Ellen Allien has been a firm favourite within the Berlin techno scene for a long time now, and with the current global expansion of Berlin-ophiles, her label bPitch Control has rocketed to new levels of prominence. Whilst better known for her exquisite production work on recent albums such as Berlinette (2003) and Thrills (2005), her live sets are something entirely different. Tight and tough, Ellen Allien can certainly bang it out, having rocked the likes of Distillery, Tresor and Fabric.
As far as I can see you are sonar virgin (playing for the first time on the official program) what are you expecting from this year's festival?
No, there's something wrong. (d'oh - ed.) We've already had a big showcase two years ago at Sonar Night. We've played the big floor! At Sonar Day I've also already played. Sonar isn't really something new for me. It's the opposite. There's no summer without Sonar and Barcelona. And I'm expecting what I expect from Sonar every year, meeting some friends from all over the world, listening to good music, sitting in the sun, talking to my friends and visiting new faces and new stuff. Sonar is always so inspiring!
Sonar is a truly international event – can you share any experience of electronic music in different countries?
Sonar is very very special, because it's a meeting point of the electronic world. And it's so lovely that there's a floor where they sell records or labels are able to present their work. Of course, there are some big and good festivals all over the world, which have a really good line up too, but Sonar is the best in Europe! And it's in summer, near to the sea. That's very lovely. But it's necessary that there's a network of festivals through the whole year. Sonar is just one, but it's a big node.
What is your favourite festival memory?
There are two very crazy festivals in East Germany: Sonne Mond und Sterne (near to Leipzig) and Melt. I really love it to play there, because it's open air and when the sun is coming in the morning you are staying inside that very beautiful setting, in the nature. There are a lot of romantic memories; nobody can take them from me. I really love playing open air, in the nature, or in the mountains, or near to the sea, or at a lake. It's the best for partying!
How do you change your style when playing to festivals rather than nightclubs?
My set gets tighter and closer, because the time is shorter in comparison to playing in a club. You get only one hour, that's not so much. So I really have to think about my setlist before, because I have to present a lot in one hour. And it's always my mission to rock the crowd. Sometimes I like to play such a short time, because it's really exhausting to play six or eight hours, like I did in the beginning. The most I like is playing for three or four hours, like at a regular club evening. There's enough time for telling a story, for getting the flow and feeling the people's energy. But at big festivals you are standing in front of hundreds, sometimes thousands of people, that's something so amazing, that I enjoy one hour like sometimes in club. The energy you feel and get, it's unbelievable!
The Sonar programme includes features on art, multimedia and technology. How do you think advances in these areas affect the music industry and the music you play?
It affects me a lot! I'm surrounded by technology the whole day; my computer for writing and reading emails, the equipment for producing music, my iPod, my mobile. Everything in everyday life is influenced by multimedia and the communication technologies. And something I really enjoy is the combination of art, multimedia, music, design, style, fashion, technology - it's the urban way of viewing the world! And we are doing that at bPitch Control since our beginning. Maybe you know that we have a very tight connection with our graphics, they are really doing art. Like in our record covers, the websites, the visuals for the parties. It goes hand in hand. And that's also something very typical for Berlin: the melting of all kind of arts, styles and the influence and use of new and old technologies.
Sonar has a reputation for pushing new frontiers - What are you looking forward to catching at this year's festival?
I prefer watching as much as possible, so that I'm able to get an overview for finding my own point of standing. It's so exiting to switch from one hall into another, because it's like crossing so many worlds. You know, every artist, every label creates, builds up and expresses his/ her/ their own world/s. That's the important thing about Sonar, the view into so many wonderful worlds. I'm very thankful for that. And that's also another reason for joining Sonar every year again. And of course, we are presenting our world: the bPitch Control island, we are a collective and function like and as a network between other networks.
How will you be spending your time in Barcelona when not playing?
I will sit in bars, talking to friends and business partners, I surely will do a lot of interviews, I will go shopping for records, sniffing into other musical worlds. I will go to the sea. I will walk through Barcelona. I feel very home and comfortable in Barcelona, it's one of my favourite European cities. I have been there so many times, I feel at home when I arrive there. But I intend to leave Barcelona on Sunday, we want to rent a car for fining a nice and quiet place joining the sea. That's important after the days of watching, talking and working; the enjoyment, the relaxation, the coming down.
Finally, you released your album Thrills this year (which is excellent), can you give RA a heads-up on anything else on the horizon for you in 2005?
Peace, is the first thing I aim to. Peace for myself and for all people on the planet. And definitely I will do a Thrills-DJ tour around the planet. I will go to Japan, the states and all over Europe. That will be a big thing to do! And I'm releasing my first fashion collection called EAE soon. Watch out! It will be distributed via my website, where you can also find some kind of tour diary, if you are interested.
Ellen Allien plays Sonar by Night on Saturday 18 June.
This interview is part of RA’s exclusive 2005 Sonar Prologue interview series - check out the others below;
2005 Sonar Prologue with Jeff Mills
2005 Sonar Prologue with Richie Hawtin
2005 Sonar Prologue with Miss Kittin
2005 Sonar Prologue with Headman
2005 Sonar Prologue with Booka Shade
2005 Sonar Prologue with DJ Yoda
2005 Sonar Prologue with Basteroid
2005 Sonar Prologue with DJ T.
2005 Sonar Prologue with Ada
2005 Sonar Prologue with Damain Lazarus
2005 Sonar Prologue with Mu
2005 Sonar Prologue with James Murphy