Above & Beyond
Above & Beyond is an English progressive trance group consisting of members Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness, and Paavo Siljamäki. Formed in 2000, they are the owners of London-based electronic dance music labels Anjunabeats and Anjunadeep, and also host a weekly radio show titled Group Therapy Radio. The trio has been consistently ranked among DJ Magazine’s Top 100 DJs Poll, having placed at #4 in 2008 & 2009, #5 in 2010 & 2011, and most recently at #25 for 2014.
Grant and Siljamäki met at the University of Westminster. Having discovered a common mutual interest for electronic music, they decided to collaborate in writing music together. Following Siljamäki’s suggestion, they set up the Anjunabeats label in the summer of 1999 with the release of their first single, “Volume One,” under the alias Anjunabeats. Initially, the Anjunabeats record label was founded as a medium to release their own music. Since the label acquired the same name as their production alias, however, they started to release music under different names, most notably as “Dirt Devils” and “Free State.”
The original mix of “Volume One,” packaged with their “Tease Dub Mix,” received immediate attention in various dance clubs and quickly gained support from DJs such as Pete Tong, Paul Oakenfold, Judge Jules, and Paul van Dyk, after Grant and Paavo Siljamäki personally handed a dub plate of the song to Paul Oakenfold in 2000 at the now-defunct London nightclub, “Home”.
Following the success of “Volume One” and a string of singles and remixes under their Free State and Dirt Devils alter egos, the Marketing Director & Manager of the Warner Music Group, Tony McGuinness, was alerted to the duo by his brother, Liam McGuinness. Liam had purchased a sample library that Grant had created for Yamaha, and got in touch with Jono. Having been commissioned to remix Chakra’s “Home,” Tony McGuinness recruited Grant and Siljamäki to help him complete the remix. When the group was searching for a name to use for their Chakra remix, the inspiration came from a web page belonging to an American motivational trainer coincidentally named Jono Grant. Grant had the poster stuck to his wall. The slogan used by the motivational trainer was “Above & Beyond,” and they decided to use that as their name. Although the group was relatively unknown at the time, their remix of Chakra’s “Home” was picked over remixes by Rob Searle and Tilt to be the A-side mix, and after plays by Pete Tong on BBC Radio 1, it reached number one in the UK club charts.
In addition to Above & Beyond’s production work, the trio also established the vocal trance group OceanLab with Justine Suissa.
Other collaborators in the band’s early stages include Andy Moor and vocalists Carrie Skipper, Ashley Tomberlin, Zoë Johnston, and Richard Bedford.
Early productions and DJ career debut (2001–2005)
Interest in Above & Beyond soon emerged from established trance labels and new remixes were requested: the trio remixed Aurora’s “Ordinary World,” Fragma’s “Everytime You Need Me,” Perpetuous Dreamer’s “The Sound of Goodbye,” and Adamski’s “In the City.” These tracks served as the foundation for Above & Beyond’s reputation as one of the UK’s leading vocal trance remixers.
In 2001, Above & Beyond produced a club mix for the Madonna single “What It Feels Like for a Girl”, and also remixed select tracks by Delerium, Three Drives, and J-pop artist Ayumi Hamasaki.
In 2002, Above & Beyond made their DJ debut in Tokyo performing for 8,000 clubbers alongside Ferry Corsten and Tiësto. As their fan base increased, the trio began to make regular appearances at some of the world’s largest music festivals and clubs, including Rockness, Glastonbury and Creamfields in the UK and Amnesia in Ibiza, Spain.
In 2003, Above & Beyond remixed Tomcraft’s “Loneliness,” Motorcycle’s “As the Rush Comes,” as well as being asked back by Madonna to remix “Nobody Knows Me.” Other remixes included Britney Spears’ single “Everytime,” Dido’s “Sand In My Shoes,” and Delerium’s “Silence.”
