Wherever you find Ellen Allien, you find movement. Hailing from Berlin, one of the planet’s most dynamic party scenes, her artistic home stands for one thing above all: freedom, in every respect. DJ, musician, label manager and businesswoman, fashion designer and creative all-rounder – Ellen Allien has carved out her own space in all these roles, creating a unique universe. And she invites everyone to share this world with her – whether pounding club dance floors, raising hands at major electronic music festivals or listening intently at a temple of modern art such as the Centre Pompidou in Paris. She constantly explores new aural worlds on her albums, she discovers and promotes young artists and she always shares her enthusiasm with others: her label family at BPitch Control, her fellow musicians around the world, and especially her audience. Ellen is an extraordinary creature, a one-of-a-kind artist without whom Berlin’s vibrant techno landscape wouldn’t be the same. Fortunately someone thought of a suitably extraterrestrial name for her right at the start of her career: Allien. No name will ever suit her better.
For a long time now, Ellen Allien has been regarded as a fixed star in the electronic music galaxy. This means being absolutely committed – as she always is when she decides to put her mind to something and set things in motion. Even in her teenage years she often felt like a dropout who would prefer to go her own way. She would dream up fantasy worlds and escape to the realms of music. This became her addiction – and it remains so today. There was no big bang at the origin of Ellen’s universe, but there were several supernovas. As a child she played the organ, then the saxophone, and she started manically collecting 7" records. She went on to study acrobatics, developed a passion for dance and fashion, and lived for several years in a squat. The Kraftwerk song “Das Model” was a gateway for her ears: minimalist pop from Germany? This was a revelation! In 1988 she moved to London for a year, just at the time when acid house was exploding. She was overwhelmed by the thump of the kick drum, fascinated by the diversity of the capital’s night life, infected by the dance virus. She returned to her home city with a new understanding of music – just a few days before the Wall came down. Berlin was now an open city; suddenly everything seemed possible. Ellen scouted out new territory, mainly in the eastern part of the city which has now become its centre. She dove headlong into Berlin night life and has held an inseparable bond with the city’s new geography ever since. Later she would evoke this experience on the track “Stadtkind” from her eponymous album: “Du gibst mir die Kraft. Ich bin ein Teil von dir.” (“You give me strength. I am part of you.”)
Ellen Allien begins DJing in the rampant underground of this merging city. In Fischlabor, where the core of Berlin electro scene meet, she switches in the early 90s from the bar to the DJ booth. Over the years she plays regularly at all the city’s seminal clubs: at E-Werk, Casino and Tresor, later at Maria am Ostbahnhof, Watergate, WMF and Ostgut/Berghain. She is also welcomed abroad at clubs like Nitsa in Barcelona or Fabric in London, plays at festivals including Sónar, Melt!, Nuits Sonores, Time Warp, Wire in Japan, I Love Techno, WMC Miami and Dour in Belgium. All over the world Ellen represents electronic music from Berlin.
Ellen’s own radio show on the Berlin station Kiss FM gives rise to her first label, Braincandy, which she manages from 1994 to 1998 – in retrospect a test-run for greater deeds. A series of parties in various Berlin clubs leads to the creation of BPitch Control in 1999. The label opens up a new stomping ground – not only for Ellen herself, but also for her musical companions: DJs like Kiki, Sascha Funke and the duo Toktok release their early productions on this imprint; acts like Paul Kalkbrenner and Modeselektor steadily make their way to world fame at BPitch. Just as Berlin evolves into a global techno metropolis, BPitch casts its net wider and grows on the international stage. The next generation of label artists includes the Venezuelan Aérea Negrot, the Israeli Chaim and the Brazilian Dillon, Thomas Muller from France, Mr. Statik from Greece, We Love from Italy and Dance Disorder from Spain.
Ellen’s own albums are also released on BPitch. They give an impression of the diary entries of a free spirit in the musical underground: personal experiences translated into sound, with no stylistic constraints. Stadtkind in 2001 was followed by Berlinette (2003) and Thrills (2005). Whilst all these albums are produced in collaboration with Holger Zilske, each stands on its own as a chapter with its own unique sound. In 2006 Ellen records Orchestra Of Bubbles with Apparat. She becomes a live musician for the first time and a comprehensive tour takes the pair on a journey around the globe. With her following albums – Sool in 2008, produced in collaboration with AGF, and Dust in 2010 with Tobias Freund – Ellen explores new aspects of her creative process, continually drawing new connections between techno and pop, house and indie via electronica. In the meantime she perfects her vision of DJing, which is as stimulating and eclectic as her taste in music. With Fabric 34 she becomes the first female DJ to contribute to the mix-CD series of London’s most famous club. In 2008 she records Boogybytes Vol.04 for her own label, and numerous musical snapshots are released on other renowned compilation series.
Aside from her own musical world, Ellen is always on the lookout for new talent, distinctive sounds, sensational voices. And her ability to sense original styles and strong personalities is normally spot on. Ellen’s work with textures and patterns took on another dimension in 2006 when she reconnected with her passion for designing clothes and founded ellen allien fashion. Her collections are like stories for the skin, woven out of the fabric of the night.
These are stories of the dance floor. This is always at the centre of Ellen Allien’s universe. It’s the place of freedom from which everything else is defined. This is where the extraordinary creature of yesteryear transformed into a techno fairy of folklore. Yet the Stadtkind – the child of the city – still resides within her: a euphoric Berlinette bounding around, unable to control her enthusiasm for the next new thing. Ellen wouldn’t have it any other way. Let’s not forget: she’s addicted – to music, to movement, to freedom.