Above & Beyond’s Paavo Siljamäki Was Ready to Quit Dance

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Over the past 25-plus years, Paavo Siljamäki has become a leading figured in the global dance music scene via his work with beloved trance trio Above & Beyond. Together, the guys — Siljamäki, Jono Grant and Tony McGuinness — have played all the world’s major festivals, launched a radio show, an international event series and the eternally influential Anjunbeats and Anjundadeep labels, all the while cultivating a fanbase whose devotion veers toward the religious.



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Siljamäki was ready to walk away from it all.

The Finnish producer entered a period of burnout in 2019, feeling depressed, depleted and unsure if he wanted to keep making electronic music or any music at all. It was a dilemma he calls “existential,” as he deliberated starting an entirely new career. The situation was compounded when he became seriously sick with COVID in the spring of 2019, the beginning of the pandemic. He recovered, then got COVID again. Then again. Then again.

But over time, he started healing not just his physical body but the mental/emotional part of himself through a perhaps unsurprising form of medicine: clubbing. Going out dancing with friends at clubs and festivals, he rediscovered the reason he started making electronic music in the first place: his love of the genre and the cathartic, often ecstatic experience is facilitates and the community of music-lovers that populate this world.

So he didn’t start that tech company, he just started making music. Initially meant to be a purely creative endeavor, the sounds that were coming out — deeper than the often anthemic sounds of Above & Beyond — eventually formed a solo album, Deeper Tales, released last week Friday (April 21) via Anjunabeats.

This project — made under Siljamäki’s longstanding P.O.S. moniker — is dually dark and ebullient, from the chromatic synth of opener “Is It OK?” to the directly joyful “Polar Bears” (with lontime Ajuna artist Spencer Brown) to the tough, shimmeringly sexy “Tahiti Burning Sunset.”

Now dividing his time between the road, his house in the forest of Finland and extended forays into nature (he and his girlfriend live on a sailboat in the winter), Siljamäki took the music on an eight-date U.S. tour this past March, playing the new tracks to fellow dance fans in packed clubs. It was, he says, as medicinal for him as it was for them.

“I have a lot more tracks waiting to come out as well,” he says. “I’m going to keep P.O.S. as a vehicle where I can experiment, and hopefully this then leads to being a better part of the A&B team, creating fresh vibes for tracks with the guys.”

Here, Siljamäki discusses the project.

In the press release for this album you’re quoted saying that you weren’t even sure if you liked electronic music anymore. What was that like, that uncertainty?

It was really difficult for me. Most people that go through a full-on burnout — you almost turn your back and start, like, hating everything you’ve done. For me, it was almost like, “What if I don’t want to be a musician? What am I gonna do?” It’s like, an existential question. I really had to think about this, because I’ve made music since I was four years old. What if I feel like music has kind of let me down? What am I going to do?

What became your alternatives?

I actually looked at setting up a technology company, because I’m thinking we can look after the environment through technological innovation. I’ve been doing a lot of coding. I thought, “Maybe I’ll just run a technology company and make the world better that way.” But then then, over time, there were moments when my friends dragged me to a music studio. I was like, “I can’t bear it.” They were playing me loud music. And I was like, “Oh, but it feels good.”

What era are we talking about when you were really considering quitting?

2019 was probably my low moment. I was suffering. I was really depressed at the time. And then we obviously went straight into COVID on top of that.

You and I spoke in 2020 about how you’d been really sick with COVID. It was early on in the pandemic, so people still didn’t have a lot of information, and I don’t think a lot of people knew someone that had been sick, certainly not as sick as you were. But my understanding is that you then were sick again and again, and your burnout was compounded with a health crisis. Is that correct?

I’ve had COVID four times now. It’s become an annual reset. But out of all the struggle, a lot of really great stuff came, because now I’ve really found myself clubbing again, which I really hadn’t done for a long time. I’ve really found myself in nature. I’ve gotten into sailing. I’ve been together with my girlfriend now for two and a half years traveling the world together. Things have clicked into place. I still have a lot to resolve, I guess. But at least I’m really enjoying making music. Mentally I’m in a good space, so things are better now.

