Amy dB takes on technology, technique, and techno as she gets ready for Redemption.
Amy dB truly personifies music, her life intertwined with rhythms and sounds since she was young – classical training turning into an intense dedication for electronic music that has continued to drive her life. Her career has reached incredible heights, as resident at SANKEYS IBIZA she was ranked #1 IBIZA Electronic artist by Reverb Nation, has headlined at Miami’s WMC, was the only femme and underground DJ selected for Miami’s 100 year celebration, has shared the stage with Robert Babicz, Sasha, Dave Seaman, Cattaneo, DJ Rap, Oakenfold, and so much more.
Her successful career is evidence of the power of dedication and love for the music, all which you will be able to experience on her brand new show on FRISKY: Redemption. Featuring the best of the underground from herself and her friends, Redemption is a show addition that will become a new addiction.
Spanning the globe and dominating the industry, Amy dB has a passionate perspective on the underground scene unlike any other. Her insightful and no holds barred thoughts are well worth the time to check out, read on and get ready for Redemption:
How would you describe your relationship to music?
My relationship to music: “Music is the air I breathe”.
Literally. No music, no life for me. Like my oxygen, my very foundational force of existence and sustenance is gone. When I was a baby, I could not sleep without my father singing to me or taking me in his car for night rides with music set to the very loudest on the automobile’s speakers, as my lullaby. I started classical training in piano and choir singing at age six, and did choir and band all throughout my primary and junior high school upbringing. When I entered high school, I took singing much more seriously, and became the first soprano chair of our Madrigals (Honors Choir). I also started professional vocal and opera performance lessons, where my voice teacher was the 2nd leading lady role of the original London crew of “The Phantom of the Opera.” I tried out and made the All State Honors Choir of the entire state of Illinois and was the 2nd leading soprano of the State Choir of my year. As a very young child living in Chicago, the city of house, I remember at a very young age listening to WNUR, this experimental station, fledgling sounds of a newer genre. Names like Joe Smooth, Chip E, Larry Heard aka Mr. Fingers, and Frankie Knuckles from then on permeated my music consciousness as did my in depth studies of Beethoven, Mahler, Bach and the like.
It is funny to recall that during all my classical training and performances in my youth, I would concurrently listen to Alternative Rock like Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, and Bush while also melting into the sounds of Depeche Mode, New Order, and the fledgling sounds of progressive house and trance (Sasha, Digweed, Danny Tenaglia, Nick Warren, Dave Seaman, Paul Oakenfold, Three Drives on a Vinyl, BT). Whether it was opera, classical, rock, 80’s and 90s pop, synthetic and electronic new wave music, music was always reverberating within and around me. The reason I chose my university, Northwestern , apart from it being one of the top universities of undergraduate studies in the world, is that its Music School was the most prominent and respected program for collegiate studies in music. It was a defining moment and honor to have been accepted into their most esteemed choir and vocal performance programs headed by the great maestro Dr. William Harris. To this day, when I am ever back in Chicago, I am invited to sing both as soloist and chorister in the prestigious groups.
How would you define the “underground” scene these days, as electronic music seems to be more popular than ever? Do you feel like some of that original edge is gone?
The underground I feel has been supersaturated and thus indeed lost its “X factor” or edge if you will, and for many reasons. The first and foremost is that with the advancement of technology, while enhancing and supplementing a lot to the creation and progression in electronica in the forms of upgraded instrument sounds and quality, better plugins and VSTs, easier and more user-friends DAWs, and just better all-around software to mimic hardwares like monophonic analog synthesizers such as the Moog synth by softwares like Arturia Mini V2 almost identically. Technology thus gives us much more budget-friendly and accessible tools to create music that practically is at the same caliber of sound-engineering as that of a music studio that is worth hundreds of thousands, and all at the click of a mouse. It is exhilarating and simply fantastic.