Above & Beyond’s single “No One On Earth,” featuring the vocals of Zoë Johnston, soon followed. It was voted Tune of the Year for 2004 in Armin van Buuren’s trance radio show A State of Trance.
Tri-State era (2006–2009)
In 2006, Above & Beyond released their debut artist album, Tri-State. UK-based DJ Magazine gave the album a five-star review, saying, “A blend of sleek electronic rhythms, lush filmic textures and old-fashioned song writing. Tri-State is the fulfillment of any dance act’s ultimate album aspiration: a padding-free, skilled, diverse long-player. In a word, ‘Brilliant.'”
Singles from the album include “Air for Life,” with Andy Moor, which won “Best Underground Dance Track” at the 2006 Miami Winter Music Conference and was named Tune of the Year for 2005, as voted by the listeners of Armin van Buuren’s radio show A State of Trance. “Alone Tonight,” featuring Richard Bedford, was nominated for best progressive house/trance track at the 22nd International Dance Music Awards held at the 2007 Miami WMC, reaching #4 in the Finland National Singles chart and #5 in the UK Dance Chart. Above & Beyond performed “Alone Tonight” at Global Gathering 2005 broadcast live on Radio One in the UK. Their single “Can’t Sleep” was included on A State of Trance in episode 280, which featured at #3 on the best 20 tracks of 2006, according to the fans that voted in its polls. “Good for Me,” featuring Zoë Johnston, was also voted Tune of the Year in 2006 on Van Buuren’s A State of Trance. In 2008, Above & Beyond won “Best Underground Dance Track” at IDMA Awards at the Winter Music Conference with their single “Home.”
On 31 December 2007, Above & Beyond unofficially hosted their largest show ever on Barra Beach, Rio de Janeiro, where they reportedly played to an estimated one million people.
In 2009, Above & Beyond performed at the official launch of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. The event took place in the Mojave Desert and was hosted by Sir Richard Branson and attended by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The performance was secured after Above & Beyond’s Buzz Aldrin-sampling club track “Buzz” was picked by Virgin to soundtrack the unveiling of the spaceship itself.
Group Therapy era (2010–2014)
The first single to be heard from Above & Beyond’s second artist album, Group Therapy was “Thing Called Love” feating vocals from Richard Bedford and is featured in the Anjunabeats Volume 8 compilation album released on 19 July 2010. After months of writing, refining, and perfecting, Above & Beyond’s hugely anticipated second artist album “Group Therapy” was released to widespread critical acclaim on 6 June 2011. Hitting #1 in the iTunes Dance Album charts, the album was also hugely well received by the dance music press. DJ Magazine put the three members of Above & Beyond on the cover of their May issue, describing them as the “biggest DJ/production collective the UK has ever produced.” Mixmag hailed the album as “Artist Album of the Year.” The album contains downtempo moments, such as the classical piano-influenced opening track “Filmic” and the reflective “Only a Few Things,” featuring Zoë Johnston, as well as the more uptempo club tracks such as “Sun & Moon,” “Thing Called Love,” and “Prelude.” All songs are written and produced by Above & Beyond, with Richard Bedford providing the male voice throughout the album and Zoë Johnston providing the female vocals.
The first single, “Sun & Moon” featuring vocals from Richard Bedford, became a favourite of BBC Radio 1 personality Vernon Kay and ended up on the station’s B-List, an achievement that was also followed by their second single, “Thing Called Love,” which also featured Richard Bedford. Each single release from the album was accompanied by an “Above & Beyond Club Mix,” which ordinarily takes the essence of the original song and reworks it for Above & Beyond’s peak-time DJ sets, adding more traditional progressive trance and house music elements.
In 2012, Above & Beyond embarked on the Group Therapy World Tour, performing sold-out shows at select venues and clubs across North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. The group also made their debut in Hawaii, performing at the Kaka’ako Waterfront Park in Honolulu. In August 2012, Above & Beyond graced the cover of Mixmag, and performed a live set at Mixmag Headquarters along with Mat Zo. The 2-hour set was subsequently released as an exclusive label showcase mix titled United Colours of Anjunabeats.
