Ahead of her set at nofitstate on 22nd February, we caught up with techno goddess Ellen Allien and touched on everything from the future of Bpitch to painting and the Pompidou…..
Hi Ellen, you?re playing at nofitstate in London at the end of February, I?ve read that some of your formative experiences in terms of electronic music were in London at the peak of the acid house era – what kind of places/parties were the ones that had the biggest impact?
I was very young and I used to hang around the Wag Club. I was amazed by the fact that people started to dance as soon as they entered the club. For the first time I experienced an incredible mix of cultures. What?s more, many of them were black and could move to the beat in such an attractive way! The London period was like being in a dream for me: I used to listen to music in every single place I have been to, regardless if it was at the dentist, in a cab or in a club; it was like being tipsy all the time. London pushed me to get to know the world but it was Berlin that influenced my music the most.
Who were the DJs/musicians/creatives that really made an impression on you when you were first getting into music – where did you draw your early inspiration from?
When I was a kid I used to get singles that were no longer needed for the jukeboxes. My room was soon packed with singles. Listen to this track (“A Walk on the Park”):
Hehehe, I jumped around my room and went wild every time every time I listened to it. I think it was also because the lyrics were easy to understand for a kid. Another inspirational milestone was “Das Modell” from Kraftwerk, I think the coldest song I ever heard in my life. I did not listen to it when it came out back in 1974, however I was impressed and I really felt it was a new type of sound. Later I started to hang around studios making music with friends but the journey started in my room when I was a kid. That?s when I started to get a real buzz out of music, which is an element that I still strongly feel until today. Then I learned to play the organ, that all came learning by doing, following my feelings and my dreams. The mighty Hardwax and the period I used to work selling records at Delirium Berlin both influenced my life as a dj especially in terms of musical knowledge.
You were a regular at the legendary E-Werk in Berlin, is there a sense that Berghain/Panorama bar represent a continuation – in terms of atmosphere/vibe – of what E-Werk began? How formative do you think the place was on the Berlin clubbing landscape?
E-Werk and Tresor were undoubtably the most important clubs in town which tracked down the vibe of the Berlin at that time. In a certain way Berghain took over this vibe. In fact the guy who takes care of the illumination at Berghain used to do it at the E-Werk. The E-Werk was maybe the first and best example of how an industrial location can be perfectly transformed into a beautiful club: they had the best sound, gorgeous light installations and decorations.
Having been involved in the industry for such a long time, how do you feel about the current situation – do you see the present as a particularly fertile time, creatively, within electronic music culture?
The networks have been woven and we have developed our own instruments, media, clubs and agencies, that enable to rock big numbers. We don?t need majors for doing so. Every year sees new combinations of music; making music got easier the market is therefore overflowed. Every once in a while the new wonderchild or the new hip label of the genre pops up…everything is in movement, that?s what makes and keeps the whole thing interesting.
Having put out 6 LPs to date, each with it?s defined concept, sound and feel, what do you feel will be next in regard to albums – when is the next LP due and what approach are you planning this time round?
My new album is titled LISm and will be out at the beginning or March. It?s a soundtrack made out of one single 45 minutes long track. The main inspirational source was “Drama per Musica” a musical performance held at the Centre Pompidou back in March 2011 for which I composed and produced the music together with Thomas Muller as co-producer. fter that I let the music “rest” on my hard drive for more than one year till I started to rework on it in winter 2012. After six months in Ibiza – I had a residency at DC10 during the entire summer – I moved back to Berlin and I kind of felt in a whole. Hehehe, that can actually happen after 6 months spent in the sun of Ibiza and then, all of a sudden back to Berlin without sun. That?s when I went to the studio and started to rework on the piece by kicking out half of the content and composing new sounds, this time with Bruno Pronsato as my co-producer. Guitars, strings, bells, voices, drums and other analogue sounds have been recorded. The arrangement is detached from stiff soundtrack structures. LISm is a track, a very personal track that opens diferent curtains to my understanding of music. Producing it helped to release myself from the track by track logic. Rather than that I finally composed one piece containing different sounds that lead and accompany the listener into a journey.
What are the plans for BPitch in 2013, what artists/releases have you got lined up?
At the beginning of March our new BPitch Control compilation titled “Where the Wind Blows” will come out featuring artists like Dillon, Telefon Tel Aviv, Eating Snow, Joy Wellboy, Jahcoozi feat. Barbara Panther, Mr. Statik, Camea, Tomas Barfod, Chaim, David K, Aérea Negrot, Viadrina, Kiki & Jaw, Thomas Muller, Cormac and Apparat (Please see the entire tracklisting listed below). This year will also see a new Safety Scissors (New York) album on BPitch Control. David K recently produced a groovy album for BPitch Control, he is from Paris but lives in Berlin. We also signed Joy Wellboy, a Belgian band and Dillon is also working on her new album and….
Who are some of the artists that you are most excited about in 2013, are there any young producers/musicians you particularly think are going to make a big impact and bring something new?
Dillon, for sure.
With so much experience as a DJ over the last 20+ years, what are some of the gigs/parties that stand out in your memory as truly outstanding?
The Melt Festival (Gräfenhainichen, Germany), the Circoloco parties at DC10 in Ibiza, the Panorama Bar in Berlin, the BLOC festival, the off-Sonar beach parties and the Ambassadeurs parties in Paris.
Obviously visiting Hardwax record store is a regular fixture in any self respecting DJ/record collector based in Berlin?s schedule. As you travel the world – what are some of your favourite record stores globally and, specifically, in London?
I don?t buy records anymore. I love boomkat, it?s amazing. Last year I started digitalizing my old record…wow…I have so many pearls! It?s amazing to bring back the past through music, I love mixing old with new stuff and making some kind of flashback dj sets.
Finally, as a DJ/producer and with a successful fashion line you can definitely be considered a polymath, with this in mind – is there an area of art you?ve yet to get into which you think you?ll become involved with in the future?
It could be painting and I would love to perform again with modern dancers, mixing contemporary dance with electronic music as I already did for the Centre Pompidou in 2011.