In the wake of the release of their brand new compilation Anjunabeats Volume 5 (the fifth in a series of popular compilations from the leading trance label), Above & Beyond talk to Trackitdown to discuss the crafting of the album, future Above & Beyond releases, and what would happen if Tiesto played back to back with Tim Westwood..
After six years of collaboration you have gone on to become one of the leading trance acts in the world having remixed for Madonna, Dido and a whole host of other artists along the way. What would you say has been your career highlight to date, and what has been your most defining moment?
In many ways the release of our debut artist album Tri-State last year and the reception it got (5 stars in DJ Mag, for example) was the career high. Or was that the defining moment? And maybe winning Radio 1s Essential Mix of the Year was our defining moment. Or was that our career highlight? Oh its so confusing.
Many studio producers say that two is often a crowd, let alone three! How do you operate in the studio and have there ever been times where youve argued over who does what on a record? Are there many artistic conflicts or is it all relatively harmonious?
Its not something youd ever hear REM or U2 say, though, is it? Were a group. Sure, we all produce, we all DJ, we all play the guitar and the piano and know how to work Logic, so theres overlap there, but we all have our own special talents that dont overlap so much. I guess what makes it all work is that each of us can do everything if we need to but we all prefer to do certain bits if we can. So theres always someone else to keep things moving if you are getting tired or uninspired and specific expertise in different areas when you are in the zone but you need help. And no creative relationship is without conflict, thats to be expected and to be welcomed in many ways. Music is a passion, its fine to get passionate about it!
When you have remixed for pop acts in the past (such as the Madonna - What It Feels Like For A Girl remix) do you feel you have had to compromise your own integrity to satisfy the record label? Or have you had pretty much free reign to do what you like with the records?
In every case weve had completely free reign. We did the first Madonna remix on spec (and the Dido remix) so they were accepted on the strength of the music. We did get a lot of input from Madge after shed decided to use our mix in the video for What It Feels Like For A Girl (which is still a first for any remixer as far as I know) and she got quite hands on with the video version, but the club mix was accepted as is.
You recently hooked up with vocalist Zoe Johnston, formerly a vocalist with Faithless, on your latest single Good For Me. How did this partnership come about and do you envisage any further work with her in the future?
We all fell in love with Crazy English Summer from the Faithless album: I was so fed up pushing replay on my CD player I actually burned a CD with that one track on six times in a row and it was ain the car for six weeks! It turned out we knew someone who knew her and so we got in touch and sent her a few tracks, one of which turned into No One On Earth. She then went off to do her solo album and have a baby, but we coaxed her out of retirement by promising to explain how we do our name guessing magic trick if shes do one more for Tri-State. That was Good For Me. Zoes perfect for us. She writes amazing emotional songs and sings them like the most beautiful alien on earth. We dream of working with her again
Perhaps not many trance fans will be aware that you are also behind the Aalto, Free State, Nitromethane, Oceanlab, P.O.S and Tranquility Base aliases. Do you have a set agenda for these aliases or do you simply write tracks and then think which alias would suit it best? Is there any difference in the creative process for, say, an Above & Beyond and Oceanlab record?
Those aliases are typically what happens when we are forgetting the set aganda, so they are quite random, aside from OceanLab which is a huge thing for us and our fans. The difference with OceanLab is that we have one singer, the fabulously talented and ridiculously attractive Justine Suissa and we write all the songs with her. Apart from that its just like an Above & Beyond album.
Youve just released Anjunabeats Volume Five, the latest in the line of Anjunabeats compilation CDs which have always been very well received. Its notable that with this CD, youve taken the route of electro / electro-trance on CD1. This has been a popular direction for many producers throughout 2007. Is this a natural progression for the sound of trance music?
It seems at the start of every century there is revolution and invention and the overthrowing of the world as we knew it. And after fifteen years of dance music becoming more and more fragmented its now all getting bashed together and new sounds are coming out. Im not sure there is a natural progression to any of it, its all wonderfully random and confusing, but we are always keen to keep learning, to keep growing and not get stuck in a timewarp of 20th century thinking.
The CD comprises upfront and exclusive material alongside brand new Above & Beyond singles. What is your personal highlight on the album? And which single do you think you are most proud of from it? (This can either be one of your own or one of the future Anjunabeats releases).
To get signed to Anjunabeats, a record has to be loved by all three of us, so they are all wonderful to us! I think maybe the track thats given us the biggest smile is Bart Claessens unexpected but totally welcome remix of Tranquility Base Razorfish. Hes stuck a poker up the arse of a classic!
Who are you tipping for the top in 2007 and which upcoming Anjunabeats releases do you think will really make a mark on the scene?
Again, they are all our babies, so nobody on the label gets more love than anyone else, but we have to mention Stephen J Kroos and Super8 & Tab. Kroos is a tech trance genius from Holland whos just released his first (and our first) artist album Tecktonick to rave reviews. Super8 & Tab are perhaps the most consistent big room instrumental trance producers going at the moment and they will have their artist album due for release later this year.
In an ideal world, if you could choose an ultimate line-up for a collaboration (for example someone on bass, vocals, drums etc) who would you choose and why?
Hmm. On vocals Jeff Buckley (RIP) as he had the most incredible voice for a mere human being, on drums maybe Cliff Martinez (ex Red Hot Chili Peppers and now my favourite soundtrack guru), on bass Tim Simenon from the Clash because he's just so cool. And on piano can I have my Dad? He died last summer and it would be lovely to see him again.
Finally, youve just won the lottery and have been given an infinite budget to put on your own club event. Which venue do you choose, and which DJs would you like to see perform?