The eternal beat of Ellen Allien
Ellen Allien is well-grounded in the Berlin techno world, having worked on the scene for over a decade now. Yet, you’d be very wrong if you thought this would leave any love or mojo running a little dry – for this DJ, there are always opportunities to create. Throughout 2020 alone, she has done countless livestreams as well as contributing to compilations for the likes of Marble Bar, Serendeepity (TBA) and Awakenings. That’s all alongside the big summer release of her latest album AurAA – a brilliantly constructed work which transcends listeners between Earth’s unseen energies and those of an electrofied fantasy place.
The DJ is a master when it comes to atmospheric, heavy beats. Her characteristic style includes plenty of basslines and a hypnotic use of vocals as the melody. There’s always something new up Ellen Allien’s sleeve. Though, as you might have guessed from her name – each adventure still includes a sonic exploration of other-worldly influences. Catching up with Ellen for Glamcult, she takes us through the new album and her highlights of 2020. It’s a sweet picture of this Berliner’s busy year, but we’re warning you – it’ll make you miss dive bars and smoky clubs even more!
Hi Ellen. What have you been getting up to recently?
Just here in Berlin. I’ve been over at places like Else Club and Revier Südost, listening to music and meeting with other artists and music lovers. Luckily some open-air events have still been running since summer, so our music culture isn’t 100% dead!
Thank god for that! Tell me a little bit about your steps to becoming a DJ. How would you say your music has changed over these years?
Since I was a kid, music has made me happy and helped me dream. Music has just become my life. My DJ sets are very physical, fast beats with a dark wave touch. They are pretty emotional techno sets. If you listen to my first album Stadtkind and to my new album AurAA you can hear my style most clearly. It usually includes reworked vocals from outer space with beats and lots of bass lines – it’s typically techno meets electronica.
Yes, the brilliant AurAA was released earlier this year. Can you explain about the notions of reality, fantasy and unseen energies which play out in it?
AurAA is about nonvisual energies, which are those we feel or that become visual if we activate our brains. I enjoy very much unlearning this process, which is taught by society. This also brings up the question of whether we live in the world. I have lost trust in humanity since so many power-hungry people are dominating wars and destroying the world. Instead, it’s in music [that] I trust! Music is my gateway to happiness and love.
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Over the lockdown period, you’ve kept super busy with doing live streams. What does this new medium allow you (or not) to do creatively?
My creativity has not grown, but there has been more time to exchange ideas with other artists. The Berlin art scene is still very strong, so the exchange is very intense, and it’ll be super interesting to see what will come from this. What I can’t do anymore is the live shows and big tours. I see it as a possibility to have more time for other interests, but I can’t wait ‘till it starts again …
You’re very grounded within your hometown of Berlin. What is it about Berlin that inspires you?
Berlin is the city where I am the most creative. Here there is a feeling of movement, and being a part of a new German society which takes many paths. As far as possible, we have enlarged our subcultural platforms [here] to live how we want to!
You’ve run several record labels, which run events and find new techno talents. Can you tell me more about this?
In 1999 I started my label BPitch, and last year I started a new one called UFO Inc. On BPitch I release music that is played on our events, entitled “We Are Not Alone.” It aims to reflect the times we live in – an embodiment of our powerful and epic attitudes towards life. It’s a big part of our subculture and the redefining of techno as we love and live it today. Working with [newer] artists is part of my work and passion. It’s the music that moves and embodies Berlin.
Given you’ve had such a prolific career over many years, what advice would you give to someone just starting out in electronic music?
Make music that makes you feel profound.
For a musician that’s always creatively on the go, what can we expect next from you?
New music, music and music 🙂
Check out the second part of Ellen’s three-part ‘We Are Not Alone’ compilations here
Words by Rose Holmshaw