Published on July 24th, 2012 | by Amanda Stamelos2
Exclusive Interview: Tony McGuinness of Above & Beyond at Studio Paris Chicago
I had no intention of getting ‘aggressive’ at a club this past Friday, but life plans tend to change when you receive a last minute text asking you to interview one third of your all time favorite trance DJ group that same night. Tony McGuiness of Above & Beyond played a special set for 500 randomly selected people at Studio Paris to promote the newly released Samsung Galaxy SIII. Although our interaction was very short, I gained some tremendous insight into the genre of trance music.
EDM Insider Amanda 1: I’m curious, what spurred the shift from your Alternative Rock career to Dance music?
Tony McGuinness: I am not quite sure that I can say it in a blog, but I started going clubbing. That’s what really did it for me. I never really understood dance music until I started going clubbing in London around 1995, and just realized there was this whole new life experience to be had. My brother actually got me into it. He was going clubbing before me, pretending to be me. I was the marketing director at Warner’s, so my brother was pretending to be me so he can get into these clubs for free. So the first time I went clubbing, I actually got in as my own plus one. So we used to go clubbing, then we would drive to his house and start making music. We started to buy electronic music equipment, samples and stuff like that. It just seemed like a natural thing to do. We were both in bands previously making rock music. And I think that the area of music that we both grew to love, which is trance music, is very similar to alternative rock music in terms of the subject matter, the chords that it uses, and the kind of scope and length of the songs. So it felt like a natural transition really. From a trance DJ’s perspective, we are much more likely to use music and songs from the alternative rock genre to remix than I’d say the house guys are. That is much more kinda party music. I think trance music and alternative rock both tend to be existential white soul music. I do think there is a very direct link between the genres.
EDM Insider Amanda 2: So how did you, Jono, and Paavo come together to form Above & Beyond?
Tony McGuinness: Well it was due to one of those tracks that I was doing with my brother, Liam, when we were known as Nitromethane. And Liam had a Yamaha sampler and the only person that was making sample CDs for that sampler was this student called Jono Grant. So my brother got in touch with Jono, and as well as sending in a sample CD, Jono sent in a showcase of his productions. So Liam suggested that we get Jono to do a remix of “Time to Die,” which he did. He was already working with Paavo at the time, so that’s how we met. And sometime later when I was working on a remix of Chakra’s “Home,” I was very impressed with the sound of Jono and Paavo’s production style so I asked them to work on the remix with me. That’s how it all started.
EDM Insider Amanda 3: Do you perform alone without Jono and Paavo often?
Tony McGuinness: No, tonight’s event came about with very short notice or else there would have been two of us here like for a normal gig. I believe Jono and Paavo are over at Red Rocks tonight. They’ve got four dates this weekend, so I was the only one available.
EDM Insider Amanda 4: “Trance Around the World” is one of the most well known radio shows and influenced many other DJs to release their own consistent radio shows. What was your motivation behind starting that and what advice do you have for other DJs about waned to start their own radio shows and podcasts?
Tony McGuinness: Given that our albums and most of the things we do represent us as artists, we wanted to do something that represented us as DJs. Doing a mix radio show felt like the most obvious thing to do. I am not sure I would advise anyone to do it now because there are so many out there and I think you need some sort of platform to get it going. At the start we were on the Ministry of Sound Radio, which was great. We had a live show, and we used to do the thing live which is actually really different. So if you can get some platform to give a show a kick-start, that’s really important. But for us the driving force is what it represents. It’s like a DJ set because it consists of the kind of records that we would play in a DJ set. Obviously we try to change it a lot more frequently and we don’t play our music quite as often on the radio show as we do at our own live DJ set, but we at least try to represent us as DJs as much as we can in the form of a radio show. It’s tough sometimes to get enough good music. There’s so much music around, and so much of it isn’t very good. Sometimes it is a very soul destroying thing to listen to 150 bad records to find eight good ones.
EDM Insider Amanda 5: One thing that stands out about you all as a group, is your signature production style and its recognition amongst your fans. One example is when you spell out messages behind you on a LED screen. What influenced that?
Tony McGuinness: The idea originally came from watching a DVD of a REM concert from the 90s. There was a video they made which catalogs a number of shows they did for the “Green Album.” Right at the beginning of it they did this thing where they write up on a screen. It was a lot more impersonal than the thing that we do, but that’s the thing that gave us the idea. We first did it at our first and last live show in Beirut, but it was all pre-programed then. Then Paavo had the idea of doing it live at the Brikston show that we did couple of weeks after. Then we just started thinking that maybe we can incorporate this in the show. And I think what we try to do with everything in the show, regarding the visuals and the writing, is to enhance the fact of the music at that moment. We aren’t trying to deflect; we are just trying to enhance what is going on with the music and the emotions that you might be feeling at that moment. I think it works best when we do it in a succinct fashion, but it does have a more discursive style as well. Paavo is really the guy who has taken to it because he can type quickly without looking at the screen. I am actually the slowest. And unfortunately I am not doing it tonight, but then again this isn’t really a Group Therapy show.
EDM Insider Amanda 6: Why do you think people have such a strong emotional connection with trance music and why do you think the term “trance family” exists?
Tony McGuinness: I think people have a strong emotional attachment to it because it is a very emotional music form. It is very musical; it has the all the power of classical music because it allows many formats, not like minimal techno where you only have one note all the way through. It just got more scope to gauge you. It allows you to use songs where many genres don’t, so I just think it is very powerful music. I don’t know where “trance family” comes from, but I think everything that we have ever done has been to try and build a community of our fans on the web, and I think “trance family” is more of an all encompassing form of the same family.
Article by : Amanda Stamelos
About the Author
Amanda Stamelos Law student, EDM connoisseur, music festival fanatic – these are some of the many hats this girl wears on a daily basis. It was only after she started to write for EDMinsider.com where she discovered her passion for music journalism and appreciates the new perspective she has gained on electronic music. Other favorite pastimes include, starting a mean dance circle and attempting to mix songs on her brother’s vinyl DJ decks. She is very grateful for this opportunity and wishes her readers lives filled with great beats, good vibes, and epic times.