Close encounters of the alien kind

A talk with Ellen Allien.

Listen to Soundscapes vol.153, curated by Ellen Allien.

Starting from your stage name, through your style and music, all the way to the names of your tracks and the covers of your EPs and albums, everything seems to lead us to the figure of an alien, an UFO. What fascinates you so much about them? In which way do you identify with them?

My artist name EllenAllien is a gift from my colleague Aki – thanks again! We were sitting together at fishlabor. One of the big promoters from e Werk dubmission enters the bar and asked me to play for their event.- I was shocked and said to him with big eyes “oh, no thanks” because I had just started playing at fishlabor and I didn’t fell like going to play at eWerk such for a big audience. (e Werk first biggest club in berlin after tresor .. our techno church where everything started … ) He said oh yes u gonna play for us – didn’t take no for an answer – what is your DJ name Ellen, and Aki says “Ellen Allien”. I kept the name and I played that show – and really I couldn’t easily put the needle on the record. Aki says he named me Ellen Allien because in my DJ sets, the music I was mixing together reminded him of the alien movie. UFO Inc is another label I run, and the We Are Not Alone raves that go for 20-40 hours. And all these words cut my fear – things connected to space, aliens, the universe, the unknown. When I am watching the sky it makes me crazy or dreamy – in this way I connect with the unknown and build my own fantasy world with my music and DJing.

From founding your own label, BPitch Control, to being a prominent figure in the Berlin techno scene, what have the most significant challenges you’ve faced, and how did you overcome them?

Bpitch is called a music platform now :) I guess learning by doing was the biggest challenge, but also the only way. Working with artists, people looking for a community and making things happen together. Communication, intelligence, creativity to live a lifestyle which is uplifting and healthy.

Your music is often described as experimental and genre-blending. An example of this is the recent collaborations with the Italian band Ash Code on the track “Everything Collapses”. Here, your techno music merges with their dark wave direction. How do you approach the creative process when producing a new track, and what inspires you to explore different sonic territories?

Techno and Cold wave is what i love mixing up in my sets, mixing them together is my signature.. Ash Code asked me to do a project together and it was really enjoyable. I just finished a remix for Sad Madona that will be out in May. Good synth lines, dreamy dark melodies with distorted beats and strong basslines, fast beats, it’s all fun to produce! I find while sitting in the studio creating these sounds for the techno community – these are the places we are feeling free. The inspiration are the beautiful synth’s on earth. Something new happened on my last vacation I found a place with my all my favourite synths like arp 2600 in ibiza. I did 3 tracks there and it felt really very good there to make music there while on my vacation, surrounded by dogs, cats and nature.. and synthesisers. My mind is very connected to warehouses and places where things happens that I love – places to play techno and the meeting points of music lovers .. this inspires me .. the rooms the people bodies feeling the sounds and beats. All these places in my mind eyes crossing each other this conversations in clubs with people I just met – Techno is the soundtrack of my life it tells me the story of who I am. Living and the future.

Collaboration has been a key aspect of your career, working with various artists and producers. How do you approach these collaborative projects? And what do you think makes a fruitful and harmonious creative partnership, as in the emblematic case of the album “Orchestra of Bubbles” with Apparat?

Oh being in the studio working together on my visions and doing experiments with sounds is the moment of learning creating a sound circle of my soul . Exchanging music at bpitch / UFO Inc or when I am sharing stages with other DJs or at a We Are Not Alone rave – I just get so much music pleasure, working with so many big talents, sharing moments ideas is what brings the music forward – it’s our movement. Orchestra of bubbles was an absolute milestone.

Being an artist and running a successful record label must be demanding. How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance, and do you have any rituals or practices that help you stay grounded?

Running this platform with the team is very demanding – yes. We have a good structure and in our team there are 💯 music lovers, that’s why we are working together. All I am doing I build up step-by-step and it’s my life, my passion, my hobby became my job. It’s like mixing my favourite tunes together, it is all playful and satisfies my curiosity .. my curiosity of people – music – synths and political social evolution. Rituals are before I am playing – being in bed like in a meditative moment between time and body. This helps me to be focused on stage – finding faster ideas for the next 5 tracks in what way I want build the DJ journey .. smoking joints became my ritual during Corona :-) it’s beautiful vibe to fall like a bird in the storm of sounds.

