Behind the decks with Amber Long

Performing live for decades, Toronto based DJ Producer, Amber Long, has trademarked a sound that is svelte and uniquely her own. Sought after globally and supported by big name artists like; Armin Van Buuren, Above & Beyond, Aly & Fila, John Digweed, Hernan Cattaneo and Nick Warren, her lyrics, voice and productions are well known amongst the Underground Music Community. We caught up with Amber to discuss her career as a DJ.

What first attracted you to DJ’ing?

Probably completely backwards from everyone else out there… I’ve always loved electronic music and produced it years before DJing. I learned to DJ to play the music I was making, in the right setting. There is only so much that can be translated on stage as an electronic live act. My first DJ gig was for my first Beatport release. Seemed fitting to start the adventure all at once.

How did you learn to DJ?

My now-partner, Robert Mason, taught me back in 2010 how to DJ using Ableton. Since I used it to produce and knew my way around the DAW, it was a graceful transition, learning how to play live with Ableton. I use CDJs too but prefer Ableton.

How important do you think knowing how to produce is to a DJ’s career?

Depends what the DJs are after. If a DJ wants to DJ, then stop the pressure to produce, and let the DJ play. If a person wants to produce, then all the power to them. One output should not be reliant on the other because they are completely different sets of skills.

What’s been the funniest memory you have had DJ’ing?

Probably not the funniest but generally humorous? I’ve DJ’d some corporate gigs and play my underground music. The corporate people don’t know what to do with themselves. They love the deep bass, they feel sexy and walk a little lighter. They forget their dad-bod and break out the moves they left in the 80s. You see this blue steel look come over them and you know it’s the music.

What has been your favourite event to play at?

That is so hard to say, just one. My last gig was pretty cool though.

It was Dec 24 into Dec 25, at a secret beach in Mexico. I didn’t know what to expect, due to the holiday date, due to the secret beach part, and I didn’t know what to expect for the sound system… And my set was 3am-5am, a 20-minute drive into the jungle.

When I got there, the gear was perfect, there was a big crowd, the atmosphere was out of a promo video and everyone was amazing. I knew the timing was right to play with everyone a bit and we went on a wild techno journey together. I called it Jungle Navidad because we were all born again a little that night, I think.

Where would your dream gig be?

Tell me somewhere people love, like really love, progressive techno and the people are on fire for the music. It doesn’t have to be a massive venue; it’s got to be a passionate venue. I’ve played in Argentina and there is truly nothing like it in the world for my kind of music and I made friends to last a lifetime there.

On the technical side, I’m waiting for my chance to play in a room with 3D immersive audio. Complete surround sound, audio tracking… 

What tips do you have for beginners?

Cue accurate clichés:

Slow and steady wins the race.

Everything you do means something in the long run.

Each track you make will get better. Keep producing.

Each mix you make will get tighter. Keep mixing.

Respect yourself, invest in yourself.

Find a mentor.

Avoid drama.

If you get tired, rest, don’t quit.

What do you think is the most important traits for being a good DJ?

See, this is where I have to hand it to the top DJs out there because no matter the venue or vibe, they turn it into a party. The right tunes at the right time makes all the difference. Being a storyteller is a great way to put it.

When things go wrong, you can tell a pro with how they handle things. Keeping calm under pressure is definitely a good trait to have but I guess most of the population would think DJing itself requires one to be calm under pressure anyway…

Most important: Passion. If you want to do this for a long time, you have to be passionate about music.

How often do you switch up your sets?

Every time I play is a new set. Sometimes I’ll play a new favourite tunes a couple times, but I change my sets every time I play. All the music is “my sound” but tailored for the venue, crowd, country, vibe, even a “message” I want to get across with my set.

What do you love most about DJ’ing?

All the new places to see and people to meet, hearing my tunes on massive systems. I don’t play all the time so it’s really special when the ingredients are right for a great gig.

What’s the worst mistake you’ve made whilst playing?

Not having a Plan B if Ableton crashed, which it has, a couple times on me. Now I always have back up USBs and check my gear really well to be sure all is working.

Where do you look to find new music?

I get a lot of promos sent to me, so many I never get a chance to open them all. My favourite though is shopping on Beatport and discovering fierce new tracks by happenstance. I’ve been listening a lot more to Soundcloud premieres too these days.

Where have you played recently?

Winter sucks in Canada so I hibernate. My last gigs were in Mexico in Dec last year. I spent the winter making guest mixes and playing in the studio.

Where can people see you play in the future?

Upcoming dates:

May 17 is in Athens at a new club called Sound Garden, Gazi

May 24 is in Barcelona at Club M7

May 25 is in Amsterdam at Recycle Lounge

June 22 is in Winnipeg, Canada

July 6, my label, Modern Agenda, is having a 24-hour rave in Essex, UK

Back in Europe again in the fall and will be at ADE

India tour in Dec/Jan

That is what I have confirmed at this time that I can share.

Finally, do you have a mix that people can check out?

Here is a link to my mixes:

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