Ellen Allien interview
Ahead of Saturday’s 8 hour master class, A Night With… Ellen Allien, we caught up with the evening’s aural master for in-depth interview.
We hear her thoughts on over 15 years DJing, the digitising of music affecting musical creativity, sonar, the origins of the ‘Allien’, what to expect from the 8 hours, weddings off the back of bloc and who’s currently bubbling under for her & a whole lot more besides.
Where are you and what have you been doing so far today?
Im at home, in berlin working on my label, bpitch control. One of our artists Area Negrot has just finished her new album, which is amazing! Then I will get ready for tonight which is my best friend’s birthday.
Youre known as the first lady of Berlin in the techno scene (alongside Anja Schneider). You & Bpitch, have been at the forefront of the techno scene for over 15 years now – what keeps your tastes and ideas so fresh even now?
Ive been djing since 1994 and i started the label BPC in 1999. What keeps me fresh? Music and creativity. It is the best feeling to discover new music and to work with artists. Very wild!
The label is always moving and never gets rusty, every year we discover new and fresh music. DJing is my hobby and I love to forget about everything around me when the club explodes. I guess for me it is really important to make people happy and to find enough freedom to be creative, to play new tunes and to see how far I can go. I sometimes need to step away from the business side and return to myself to find inspiration for songs, music and to work on my fashion line. The bpitch team is really tight so this allows me space.
Youve recently done a 6mix with friend and co-hort Anja Schneider who played A Night With… at the same venue, the Red Gallery last year. Can you let us know how your sound differs to hers and how you compliment each other.
How we are different? The listener has to decide on that! But i like her style and would say she is more new school minimal house while mine moves in between house-indie-techno-minimal-eclectic
Can you tell us a bit about how the drama per musica came about that you did with alexandre roccoli & sevrine rime at the pompidou in paris last month. what was the concept behind it?
To interweave music, dance and light. Everything was like a boat with a lot of wind and the dancers were trying to co-ordinate the sails. There were parallels to the club life also, we are sailing in the wind and we are reaching our limits. It was very exciting to work on the soundtrack and basically alex gave me some samples and I joined everything together and composed 5 new tracks.
Will you be out at sonar this year in any capacity? What do you think makes this such a key and important date on the electronic calendar?
Summertime, this is when summer starts. the entire electronic community meets here. the city is fun, it is by the ocean and the party locations are exciting. we are having a private boat party again as well as a beach party and a club party at nitsa. there are also some very good art exhibitions which you can visit during the day.
How did the Japan fundraiser @ berghain go, you played back to back with shonky, how was that?
The Berghain fundraiser was amazing, i loved being involved and the best part was we were able to raise over 10,000 for our friends in japan. I love playing back2back sets, Im always searching for new partners to share the beat with. we have another big bpitch showcase at berghain in july where i will be playing back2back with miss kitten which im very excited about. it will be a huge party with area negrot live, chlo, mr. statik, cormac, sascha funke, chaim, skinnerbox live, thomas muller live, margaret dygas, ryan elliot, dance disorder and hopefully one more very special guest ! Event here
We all know the digital revolution has affected sales but has it affected creativity?
I am sure creativity has changed for some artists, always checking which tracks are number one at juno or beatport, but this is the wrong approach i believe. it is better to adopt some individuality and uniqueness in music, that is more exciting for me. creativity comes from the inside, not from the outside. every artists has to figure out how their own creativity can grow and some artists need to withdraw while others need movement. on the other hand we also sell a lot of mp3s and wavs!
Similarly, do you think the digital availability of music has effected a democratization of music? it seems only fair that a 16 year old kid living in the middle of nowhere be afforded the same musical education as that of a kid brought up in the heart of berlin/london/nyc etc.
This is not really how it works. You need pretty specialized and technical knowledge to whip up a really good sound. the benchmark is high, lots of people can quickly build a track, but it takes a lot of talent, knowledge and creativity to make the sound or sound-designing special. computers and software give you multiple possibilities and most people get lost or become obsessed. For example the filter selection, the idea and how you implement it take a lot of work, expertise, knowledge and talent to execute well.
How has Ellen Alliens techno changed over the past few years?
Well everything has kind of changed, we all need to feel change! I mean even the drugs have changed! the dance floor has just helped me change over time i guess.
As the British hysteria for berlin sees no signs of letting up, can you pick us your 3 favourite things going on in your home town right now?
The Berlin street life continues to blossom, the availability and growing demand for organic and bio food. and of course Berlins impressive clubs and bars.
After your set at bloc last year, my brother said he wanted to marry you. If he still feels the same way after a night with… is this something youd consider?! We could then call it a wedding night with!! sorry about that one!
Well i do like weddings, but only if i dont have to marry anybody
Your music tastes are much further reaching that just techno. more a love of everything great in electronic music and beyond. what can we expect from the 8 hours at a night with? any chance we can persuade you to an 8 track breakdown/track selection from each hour?
It will be a huge mix of old and new.. 8 hours? i thought the party was only 6! hahaha i have some pearls in my record bag that’s for sure, maybe even some sunglasses at night!
I hate to play the gender card but in my experience, theres many more women at the top of their game in techno than in other forms of dance music. Any idea why that might be?
There are lots of singers also at the top of their game and many, many classical girls. I think music is here for all to listen to whether youre male or female so it doesnt really matter who is producing it.
A lot of people i talk to often confuse your surname to be alien. How do you feel about this?
Im not sure really.. but this is sort of where the name comes from anyway. a friend of mine, back in the day, said that my sound is similar to the music from the movie alien 1. One day the promoter from the biggest club in berlin at the time, e werk, tried to book me, i originally said no as i thought it was too big for me. the promoter was like come on come on.. do it… whats your artist name? i was still unsure but said my name was ellen. then that same friend who was also the bar tender yelled over her name is ellen allien and yes, she will play!.
That was it really, a new name and the biggest show of my life, I still remember my whole body shaking and the needle jumping on the record!! oioioioioioioioioioioi
Whos currently bubbling under on your musical radar?
Dillon, Area Negrot and Skinnerbox.
Which artist living or dead would be your dream a night with for your ears?
What do you think youd be doing if you didnt do this?
If I wasnt doing music… probably focussing more on fashion or cutting movies perhaps. I have also always wanted to paint pictures, very big ones!
I cant tell you how excited we are to have play a night with… anything else youd like to talk about in the current or indeed the past world of ellen allien? I think ive probably tired you out with qs already!
Haha no not really, im really excited to be playing and cant wait! see you all there!
Interview By Wil
Check her set from ADE last year:
Check the BPitch control mixcloud for Ellen related good stuff.
A Night WithEllen Allien
The Red Gallery, 1-3 Rivington Street, EC2A 3DT.
There’s still a handful of the 12.50 advance tickets available from both online outlets and in person from Phonica Records but don’t hang around. There’ll be tickets on the door from 10pm first come, first served but if you’re planning on come we recommend tix in advance:
Ransom Note Tickets