the fast food menu in wonder as if it was a wonderful, new moment. I asked, “Do you mind if I take a picture of you?” And they said, “No. No picture.”

“We’ll stop touring when we die. It’s relentless.”

There are so many young DJ recruits like Erik Arbores, Arty, (Jaytech also, I believe, when he first started in this business.) Do you have your eye on someone that you see has the sound and knack for this?
We currently have a roster of artists at Anjunabeats that we are very focused on. To be honest, it’s hard for us to ever get to see people who are outside that unless they’re on a festival bill and we happen to be there in time. So in terms of seeing people play it’s very difficult for us. We were lucky enough because we did Trance Around The World 400 last year and it was a broadcast and we had to be there for the whole time so we got to see everybody’s sets. The set that blew me away the most was Mat Zo. He’s been a producer, he’s been making tracks….there he goes now, Richard Ashcroft himself. [Tony’s joking reference that Mat Zo looks like Richard Ashcroft of The Verve.] He’s been making tracks that we’ve been playing a lot. For the most part I think to be a successful DJ that’s what you need to do is make great tracks. The thing about Mat’s set is he put a lot of work and effort into pulling in bits of music from all different genres. He played a bit of Iggy Pop. He’s playing bits of dubstep. They’re just very cleverly woven together and I think it took a lot of people by surprise. He knows his music. That was the first time some people got exposed and certainly the first time I got exposed to his set. I was actually really blown away.

The other guy that I’m really very excited about at the moment is Andrew Bayer who luckily for us has stepped in because Jaytech had some problems with his visa. You’re going to get to see a very rare appearance by Andrew because he really doesn’t like to DJ much. It’s something that I think he’s going to get forced into is my feeling. He opened for the guys in Baltimore and the reaction was fantastic. There’s a lot of love for his music. He’s exceptionally talented. While we’ve been on this tour I’ve been listening to a naissance version of what will be his next album, which is absolutely brilliant. It’s absolutely brilliant. It all hangs together. It’s so beautiful and so moving; it sounds like the soundtrack album to the best film you’ve ever seen. We talked with him about putting it out with a label that maybe had more experience in that kind of music but thankfully it’s coming out on Anjunabeats so it will be kind of a stretch for us it terms of genre. When you listen to the record, if you like the stuff that he’s done in the genres of Anjunabeats and Anjunadeep that he’s well known for, you can’t help but love this. It’s a magnificent piece of work.

Kathy Vitkus

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