It’s interesting that you’ve found clubbing to be one of the antidotes. It seems perhaps a bit counterintuitive, when I think of health. I’m fascinated by this idea of how to sustainably grow up in the dance scene and take care of ourselves and do it in a way that doesn’t compromise your health. What are you finding there?

The thing I realized when I was first getting into clubbing was that I always felt like I didn’t fit in. I was a bit of a weirdo. And then I go clubbing, and I feel so accepted. It was kind of a safe space to just enjoy music and be yourself. Now that I’ve been going through all these things, it’s been really amazing for me to go to festivals. Especially when I was feeling like, “Oh, maybe if I didn’t make music…” Then I go clubbing and come out of a festival thinking like, “I do have something I want to say, something I want to do in the scene. I really, actually feel like I can contribute. There’s a reason for me to exist in this game we call dance music.”

What exactly was that reason?

I feel like what me solo, and [Above & Beyond] as a band do does something really nice in the clubbing scene. I’ve met so many people now on the dance floor. The Anjuna family and the culture, everything we’ve created — I’ve been at the receiving end of it on the dance floor, and it’s pretty awesome.

So you’re kind of feeling the impact of the work you do, and it’s having a positive effect on you that you can give that to other people?

I’ve felt the pressure sometimes. Let’s say I did think my days as a musician are done — then I feel responsibility to all those people. But now [I’m] actually going through that thing, and being really helped by a lot of people and clubbing and having fun with people.

I’m curious if like you’re finding certain pockets of the club world and the festival world that are resonating with you particularly heavily right now.

I’ve loved going to parties and hearing people play that I didn’t even know. One guy that was really amazing was DJ Tennis. We were at this festival in Miami and oh my god, he played such good stuff. I’ve always loved Hernan Cattaneo’s sets. I’ve also been really impressed by people when I didn’t even know who was playing. Tat’s also great.

So how does your P.O.S. fold into all of this? Why is now the right time for it?

When I was starting to fall in love with dance music again, I thought, “Okay, let me go and make some music.” The music was coming out, I was basically producing music where I didn’t initially feel like I could put it in an Above & Beyond set at EDC. It was deeper. For a little while, I was thinking, “This is a problem.” But then I thought, “Actually, why don’t I just make something and see what happens?”

Now that I’ve been making dance music for about two and a half years, it’s getting kind of tougher and more high-energy. It’s been really interesting to see how it’s changing. The P.O.S. music has been a totally free experimentation. I’ve done so much material and some of it I’ve come back to and thought, “There’s something really nice in this one, and this one, and this one isn’t good.” And from this, an album came out.

How was the tour?

That was like eight cities in 10 days, going back to these amazing clubs — small venues by the standard of what we do with Above & Beyond. Soundcheck in D.C. Coda in Toronto was amazing. Real nightclubs, where we started. It’s so personal. If you’re playing in arena, it’s a different kind of situation.


I went on the tour with about 35 tracks. People had heard maybe four or five of them before — so almost everything I was playing [during these two hours sets], people were hearing for the first time. It was really fascinating seeing what people responded to, because I get a totally raw, real response from people on the dancefloor. People respond differently to tracks they know, but when you’re hearing something for the first time, if it really works, it really really works.

What did you play that really, really worked?

There’s a track called “It’s Me” that we did with Spencer Brown and Marieme. We wrote it in L.A., and it’s been this instant there where it felt like people knew the track. There’s a track that’s not on the album called “Automatic” that slows down, and it’s almost a breakbeats thing. It has a big almost rollercoaster-y speed-up. That was always getting a cheer. “Let You Go” has been quite a big track, but it’s also been a big track because we had it on our [ABGT] radio show.

It’s just been nice playing these tracks and knowing people are getting goosebumps in there. It’s a different kind of response. It’s not like, hands in the air, but the feeling is great.

You sound really energized and excited. It’s wonderful to see that arc, because it sounds like your burnout was really brutal and long lasting.

It was. I’m not the only person going through those kinds of things on this planet, by any means. Hopefully there’s somebody [in the same position] I was three years ago reading this, and they can see that sometimes struggle can lead to new rediscoveries and alignments for one’s life.

When people have been doing something for a really long time, and they start looking at it thinking, “Is this really what I want to do?” I went looking for that question — and I found that, yeah, I really want to be a musician, and I really want to make dance music as well.

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