In 2013, Above & Beyond continued to headline and perform at several dance music festivals, including Ultra Music Festival, Electric Daisy Carnival, Electric Forest, Tomorrowland and Stereosonic. The group also performed their first-ever acoustic shows at Porchester Hall in London and The Greek Theater in Los Angeles, featuring Zoë Johnston, Alex Vargas and Annie Drury, among other special guests such as Skrillex. On 26 October 2013, Above & Beyond celebrated Episode 050 of Group Therapy Radio (their 500th radio show overall) at Alexandra Palace in London with a live 6 hour broadcast.
On 18 October 2014, Above & Beyond celebrated Episode 100 of Group Therapy Radio at Madison Square Garden in New York City with a live broadcast. Ilan Bluestone opened the show and was followed byAndrew Bayer and Mat Zo, respectively. Above & Beyond took the stage following and performed at 2 hour set. During the set they debuted new music from their up and coming album “We Are All We Need”. The previous day, 17 October 2014, Above & Beyond had debuted the new video for the title track off of “We Are All We Need” in Time Square. They narrowly missed arrest when, after inviting fans to come out and view the video, hundreds turned out in droves. Police on horseback were summoned to the location, as traffic was beginning to become blocked.
Acoustic and We Are All We Need (2014 – present)
Following the acoustic shows in London and Los Angeles, Above & Beyond world premiered the concert film Live From Porchester Hall on 24 January 2014. The studio album, Acoustic, was released on 28 January 2014:
“The acoustic project is a reconnection with the musicians that we were before we met … the songs have been on an interesting journey to get here because we tend to write in a fairly acoustic way anyway. We don’t just stick a bit of vocal over a dance track – that’s not how we work. We try to start with a song and it’s usually only later down the line that we take certain elements from that song and progress them into a more dancefloor-friendly version.”—Tony McGuinness
A special edition of Acoustic was also released, containing a DVD of the concert film in London, a photographic journal, and signed commentary from all members of the band. A limited press double vinyl edition was released on 17 March 2014.
During their acoustic shows at Porchester Hall, Above & Beyond announced that their third artist album would be released sometime in 2014. Vocalists Alex Vargas and Justine Suissa have been confirmed as collaborators on new material.
On 14 October 2014, Above & Beyond announced their third artist album We Are All We Need, released on 19 January 2015 (20 January 2015 for US & Canada).
Above & Beyond has produced several radio shows since 2004, including Anjunabeats Worldwide.
Trance Around The World (2004–2012)
Trance Around the World was a weekly radio show comprising a total number of 450 episodes from 2004 to 2012. It reached an audience of 30 million listeners in 35 countries weekly, making it one of the most listened to radio shows in the world. TATW also served as a platform to promote new artists on Above & Beyond’s renowned Anjunabeats label. There have been various special episodes of TATW, including live Above & Beyond sets from festivals and radio episodic milestones, such as Episode 400, which was celebrated in November 2011 in Beirut, Lebanon. Trance Around the World ended its nine-year broadcast in November 2012, celebrating Episode 450 in Bangalore, India.
Group Therapy Radio (2012 – present)
On 5 November 2012, Above & Beyond announced the launch of Group Therapy Radio, successor to Trance Around the World. Episode 001 was broadcast concurrently during Trance Around the World, Episode 450.
Other radio appearances
Since 2004, Above & Beyond have appeared numerous times on BBC Radio 1’s Essential Mix. In 2004 and 2010, their guest mixes were voted as Essential Mix of The Year. On 24 January 2014, the group was inducted into Pete Tong’s Hall of Fame. They are the only artist to have ever won the Essential Mix of The Year twice.
- Tri-State (2006)
- Sirens of the Sea (2008)
- Group Therapy (2011)
- Acoustic (2014)
- We Are All We Need (2015)