The members of British trance group Above & Beyond had just returned home after a U.S. tour when they were essentially summoned back to Los Angeles. Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson's foray into “suborbital space travel,” was about to unveil SpaceShipTwo and the company wanted to use the group's club hit “Buzz,” centered around a sample of Buzz Aldrin, to score the event. On top of that, they wanted the group to DJ the launch party out in the Mojave desert. The group couldn't resist the opportunity.
We caught up with Above & Beyond's Jono Grant via phone from LAX, as the band prepared to head back to the UK. Below is his recollection of a whirlwind trip that includes a space shuttle, a desert storm and catching a ride from Sir Richard Branson himself.
“We went up [to the Mojave desert] in the late afternoon and when we got out there, it was so windy. It was really, really cold out there, colder than we had expected. We had heard that it could be cold out there, but it was really, really cold. Luckily, they supplied us with jackets and hats.
“First of all, there was a press conference where Richard Branson spoke. After that, they did the unveiling of the spaceship, which was when they played our track. It was really loud, which was great and everyone seemed to like it. They were probably watching the spaceship more than listening to the music, but I think that added to the atmosphere.
“[The spaceship] looks like a stretched plane in a way. It's incredible. The team of people who made it were also introduced in the conference. It was pretty spectacular. I find getting into a Boeing 747 and taking off to be pretty amazing. It amazes me to do that, but going into space? It has a special feature where the wings kind of stick out so that it can go back into the earth's atmosphere without any problem. It's pretty cool. It's the forefront of innovation.
Above & Beyond “Buzz”
“After that, I did a DJ set for about two-and-a-half hours, while people were sipping cocktails and stuff. One of the great things about that was that I had a few older people come up and ask 'What's this music? I really like it.' It's kind of nice to play to a different audience, rather than basic clubbers. To play to people who wouldn't normally hear our type of music is really special and it's great to share it with them.
“A major storm came into the desert and they had to evacuate the tent. That was quite dramatic. We had to leave our stuff behind, wondering if we would get our passports, if we would be able to get back home. The Virgin Team is such a nice bunch, they managed to find our bags and everything.
“The storm came in and I had never seen anything like it, really. It blew down the tent that they had had the press conference in and it just rolled across the tarmac.
“We're laughing about it now, but the professionalism of the event organizers made sure that no one was hurt. They got everyone out really quickly. They had someone monitoring the weather the whole time. They managed to evacuate everyone out and no one was hurt.
“They closed the whole thing down. We got into Richard Branson's Winnebago and were driven to the motel to the Virgin afterparty there. It was great to meet Richard Branson as well. He's a really great guy. It's amazing to be part of something forward-thinking like that. We're very lucky to have been involved.”
After being a part of the event, we had to ask, would Grant ever want to go into space himself. “I think it's fascinating, the idea of going to space and experiencing weightlessness,” he says. “The most incredible thing would be to DJ while being weightless, but I don't know how that would work. That would be an interesting one. I'd love to try that. I would jump in a spaceship in a heartbeat. I really would.”
Above & Beyond returns to Los Angeles on New Year's Eve for GIANT Hotel at the Bonaventure.