When we chatted by phone with Grant, the trio was preparing for the eight-hour, 400th episode of TATW. Broadcast from Beirut, Lebanon, the show featured sets from Gareth Emery, Kyau and Albert, Mat Zo, Jaytech and, of course, the A&B boys. We talked about their live shows, the downsides to electronic dance music's popularity in the States, dubstep and a "cheesy" habit some of their fans have.
When you look back after all these years, there have obviously been a lot of fun moments, but with the traveling and all, it can be very tiring. What keeps you going?
DJ gigs are almost like a quick fix. They're very enjoyable, a lot of fun, but there's this painful balance between touring and producing. There's a lot of waiting around, and producing gives you the long-term satisfaction which allows you to go on the road and the feeling of taking something you created and spent a lot of time on and then performing it in front of a lot of people and seeing their reaction.
What are the downsides to the explosion of dance music in the States?
There is obviously a downside when people try to take advantage of what they see as the bubble, but the important thing is, who's going to be left when the bubble bursts? Because it will burst at some point. You have these certain booms in styles or areas of music and they burst, but from our perspective it's important to not get caught up in the hype of the bubble and just carry on doing what we're doing, because I'm sure there are people who are planning their attacks with certain strategies and whatnot. You just have to respect what you're doing.
The weaker artists try to copy the successful ones, and try to make a record like someone else's hit, and that's just a very weak thing to do. We'd rather stick to our guns. There's definitely a downside to all the publicity and such, yeah. It can make the music more commercial, which damages a certain amount of it. But I'm not one of those people who thinks once a record gets big that I won't like it. Often it became commercial because people liked it -- it's just hopefully, some of the really quality records will become big.
It seems like a lot of the trance producers have a better sense of not saying, "Well, everyone likes dubstep, so I'm going to start making dubstep right now."
[Laughs] That's exactly what I'm talking about, yeah.
That said, how do you see your sound evolving over time? What do you see coming through your more recent music that you're pleased with?
There are obviously things happening around us that influence us, too. But our tempo has slowed down a lot. We don't really play the 138 bpm tracks that we were doing in 2001. It's a different sound now, and it's really exciting for us. What happens with dance music is that it tends to go through phases, where you have something really exciting happening. Say, drum and bass comes around in the late '90s, and then it gets boring and someone else has to reinvent something. The important thing is to do the things you actually enjoy doing and not just follow the herd. It's definitely going more house-y now, and that's been happening for the last two years. House and trance, the genres are very blurred now. We don't really think about our music as pure trance really, because what is pure trance anymore?
The pure genres aren't there anymore, which I think of as a good thing. I see genre as something like race or religion that actually divides people up and you're either in this camp or that camp. It provides a certain amount of identity, but I just think there is only good music and bad music. There are some dubstep tracks that I thought were great and some dubstep tracks I heard that were bloody awful. But with us, the most common theme is that we run a four-four beat and that's probably where we'll stay because I'm not hugely into the break stuff. I don't mind listening to some of the older stuff, but I don't see us producing it. Other than that, we'll leave the door open.
When you go around YouTube and look at your songs that fans have put up, they're almost exclusively set to pictures or montages of nature scenes. Is that something that you take inspiration from? Some other trance artists who definitely don't incorporate harder break or dubstep sounds have their music set to pictures of half-naked women. What gives?
[Laughs] I love being in nature, but it's not necessarily what's in my mind when we're writing music. The inspiration is more drawn from life experiences and what I'm going through at the time. I know what you mean about the nature videos and to be honest, I find some of them a bit cheesy. It's like "here's the token nature scene." It's sweet that people put them up there.
On the notion of YouTube videos, I used to not look because I didn't much like seeing the outcome of things and absorb myself in the actual music. But I've been watching a few videos of our gigs and stuff and it's horrible seeing yourself on camera to be honest. Seeing people's comments, good and bad, it's just best to separate ourselves from that a little bit, otherwise it may affect the outcome. It's a bit of a balance because obviously we want to listen to our fans, but we also want to just do what we want do to because that's why they were into us in the first place.