However, technology also has given us programs that circumvent the art and technique of true deejaying, true mixing and beat-matching BY EAR. Programs that show the soundforms of the track and give options to beat-synch have unfortunately killed the form of proper deejaying. And so anyone with a laptop and with access to these DJ mixing programs can “deejay,” or better said, think they can spin. I actually taught my 8 year old cousins how to use said mixing programs and they too can “mix.” Almost anyone then can become a “DJ” and yes, that word and our genre have lost their edge, their mystique and sexiness, if you will. The quality of the mixing is thus gone, because people then think that mixing means simply beat-synching. And it is not. It is WAY MORE. It is beat-matching, but at the proper part of BOTH tracks, as well as equalizing all cleff and range levels (the hi’s, the mids, the lows) of BOTH tracks as they are mixing simultaneously and when fading one from the other. It is also pitch-matching to have a seamless and coherent set that takes the audience onto a journey. It is song selection. It is aura creation. None of this can a program especially when used each time to perform teach these intrinsic qualities of spinning, for the automated and automatic use of mixing programs don’t get you the FULL VERSION EXPERIENCE of the dynamics of spinning and CONNECTING with your audience, without a laptop screen dividing you two.
Also, it has been my witness that most people who use laptops tend to not pay attention to the professional DJ mixers they are provided since they bring their own mixers that ironically cost couple hundred dollars at most and use those instead of the 15,000 dollars worth of amazing equipment already provided by the club or festivals. It is all counter-intuitive in my opinion. The professional grade mixers provided help to also enhance the moodiness and the INTERPRETATION of the tracks by the performing DJ. Redundant loops no more have to stay redundant – you can color the sounds with these live spontaneous effects all by the push of a button or twist of a knob. And sadly, I do see that rarely happens.
A second proof that the underground has lost its edge is that certain underground genres of electronica, like Tech House and Techno, have taken precedence. It seems like in popularizing these specific genres, the music got stunted or stuck. The fluidity was stalled in music evolving in a way since it seemed that the only genres that were asked to play or be paid to play were Tech House and Techno. Ibiza for example, the island that was known for Giorgo Moroder’s disco or Paul Oakenfold’s house then trance and progressive, or Danny Tenaglia’s all around house and electronica, has played the same montonic genres of techno or tech house for at least a decade.
The island lost its world-class caliber globally for impelling music and innovation in music onwards and forwards. You just do not hear of or see big shows of house or deep or UK Bass or progressive or Drum n Bass or anything else but Techno and Tech House, over and over and over. The name underground is now sadly synonymous with Techno or Tech House. For a moment it seemed that the newer sounds of “Deep House” were taking a forefront lead, but Techno and the super marketing teams of the leading Techno names in the globe have strategically captured their fan bases as do leading brands of any consumer product and their loyal customers. It is rather brilliant, to in a way capture the term “underground” and to identify it solely to the genre of Tech/Tech House , and convince your people that is not only needed, but that your product, the Techno /Tech House product, is the only thing to satiate your thirst for underground electronica. The sex appeal created by the techno market makers is rather quite ingenious.
What was the club and DJ culture like as a female DJ when you first started? Has it changed now?
The DJ culture and club scene workspace for me as a female DJ has been very tough. Especially as a feminine femme DJ. I do not sexualize my image whatsoever, but still, being a female in this industry is one of the toughest challenges I face. I even had a talk with my sister in music and my personal female idol in electronica, the top female DJ indisputably from the beginning of electronica, DJ Rap. And she agrees that the uber sexism, mysoginy, the lack of opportunities as a female is palpable. Very very palpable. The moment I say I am a DJ, to this very day, despite my international name and hard earned merit, despite my last 3 EP albums were the number 1 or number 2 releases on Beatport in a matter of a few days each time, despite my music career and education at the top music program in the States, or the fact that I can sing opera at a caliber of professional, or the fact that I created the music section of the top social magazine of Chicago, the city where house music was born, I still get incredulous and disparaging looks at times. It is constantly a battle to fight against the odds in a male dominated industry. This is indeed a man’s world, and to say this, now, in 2017, is to not be naive whatsoever. And it is a very sad fact. It seems like a lot of times men patronize the female DJ, or they question her ability and accredit her success to really disparaging words and disbeliefs. There have been many times that my spirit was broken. So many times. But thanks to my manager Joe Smooth, or my best friends in music and my personal inspirations Robert Babicz and Hernan Cattaneo, who both have witnessed my hardships as a female artist over so many years, my focus never wavered. It started as all about the music. Like I said, music is THE AIR I BREATHE, and from this very mantra, it remains perpetually, ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC. Despite all odds.
