Artist Interview: Above & Beyond's Jono Grant gives us some back and forth before this weekend's Hallowfreak'n'ween
Unless you’ve been unfortunate enough to live under a giant, soundless rock away from cognizant civilization for the past several years, you’ve likely heard of Above & Beyond. In addition to being tastemakers behind the Anjunabeats/Anjunadeep record labels, the London-based trance gods – Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness, and Paavo Siljmäki – are undoubtedly one of the most legendary acts in the history of electronic music.
Stretching back to its debut album “Tri-State” (2006), the flawless “Sirens of the Sea” (2008), and its buzzworthy album “Group Therapy” (2011), Above & Beyond has become the gold standard of trance music, beloved by fans old and new. On Friday Oct 31, it brings its infectious, sing-along-ready anthems for a “Group Therapy” session (get it?) to the Fillmore Auditorium for one of Denver’s biggest Halloween bashes, Hallowfreak’n’ween.
Luckily for us, and you, The Rooster was able to sit down with Jono Grant to chat about recent musical milestones, fresh Anjunabeats talent, and new work on the horizon.
Well, first off, congratulations on Group Therapy 100 at Madison Square Garden. Obviously you aren’t strangers to big venues, but how did it feel to play in a venue like that?
It’s only after the event that you take stock what you’ve actually done. It was such a busy night, you know, there was so much going on. We’re playing new music in an all-new set; we have to think about presenting on the radio, so it’s only now, a week or so after the gig, that I’m realizing ‘Wow, we just played and sold out Madison Square Garden,’ which is probably one of the most iconic venues in America. We’re just really proud to have done it.
Of course you guys have been at this for a while, but do you still get nervous before a big gig like that?
Oh yeah, definitely! Especially these big gigs where we’re trying new production things and new songs out; the light show is probably the biggest we’ve done as well, so I know our lighting director was very nervous. The whole team, from us on stage to the staff from Anjunabeats who came over to run the social media side—we’re all pretty on-edge before a gig like that.
How do you deal with your nerves?
Hmmm, just get on with it, really! [laughs] Sometimes, with a gig like that, I wish I could get into it a bit earlier on, but after about twenty minutes or so, you kind of settle in and relax. Actually, I’m still sort of looking for the answer to that one [laughs].
So do you like playing live better, or do you prefer to be in the studio?
It’s funny, when we’re on tour I feel like we should be back in the studio, and if I’m stuck in the studio I feel like we should be doing more gigs. So it really does oscillate between the two. Especially these days, it’s really hard for one to exist without the other. You have to have new music to play to keep your fans interested. But on the other hand, if you’re just making this music in a room with no connection to the outside world – I don’t think I’d really like that either, so it’s important to do both, I think.
Speaking of great new music, do you have any talent on Anjunabeats that you’re particularly excited about?
Yeah, I’m very much into the music we’ve been putting out on Anjunabeats recently. Cubicolor – I think their stuff is really on-point at the moment. Also, 16 Bi Lolitas – I’ve been really into their stuff lately too. We just started working with this guy, Jason Ross – I think he’s really good – and we actually played some of his tracks at ABGT (Above & Beyond Group Therapy) 100, so that’s very exciting.
I’m still very excited about Mat Zo; obviously he’s not new to the scene, but he just keeps exciting me with what he plays. If you go to a Mat Zo show, you’re going to expect something different, but you’re not really sure what that is. Ilan Bluestone has had a really great year, and hopefully 2015 will be even bigger for him. And let’s not forget Andrew Bayer, who’s working on a new album, he’s an amazing producer. It’s good to have such talented people on the label because it makes us want to better ourselves.
So it sounds like you guys have been hard at work on a new album. What can fans expect from “We Are All We Need”?
I’m sure people might feel differently and have their own opinions about it, but I really feel like it’s “Group Therapy: Part Two.” And for me, “Group Therapy” was a follow-up to” Tri-State.” I don’t think we’ve necessarily reinvented the wheel. We’ve just written more songs about our lives and produced them in the style that we feel is appropriate. We’ve done some songs with Zoe Johnston; we’ve got Alex Vargas on the new album. We’ve also got tracks with Justine Suissa, which we’re all really excited about; we loved doing the Oceanlab stuff in the past, so it’s great to work with her again. There’s a couple instrumentals on there as well.
It also sounds like the new album cover is also pretty interesting. Can you tell us about that?
Well we gathered the names of fans and put them on the album cover. The idea of “We Are All We Need” is kind of self-reliance, but also about reliance on your group of friends. It’s supposed to be about self-empowerment, but also being a part of a group. So it’s about the idea that we can create great things together. It’s about what the human race can do together. So yeah, it’s sort of a thank you to our fans by putting them on the cover.
To contact the writer of this article, Joseph LaFond, email: Contact@TheRooster.com