Ellen Allien by Stini Roehrs

Photo by Stini Roehrs

Electronic music maven Ellen Allien plays Montreal

We spoke to the German producer/DJ ahead of this week’s Igloofest x Boiler Room appearance.

Germany’s Ellen Allien is one of electronic music’s most prolific global ambassadors, with a hat collection ranging from that of label boss to party founder, musician and singer, and of course, DJ booth elite-level commander.

She brings her space jams to a special edition of Boiler Room at Igloofest (well, “Off-Igloo, but at the regular Old Port site) this Thursday evening, and took time to catch up Cult MTL by phone for the first time in a few years earlier this month. We talked about Igloo fashion, Boiler Room’s early days, and energetic input. 

Imagine a happy, light. airy German accent in her words and you’ll be right here with us in the conversation.

Darcy MacDonald: Hi Ellen! How are you, and where are you?

Ellen Allien: I’m good! I’m in Mexico, in Tulum. Today I go to Guadalajara. I played here at Day Zero and I’m playing here every weekend in different cities in Mexico. And then I’m playing at Boiler Room at the Igloofest in Canada. After I will come back here and have vacation for three weeks. 

DM: How’s it been going in Mexico?

EA: It’s good. There’s a lot of input because I worked a lot last year and then I arrived here. I played Day Zero in the jungle and the jungle has very strong energy, the plants around me, it’s like a protection. Many people party like crazy but for me, this was enough input, the input from the jungle rays. Then I went to Tallulah, it’s a mountain. It’s a very beautiful city, 2,300 metres high. And everything changes. You see more people looking very native. The Mayan people look different — different skin and eye shapes. It’s interesting.

DM: You’re closer to the beginning of civilization there, for sure.

EA: Exactly. In Tallulah many girls get crazy dancing and it’s very strong emotions. It was crazy. It was a small thing, like a few hundred people, and it was very nice, like a garden party with a bar. There was very strong energy because the people were very close to me and I felt this energy. Then I played a big club in Monterey, like proper with lasers and a great sound system. It was different, right? I’ve (experienced) a lot of impact here so I have to digest it.

DM: Igloofest will be a lot different unless the sun comes with you to Montreal.

EA: The last time I played in Montreal was in late summer, for Piknic. And I have played there and Igloofest before. Igloo was seven or six years ago.

What was funny was I arrived with like, autumn clothes. I had sneakers on, like um…star, star…what’s the name of the star? Converse! With those and just leggings and an autumn jacket. And then the wind came directly in my face and really crossed my fingers, and there was one moment I couldn’t mix anymore, I could no longer feel or move my fingers! I don’t know what they brought me but they gave me something.

And another thing funny was, I had never in my life before seen those Igloobars, like those ice bars. Then the funny thing was, the people came all with the ski clothes, and every time I played hard, like pushing, the people jumped like penguins! 

This was so funny because I had never seen that before, like a penguin dance, and it was so cute because of all those clothes. But it’s also strange for me because normally in the club the people are half naked, and then you see all those people with clothes, so it looks like, more like…you don’t see the bodies! (But) I was sexy! (laughs)

DM: (laughing) It’s the opposite of Piknic! Igloo is still sexy in a winter kinda way. But that’s the reality of living here in Montreal. The people are all super hot but we’re covered half the year so when summer comes, the clothes come off, but in winter we still wanna party, you know?

EA: I know! It’s the same in Berlin. Montreal has a specific feeling that is like Berlin. I mean, Berlin is a bit darker from the energy from the history. Montreal is a bit lighter from the energy. But it’s a big party community and a beautiful city and you want that contrast, you wanna be sexy and party and dance. Montreal people are very communicative and very social so they like to be together and having fun.

DM: Definitely. I think this is the first time Igloofest is hosting a Boiler Room,. What was your first Boiler Room experience was and what it was like. Or your most memorable experience.

EA: I was quite lucky because I did my first Boiler Room in the first Boiler Room location, where you saw all the first tests and when people were much more excited because it was more out of the club scene. It was more grassroots and it was not sold to events. So the Boiler Room was just in, like, underground-location-type rooms. 

So I played in the side room and everybody wanted to be on the guest list. No entrance (charge). It was a completely different time. And I was super nervous because of the filming, and also I play not-so-easy, or at that point I didn’t play music to mix. When I played of course some things didn’t work out so well, but it worked out. 

Also this gay couple kissed in front of my speakers and the camera was on them. And how can you tell a couple who are kissing to go away? Because they’re having a good time! Now I’m more used to these things with cameras.

The last Boiler Room I did was in Brussels and I didn’t sleep when I arrived so I was super tired. And I couldn’t move my face. When I’m tired I look concentrated or stressed or whatever. But I’m just confused! When I watch the video I looked stressed. I made a set with records and the records were jumping because people pushed me. Using records makes no sense at Boiler Room. This time I won’t bring records!

But I’m really excited for this time and to meet Danny Daze and I hope there will be an afterhours where I can go because I’m really in a party mood! ■

Off-Igloo: Boiler Room X Igloofest presents Danny Daze, Ellen Allien, Overland and Trance Wax at Quai Jacques Cartier on Thursday, Feb. 6, 7–11 p.m., $34.50 + tax

See more music and nightlife coverage here.