Ellen Allien gets happy
Bpitch Control's boss lady lightens up.
Mon May 24 2010
Is Ellen Allien, the veteran DJ, producer and leader of the Bpitch Control label, the next indie-pop princess? Not likely. Her fine new album, Dust, still has plenty of the meditative techno—melancholy swathes of sound trimmed with gossamer frills—that longtime fans have come to expect. But the release also shows us a different Allien, one who’s not afraid to reveal an exuberant, gleeful side, with more strumming guitars, frisky melodies and unadorned vocals than ever. TONY caught up with the Berlin scene mainstay on the eve of her U.S. minitour, which sees her hitting the decks at Santos Party House Saturday 29.
I love the collage we’re running with this interview. Why not go with the usual publicity shots this time?
A friend made these collages, and I really like them. They really look how I feel: flying around and cut up into many pieces.
Cut up? Because you are such a busy woman?
No, I am having fun! This kind of busy is good.
You’re about to embark on a little tour of three U.S. cities that have plenty of dance-music history: Chicago, Detroit and New York. Is that by chance?
These are the three most important American cities for Europeans to play at. I’ve grown up with music from these cities, of course. And the parties they have are really different, which is crazy—they’re only three hours or whatever away from each other, but they have such different scenes. What’s the club like where I’ll be playing in New York?
Santos? You’ll like it— it’s like a square, black box without too many disco lights or smoke machines....
Ah, this is good. I don’t like smoking machines. Every time they go on, I say, “Oh, please turn the smoking machine off!” You don’t see the sexy girls, they’re really stinky, and they’re really bad for your hair. I end up with all this sticky shit in my hair. Please write that!
Will do. Aside from all your musical endeavors, your clothing line is up to its seventh collection.
Can you believe it? It’s so much fun, and it’s good to have a second passion. It’s grown naturally, without much stress, and it still makes me very happy.
Happiness and having fun seem like big parts of your motivation.
I’m spinning records all the time and still love it. I’m running the label—finding new solutions, working with the team, finding new artists—and I still love it. I get to share all this passion—I just love it! I started deejaying in 1992, and it feels like it was only three years ago. I’m very thankful.
As are we. But we should probably talk about Dust a bit. Does the name have any significance?
Yes. I’m finally not nervous for my company, I’m not nervous for my future—I feel very sure in what I’m doing. On the cover, I’m there with my eyes closed, very calm, with everything—all the nervous people, all the political things, everything—flying around me. That’s the dust. I feel it, but it doesn’t affect me. I’m now at peace—and that took a long time.
That shows in the music. A lot of the album has that slightly sad edge you’ve always been good at, but there are moments where the music seems warmer and friendlier.
I had the idea of making a summery album without too much of the Ellen Allien darkness and craziness. I feel very light right now, and I wanted it to be something positive.
A couple of the songs, particularly “You,” are almost indie pop. Your voice fits really well with that kind of music.
I know! It’s actually been a kind of problem in the past—whenever I would sing on a song that had any kind of indie melody, it would always sound pop. That’s why I was always pitching my voice down or using strange effects—I wanted to get away from this pop thing. But now I just said to myself, “Let’s just leave it like this!”
I really like that song, “Flashy Flashy,” too.
Yeah, that’s cool! That song is about how I met my boyfriend at [Berlin’s] Panorama Bar. I saw this boy sitting in the girls’ toilet, really fucked up, and sometimes when I see people like that I’ll just take them by the hand, walk around and maybe have a drink with them. So I was doing that and he tried to kiss me, and I said, “No way!” But by the end, we were kissing each other like crazy.
That track is sung as a duet. Is the other voice his?
No, I was him. I just pitched my voice down!
Fixed and Dance.Here.Too.: Ellen Allien is at Santos Party House Sat 29; Dust (Bpitch Control) is out now.