Above & Beyond are one of the UK’s most exciting dance music talents, known for their peerless solo productions and remixes for the likes of Madonna and Dido, as well as for their award-winning Radio 1 Essential Mix. The trio are set to release ‘Tri-State’ on March 6th and will host an album launch party at Canvas in London on March 4th. We caught up with Jono, Tony and Paavo to get the low-down on their debut artist album.
Q. Tri-State feels like an album that will make your core fans very happy but which should also appeal to all fans of electronic music and beyond. Was it always your intention to create an album with such broad appeal?
TONY: We wanted to make an album that would appeal to us first and foremost and the thing is we have quite broad tastes but for things that are really good. So that’s always the aim, make something that’s good at what it is rather than aim it at someone. And the start point for the album was primarily the songs. For the most part the songs are about doubt, that core human feeling of constant indecision that most people recognize, is this the right person for me, is this the right direction for me and so on, and that is where the connection will come from hopefully.
Q. Among other things you’re known for making music that rocks the dance floor, so how does the process of making an album differ from making club tracks?
JONO: Working on an album is very liberating, as you don’t have to think about keeping a dance floor moving, you can concentrate on the music. I’m sure people who like our music in clubs will love it, and of course there will be club mixes of many of the tracks. I’m hoping we’ll be one of the first acts to pull off an album in this genre with real quality and sincerity, just as bands like Underworld did years ago. It’s not a token album that’s there to serve a purpose, it’s raw and real – what you’re getting is just the three of us with our vocalists.”
Q. The album seems to have an almost filmic quality to it, much like your Radio 1 Essential Mix. Do you draw inspiration from movie soundtracks?
PAAVO: All of us obviously end up watching lots of films on airplanes so I suppose it comes naturally 🙂 But yes, we all really like music in films and I feel that it’s great how “pure” the music in soundtracks is: it’s written specifically to be effective.
Q. You write all your own songs and they seem to have a lot of depth and emotion, do you see that as something that differentiates Above & Beyond from other dance acts?
TONY: Most of the people in our scene are DJ’s and/or producers, rather than musicians or songwriters. And so the only way for these guys to get vocals into their material is to ask a singer to write something over a backing track that’s already been written and that’s great if they really nail it first time, but that’s very rare. We start from the opposite position – we write a song and then build a track around it that suits the lyrics. And this is the same whether we’re doing the whole thing ourselves, like Far From In Love or Alone Tonight for example, or writing with a singer like Ash (from Luminary who sings Can’t Sleep) or Hannah (who sang Home). We finish the song first, make sure it hangs together lyrically and melodically and then build a track around it. In that way we’re more like a band than a dance act per se.
Q. Why is the album called ‘Tri-State”?
TONY: “It’s a title that seems to fit a lot of things. On one level there are three of us in Above & Beyond, with three different unique personalities and different nationalities (Jono is British, Paavo is Finish and I’m Irish). On another level we have three different aspects that are involved in this album – we are producers, we are DJ’s and we are musicians/songwriters. And then there are the Three Realms of Existence, the three states of matter and the three dimensions. Three is the magic number!”
Q. Back to the album then, what are the tracks on there that people will recognise, and any new ones they should look out for?
JONO: The album has Air For Life and Alone Tonight in there, but all of the other tracks are new to the public. One of my personal favourites is Stealing Time, which captures the feeling of writing the album – a lot of over-time! Liquid Love is perhaps the most emotional moment of the album, but I’ll let you be the judge of that!
Q. The album preview podcast you created made into iTunes top 10 music podcasts. Have you been surprised by how well the album has been received so far?
PAAVO: Podcasts were a new, interesting world for me when we first thought of making one: I didn’t even know they have charts etc. We were amazed to see how popular the podcast became, and how quickly: it entered the charts after just 24hours of being available! If you are online, podcasts are definitely something to check out: they’re free and easy to listen to, and ours can be found there by doing a search for “tri-state”.
Q. Tell us about album launch party at Canvas In London on March 4th, who’s on the line-up and who are you looking forward to catching?
JONO: I’m looking forward to catching Stephen J. Kroos in particular. Stephen’s an extremely gifted producer from Holland who has his own sound, so I’m interested to hear what he has in store for us.
Q. You guys will be playing an extra-special 3-hour set on the night – what can we expect and how does it work when you DJ together?
TONY: The usual stuff, a bit of reggae, some waltz tunes and of course Land Of Hope And Glory! Seriously, we’ll be playing stuff you’ve been hearing on Trance Around The World and some exclusive plays of tracks from the album and, of course, some classic Anjuna tunes. We normally DJ with just two – I’ve been saying recently that we’re like Chelsea – there’s two in the team and three in the squad – but for big gigs we go back to back to back with the three of us.
Q. The Canvas party is being hosted by your record label, Anjunabeats, which has run sell-out parties at venues like Turnmills and Passion in the past. Looking at your website (www.anjunabeats.com), Anjunabeats seems to be as a much a community as a record label, would you agree?
PAAVO: Definitely, and it feels great when people from all over the world become friends through the label! The international aspect of the label and parties is overwhelming: there are people flying to the launch party from faraway places like Israel, Canada, South Africa and around Europe. The community behind Anjunabeats is the driving force that not only keeps the thing alive, but inspires us to take things forward.
Q. Second gig in Lebanon , back by popular demand , lots of fans , what’s
Above & Beyond’s impression ?
JONO: There’s a real warmth in the air when we play in Lebanon.? On both occasions we’ve played in Beirut we felt so appreciated.? I felt sorry for some of the fans who were waiting outside but couldn’t come in because the gig was sold out, but hopefully next time they will catch us.? One of them offered to carry our record box in to try and get in!? There’s nothing better than playing to a crowd who seem to trust the DJ and allow you to do your thing.? That’s how I feel when I play in Beirut.
Q. You’re known for your wild interaction with the crowd … describe how it
was here in Beirut , was it easy , were the people so easy going with your
TONY: my God, that Beirut gig was incredible!! One of the best I?ve ever done, if not THE best! The crowd were amazing and seemed to be really into what we were doing and that made it really easy to interact with them.? There was a video posted on the net of everyone singing along to No One On Earth and I played it to Zoe (the singer) down the phone and she was owerwhelmed! She?s not been out with us over the last couple of years seeing the reaction that song?s been getting so it was quite a shock. And then at the end with everyone shouting for Satellite and singing along, that was special. When we think that there enough people singing along we sometimes drop the volume a bit so everyone can hear themselves and this time the volume went up because people were singing so loud! I think its very easy to interact with a room of people behaving like that!
By Nick Tohme