Lena Willikens Talks
Lena Willikens has a rather left of centre taste in music… but then you'd expect that from a Cómeme artist. Her Sentimental Flashback radio shows have helped to bring aural reminders of tracks from days, months or years gone by back in to your ear-holes.
Having just released her Phantom Delia EP via Cómeme which pricked up our ears, we caught up with Lena to find out a little bit more about the motivation behind her musical exploits;
Please introduce yourself: who are you, where are you and what are you?
I'm Lena Willikens, DJ, producer and artist, based in Cologne.
How would you describe your sound?
When I listen to music I never analyse it – that’s the reason why I can’t talk about music. What I like the most when I produce or DJ is the moment when my brain stops working and I don’t think anymore. I really wish I could transport this feeling to the crowd and I wish that their brains would also stop working while they dance.
How did you first get into electronic music? Was it your first real musical love or were you a keen listener of all sounds when you were younger?
Dub, especially Lee Perry, was my first contact with electronic music – no wait, my mother listening to Grauzones Eisbär, this was one of my favourite songs when I was about five. Like today, I was listening to many different genres when I was young – from punk to wave to rocksteady or afro beat etc…
My approach to electronic dance music came when I started to study art and therefore moved to Düsseldorf, the town of Kraftwerk, and step by step I got sucked into it…
Do you think that any particular aspects of your personality shine through in your music or is it more an aural extension of yourself? Or none of the above?
I perceive myself as a kind of patchwork, made out of many different influences. Influences which I couldn’t and cannot really control. I had no control over, for example, which music my parents were listening when I was young, or I have no control over the music which they play in the supermarket and so on… But this patchwork lets me decide which music I like and which music I don’t like.
When I make music I’m always surprised what comes out in the end. There is definitely a point where I lose control and my phantom takes over! Somehow it feels that at the end it is more of a collective product and that my phantom embodies the collective!
What's your favourite piece of music-making equipment?
Always the one which has the most surprising sounds (for me) coming out. Of course this changes constantly but I definitely prefer the machines which have their own minds!
Is there a particular message behind Phantom Delia or is it all about making music that you want to be making?
One of the reasons I love making music (contrahensive to making art for example) is that I don’t feel the need to explain it intellectually. Music speaks for itself.
Tell us about your Sentimental Flashback shows – what's your aim with them and how do you go about putting them together?
With Sentimental Flashback, I choose an open format. I can put everything in. You can be sentimental about something which happened one minute ago or years ago.
It is a really personal thing, depending on my mood, and for me every month there's a good reason to bring my records in order, to remove the dust and to show my thankfulness to people who inspire me, and of course it's a great chance to share the music I love with my sentimental crowd!
What's your favourite musical memory?
Ooooh there are just too many: first time listening to Grauzones Eisbär when I was five, some years ago dancing at Berghain to Konone No.1 live, my first record shopping tour in London when I was a teenager, three years ago getting beamed away by an Oni Ayhuns live show at a Huntleys+Palmers night, last years Unsound Festival… I could go on and on, there is no ONE favourite, obviously!
Which artists are currently making the music that you most enjoy listening to?
Carter Tutti Void, Shackleton,Traxx, rRoxymore, Wolf Müller, Red Axes, Zombie Zombie, Vessel, JD Twitch, Tolouse Low Trax, Powell, Ela Orleans, Jamal Moss, Bear Bones Lay Low, Lord Tang, Acid Arab, Golden Teacher, Ekoplekz, Streetwalker, Barnt, Cowboy Rhythmbox, Matias Aguayo, Borusiade, Ana Helder and of course all my other Cómeme colleagues…The list is not finished yet…
What does music mean to you?
It's a never ending discovery! No chance to get bored of it. It's such a relief to know that there is plenty of good music out there, which is waiting to get discovered.
Do you think that it has been harder for you to succeed due simply to the fact that you're female? What are your thoughts about the way that the music industry treats female producers/DJs?
Of course it’s obvious that there is a problem in the electronic music industry and even in the electronic music subculture. I would say it’s a kind of disease, which lets us suffer because of an enormously high level of testosterone. The good thing is that people are starting to get more and more aware of it and they start to reflect and discuss it. That’s a beginning! But still I hear people telling me that there are not enough female DJs and producers out there. Come on! I mean it’s time to break the vicious circle. Such a male dominated industry is maybe also the reason why some girls just not consider to enter this world!? Practically, what is going on now, is just an enormous waste of potential!
What's the best thing about Cologne?
Definitely the people here! Cologne people are open-minded, laid back, talkative and they have a great sense of humour. It’s basically the oldest citiy in Germany – people are trained to get along well with each other.
Anything you'd like to add?
'Phantom Delia' is out now via Cómeme, grab your copy here.
(Photo Credit: Phil Struck)