Interview: Ellen Allien
Thu, 17 Jul 2008 12:46:12
For the past decade, Ellen Allien has served as one of electronic music's most effective and influential ambassadors. As the hands-on leader of BPitch Control, she's signed artists like Modeselektor, Apparat and Sascha Funke—earning the label high-profile fans like Beck and Radiohead's Thom Yorke, while taking another step in establishing Berlin as an epicenter for electronic music. Her DJ sets became a must-see staple of any music fan's trip to Berlin, while her many mixes have helped further her label's reputation, as well as spread the influence of the Berlin scene as a whole.
As an artist, she's never taken a conventional approach to her own albums. After perhaps her strongest flirtation with the Stateside mainstream yet—2006's fantastic Orchestra of Bubbles collaboration with Apparat—Allien returns this year with SOOL—which is cut from a different cloth altogether. This time around, she's pursuing her version of minimalism; for support, she holed up in the studio with avant garde producer/spoken word artist Antye Greie (better known as AGF). The result blends myriad electronic sub-genres and offers many slow-burning pleasures for any listener willing to give the album its due attention; yet another success for an artist who's been on a long win streak.
Allien checked in with ARTISTdirect to discuss minimalism, homesickness and the evolution of the American electronic scene.
I read a recent interview where you were talking about the American electronic scene, and you mentioned some cities where you'd had good parties—but Los Angeles wasn't on the list. L.A. can be a very polarizing place for touring artists. What's your experience been like?
In L.A., we just had huge sound problems—and THAT is definitely a party killer. I like to be in L.A., but such a gig just does not make me happy. In comparison to that, New York has been awesome—and some other gigs in the USA, too. I have the feeling that something is happening in the USA, going forwards. People like to go to clubs and dance to electronic music. I really appreciate the clubs in the USA. A lot has changed over the years.
I was at your gig at the Avalon here in Hollywood and watched a lot of people run out of steam before you even started your set [at around 4:15am]. What's your secret to keeping your energy up through the night?
Maybe I started my set too late there. My booker told me it would probably be better to play later, but I changed that after half of the tour and decided to play before Sascha Funke, not after him. And this has been better. But as I told you before, we had sound problems in LA, which did not make it easy for us. The needles jumped, they had to change the turntable and the sound was strange. They told us they had a new sound engineer.
The last time we did an interview, you mentioned that heightened national security in America had made it even more difficult for artists from abroad to come over and play shows. Are you still experiencing complications from that, or has that smoothed out?
It is still difficult and the visa is so expensive. I hate that kind of politics, but I have many friends in the USA who are sharing something with me; they are the main reason for me to get there.
When you decided to work on the new album with Antye, did you already know what direction you wanted to go in conceptually? Or did the two of you find the concepts together?
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