Do you feel that you are able to experiment within your sets to the extent you’d like, when DJ’ing on such a global scale and at big festivals alongside other legendary DJs?
I experiment all the time in my sets by providing a MUSIC JOURNEY to my audience.
I do not compartmentalize myself as one genre DJ. I play ALL MUSIC in my sets. Whether I start out with a symphonic operatic acapella, transition into a deeper house cadence track, mix into a progressive house or progressive techno track, and peak at a trance track or whatnot, my sets exude SOUL . The soul of an artist, the soul of music onto music itself. I also sing live and spontaneously over my tracks while spinning, creating riffs or harmonize directly over my tracks. In the coming future I have a few tricks up my sleeve that will really touch and inspire my listeners’ souls on a groundbreaking level. I am very excited.
Is there anything you wish you could tell yourself when you were first introduced into the house and electronica scene? What advice would you give someone now?
My advice for someone getting into the scene is 1. study and pay tribute to the classics and origins of house and electronica. Joe Smooth, Chip E, Ron Hardy, Frankie, Shapeshifters, FreeMasons, Derrick May, Saunderson, Atkins, BT, PVD, Oakie, Tenaglia, Warren, Seaman, Sasha, Diggers etc etc. 2. Learn on vinyls. Know to beatmatch without the BPM gage or digital read. 3. Take some music theory lessons and piano. 4. Know thyself. It is a very hard and supersaturated industry. If you do not have your sound or vision of what artist you want to become, you will be left in the dust. 5. Stay humble and always grateful for any and all opportunities. 6. Hustle, work work work. 7. Stay away from drugs and the afterparty life – stay focused! 8. Never give up . and 8. Produce, produce produce music 9. Music means soul. Anything that has no soul, is simply JUST SOUND 10. THE MOST IMPORTANT, IT IS AND ALWAYS WILL BE ABOUT THE MUSIC. THE MOMENT YOU LOSE SIGHT OF THIS, YOUR JOURNEY ENDS.
Having shared the decks with so many other huge names, is there anyone you’ve DJ’d with or done a B2B that have been your favorites?
My most overwhelming “shared the decks” experience was just recently headlining with the founder of all house and mastermind behind the defining moment track of all house, Joe Smooth, my manager, during Winter Music Conference. I just shared the stage with other progressive house iconic names like Dave Seaman, Hernan Cattaeno, Nick Warren, Way out West, Henry Saiz and Guy J with ‘lil ‘ol me, also for a huge music festival called Rapture. It was a massive success. My favorite back to back was with Defected Records superstar Oliver Dollar whose tracks were the top house tracks (Doin Yiur Thang in 2011 and Pushin On 2014) , where we did a sultry banging deep house back 2 back for a grandiose New Year’s Eve blowout.
Can you explain some more detail about the format of your show? What can listeners expect?
I am super-psyched about the show. Each week I will feature a guest mix from some of the top names in deep melodic electronica and progressive house. Once a month I will be the broadcast mix. Think similar to Nick Warren or Dave Seaman’s shows but with a flair for discovering more talent from all my travels around the world and my meeting so many incredible people who contribute in their own ways to the music. I will feature some of the most iconic names in electronica and many top producers whom you just don’t get a chance to hear live as much as others. I am very honored to be a female who is asked to host a weekly on the most compelling underground station that we have. So excited to join the Frisky Radio team and to give voice TO ALL TRUE ARTISTS, in the name of music and music alone. Thank you Lauren!
Thank you Amy! 🙂
Redemption premieres July 4th @ 12PM EST [convert timezone] – tune in & listen every week on FRISKY: