“The crowd’s reaction for a track is important for sure, but my personal reaction is equally as valuable and influential on whether or not I release a record.”
Ellen Allien is one of electronic music’s most influential names, and has been for the past 20 years or so. And it is having principles like the aforementioned which have proven testament to her longevity and success in an otherwise cut-throat and sometimes merciless industry.
Speaking from the very epicentre of techno, her home city of Berlin, via a phone exchange, the Vinylism temptress further elaborates on her original statement: “If I don’t like the reaction one gets, I don’t play it anymore. Even if the crowd love a certain track a lot, if I don’t like it, I will never bring it out.” Placing Ellen on loudspeaker, I get more comfortable in my apartment in Ibiza, a converted modern space equipped with a lush seafront view on the glorious Sunset Strip.
She then continues by saying “for me, a good track requires a strong sound design, specific emotions… one example of this is a remix I did for Depeche mode. I played it in many of my sets and I loved it because of my personal input to the track. I loved the rearrangement, I kept it very simple. If I don’t enjoy a track though, I can’t play it, it is not possible.” Chuckling away, she then adds: “It makes me puke!”
Honest and attentive, these are two constant characteristics that have remained with Ellen ever since she first started collecting music. The same applies to the very first time she stepped foot into DC10 for Circoloco eight years ago. “When I first walked into DC10, I genuinely flipped out. I was like: “Wow, I feel so good!” The people were great, I loved the club so much.” Such a positive open receptiveness to the no-frills, no-holds barred ethos of the venue quickly escalated into Circoloco asking the German selector to directly play for them on Monday afternoons.
Much like her approach and passion for underground techno music, the aesthetics and mantra of DC10 has rarely changed since its island emergence way back in 1999. Speaking fondly of the former aircraft hangar, Ellen is in high spirits. “Ever since my very first experience at DC10, the vibes have never changed. The Garden is always open and always possesses a very intense energy. The sun goes down, the people are very happy to party outside, it is always a very positive atmosphere.”
Ellen then acknowledges the ever-increasing VIP culture present on the island, much to her distaste. “Many of the tables at other Ibiza venues are VIP and full of rich people. I am not a fan of this at all. There are lots of dancers too along with tonnes of production. This isn’t really my thing. Most of the clubs in Ibiza are about generating money.”
The purist underground concept in the party capital, Circoloco is about as DC10 as DC10 gets. Now in the midst of celebrating its 20th anniversary season, the Monday party has developed a strong reputation on the industry side as it has amongst devoted dance floor loyalists. Just ask the likes of Luciano, Loco Dice and Tania Vulcano and what is has done to their careers… Ellen Allien has enjoyed similar career success here too.
Having put in another memorable performance at the grand opening, she went on to highlight the fact that DC10 is her favourite clubbing institution on the island. “It’s smaller, the crowds are more passionate. Because the club is smaller, the rooms are smaller and this brings about a more intimate feeling.”
A lifelong citizen of the techno capital, Berlin, the BPitch chief then touched on the similarities between her homeland and Ibiza’s most sacred underground structure. “I prefer the Main Room because I am a techno DJ. I like dark sounds, I love break beats, you can play darker things. This is my room, I love the vibe that oozes out of it and in that respect, it is very much like Berlin.”
Whilst DC10 and her beloved, vibrant Berlin share a couple of similarities, that is arguably as far as it goes in terms of affinity between the two destinations. Delving into the contrasting characteristics of clubbers present within each scene, Ellen explains: “You can’t compare that, they are both a completely different story. In Berlin, we have a very strong gay scene. It’s very different here. People go out in Berlin and try and pick someone up and they have sex in the clubs.” She then touches on the clubbing nation by saying: “In Ibiza, people go out to meet people. A lot of tourists are only there for one week so they will go out most nights and have as much fun as they can during their limited stays.”
Hugely intense and cutting-edge, Berlin is a city of subtle seduction equipped with self-expression defined by years of oppression. Reunified by a soundtrack of techno, this increasingly cosmopolitan community is one that, even now, continues to shape the career of Ellen Allien. Described as a creative all-rounder, she regularly plots and serves up events at such extraordinary institutions as Tresor and Griessmuhle under her own banner of dance floor unison, We Are Not Alone. Speaking proudly about her latest clubbing venture, she compliments the latter: “We use three floors, including one open-air stage. It isn’t as big as some of the other Berlin venues but it is nice, intimate and you can walk around and explore its intrigue and mystery.”
Speaking of intrigue and mystery, much of Berlin’s is kept alive by its significant backbone of trusty residents and constantly-appearing fresh faces. This is a factor Ellen retains within her own diverse Griessmuhle showcases too. “The line-ups consist of artists which we like the sound of and mostly artists that are growing within the scene.” She further elaborated: “Because we always have so many new people moving to Berlin, we always include new artists on our line-ups so we can grow even more.”
Ushering in a fresh breed of rising techno talents, We Are Not Alone has played hosts to such undiscovered gems as Alinke, P.leone, Amotik, Alan Oldham, Bella Sarris and more. Their recent outing at City Hall in Barcelona for the 25th anniversary of Sonar Festival further backed up Ellen’s knack for scouting sublime potential. Going into depth about their recent trip to the Catalan city, she recalls: “We invited Boston 168 to play a very special live set. They are very talented and play dreamy, beautiful acid techno with more of a melodic tone to it. Aurora Halal also appeared. She has a very varied collection of music, she was awesome. We also invited Silvie Lotto down… she delivered a wonderful warm-up set on the night.”
The majority of the names mentioned above have all taken the Berlin plunge, have packed ups their belongings and moved to the German capital on a whim with the hope of one day establishing a successful presence in what is possibly electronic music’s most thriving scene.
Giving her advice to any budding artists looking to follow in suit, Ellen joked: “I would definitely recommend learning some of the German language, therefore you can make some jokes in German and will then understand our sense of humour more, the German sense of humour is very specific.” She then projected a more serious tone before continuing. “As long as you come here with creativity and ideas on how to express yourself and your music, moving to Berlin will always be a positive move.”
An artist with enormous skills and resource, Ellen Allien has been an admirer of techno since day one. Carving out her own path in all these creative roles, she is living, breathing proof of that Extraterrestrial Allien Dance is as current now as it was when Ellen first started out in Berlin. Don’t believe us? Watch her spark up some UFO energy in the DC10 red room tonight.
Ellen Allien plays MELT! Festival on Sunday 15th July. You can grab your tickets here.
Photo Credit By: Vitali Gelwich