Ellen Allien forged her career in the early ’90s in the DJ booths of Berlin’s legendary club scene. Since, she’s maintained her position at the heart of Europe’s dance music scene, running her influential BPitch Control label since 1999 and keeping up a hectic schedule of DJ dates.
2017 saw the release of Nost, her first album in four years, which saw her returning to her club roots, after excursions into the worlds of ambience and electro-pop on the records that preceded it.
We caught up with Ellen at the 2017 Amsterdam Dance Event, ahead of her Vinylism set, which saw her playing a vinyl only selection in the city’s Zwart Goud store.
Why do you think vinyl is still important to DJs?
“I think vinyl has a magic because, first of all, you can see it. You can have a cover in your hand, you can put it on the turntable and see it moving. And the sound is different. There are less highs, it’s less aggressive, and for me – as I started DJing in ’92 – it’s something very beautiful from my past. The kind of mixing is different too. You make longer mixes; more elegant. Vinyl has a movement like my body when I play. It’s just magic.”
Tell us about the all-vinyl sets you’ve been playing…
“I started a project – Vinylism – about two years ago in Reykjavik. Sonar invited me and I asked if there was any record store that I could play at – just to meet some people! Just to have some communication before I played. I met some amazing people, so when I came back to Berlin I said to my promoter that we have to start a project.
“We go to record stores and play the vinyl from those record stores in front of the crowd. It’s like going to the club... or having coffee... it’s communication.”
Are you not a fan of digital music?
“Buying music digitally is a good thing, because you can find everything. But going into the record store, you have the selection of the record store – you can’t find everything – and that’s a good thing because somebody is there to select the music.
“Every record shop has a specific style, so you can go record shopping and you have a selector; you don’t spend millions of hours at Beatport or iTunes. You can talk to the people selecting the music. When I arrive in a city, I go to a record store, find out what the best club is at the moment, which DJ is amazing, what’s the hottest record. Record stores are so important.”
What gear are you using to DJ now?
“I don’t use any digital effects. The effects are me, or the crowd, or the light man! I play with vinyl and CDJs. For me it’s not important if their hands aren’t up all the time. They can close their eyes and fly away and switch into the music. I don’t like effects. I like hypnotic sets.”
Tell us about your recent album...
“My last album, called Nost, was about the past and the future. I just bring music back – a lot from the past and from now. Before Nost I did an ambient soundtrack, 45-minutes long, but Nost was really a club album.
“I started DJing in ’99. We sold so many records and CDs! Now I try not to bring out so much; just stuff I really love. It’s about the material; the music and the impact it has.”
How do you feel about the current state of dance music?
“I think we’re at a very high level in dance music. Promoters and club owners do a very good job at events all over the world. You can go in the desert and party! You can go underwater! There’s different kinds of party elements and party cultures and party experiences, which promoters really kick at the moment. It’s like, top level.”
Keep up with Ellen’s latest news and DJ dates on her official website.