elektro Exclusive interview w/ Tony McGuinness of Above & Beyond at Studio Paris in Chicago
Last Friday, Samsung hosted an event at Studio Paris in Chicago promoting the launch of their new Galaxy S III phone. Studio Paris, one of the city’s most lavish and exclusive clubs, has recently become a music fan’s paradise, hosting legends such as Eric Prydz, Tiesto and Deadmau5.
The weekend’s talent only added to the venue’s growing reputation as an EDM hotspot: Tony McGuinness, one-third of Above & Beyond, played a rare solo set. Elektro sat down with McGuinness before he took to the decks, and his knowledge and passion for the music emerged as soon as he began talking.
You usually tour with only one other member of Above & Beyond so that you can have breaks and spend time with family. Do you think this will ever change, and is it challenging to not perform as a trio?
Well tonight’s proving the exception to that rule already, because I’m not having time off. I’m here. I think for us that has always been a kind of practical solution to what is a difficult problem, which is how do you do all the gigs that we can do and still manage to have some semblance of life. I’m still away for two-thirds of the year because we play pretty much every weekend. But I think cause of the way we do it: it’s kind of like a leap frog or kind of tag team thing, I think the show remains consistently Above & Beyond regardless of who’s doing it. It makes it a little bit more interesting and a bit more practical. That’s the only reason for doing it. I don’t think we’re doing it for any creative reasons at all. It’s just trying to do as many shows as we can and stay alive and see our family.
It’s just you tonight at Studio Paris. Although it’s an intimate setting with a great crowd, how does the dynamic change for you when it’s just you performing?
Yeah, I have actually. I really like playing on my own, just as a change. I mean, I think it’s really good fun playing with another guy as well, and the nature of the show that we do means there’s lots of stuff to do. It’s not just DJing, but with the visuals and the texting and everything else. Obviously I’m not going to be doing any of that stuff. I wouldn’t have time, so it’s just more about DJing and it’s slightly open ended. The other thing you have to do with the show that we do is it tends to be a little bit static. You’ll kind of think about the set before and you’ll plan it because you need to be in time with the tracks you’re playing, so it’s kind of a fixed thing. This is not.
How did the idea for your video “Small Moments Like These” come to fruition?
I think that’s the third one we’ve done where we just try to summarize the year we’ve had in video and the last two years we’ve written a new piece of music to accompany it. That’s really what that’s trying to do. I think that the phrase which Paavo invented on the fly at a gig once, ‘life is made of small moments like these,’ comes from that kind of Buddhist idea of particular time and this is the first time we’ve actually done something that follows up on that idea. So there are all these little bits and then it kind of goes into how those moments can be things that a lot of people experience at the same time like big shows. That’s really what it’s trying to do.
You are also a guitarist for the Indie band Sad Lovers & Giants. How did you make the move from indie music to dance music and how do you balance it out?
I honestly think the two are very similar in terms of the subject matter and the nature of the songs and the kind of chords that you use. I think in the kind of more indie, rock music and trance music extensively are the same kind of thing: they are large, grandiose, melancholy, minor key, and overly musical things. So it wasn’t that much of a leap. I got into making dance music with my brother. We’ve been in bands together and it felt like a very natural thing to do. There were records that we were hearing that excited our indie rock brains and that’s really where the trance thing came from. I think it’s a very similar palette, just different rhythm.
Your vocals have astounded Above & Beyond fans on tracks like “Black Room Boy.” On the next album, do you see yourself doing vocals for more of the tracks?
I’m like the Ringo Starr of the group. I do one vocal per album. I don’t know. I mean I really wanted to get Brian Marco to sing ‘Black Room Boy’. I thought he would’ve done a great job. He never said yes, so I ended up having to do it. I don’t like the idea of being the front man. I like writing songs, but I don’t want to be the front man.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Catherine | jennifercatherinephotography.com