Q&A: Above & Beyond’s Jono Grant on playing NYE and Paul Oakenfold

Jono Grant of Above and Beyond. Courtesy of Above and Beyond
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On December 31 Above & Beyond will help Dubai see in 2015 with a DJ set at Eden Beach Club – exactly three years after an award-winning gig at Sandance NYE. A few hours before he takes to the decks, we caught up with one of the trio, 35-year-old Jono Grant.

Hi Jono. Right, I’m a little confused, because according to reports Above & Beyond are playing in Australia tonight, where there’s a bet on what tune you will play at midnight....

The other two guys are in Sydney – we’re splitting up for New Year’s Eve. Above & Beyond is a bit like a marriage, so it’s nice to have some time apart. It works best DJing with two people or one person – with three, things can end up in uncharted territory.

What do you remember of your last gig here, for NYE 2011?

That was great – up to that point it was the best show we’d done in Dubai. We’d been a few years earlier, and I think when Dubai started being big for dance music there was a lot of money being thrown around, but it felt a bit... but then things get consolidated. In Dubai and Vegas, the commercial stuff works really well, but I was really surprised how well we went down with a crowd who maybe didn’t know our music.

So what’s your ideal New Year’s Eve?

For me the ideal is to be working, and if I wasn’t I would be at a house party with family and friends – I don’t enjoy the big night out thing on New Year’s Eve, there’s always that pressure. I remember in 1999, on the eve of the millennium, driving around trying to find a friend’s house and spending midnight in the car.

What was the highlight of 2014 for you?

Just finishing the album – we spent about three years working up to it, and now we’ve finally closed the door and said it’s done. The second would be playing Madison Square Garden in New York – that was amazing to do. America right now is having its moment for dance music – and when Americans get into something, they get into it a lot.

So how long do you think the US’s love affair with electronic music will last?

I change my mind on this every week or month. Maybe it’s like rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s and 60s – that particular sound that was big in 2013 and 2014 can’t last, but maybe electronic music is here to stay for another five, ten, 15 years. We might have a vinyl-style resurgence of bands, but electronic music is here to stay – the question is what style will it be?

So, predictions for 2015?

I think it’s going to be more of the same for a bit – America’s electronic music scene is going to keep growing. They’ve just brought Tomorrowland festival over, although they’ve had to call it TomorrowWorld...

Your new album We Are All We Need comes out on January 19. What can we expect?

I was talking to someone who has heard it, and he said “it sounds a lot more clubby than your last album, Group Therapy” – which is ironic because our approach was to make something less clubby and more song-based. I would say it’s club-influenced music rather than being club music – I feel like dance albums shouldn’t just sound like a dance compilation, if you do that, it’s going to be tomorrow’s fish and chip paper.

The band turns 15 next year, any celebrations planned?

I am sure our management will say “you must do something” and we’ll nod our heads. I don’t like nostalgia, I like moving forward, but we’ll probably have to do something.

Do you see yourself still DJing when you get older?

It’s funny – I was sat next to Paul Oakenfold on the plane over here [Oakenfold performs at #DXBNYE] and had a really good chat with him. He said “I’m at the end of my career now”, and I respected him for saying that. It was interesting because he’s a big influence on me – it was his Goa Mix [1994] that got me into dance music, I taped it off the radio and played it over and over. One of the first records we did, we gave him a acetate vinyl outside a club in 2000, and he remembered it well.

He’s always tried to do different things, and he was really one of the first [big DJs] – he really opened doors for people like us. Now he’s picking the gigs he wants to do, rather than milking it for all it’s worth. He seems to want to wind his career down quite gracefully, and leave the right legacy.

Any New Year’s Resolutions?

To stand up straight and sort out my posture.

• Jono from Above & Beyond performs a DJ set at Eden Beach Club, Rixos The Palm, 055 277 1477.