Tony McGuinness talks evolution of Above & Beyond before Tampa Hard Rock concert

The trio plays a pool party on Feb. 9.

click to enlarge Above & Beyond, which plays the Daylife pool party at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, Florida on Feb. 9, 2020. - Photo by Amelia Troubridge
Photo by Amelia Troubridge
Above & Beyond, which plays the Daylife pool party at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, Florida on Feb. 9, 2020.

With the advent of streaming, the music industry has become a very different beast than it was when Tony McGuinness, Jono Grant and Paavo Siljamäki first formed Above & Beyond back in 2000. Downloading music was still in its infancy, and since fans were essentially “stealing” music off the internet, it wasn’t particularly done with the artist in mind.

Daylife Pool Party: Above & Beyond.
Sunday, Feb. 9. 12 p.m.-6 p.m. $60.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Tampa.

In a conversation with Creative Loafing Tampa, A&B’s Tony McGuinness reflected on how streaming has “totally revolutionized” the music business—but in a good way.

“What streaming has done isn’t add to the record-buying reality, but the music-listening reality,” said McGuinness. “We are not trying to crowd into the Top 40 radio charts because that’s not what everybody listens to.”

The “part-time Florida resident”—who owns a flat in Miami—speaks from experience when discussing how streaming has made artists more “experimental and free.” Last July, Above & Beyond delivered Flow State, an trance-adjacent project crafted for “yoga, mindfulness and meditation.” According to McGuinness, this would have never happened 20 years ago since there was simply no route to market for it.

Today, fans’ daily listening habits steer music creation into being more representative of people’s interests, which has allowed A&B to release both yoga and acoustic projects.

McGuinness also told CL that the group plans on revisiting the latter this year by releasing Acoustic III, which is to be accompanied by a full symphonic tour.

Prior to Above & Beyond’s Daylife pool party gig at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino on Feb. 9, McGuiness reflected on these industry-wide changes, as well as the 20 year anniversary of Above & Beyond and its Anjunabeats label. Read our full Q&A below:

Above & Beyond’s recent shows—particularly the set at Dreamstate Socal 2019—have been thrilling fans by featuring a heavy amount of classics. 20 years in, do you still enjoy taking these songs for a victory lap?

There were a few songs that we hadn’t played out for ages and I was really enjoying listening to them again. It’s the 20th anniversary and I don't feel any shame in playing those records. They are us as much as the stuff we’re doing more recently.

In 20 years of Anjunabeats, how has the label, music and vision changed?

I think the label started as something that it isn’t anymore. It started as a way of putting out our own music that we didn’t want to sign to major labels. Things have changed a lot. [When the label began] we started to understand how the music business really worked. I think the success we had over twenty years comes down to our ability to adapt, change and figure out what’s going on around us.

I think we managed to do that without losing the essence of Above & Beyond [and Anjunabeats]. We’ve maintained an obsession with good, emotional songs based on true stories with the ups-and-downs of living as a human being. 

How has your perception of music streaming and its influence on the music industry changed? 

When streaming started, there were very few people who were able to stream your entire catalog every month. Now, [with] the number of people that are streaming the income is reasonable. It used to be all about this week's Top 40 and, for awhile, we were stuck in the back of the record shops. But people’s [streaming] is different. 

What streaming has done isn’t add to the record buying reality, but the music listening reality. The stuff people listen to may be a million miles away from the kind of hit music that used to crowd up the radio. So it’s totally revolutionized the music business. We are not trying to crowd into the Top 40 radio charts because that’s not what everybody listens to. 

How has streaming changed/benefited Above & Beyond? 

We’re able to be much more experimental than we could have ever dreamt of being. [Flow State, Above & Beyond’s yoga album] would have never seen the light of day back in the old days. We’re able to be a lot freer as artists and as a label.

Where do you see the trance genre going as we move into 2020 and beyond?

I’ve always had the same view of the future, which is we approach the future like a man in a rowing boat. You can see what you’re doing, but you can’t really tell what’s coming.

Often times, the changes are very small. Somebody may get inspired by a sound they heard. I don't think it happens when someone thinks, ‘I’ve been looking at this record and in three months time it's going to be this bpm.’ It doesn’t work like that. We hear records and get inspired. That’s how innovation happens. 

Where did the inspiration behind the A&B yoga project, Flow State, come from?

We were invited to do this yoga set at Burning Man by Robot Hearts and realized we already had these instrumental tracks. Just moments of sound that we’d put in the breakdown. So we did this hour long yoga set with this yogi Elena Brower and formed a bit of a relationship. From there [we had] the idea of doing more and making music especially for the next time we did a yoga session.

The yoga [influence] gave us this kind of excuse to put out that quieter, slower music, and we’re very lucky Elena agreed to do a voice over for it. At the time we weren't thinking this is going to go down big. We thought it was appropriate for us and the right time.

Will there be a follow up to Flow State?

We will at some point do another one, and I hope we come up with other things like that are surprising, fulfilling and enjoyable to do.

Follow @cl_music on Twitter to get the most up-to-date music news, concert announcements and local tunes. Subscribe to our newsletter, and listen to us on WMNF 88.5-FM’s “Radio Reverb” program every Saturday from 4 p.m.-6 p.m.

About The Author

LJ Hilberath

Franz “LJ” Hilberath is a Clearwater-native who contributes to Creative Loafing's Music section. He previously served as an intern and is now a freelance contributor for all things music.LJ can be found in the field reviewing concerts and music festivals around the country, and also works interviews for both local...
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