Published on Monday 14 March 2022
As if we weren’t excited enough for Ellen's return to E1, we had the pleasure to catch up with Ellen over Zoom to explore the concept of We Are Not Alone and find out her plans for the year ahead.
Ellen Allien returns to E1 on 25th March for her first We Are Not Alone party of 2022. Curated by Ellen herself, the show shines a light on multi-dynamic artists who channel the essence of We Are Not Alone – freedom, spirited energy, and transcendental techno. Secure your ticket here.
Speaking from her flatmate Miro's bedroom, Ellen makes herself comfortable after getting caught in the Berlin rain minutes before our call. With her pastel pink hair and a black t-shirt with the words 'PLEASURES' emblazoned across the chest, Ellen is one of those people who always looks cool. Whether she's DJing in front of thousands of people, at home on a grey Tuesday afternoon, like today or even in the process of recovering from a broken kneecap after a freak accident on tour.
Hi Ellen! We're looking forward to your return to E1 in a few weeks. Tell us a little bit more about the concept of We Are Not Alone and your experience of playing in London.
We're so happy to do this party at E1. In Berlin, We Are Not Alone is huge. Before Covid-19, we did 35-hour long parties, and we will start again at Revier Südost in Berlin when allowed, but first E1. I love E1, it's my favourite club in London. I like the crowd, I like the team, and I really like the venue. For me, it has a warehouse character, and it's very cool. I couldn't find the right place in London to play for a while, but E1 I really enjoy.
Tell us about the lineup on 25th March?
We made various bookings: Surgeon, a UK underground pioneer of techno, that kind of crunchy techno. DJ Bone is, of course, more groovy. Clara Cuvé from Berlin plays this hard, fast techno. Shaleen, an artist from Bpitch. She's also on the upcoming We Are Not Alone compilation which is coming out later this year. And Anetha from Paris, I am delighted to book her.
What is the concept of We Are Not Alone?
We Are Not Alone is a music project mixed with culture and lifestyle. It is very queer, and it's like a collective of friends working on something together. It's very organic; it is not a commercial techno brand, and it's for music and techno lovers. As a group of friends, we're not really working hard on this, as in, we're just doing We Are Not Alone with some talented people. We do not have official roles like an event manager or anything.
We Are Not Alone is something that reflects the music we love now. The name We Are Not Alone is about transporting people to the club who love a specific techno sound. Alongside our upcoming compilation We Are Not Alone Pt. 4 we will also create a book – more like a magazine – of interviews with clubs and artists. I'm also going to interview E1! Then, we're gonna do an exhibition with a video for every track – there are 36 tracks, and we have a concept for these videos. We will show them in Berlin on a massive screen in one location.
Why did you launch We Are Not Alone as an event series in 2017 and then a record label in 2020?
For We Are Not Alone, I wanted to make a series of events without a record label, and I wanted to keep the series in Berlin. But then we started having such good lineups and realised we wanted to take it somewhere else. Back in the day, we were working with Griessmuehle, so I thought, let's make a new thing with Griessmuehle because at that point, it was a new club for us. Then they moved to Revier Südost, so we're gonna do it in Revier this year. We plan to do four 24-hour events again.
What is your process in finding music for We Are Not Alone shows? As in, do you dig through the demo inbox, or do you invite artists you've had your eye on to contribute to each compilation?
For the events, we research. We listen to podcasts and check social media. We book only people we like, their attitude and the way they are pushing their careers. If we are not a fan, we don't book them. No one is gonna play at the events whom we don't love. Because We Are Not Alone is not a commercial brand, there is a lot of passion. We would never book an artist who just sells tickets and whose music we don't like. Never, never would we do that!
Sometimes we get demos, and our label manager and friends filter this. We can't listen to everything though because there's too much music, it's not possible. It's more in the scene, between us, exchanging.
For Bpitch and UFO, sometimes I contact the artist. I might be in contact with the artist already, and they say, "I have a track if it's something for you." Mostly, I have already spoken with them. Maybe I'm doing a stream, and if I am a fan of them, I ask them for unreleased stuff. And then they send me music, and maybe something comes out. It's more about communication.
For Bpitch, we just signed Rosa Anschütz; she's a singer and songwriter from Germany. One of the tracks from her upcoming album is out now, and the album is coming out in May. She is so so so talented. Just wow! Also on Bpitch we have an EP by Matasism out on 18th February, followed by a release from Keith Carnal in March, and another EP by Nocow in May.
