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Ellen Allien – When music turns physical

Playful Magazine’s Editor in Chief went on a date with Berlin’s queen of techno.


By: Amanda Sandström Beijer

Photos: Stini Röhrs


The first new person I met in a very long time is Ellen. We were supposed to go for a walk, but it’s the one day that is rainy so we decide to meet at the office. She enters with a black rain jacket with yellow neon details and a brightly awake face. Greeting me without showing any concerns for the social distancing that we’ve gotten used to by now.


”Since the clubs are closed my days are completely different now, especially my Sundays”

Playful had a chat with her for the web-project we did – ”Corona Diaries” – where she mentioned that this period has made her see Berlin in a new light.

”Since the clubs are closed my days are completely different now, especially my Sundays”, she laughs and continues;

”I’ve done streaming though, since I love sharing music and it’s a physical need. But normally I come back home completely dead after a gig and lay down on my bed. Now I bike on Sundays. I’ve bought a new bike since my last one wasn’t outside anymore”, she jokes;

”I have this route that I really like in the city, and I always do the same one. I really enjoy Berlin with less cars. I feel it gives more freedom to the city. Even though people are staying meters away from me and that’s a bit weird. But well, I guess it’s normal since the media is handling this situation in their own way, and since it’s a ’rule’. But actually I don’t know if it’s such a good rule. We’ll see when the vaccine comes, I don’t really know what they want us to do, but I’m not the person that would take any vaccine.”


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Ellen relaxes on her chair with her feet elevated - you can tell she’s used to a hectic lifestyle by now and knows how to be in the moment and in charge of her own time so that it doesn’t consume her.

”I need to be very strict with taking time off for myself sometimes. Because there’s always something to do. But now since we’ve been staying at home I’ve gotten even more connected to my mum, sister and my nephew and I feel very close to them. The same goes with my flatmate who’s working from home, and our relationship has changed. We’ve started cooking together and look at new recipes all the time. We’ve also been doing ’home gym’ nearly every day while listening to streams or podcasts by other DJ’s, and that’s been so much fun and more effective than going to a gym, so that’s on the good side of the situation.”

”But at the same time, I have a lover overseas and not knowing when we’ll be able to see each other again is tough. This person is working for festivals in the USA and all jobs are gone now, so it’s problematic in so many ways.”



”Music is not about money, it gives so much"

Many artists and creative people have shown that they’re not going to just sit and wait for it to be over, but have taken time to give of their work and spread positivity to help us feel united and keep a positive mindset. One of them is Ellen.

”Music is not about money, it gives so much. I wanna share something and spread positive vibes. The first streaming I did on Instagram or Facebook I did because I felt very depressed, and since I know I’m a person who’s often very happy I wondered how bad others must have felt then. I was lying in my bed and saw a live stream from Addison Groove and it was incredible, I realized how much music gives. There’s also this old couple playing classic music every weekend on the route where I’m biking, and people are sitting all around them listening to it.”

Ellen’s new album that she started recording last year before she went on holidays, (Released on June 12th) is also very accurate for this situation.

”Mixing music and the whole creative process gives me so much. It’s very physical”, she says and continues;

”In one of the tracks, I’m saying ”Covid19 - Bitch”, she laughs. ”So I let my drama’s out in the music.”

The track is on on a compilation of ”The Third Room” – a group of promoters from Essen who works with creating a space of cultural exchange by combining musical styles and going beyond limits.

”They organize the best techno events in very industrial locations” Ellen says.



Going her own way and never compromising is what brought her to where she is today, and of course, her love for the music.

”It is very important for me to feel free. I need to feel free, no matter what is said by the government and society. I feel manipulated by what we get told to do. Also I feel that we’re ’puppets of the pharmacy’ in the end, it’s pretty much slavery for the pharmacy. But you’ll find me at the next demonstration, they have to understand that we’re not so easy to manipulate. Many of the tracks in the new EP is about this kind of situations, who we can trust and things like that.”


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Although this might sound political, Ellen doesn’t want her music to be political, but rather a way to release thoughts. She finds key words and plays around them. But of course there are thoughts behind the keywords.

”Believing in rainbows and music doesn't mean that I trust capitalism. Yesterday I talked with my mom and my nephew about what’s behind all of this, like who’s going to profit from it. It feels like some people want to push the paranoia.”

Ellen highlights that our lives are right now, and if we are digging ourselves into the scarcity mindset we might as well not live at all.


"We have to try and get out of this and enjoy. Be playful”

”Everything changes so quickly and nothing is constant. We have to enjoy our lives and understand that nothing will remain the same forever. Appreciate what we have. Be careful and stay awake, but don’t forget to enjoy your life every day. I understand that it’s not easy. Many people are depressed, but we’ll come out of this much stronger. We have to try and get out of this and enjoy. Be playful”, she laughs.

It seems that this time has unified Berlin even more, and even though this summer isn’t going to be the same we know that things are changing quickly. Some of Ellen’s best memories are from this season in previous years, when Berlin takes on the aspect of summer town. Ellen goes back to when Griesemule opened up its garden where she played on May 1st.