As someone deeply connected to Berlin’s nightlife and electronic music culture, how do you think the scene has evolved over the years? Are there any particular changes you embrace or miss?

Berlin‘s techno nights are still insane here and I am always meeting the most diverse crowd of clubbers . When I am playing for our We Are Not Alone at RSO it gives me so much .. it’s home and where I wanna be – with the crowd, the DJs, people working there, our team. It’s a big community of people searching for peace, respect and uplifting moments together- being in another dimension which is just us. We are wild, radikal, we love queerness and freedom – we are dreamers.

Technology has significantly impacted music production and performance. What are your thoughts on the use of AI-generated music and its potential implications for the future of the industry?

My mind can’t play with mainstream! AI, gendered music. I never used any software for analysing music or to generate new compositions that I am gonna check that out .. got so many ideas what I wanna do that this on top is useless. I love the moment of jamming and finding new ideas while working. For the mainstream – this stuff is more useful I guess.

A rather subjective question, but what do you think does Tresor have that Berghain doesn’t? And what does Berghain have that Tresor doesn’t in your opinion?

Both locations are having an outstanding club design. Tresor has Tresors and Berghain has the best queer community – both clubs very strong techno line ups .. and rso gives spaces for us come together.

Recently, the resident DJ of the event Cocktail d’Amore, Juan Ramos, spoke out on Instagram regarding PCP, also known as angel dust. This drug, when taken in high doses, can have many negative effects, including severe psychosis. He also mentioned some victims of this drug both outside and inside clubs. We all know that Berlin is the place to be and the homeland of maximum hedonism. Do you believe that this unbridled freedom regarding drug use could be also symptom of misinformation and superficiality among both residents and tourists? Are there any measures you feel could be taken in order to prevent/improve this situation?

Clubbing is a meeting point of our community and the music brings us together ~ the line ups moving the people together .. drugs are public all over the places … in the streets, at your job – drugs are mainstream. Most important is to test the drug before you use it, otherwise we can have problems .. That’s why I think that drugs should be legalised so that u can buy them in the Farmacia – which means not other hands mixing it up, so we can have safety and more honest education for people about drug use.

The new dates of your event We Are Not Alone have been announced until the end of the year: three in Berlin, one in Leipzig, and one in Paris. More than just an event, it’s actually more accurate to describe it as a musical journey, having from a minimum duration of 12 hours to a maximum of at least 36 hours. How was “We Are Not Alone” welcomed from the audiences in the different European cities involved by?

Mostly we are doing We Are Not Alone in Berlin because here is the vibe! Sometimes in other cities, but that is not the focus. In other cities it’s fun to create the line ups and working with other club owners or promoters together. But our home is Berlin and the party represents our community here.

If you could describe your musical journey in one word (or 3), what would it be, and why?

The past is a light train of unknown trash scapes 👽

Looking ahead, what exciting projects, collaborations or events can we expect from Ellen Allien in the near future?

So much! 2024 will see a new We Are Not Alone compilation with 36 new ufo bangers. My new single ‘Rave Luv’ is released at the end of March. My Sad Madonna remix in may. New artists on bpitch, more parties, I will be playing all over Europe and North America after I had a break over the winter.

Tell us a secret.

My secret is that I believe in freedom for the human being.

You may also like

Soundscapes vol.104 | Veronique

Art&Culture | Soundscapes
Sugar, spice, all things nasty and nice! A selection by Polish born Veronique, with some of her sexiest picks. Known for her peculiar taste in music, she is an important riot in the techno scene, label owner of "The Meaning Of Rave",  well known producer and an adept at hosting innovative showcases/events across Europe and all of this from a very young age.

Phase Fatale / The last everything

Art&Culture | Soundscapes
In conversation with one of our favorite techno innovators among the broad spectrum of dystopian, industrial-laden electronics.  We have met Berghain & Khidi resident, Phase Fatale, in Milan to briefly take some pictures before his gig at Tempio del Futuro Perduto.

Soundscapes vol.49 / Berny

Art&Culture | Soundscapes
Favourite balearic, cosmic and dark tunes by Berny, resident dj of Electric Monday party in Kit Kat, the hottest club in Berlin.