A mainstay in techno, Ellen Allien is the founder at BPitch Control, one of the most respected record labels in the game. She released her eighth solo album Alientronic back in May. Some nice remixes of the album from Shlohmo, FJAAK and others came out in September. Allien's unique skills as a producer has allowed her to release music on great labels such as Warp, Mute and more recently Desolat, remixing a track for Loco Dice.
Ellen Allien doesn't follow any trends. This seems to pay off year after year, since she's done numerous tours in the US and headlines the best festivals around the world. For the month of November alone she has been shaking the walls in Sweden, Switzerland, Colombia, Las Vegas, Los Angeles this Friday and San Francisco this Saturday at Monarch. She is also a resident in her beloved home country of Germany, the next edition in Dortmund will be at Mischanlage, in a Unesco world heritage building!
Experimenting with music has always been her original goal, keeping an open mind. That's why she signed an up & coming DJ from Miami, Jesse Perez, a few years before he blew up in the U.S. Ellen Allien's new EP La Musica Es Dios is a techno trip without any reservations, out November 25th. Just after her private trip to Rio, we had the great honor to sit down with Ellen and talk about her tour in the USA. We chatted about her event series called Vinylsm and the new label she launched, UFO Inc -- "a hypnotic techno label" as she says. We discovered who are likely the next big dance music acts according to her, expect the unexpected!
You’re taking the USA by storm this November with 5 dates in some pretty exciting venues. Would you prepare your set differently when you’re playing in Las Vegas then for instance San Francisco?
Yes, cool venues I think! The last few days I spent privately in Rio de Janeiro - among other things I visited a samba school in Mangueira. Now I'm curious how the club world has developed or changed in the American cities! I do not change my sets and my music style for a club. Allien dance full on techno vibes - what else?!
Is there one gig in the USA after countless tours you did, that meant really more than others?
New York is always something very special for me. Every time I go there I can see that there is a very strong techno movement there. Similar to Montreal in Canada and all over South America, I love the people in New York - they are warm and I like that the cultures are more mixed. The warehouse locations in Los Angeles are always very wild. We’ll also do a Vinylism event in LA on November 21st at the record shop Stellar Remnant from 7:00PM to 10:PM.
It must mean a lot for you, that vinyl is making a come back over the years. Tell us about the Vinylism concept? How did the idea come up?
Vinylism is a free in-store event in record shops where I invite local DJs and we play records together. It is always a great pleasure! The last Vinylsim in New York with Heidi Sabertooth, Julia Govor, Justin Cudmore and Mike Servito was very entertaining! I met a lot of people and the DJ sets were all powerful. Vinyl is a love affair - for several years I took records with me on tour. Not this summer, because it blows up my luggage and I often can not play records anymore - the technical conditions are often not right on the spot. At Vinylism we all play exclusively vinyl - I do not see a big come back, but the passion for vinyl is here!
Armand Van Helden said in an interview that playing vinyl back in the days was very stressful. It’s true in a way that today anyone can put a loop so the song doesn’t end with a blank on a CDJ which wasn’t possible back then. Do you agree in regards to that aspect?
Touring with vinyl isn’t really easy, true - most of the promoters don’t set it up right. But if everything is right, it's a dream to play with. I personally play a lot of music that is not released or old tracks that are remastered and many edits that are not on vinyl, not even on the digital market, which I used only for my DJ gigs. But there is also a lot of music that is only released on vinyl. The advantage of today is that a DJ can choose the format. Personally, it keeps me musical to play with CDJs, as I can test all my tracks and play my own edits - unfortunately, you can only play dubplates a few times and they are very heavy!
Do you feel having 2 turntables in your set up adds some spice to a "regular set up" with 2 CDJs?
Currently my set up is just CDJs - before the summer it was CDJs and turntables.
You will also be playing a few dates in Colombia. When was the first time you played in South America? And what was it like?
In Bogota I played the first time in the 90's at a big techno event. Today, the clubs and events in South America are better and musically broader - in the past house and trance were bigger than techno. In some cities the club scene grew, but in Rio it also shrunk - it is related to the politics, where the scene is cut and where it can't naturally grow without pressure from the authorities.
The La Musica Es Dios EP will be out later this month on UFO Inc. Great work! How did that title come up and how is your Spanish?
God for me is mother earth and music. In the summer I live a lot in Ibiza and Berlin. My nephew is half Spanish, born in Ibiza and raised in Formentera. In the winter, I spent many weeks in Mexico. These influences probably drove me to incorporate some Spanish words in my music - the church and the faith is quite big in these countries and I just wanted to name my god!
You play in many amazing venues & festivals around the world year after year. How do you stay excited for more gigs? Where does the excitement come from?
Music addiction drives me and curiosity to know other cultures and to play them with my sets in ecstasy. My hobby became my profession and my addiction is satisfied! Every time I enter the room, I absorb the atmosphere and think about what I want to change, and do not let the night go on like the DJ before. It's a surprise package - conservative organizer ideas are boring for me. I think my creativity is the plus - I see myself as an artist. If the sound does not sound correct but rough, melodic and hypnotically, I swim in my element.
Can you tell us the concept for your new label UFO Inc.? Do you want to feature artists you wouldn’t feature on BPitch?
UFO Inc. is there to make room for music and artists - a hypnotic techno label.
On BPtich going way back you signed artists like Toktok, Fur Coat, Nicolas Jarr or even Miami sensation Jesse Perez. Few labels have the guts to go different directions like that! Do you think dance music labels are quite formatted now days? Even though they claim to be underground…
On BPitch I signed different club music artist or indie stuff like Dillon, Telefon Tel Aviv, Joy Wellboy, Moderat, Modeselektor or techno tunes and breaks house - everything I play or like to listen to the clubs. At the moment I am very interested in techno, because it satisfies my nerdy vein and it is the way I like to go clubbing myself. You will see me dancing always on the techno floor. The energy goes more into my veins when the beat is harder and faster with some hypnotic elements. The market is flooded with music nowadays and I think it's more important that a label develops a style that makes it easier for the listener to find what they are looking for.
Is there any emerging genre that has surprised you within the last couple of years?
Not a new genre, but what has really flashed me lately is that many techno producers are so nerdy. I loved the album and also the live performances by FJAAK. I like techno with breakbeats or techno which contains new school rave elements from artists like Regal. I like Boston 168, who are not so much referring to the Chicago Acid as they are doing some kind of spiritual acid and living out their tunes. I also really like the singer Dillon, because she does not run after all the commercial madness and realizes herself completely as an artist. The last album by Holly Herndon blew me away. And right now I like the new FKA twigs album - she always surprises me.