From Iceland — Ellen Allien On Bowie, Berlin, Iceland And Sónar

Ellen Allien On Bowie, Berlin, Iceland And Sónar

Published February 18, 2016

Ellen Allien On Bowie, Berlin, Iceland And Sónar
Photo by
Courtesy Ellen Allien Facebook

Berlin DJ, producer and Bpitch Records mainstay Ellen Allien is a veteran of electronic music, having been active as a DJ since 1992, also releasing seven albums and countless remixes. Ahead of her Sónar Reykjavík DJ performance, we got in touch to ask Ellen about her story, her home city, her world travels, and what to expect from her Sónar set.

Is this your first visit to Reykjavík?
I have visited Reykjavík and Iceland three times already. One time we did a two day tour with a jeep around the island. In the middle of the night, we woke up to the bleating of sheep, the whole car was surrounded by a massive herd of sheep. Visiting Iceland always gives me a new perspective—nature seems
so powerful here. I always feel strongly connected to nature in Iceland.

How’s your 2016 looking? Anything that you are particularly looking forward to, or excites you?
I had some studio time in February, plugged all my machines in and really enjoyed making music—although one of the machines died on me. Sónar Reykjavík will be the first real DJ event of 2016 for me. Right after the BpM, i was on vacation for two weeks in Jamaica, relaxing and learning a lot about the island’s musical history, visiting studios, labels, and pressing plants. This was all very interesting.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your day-to-day?
I was born and grew up in Berlin. I’ve run my label Bpitch control since 1999, and I am DJing all around the globe. The first record I ever produced came out in 1994, and the latest in 2015 on Bpitch. Music is my passion—I love dancing. DJing is a channel for me—I can bring people together through connecting sounds. We all dance ourselves into a state of trance, or to another level.

My label releases electronic music, between club music, electronica and indie. We will release a beautiful live album by Dillon, together with the choir of the Berliner festspiele. The next release will be a single by DJ Shufflemaster, and I’ve just finished two bangers for Bpitch—proper Berlin acid style. So there’s a lot of work to do with the label, also.

Did you find the scene via making music, or did you find making music via the scene?
I made music together with friends before finding the scene. We just jammed together for fun. I’ve lived in squats where I could live out my creativity. I discovered techno through my love of dancing—just closing my eyes and really diving into the sounds without anyone trying to chat me up. I could really just fall into the music, and be completely absorbed by it.

Ellen Allien

Is Berlin your biggest muse?
Yes, Berlin, and the music that was played here in the 90s, is definitely my biggest muse. I saw the wall fall, and was able to express myself in the sociocultural underground that emerged in those days. I met a lot of very creative people, and all this creativity helped me to evolve, and allowed me to open Bpitch as a place where creativity could be shared with other people, making new connections and building up networks based on creativity.

How has Berlin changed from then to now?
Nowadays the clubs have a better sound system! In the past we tested all the drugs, and learned how to dance to fast beats—we tried everything, and built something new out of the what we could find in post cold-war Berlin. These days it’s different—the new clubs that open up are 100% complete. There’s no trial and error. Some clubs have a very strict selection of who they let in—this was very different in the early days. But all-in-all, the clubs did leap forward in terms of sound, light, design, and performers.

How have you found DJing abroad, by comparison?
Everywhere in the world are clubs that are very special. In the UK, the clubs and party scene are very intense. New York has some bombastic clubs. MMa in Munich has a great warehouse style feel to it. Ipse in Berlin is great, with really big outdoor area for the warmer days. There are so many great clubs and wonderful festivals. I have the best time playing around the whole globe, from mountains to beaches to boats and so on.

You’ve cited Bowie as one of your biggest influences. You share a somewhat similar alter-ego – an being from outer space. Why is Ellen an Allien?
Bowie was always very impressive to me, and still is. The way he switched into different characters over the years, and how his music was so powerful, it could make you really dizzy or let you daydream from the the first note on to the last. The way he performed, and his voice—I’ve never seen this before in my life. A family member introduced me to Bowie through posters, music and books, and I soaked up all the information.

What other big influences and inspirations would you say define you?
There are so many… my whole life story, my feelings, the earth, instruments like the arp2600 synth… the sounds in the streets. Kraftwerk had a very strong impact and the whole “neue deutsche welle” changed the way I listen to music. The whole electronic sound of Germany—minimal, romantic music that feels like a cold show of emotions.

If you could do anything other than music, what would it be?
I could do everything that thrills me—even simple things like cooking pasta or just watching the sky.

See Ellen Allien DJ at SonarLab from 23:30-01:00 on Thursday Feb 18th, and get more information on the Sónar Reykjavík website.

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