Amber Long brings her fresh music and mixes to FRISKY with Rogue
Amber Long is a name you continue to hear in the electronic music world, her vocals adding a distinctive touch to some of the biggest progressive hits in recent years, working with producers like Robert R. Hardy, Navid Mehr, Darin Epsilon, Tim Penner, qoob, and many more. Her Toronto-based label Modern Agenda is a steadily growing force to watch out for, offering artists a creative outlet with massive support. As a DJ, Amber has been performing around the world for over a decade, offering unique live shows that include her own material and those of the artists she’s worked with. As a writer, she captures the special moments, asks us to think deeper and to become better at what we do. In everything she does, you can feel the passion, love, and dedication that Amber has for music’s role in her life.
And you can tell that she wants you to feel the same about your own life too. Through the music she asks us to feel at our best, to embrace life at a higher level. Now she will be bringing those vibes through FRISKY with the launch of her new show Rogue. Premiering May 8th @ 5PM EST [convert timezone] you will want to tune in and see where the music takes you. I caught up with Amber to get some more insight pre-launch:
What is your electronic music origin story?
I guess you could call me one of the original ravers from back in the 90s. I always wanted to be the ‘singer in the dance music song’ but it was more of a joke because how could that ever be possible? In 2004, I started performing live in the indie side of things with bands and solo and always incorporated electronic sounds in my songs. It never really fit in in the indie scene with all the guitars and I seemed to stand out like a sore thumb and had a hard time finding a roster that worked. I toured all over North America but never felt things “click” in the way I wanted.
By 2010, I had released 4 albums and met Robert Mason at a gig we both played together. He was already making the music I was trying to make and I hired him to remix a few tracks of mine. He quickly got me off Sony Acid Pro 7 and started showing me Ableton Live. At the same time, I had given Tim Penner the vocals for Forgive Me and I’d started releasing on Beatport some older tracks I’d made that kind of fell into the indie dance realm. I realized I had to learn to DJ if I was going to play the music I was making.
It was a do or die transition because I had been ready to quit music, being frustrated and feeling misunderstood where I was. But once I felt what it felt like to play on a real sound system, once I heard that indeed, I could be the ‘singer in the dance music song’, it was a done deal. The audiences I play for now understand the message and understand the music and it’s such a treat.
How did you start as a vocalist?
I used to do a lot of spoken word and poetry. I never really wanted to sing publicly until a friend of mine said bluntly, “What have you got to lose?” So, I started writing songs with my keyboard and Acid Pro 7. I worked with a producer, Wayne Bond, for a good number of years and he would record my vocals and treat them for me but eventually I learned to do things on my own.
For the electronic side of things, once Forgive Me came out, I had a lot of people asking if I wanted to do vocals for them and I said yes a lot.
The first recordings I sent out, if I listen now, I just shudder. I sent Kassey Voorn these stems that had worse quality than if I’d sang into my phone mic. I was so new. But Kassey took them and somehow turned them into beautiful vocals. Gradually, the more I learned Ableton and recording techniques and got a better mic, the better the music was that started coming out. I was adopted into the Progressive House family early on and started working with a lot of talented producers and here we are today.
What sounds or styles in music are you a sucker for?
Guilty pleasures, you mean? I’m always a sucker for a great vocal. Andain, Beautiful Things, what a stand out track! Missing, Everything but the Girl, Breathe, Telepopmusik, Massive Attack, Portishead, you know, the older stuff… You could even say that I was inspired by old vocal trance tracks.
As for what I play live, I like deep, dark sounds with a heavy, rolling bass line and perfectly crafted kick. If the high hats are all over the place, I can’t even!! If it sounds like I am picky, it’s because I am. Genre names are always changing so it’s safe to say deep tech is my jam. That incorporates everything from the progressive house stuff all the way to techno.
Day to day, I think there is a soundtrack for every emotion and I like all styles of music, at some time or another. It’s like food, I love all the flavours! Modern Agenda is a great platform to showcase some of the artists and music I love and support while my new label, Honey Drops (launching in June) is for the non-dance floor kind of music.
That way we can have music, all day, every day!
What are your favorite memories as a crowd member & as a performer?
When Rob and I first started dating, one of our first dates was Halloween at Guvernment nightclub and Carl Cox was playing. I was still very new to getting back into the club scene and when the strobes were going off with the music with the insane costumes all over, it made me realize that this was the most fun environment ever! I will never forget him taking my hand as we fought through the crowd and throughout the massive complex as the music shook me inside out.
Since then, I’ve been to lots of amazing shows around the world. I’ll sound like such a fan kid, and that’s ok, but every time I see Hernan Cattaneo play, I just feel like I am witnessing a perfect set, every time. Doesn’t matter which city I see him in, it is a perfect execution, every.single.time.
As a performer, I’ve been blessed with some truly incredible moments. Hands down, what people say about Argentina is true and the crowd is so connected and present, I’ve never seen anything like it. But the same goes for a lot of other gigs I’ve played, there is nothing better than watching a crowd go mad for the music you’re playing. Recently in Mexico, I dropped the heaviest techno set on a rooftop and the crowd ate it up like I was serving dinner. There is no such thing as a bad gig but it makes it even more special if the crowd and I are tuned into each other.
What is your favorite atmosphere to perform in?
I like playing in an atmosphere where people are engaged, events where people want to dance and be involved with each other and the music. There’s something magical when a room lets loose of its inhibitions and moves together – the DJ, the crowd and the music – the holy trinity of awesome. It’s not even that everyone has to be dancing, I just like it when people are ‘present’ and we can live the time together.
What philosophies do you use to approach music and life?
Oh man, do we have all day?
Music, it is so much a part of who I am that I could never imagine what life would be like without it. I used to want to ‘quit’ when things got rough, but as time has gone on, I realize I can’t quit. It would be like stopping breathing. My roles in the music industry will likely change along the way but my main philosophy is that it should be fun. The moment it becomes really stressful, I take a time out, regroup and get back to having fun after I check myself.
In life, if we don’t have our health, we have nothing. The most important thing we can do as artists is take care of our health. Everything falls into place if we do this. This isn’t a job with medical benefits (or a big salary) so if you don’t take care of your health and you end up sick, or in a place where you can’t perform or create, it is a double whammy to the soul. There will always be another party but there will never be another you.
Thank you Amber! Tune into the premiere of Rogue on May 8th @ 5PM EST [convert timezone] and listen to her latest guest mix on RPO Records Session right now: