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Here's Why Ellen Allien Loves London

The BPitch boss pours out some London pride.
April 29, 2015, 11:58pm

My first experience of clubbing was at the Wag Club, in London. I was living in the city for a year, trying to pick up the language and my driving license. My older sister was living there too and she managed to get me into the club, which would never have happened if it had been me facing the bouncers alone. Luckily I had a few tricks up my sleeve that helped me look a bit older than I actually was.


The Wag felt like being introduced to the future. It felt like the underground. My sister told me S'Express were hanging out there, which meant something back then! Before I came over to England, Kraftwerk had just opened up my ears to the possibilities of music.

I remember the queue being massive that night but it was worth it. As soon as I was in the party kicked off immediately. The dancefloor was a sea of people, all sweating, all pulling off the best moves I'd ever seen. It felt like everyone inside was smiling at me. These weren't all night parties so everyone gave their all until their clothes were sodden with sweat and it was abruptly over. I remember seeing topless bodies belonging to both sexes, knowing, even as a kid, that this was dancing as a way to freedom, dancing as a means of escaping the workaday stresses of normal life. It was about bringing the body and the music together as strongly as was possible. It wasn't the time or place for verbal communication. People were dancing themselves into a state of ecstasy. Then the lights came up, everything was over, and we were all on the streets.

The Wag Club, 1989

My sister and I grabbed a night bus home. London is, of course, a massive place, and I remember it taking an age to get home. We were both exhausted from the dancing but felt good. Those sweaty bodies were still in front of our inner eyes.

This was all happening when acid house was created in Chicago, when techno was in it's infancy over in Detroit, and when the New German Wave was kicking off. Electronic music, electronic dance music, was spreading round the globe. The Roland TR 808 and 909 combo was creating the groove, the 303's melted basslines that tore round clubs. It feels like the last time youth culture was truly revolutionary, that period between 1987 and 1990. There was acid's smiling face, records by Lil Louis, Mr Fingers and Jackmaster Hater, DJs like Cajmere, Chip E and Frankie Knuckles, acts whose names are now embedded in history — Virgo Four, DJ Pierre, Bam Bam.


By the time I moved back to Berlin, those sounds were huge and we celebrated them in massive warehouses and cellars and I, eventually, became a DJ myself.

The second party in the UK I made it to wasn't in London but it was amazing: the Vincent Gallo curated edition of All Tomorrow's Parties. Vincent himself invited me to play. After my set Gallo introduced himself to me and told me how much he liked my album Berlinette. My knees shook. I was such a big fan of his that I thought I was actually going to faint. I regained composure, smiled, hugged and thanked him instead. Everyone at the festival loved him because he took care of it so lovingly.

I smiled throughout the entirety of my set because I was so happy to be playing for a crowd that good in such a weird location. One of the highlights of that weekend was seeing PJ Harvey live, performing solo after a few years absence. It was just her with her guitar and I cried. It was that touching.

During my set I looked up and saw Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon dancing in front of me. Sean was dancing like some kind of gummy bear. In that moment, I was the happiest DJ in the world playing at the best festival ever. It doesn't get better than that.

Since then I've been lucky enough to gather more and more experiences of London, from playing at fabric, to the Border Community night at the The End, or the gig at Koko with Planetary Assault Systems and beyond. The city has such a strong, versatile club culture. It's colorful, interesting, and innovative. Thank you, London, for all those memories. For all those marvellous experiences.

If you're lucky enough to be in Barcelona next month, you can catch Ellen alongside Ejeca, Kiki, and DJ Qu at the BPitch Off Sonar Showcase. Head here for more information.

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