You Won't See Ellen Allien on the Sidelines, Creativity is In Her DNA [INTERVIEW]
As a self-made career woman with an illustrious DJ career that has taken her to all regions of the globe, Ellen Allien is not too keen to wait for life to happen to her.
She's a doer, a creator, and a force of nature that has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.
Beginning her DJ career in the early days of unified Berlin, Ellen Allien has been a mover and a shaker in the global techno scene for the past 25 years. Between throwing parties, managing BPtich Control, developing her own fashion line, and holding residencies at some of the world's most exclusive clubs, Ellen Allien has had her fair share of well-deserved accomplishments.
After releasing her 'Landing XX' EP in late 2016, we had the opportunity to catch up with Ellen Allien to discuss the development of her fearless sound, her thoughts on the role of female DJs, and why she will never stop creating.
EDM.com: You're sound is very distinct and you bring a unique energy to the stage, over the years what has been the process for honing in on the type of music that you select for your sets?
Ellen Allien: I would say that my music is like, you can hear Berlin a little bit. It’s deeper music, maybe? More acid and techno, y’know, trippy…I play some old hits from the past mixing with the future. It’s like I make a ping pong game with the past, the future, and whatever, y’know? For me it’s like presenting the past and the now.
How do you feel about the term female DJ, do you think that’s limiting in some ways? Do you feel like you have a responsibility to the term in any way?
EA: I mean, there are many new DJs that have become very big very fast. Like Nina Kraviz, she did it because she works very hard and she’s very talented. But she’s working hard, y’know? And there’s tINI who is working very hard on her brand, she’s taking it all around the world. So I think to have the same [status] as a [male DJ] we have to work very hard because they work really hard. And they are very good at creating groups and working together which I think is something that we have to learn how to be better at. Because girls are really more freaky. Every girl has a specific sound and wanna go their own way. Or maybe they have their heroes, but they don’t work so much together yet. I think we need more girls with the same sound, which maybe fit better together so then they can grow better. But I think we can’t complain, the people want to listen to us. The crowd wants to listen to female DJs. I have nothing to complain about, its up to me where I play, for which brands to say yes or no to. I choose.
So I think to have the same [status] as a [male DJ] we have to work very hard because they work really hard. And they are very good at creating groups and working together which I think is something that we have to learn how to be better at.
As you see so many more people across the world getting into electronic music, how can we empower young female listeners to sit up at the table and to take up DJing or start their own brand? How can we empower each other to get involved?
EA: I think first you have to work on your style. It's a hard process to create your own style without copying anybody. And then you need the right people who can be good advisors because you don’t know the business...[S]ome girls did [find good advisors] and that’s why they’re big. They’re working with the right people. It’s about the agency, the promotion agency, it’s about who you work with...I don’t have a manager, I manage myself, but I had some good people give me good advice and other people who were useless because they didn’t know the business.
I think the most important thing is to trust yourself. To put something up in your own city, like playing in a bar or little things to create something to have your crowd there. It doesn’t have to be big or anything, you just have to feel it. To feel the room and what kind of music you want to play to make the room like a flower, something special. To change the vibe. It’s all about changing the vibe. Or to keep the vibe, if the other DJ had a good vibe! It’s like an emotional sensibility you need to have I think to create something in the room. And you have to train yourself in your own city, and then you’ll find some people y’know? Y’know when I started playing in a bar, people started coming up to me asking if I wanted to play in the clubs because they had never seen a girl so passionate. So people come to you when they see you and see that you have a talent. And if not? Well, you have to work harder!
To feel the room and what kind of music you want to play to make the room like a flower, something special. To change the vibe. It’s all about changing the vibe...It’s like an emotional sensibility you need to have I think to create something in the room.
You recently dropped your 'Landing XX' EP at the end of 2016, can we expect more heaters in 2017?
EA: I’m currently working on my album. It’s nearly finished, it’s nearly done and will come out in April-May, or something. They’re very beautiful tracks, more club music, but emotional.
EA: Soundscapes, melodies, acid, vocals. But the vocals are reworked so they sound like machines, y’know? We’re working on the vocals to make them special. It’s nice, I like. Of course I like it otherwise I wouldn’t do it!
I see the Earth and the planet as a social community and I wanna give something. I wanna be a part of it. I don’t want to be sitting on the side doing nothing...I want to be a part of something, and not waiting in my house for something to happen. I make it. I’m a maker.
You've also worked on so many projects over the years, you’ve had residencies at Circoloco, you’ve managed BPitch, you’ve even dabbled into fashion… What is it that keeps you excited to pursue these projects and tackle new things?
EA: I mean I get bored very quickly. It’s just to keep me busy in my brain and to create. If I create, I’m happy. Y’know it’s my channel to let my energy out. I have a lot of energy inside. I can also be very depressive, very happy, very extreme so the music gives me the possibility to let it out and to be balanced. It’s a kind of addiction, that’s why I can do it. I need it. There’s no plan. I just have to do it!
So it’s kind of meditative in a way, it helps you to create that space?
EA: You know it’s also about how I see the Earth. I see the Earth and the planet as a social community and I wanna give something. I wanna be a part of it. I don’t want to be sitting on the side doing nothing. I feel like if I’m a part of it I need to do something special. At least if the people don’t see that I need to have the feeling for myself. I want to be a part of something, and not waiting in my house for something to happen. I make it. I’m a maker.
Born and bred with the Detroit techno scene, I pledge my allegiance to the underground.