The media room at Chicago’s Paris Club was abuzz with photographers. Amid a perfectly styled actress from Twilight, champagne liberally being passed around and a corner jammed with journalists, Tony McGuinness of iconic trance trio Above & Beyond quietly slipped in, unassuming, and took a seat against the wall. After being told we each only had three minutes with him, I hurriedly narrowed down my list of questions. Three minutes to speak with someone from a group that founded Anjunabeats, played to one million people in Rio de Janeiro and won BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix of the year twice? How? Turned out there was no reason to worry – well spoken and thoughtful, Tony and I turned three minutes into a discussion on vinyl memories, staying true to who you are, and yes, the infamous DJ list.
DD: What are your thoughts on The DJ List?
TM: We’re not doing anything about it this year. We used to feel it was important but I don’t think it represents anything anymore because of the way that it’s done. It’s an entirely flexible thing. If you get four million people in Russia to vote for you, you can be number one, but it doesn’t mean anything because of the nature of the voting system. Also, for us, we were spending a month and a half to two months every year being a promotions vehicle for DJ Mag and we said we’d rather get on with our job and do what we do. If people want to vote that’s fantastic. It’s a nice thing to have people voting for you but I don’t think that giving us all a ranking number really means anything. It doesn’t feel like it reflects our world anymore.
DD: What do you think about the current explosion of EDM in the US and resulting backlash?
TM: There’s a backlash because there’s some haters out there. There are haters for everything. We put man on the moon forty years ago and people still don’t believe that it happened. If there are haters for something as amazing and important for that, there’s going to be haters for everything. We just try to continue doing what we do and the fact that there’s been a huge amount of growth for EDM in America is nice but we haven’t changed anything to take advantage of that. We try to operate as a band; writing songs, releasing albums and touring on the back of it. It feels to me in some way slightly different than the world we’re operating in, but still I think its helped us in giving a certain amount of profile to what we do in broader media than just the dance press and blogs. It’s not a trend we’re trying to jump on in any way.
DD: Would you ever collaborate with a pop artist?
TM: We’ve done remixes for pop artists – Madonna and Dido and Britney Spears. We’d never say no, but it needs to be someone that’s appropriate for what we do. I don’t feel a part of that noisy house/pop thing that’s going on right now. It’s not really us, so we don’t see any value in branching out to that burgeoning area.
DD: What song do you currently have to play in every set and what was a favorite from the days of vinyl?
TM: Well, for us, it’s a lot more like a gig now so the records we have to play are our records, be it “Sun & Moon” or “On My Way To Heaven” or whatever else it might be. “Alchemy” is going to be the next single from Above & Beyond so I guess we’ll have to play that. Back in the vinyl days I think “No One On Earth” was the last vinyl record I ever played. We were doing a gig in Calgary and a guy held up this vinyl for me to sign. I picked it up and thought ‘oh, I remember these’ and decided to play it because there were vinyl decks in the booth. So I took it out of the sleeve, put it on and mixed it in, signed the sleeve and gave it back to him. That was the last vinyl record I played.
DD: What’s your favorite feature about the Samsung Galaxy S3?
TM: The camera! It’s got such a fast shutter speed.