Ellen Allien & Daniel Avery talk Expedition
Interview by Maurice Dharampal
The concept of an expedition can be interpreted in many different ways. In the simplest form, it’s an organized journey for a particular purpose. But what that journey or purpose might be, is completely up to the expeditionists. Exploring new sites, venturing through the jungle that is electronic music, setting up camp in surroundings with unheard sounds, we’re stimulating these various interpretations at Expedition Festival. In the upcoming interview series, we’ll explore these concepts with artists who’ll perform July 6th. This week, we’ve got Frankfurt’s finest Anthony Rother.
Two worlds collide: Daniel Avery and Ellen Allien join forces to bring a multi-layered DJ set. Both have been exploring the realm of electronic music in their own lanes. The London-based Daniel Avery has been making waves for the past 15 years. His 2013 magnum opus Drone Logic is a prime example of his ventures through minimal electronic sounds. More recently, his follow-up album Song For Alpha saw a more experimental approach, which signified these ventures even more. This, too, is apparent in his DJ sets. As creative all-rounder, DJ, musician and BPitch label manager Ellen Allien carved out her own space in the Berlin scene. She’s one of the most iconic artists of her generation in electronic music to date and embodies the core ethos of techno. Ahead of their first ever back to back session at Expedition Festival, we conversed with the DJs about their past paths, festivals, Jaffa Cakes and their joint expedition (i.e. back-to-backs).
Ellen, it seems your excursions through music are as multifold as possible, being a label boss, DJ, recording artist and even a fashion designer. How do you maintain to keep all these things and their effort and time balanced?
Everything I do revolves around music. It makes me happy and it fulfills my life. Through my DJ sets, my new label UFO Inc and – of course – through BPitch, I find ways to meet my need to express this. The most recent example of this expression is my latest album Alientronic. This took a lot of time during the Winter. And all the while I’m also running the We Are Not Alone parties at Griessmühle in Berlin. This leaves no time left for fashion at this moment, unfortunately.
Both: Doing a back-to-back for the first time together, we could imagine there being some extra time dedicated to preparing for this joint expedition. How are you getting in tune with each other?
DANIEL: I have nothing but admiration for Ellen so, whilst there will of course be preparation, I’m
excited to see how the energy flows between this combination on the night. For me a
collaboration is about creating something new that could not exist without both forces. It feels
like there will be some interesting turns.
ELLEN: The idea is that we exchange what we play at the moment. Finding a way to play together and trying to create something amazing. Let’s see what’ll happen. We will record it!
Daniel, your two albums Drone logic and the recent Song For Alpha, differ in aesthetic. How would you say your own expedition through music developed?
DANIEL: It’s all been part of the same trip down the road. Drone Logic was my first fully-formed statement as an artist and contains all the urgency usually associated with that. That album drastically changed my life for the following five years and Song For Alpha was a result of me trying to find a quiet place away from that world. A space to take a breath. It was still very much influenced by the club but it was necessary to take a step back from it- like finding a quiet corner of a rave with your friends, listening to the dull thud of a kick drum through the walls.
How does this relate to your DJ sets?
DANIEL: I don’t really think in the same terms when it comes to DJing [as opposed to the composition of music]. I play records that feel exciting to me. Music to lift your heart and invade your soul.
Ellen, how would your own expeditions through music be characterized? Surely in the twenty-some years you’ve been dropping albums, things start to vary, right? Is that personal, or does it also have to do with advancements in nightlife culture (in Berlin)?
I call it Aliendance. It’s my own interpretation of the music I’m playing: A melancholic and physical techno rave. Not only that, it’s also what I’m trying to emulate through my labels.
Both: The ubiquity of festivals introduced a lot of people to music (and emotions) they might not have across otherwise. It encourages the audience to go on an adventure themselves, with you being the captain. How would you say the susceptibility of audiences around the world has changed?
DANIEL: Nothing is more beautiful than an open mind and festivals like this can only encourage
that. The DJ is the captain in some ways but I fully believe that the overall experience is a more
communal one that that. Everyone in the space has a vital role to play in creating the atmosphere.
ELLEN: You can’t say this in general. The crowd is very different around the world. It depends really to where you are.
Both: With your roots in Berlin and London, geographically speaking, Rotterdam would be in the center. Obviously you’re bringing the sound of your own city, but do you dive into local scenes where you play?
DANIEL: Yes, as you say it’s important for the artist to bring their own style with them but it’s also
crucial that the surroundings have some sort of effect. This symbiotic relationship is what makes
clubbing a unique experience. The best moments are when worlds collide.
ELLEN: I draw a lot of inspiration from the We Are Not Alone parties. I play emotional techno and rave, which can become really intense, physically and energetically. On tour I connect with the crowd and my sets are always a bit different, but still Aliendance.
Both: A tour could be synonymous to an expedition. What are some items you never forget to bring during these expeditions?
DANIEL: Can’t live without food, so I’d say my own weight in Jaffa Cakes.
ELLEN: And drinks neither, so definitely Guarana! I can’t leave without my music, so my vinyl records, hard drive and headphones are always on my personnel.