As you have been heavily involved in dance music and rave culture over the last two decades, you must have witnessed significant changes in electronic music, from new technology to how artists and events are promoted online. What's the most positive change you've seen come through and also a not-so-positive change?
As a DJ, it's awesome to work with really good promoters worldwide because they are passionate about making nice club design. There are different kinds of club designs worldwide, so every country or big city has unique architecture or interior design. If these are really good, they can create bomb clubs, and the club will be full. These days, If you have an idea, you can really work it out. You can create something amazing which people won't forget and neither will the DJ. This, I love.
I do not like how some people use the fast pace of social media – because the business is very fast – for their own career to get big overnight and then make a load of money. Or they want to make just money. Then it's not so much about the music – it's all calculated. This calculation has nothing to do with how I work. It's fair enough that this exists because capitalism is a part of our society; it's part of the music game too. If capitalism takes over the DJ's creativity, or if a DJ has to play one sound only, this is not DJing.
For events, it's the same. If someone is only booked to sell tickets, I don't want to go to this party. Of course, I know that some DJs and my colleagues are doing this constantly or selling sex to get attention, but this is very egotistic; to need this attention to feel good. This is very boring for me. I don't want to be a part of this. Sometimes I have to work with these people, and I try not to, but it's part of our society also. They can do what they want, and I respect what they do. But it's boring. I do things my way.
I'm very connected to queer people and people who have new ways of living, and this is amazing. Or DJs who find new ways to mix or promote, this is creative – a creative exchange.
After the last two years with Covid, people are making more effort to make their mental and physical health a priority. What do you do to help keep your mind and body in check, especially when travelling and dealing with disrupted sleep patterns?
I'm an active person. Before my knee broke, I went three times a week for sports which is a good channel for my body and soul. I have a very settled private life, and I have had excellent friends for many years, which helps mentally.
I love to feel healthy. I also like to trip and smoke a joint. Not a lot, just two puffs. But I'm not doing it every weekend so that I can focus. People pay money to see me play, so I want to perform a good set. It's better than alcohol because I have no hangover. It just chills me out; it does not help me create. When I'm in the studio, I do not smoke.
With my knee at the moment, I go to massage, osteopathy, physiotherapy, sauna, icebox – I do everything to make my fucking knee better! So the focus is on me now. I am a very focused person, but on the other hand, I also have time for my friends, and I have very good time management.
Everything that I am doing at the moment is good for me. For now, I stopped drinking alcohol because of my knee. And I love to drink wine with my boyfriend, but I can't do that because of my healing process, so I am very boring, but my knee is healing.
How are the next couple of months looking for you?
My highlight is E1; We Are Not Alone. It's the first event in two years! This really is the highlight. We're also gonna bring out the We Are Not Alone compilation in summer. Following that, three singles on Bpitch. There is a lot of music going on. It's not easy for us as a record company to produce music because everything is delayed. It's so much work; it's crazy. But everyone is the same. Everything is later – it's not so easy right now!
I'm also working in the studio with a band, which is another highlight. I am not doing a remix for them, we are doing a project together, so this is really like, wow. Then, my new EP will come out on UFO inc. But first, I take care of my knee so I can bang it out at E1.
Leave us with your definition of Big Allien Energy.
As Ellen Allien, this idea of Big Allien Energy is about connecting people with spirits and energy. There are no words – it just happens. When I play, I watch the people and what is going on. I try to create specific energy, which I am very good at if I know the club. I have to play a few times in the club to develop this. Also, it doesn't matter where you are from – we're all together in one room, connected and flying. I am addicted to this. It connects me to Mother Earth and the sky. It can happen in clubs too – this is something that music does to me, and I hope I can give that to people as well.
If you work a job from Monday to Friday, and then you go out, move your body and sweat, you have other people – strangers – open up together. It's very special; you need that. I love to go out by myself and have my own experience. It's magical. But this experience is also the work of the club. Some people can enter, some cannot. The club communicates with a specific group to bring them together – this is clubbing. We Are Not Alone is where these particular people go. It's where you meet these people and share magical moments together.
Ellen Allien returns to E1 on 25th March for her first We Are Not Alone party of 2022. Secure your ticket here.
Interview by Niamh O'Connor
Photos by Haydon Perrior