Ellen Allien - The Berlin feeling

No other place or time has shaped our understanding of techno the way that Berlin did in the 1990s after the fall of the Berlin Wall. No other Berlin DJ has been able to turn this brash feeling for techno in the city into a global DJ career like Ellen Allien.

GROOVE Magazin Berlin

Ellen Allien Melt Festival 2019 by Camille BlakeGROOVE Magazin Berlin

Working as a DJ and partying is something physical and collective for me, like something tribal. The fatigue combined with the music is like dancing on a volcano, like there's something roaring. Through this repetitive beat, you get caught up in a kind of maelstrom. 

Ellen Allien by Erased MemoriesGROOVE Magazin Berlin

It works and is apparently something that goes back a long way, too, that people clapped or stomped around the floor. The heart also has a rhythm, it all fits together. The weather, too.

Ellen Allien by Archive GROOVEGROOVE Magazin Berlin

There's a common thread in my life that has developed slowly. I'm someone who finds it difficult to part with things; it takes an incredibly long time for me. But I keep on going. 

Ellen Allien Melt Festival 2018 by Camille BlakeGROOVE Magazin Berlin

I don't do something one day and something different the next. Things go on in my life, and it stays calm, serene, and focused. That's my character. That's why it's like that, and also because of my star sign. 

Ellen Allien by Stini Roehrs reworked by Erased MemoriesGROOVE Magazin Berlin

I'm a Virgo, Double Virgo, Cancer and Moon. There's such a sensitivity and a focus there on not being excessive. And also a passion. That's an outlet that I've found. 

Ellen Allien by I AM JOHANNESGROOVE Magazin Berlin

I'd still keep going even if I wasn't so popular. Before I had techno in my life, I made other music, learned or started to learn instruments, and didn't finish any of my training.

Ellen Allien by Archive GROOVEGROOVE Magazin Berlin

I grew up in West Berlin with the Wall. The Wall was a big constraint on me as a child. You always bumped into the Wall, and Berlin was a very small place because of it. We had family in East Berlin. 

Ellen Allien by Marie StaggatGROOVE Magazin Berlin

You always had to go through the checkpoints, it was all very military, the East German army was constantly doing exercises, and there was shooting. I grew up with that, as well as with the Red Army Faction.

Ellen Allien by Kieran BehanGROOVE Magazin Berlin

Cars annoyed me, I was annoyed by the stench in the city, I was annoyed by the school system, and I was annoyed by what I had to learn. Philosophy was the coolest thing for me in school; there was one teacher who took an interest in us.

Ellen Allien TV Tower by Archive Ellen AllienGROOVE Magazin Berlin

I realized that something wasn't right about what I was being taught. This wasn't how I wanted to live. I also know a lot of people who were lucky enough to be able to adapt.

Ellen Allien by Archive GROOVEGROOVE Magazin Berlin

I trained in acrobatics in the mid-1980s. I lived in a squat. We also had rooms for training and exercise there, where people could engage in free artistic creation. I didn't have to be afraid there, and I lived like that between the ages of 17 and 19. 

Ellen Allien by Archive GROOVEGROOVE Magazin Berlin

Those years were important ones, like cutting the umbilical cord from the family. But it's also difficult to live that way when you don't know where you're going. Things weren't clear back then, and being a DJ was a job for losers. The Wall had just fallen; everything was really low budget, really crummy. 

Nina Hagen Band - African Reggae Single Cover by Archive GROOVEGROOVE Magazin Berlin

Nina Hagen used to be on at my parents' house throughout the 1980s. Then there was this show called Disco, then there was the New German Wave. Kraftwerk. That's what I grew up with. Actually, it's like this: 

Ellen Allien at Tresor by Lisa WassmannGROOVE Magazin Berlin

When your head is in such a different place, like a person who always has to reinvent themselves, then first of all you have to find a gang and an approach. I had that in the squat. Other people discover that when they study or move to other countries.

Dimitri Hegemann and Ellen Allien 1991-1993 by T.Brembs | zeitmaschine.orgGROOVE Magazin Berlin

Coming across techno was also a coincidence. I was living in Schöneberg at the time where the Fischlabor bar was located. I worked there to fund my acrobatics training, and that's where I met the people who later opened clubs like UFO and Tresor.

Ellen Allien by Archive GROOVEGROOVE Magazin Berlin

I was in the right place at the right time and didn't have a clue what was happening. And then it just happened. That's when I found my gangs, and that was an outlet for the passion I have inside me. But it could equally just have involved being able to paint pictures or write books.

Ellen Allien by Jordi PerezGROOVE Magazin Berlin

I wanted to find something to get away from society and from the shit that constantly happens, and to be somewhere where everyone is happy. As well as the music there's also sexuality and drugs, and all of this creates a world that goes beyond normal values.

Ellen Allien by Marie StaggatGROOVE Magazin Berlin

I think that sexuality is just as important as drugs with this. Sexuality occurs in a tangible form in the club and not on a porn site or on a database, where I first pick out pictures before having to meet the guy. Instead, I stand at the club and choose the people for myself. 

Ellen Allien by Marie StaggatGROOVE Magazin Berlin

The whole thing is about more than just entertainment, it's a synergy of energies. It's about values outside of the system, even if they still occur within the system.

Ellen Allien - AurAA by Erased MemoriesGROOVE Magazin Berlin

I used to have this major paranoia: what's going on out there? Not because of aliens, but because of the expanse. When I thought about it, it was like corrosion in my brain. Because I wasn't able to grasp that it's infinite.

Ellen Allien by Marie StaggatGROOVE Magazin Berlin

I also did qi gong. You turn around and the teacher says: Connect with the Earth. Then you also feel that the Earth is round. I learned to connect with the cosmos, and then it was easier to cope with the expanse involved.

Ellen Allien and Apparat by Archive GROOVEGROOVE Magazin Berlin

You have to live it, appreciate it, see that you perceive the moon, the sea, and nature differently. You don't get it that way when you're a kid from the city. So, I tried to make this connection and I've felt better ever since.

Ellen Allien 2020 by Tasya MenakerGROOVE Magazin Berlin

Some people can draw you into certain vibes, and so you have to be careful. But that's what I've learned. I can handle a lot of things, but I am very sensitive. That may be the reason why I can also put on really good DJ sets. I've come a long way.

Ellen Allien by Archive GROOVEGROOVE Magazin Berlin

Experiencing all these parties and coping with nightlife with all these characters, freaks, and wise guys. You have to have a lot of passion and work hard, as well as having talent. A lot of people fall by the wayside. People who dream of becoming a DJ, but they just crack up.

Ellen Allien by Robin KirchnerGROOVE Magazin Berlin

I have done some drugs in my life, I've drunk a lot, and I haven't slept much. It could be that all the fun keeps me fit and healthy. I get an adrenaline rush when I'm working as a DJ. I jump around, which is all very physical. Maybe that's a healthy thing.

Ellen Allien Halloween Stream 2020 by I AM JOHANNESGROOVE Magazin Berlin

Every sound has a right to be there. I don't say anything when music annoys me. I stay away from things that don't interest me. I had to learn that, obviously. I felt a sense of hatred when I was younger of course for all the jerks. 

Ellen Allien established her own format in the Corona era with her balcony sets.

Ellen Allien at Detroit Movement Festival 2017 by Archive Ellen AllienGROOVE Magazin Berlin


Today, I no longer concern myself with things that don't interest me; it goes in one ear and out the other. I don't have time for that. I go wherever things interest me. Even if I don't like the music, I still want to know: what are they doing there anyway? 


Credits: Story

Interview: Alexis Waltz, photos: as indicated. 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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