”t’s a very important day for me and it’s such a unique day here in Berlin. It’s funny that it never rains, it’s like the first days of summer. Last year I just got back to Berlin and I was so thankful

to be back - everyone was so happy and I played for the perfect crowd with people from all over the world”, she says and continues;

”There’s this community of people who run stuff, and who are enjoying running it. You feel it in their energy, and this is also what makes Berlin and many clubs here so unique. It’s not like a heavy burden on your shoulders to do stuff, but it’s an uplifting energy in creating it, and that’s beautiful. We as artists, as well as the guests, can really feel this. We’re people from all over the world coming here and meeting on the dance floor.”


"For me it starts with the music connecting me into itself"

Meeting on the dance floor is something Ellen has an extraordinary ability to create an atmosphere for. The ability to connect with the audience creates a totally unique energy and I’m curious to hear how she sees it.

”For me it starts with the music connecting me into itself”, she says and continues;

”But of course there are some preparations beforehand, where I see what songs can be played in that specific room, since it’s different depending on the acoustics of the room and how the sound is floating. On certain dance floors there’s some stuff that I can’t play because the sound doesn't work with that kind of acoustics. So, it’s a combination between that and watching, connecting and understanding the audience. If the people know me as a DJ, then they’re just waiting for the point when I come in to overtake them - to let them inside the music.”



Knowing what track to put after the others is a certain way of reading the audience, connecting with them and know how to bring them from point A to point B in such a smooth way that they just start going crazy.


"When they meet my energy they start going crazy, and in this moment, when we meet, it’s a huge energy flow and it gets insane.”

”The tracklist I choose to play, is something I base upon the current energy in the room, reading the audience and building the energy to win them over. When they meet my energy they start going crazy, and in this moment, when we meet, it’s a huge energy flow and it gets insane.”

”The people that know me and how I perform and know my energy are just waiting for this. Sometimes if I’m not there, they push me like ’Ellen, come on’, it’s pretty interesting how this works, what makes me put one track after the other and the whole creative process during gigs. But it for sure also depends on the audience, If there are people that don’t know the music for example when I play specific tunes or a track of mine or an edit that I did. It’s a very physical thing - it’s a tribe experience I would say.”

When Ellen talks about her gigs and connecting with the audience you can feel the way she loves it. Her voice changes and her face is smiling. Yes, she will do this until she dies.

”People are waiting to have this uplifting moment together to celebrate the music. It’s the celebration of the music, and how it has the ability to push your body and brain in a specific direction with the combination of tones and notes of the record. It creates a lifestyle - it’s the energy that we need to be able to get into a specific spirit on the dance floor. And this kind of mood that surrounds us, is made up of feelings we don’t normally have in our ’every-day-life’, with all the adrenaline. The more we dance and sweat the more hormones our bodies are producing and that brings us up to a certain level. Doing this together, it’s beautiful”.

If you haven’t yet put on music while reading this I guess you’re just dreaming away of the times we share together. Remembering how life is supposed to be and longing for the moments. We will be back and when we are, oh my, we will enjoy it!

”The need to lose ourselves together in a room filled with people we don’t know, and to share the moment in the present is what brings us together. Sometimes when my friends tell me about someone they met in a club, I ask them why they didn’t exchange numbers, you know, make some friends. But it’s not always about that, it’s also an experience you create in the moment. It's a different world outside the normal world.”



”This is also thanks to the bouncers. They are doing a great job, thank you for that"

”This is also thanks to the bouncers. They are doing a great job, thank you for that. Depending on who they let in and who they don’t - that creates a club – otherwise it wouldn’t be a club. The Berlin club owners really know what they’re doing. I’m really proud of them and thanks to the government that allows us to create the scene in this specific way. It’s not like in other cities where the clubs close at 6 and you as a DJ don’t get the chance to build up the vibe. We’re much freer in Berlin to create the club scene and make it special. Without the club owners we wouldn’t be able to celebrate the underground scene in this way.”

Together with Freddy K, they both represent the first generation of DJ’s, and besides that they also share the conviction to go their own way and never compromise.

”I feel very connected to Alessio. When we started to DJ it wasn’t about being cool. When we started it wasn’t cool, we did it because we’re music lovers. There’s so much passion behind it. We’re not people trying to be liked. We do what we want to do and no one can tell us what to do, no club, no manager, no one. Some DJ’s today question themselves what they would need to play to be famous or to earn money. And I just wonder, does the importance lie in becoming famous or to DJ? It shouldn’t matter, I really respect the DJ’s who are playing alone on their Instagram accounts with no-one listening but your parents and two of your friends. Many DJ’s are just playing at home alone, and they’re happy, it shouldn’t be about fame or money but being a real DJ instead of a big DJ.”

Some of Ellen’s favourite clubs:

Griessmuehle

Berghain

Wilden Renate

KitKat

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Tresor

Ohm

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