By: Amanda Sandström Beijer
Photos: Duran Levinson
As part of the Spandau20 collective, Elli has recently exploded as she’s been proving her talents and creating fuming energy on dance floors from PITCH festival in Australia to Berghain in Berlin. We catch up with the artist about what’s shaped her, made her laugh and get to know some unexpected facts as well as a few technical things.
Born in a small village in Germany, Elli Acula describes herself as a dreamer, a rebel, and a night owl, even as a kid. Always interested in music and discovering new tunes together with her friend, the interest in electronic music has been clear from the start.
”When I was still a kid my best friend and I started to collect CDs with all kinds of music on, mostly compilations. At one point we discovered electronic music by their crazy-looking covers. In the beginning it was stuff like Moby, Daft Punk, Planet Soul, M.A.N.D.Y, Da Hool, Marusha, The Prodigy, everything that sounded new and interesting to us. We weren’t even dancing to it back then – just listening – over and over. And of course, we would be constantly talking about it! We even started to battle each other over who would come up with the newest and dopiest discovery. It was all about impressing the other one with the sickest sound or song. Later we started to buy and collect vinyl records and the competition continued.”
”Right now, as we talk about this, I remember the exact feeling that I got back then, and I can truly tell that it still feels the very same as when I was a kid, digging for vinyls for hours and hours.”
Some years later Elli was supposed to save money for her driving license, and long story short – the license isn’t taken to this day.
”Instead, I spent all the money that I just saved for my driver’s license on two Technics SL-1210, a small two channel mixer and headphones and was finally able to practice by spinning my own record collection. And to be honest, I never regretted or doubted this decision for even a second”, Elli says and continues;
”I’ve had them for a decade now and after heavy use of the headphones, they just literally broke last week. I loved them and they don’t make them anymore. Luckily, I just found a second-hand pair online and I'll try to use those for another decade.”
As anyone who got started with their passion and want to be able to do it full time, there are of course challenges to face. Elli however, is pretty relaxed about her view on ’getting somewhere’.
”Don’t be too hard on yourself, especially in the very beginning, just take your time. For me it was very intimate and emotional when I started producing, I wasn’t even telling people that I was. I kept it mostly to myself, like my very own secret world.
”It’s fun to explore different genres and to be experimental. Our world and the systems we live in are so much about rules, but with an open mind the process can be a great way to feel freedom. Regarding the technical side, watch out for free plugins and look out for Trials – many companies are dropping things like this on a regular basis. Work with the things you got. For example, you can use your phone and (field-)record basically any sounds that are interesting to you.”
Elli is a person that doesn’t slow down. Being a Creative Director on the side from her touring schedule one may wonder if she ever sleeps.
”The last few years I’ve been on different missions, trying to create a space where ideas can float as freely and be as innovative as they could be. I learned to believe in the people I work with and look forward to sharing many more beautiful experiences and knowledge together.”
”Lately a lot has happened, and it made me go through a lot of emotions as there’s been so many first times for me. Not only did I do my first tours around Europe, South America, and Australia, but there’s been a heavy contrast of coming home from a gig on Sunday night and having the urge to sit up and produce music the whole night due to all the inspiration I’m feeling – yet having to wake up early on Monday mornings to sit in a meeting room after having the least sleep I’ve ever had. I’ve realized that not sleeping won’t prevent me from creating music.”
Touring the world doesn't change the fact that Berlin equals home for Elli. Not only the studio and the collective Spandau20. But also, the clubs and club-goers in the city.
”I immediately felt at home in the clubs in Berlin and consistently met interesting souls who inspired me. Even if we just shared a brief moment during the night or on the streets in the morning. It’s all magic to me. The music scene in this city is a place that nothing can compete with. During the last years I found that it’s a place where I can switch off, reboot, and reconnect with mind, body, and soul. And the most special thing to me is that I always know that I’m not alone feeling this way.”
Elli moved to Berlin over a decade ago to be free, study art and design and dig deeper into electronic music.
”Berlin has always been my city of choice. I just naturally knew that this is the right place for me. When I was a teenager, I moved to Kreuzberg into a super cheap and small room with people I didn’t know anything about. We met for the first time the day I arrived at the place with all my belongings. After my stuff was stored, we literally went directly to a club. It may sound crazy but the first night I was out in Berlin, I randomly met some of the people who I now call family.”
”Berlin is yet to bore me. We’re living in a city that contains so many different cities, and that’s wonderful. You can stay in your Kiez and suddenly you’ll know almost everyone – from people hanging at the Spätkauf to the grandma from the flower shop with her parrots in the back room. It can become a cozy home. But on the other hand, you can just walk or jump on the U-Bahn and land somewhere with a completely different vibe. Living in Berlin means always having an adventure to experience, an inspiration to find out about, and there are always more subcultures to experience.”
A day off in the Summertime in Berlin for Elli would look like this:
”I would start the day early and go for a run in Görlitzer Park going all the way through Treptower Park to get a proper dose of nature and fresh air, of course with some new mixes blasting on my headphones. I would meet some friends after that and get some snacks near Kottbusser Tor, walk to Hardwax, and enjoy digging music. Probably getting hungry after this, and would then grab a late lunch at LIU ChengduWeidao, my second home since years now, and get some Tianshui Noodles. To really make the day complete we would have a mighty Hot Pot session with the whole crew. In the evening I would hit my studio again and keep on going with the flow until the sun rises again or go to a club to listen to a friend’s set or an artist I dig.”
We will see how many days’ Elli gets to experience Berlin without working this summer, hopefully a few. Although, as mentioned, the schedule is getting busy.
”I’m excited for festival season for sure. It can be such a special vibe to dance under the warm sky and sometimes in the rain. Also, I miss when the temperatures are rising, and the club dance floors are literally boiling – gotta love a good sweaty dance! I’m also looking forward to these warm nights in the studio. I can tell you my studio in Berlin is boiling during the summer months. – „Beats are cooked, bass burnin’ like it’s lava (…)“ like Afu-Ra said once.
Funniest thing that’s ever happened during one of your sets?
One time I saw someone, who was about to drop a drink over the mixer while I was playing, and somehow, I caught the drink in the air haha. Nobody noticed it while I had to laugh super-hard and everybody was staring at me holding the drink in my hand.
Another time people were dancing around me in the DJ Booth and somebody, while dancing, accidentally hit the cue button of the player that was in the mix – the music stopped – I counted to 4, hit the button and the party went on like it was a dope drop.
I honestly love moments like this, it’s raw, it’s real.
Something not many people know about you?
My favorite Mario Kart character is Bowser plus I visited a dark room in Animal Crossing.
10 quick ones:
Hands on or follow the flow?
Hands on and cherishing more and more to follow the flow
Big steak or oysters?
Neither of the two – Hot Pot it is!!!!
Atheism or Spirituality?
Museum or theme park?
Museums for the chill, roller coasters for the thrill
Inner Goth or Social-is-fuel?
Dance floor or Toilet queue?
Meet me front row
BIG Festival or small cellar gig?
It’s all about balance
Psychology or Energy healing?
Psychology works - but also open minded for energy healing
Bahamas or Tokyo?
Mario Kart or Tekken?