Ellen Allien

Ellen Allien, the legend of Berlin’s club history, has found that cultivating a strong community has been crucial to her creative process and success since the 90s. Her movement is grounded in friendship, emotional support and sharing ideas and resources. While others may seek rapid growth and instant recognition, Allien values patience, diligence, honesty and a touch of eccentricity.

With an unrelenting passion for new sounds, names and ideas, Allien is always on the lookout for fresh talent to add to BPitch, her multi-genre label founded in 1999, or to feature at her ‘We Are Not Alone’ techno party series and releases. As the big boss and experienced traveller, she takes full responsibility for her decisions and avoids spreading negativity to those around her. While she’s open to other perspectives and voices, ultimately, she makes the final call on what’s best for her. All hail the queen of her own life, Ellen Allien.

Ellen Allien is an iconic name in techno culture, and when I hear your name, I think of unending energy. How do you keep the energy going for so many years?

I’m very positive, and this keeps me going. I try my best not to spread negative energy or bring others down. I’m very social and outgoing, and some might see this as being positive or energetic, but it’s mostly because I know what I want and what’s good for me. I’ve made the right decisions for myself, which allows me to be confident and enthusiastic about life.

While travelling and DJing, I’ve encountered many challenging situations, such as not having a hotel, cancelled flights, missing equipment. These experiences have taught me valuable lessons, and instead of complaining about the situation, I focus on finding solutions. I also witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall in the 90s, which made me realise how quickly things can change in society. 

We live among other people, which means certain things are beyond our control. For instance, my assistant could decide not to work anymore, or I could choose to close my company. Sometimes, things happen that we have no control over, and we may not have a solution.

The first thing one notices about you is that you’re very community-oriented. You don’t always need to be surrounded by famous or successful people. You enjoy spending time with those around you and creating intimate and fun initiatives, like the lockdown streaming from your balcony to make things more fun. That mindset is unique in this industry, because people often turn into divas or burn bridges with others when they become successful — but you’ve maintained a sense of community, which is impressive.

I’ve been running my record company since 1996, and we’ve worked with many artists. I’ve seen some really unique and interesting characters, but I’ve found that the craziest people often make the best music. So, no matter how someone may seem, we’re always happy to work with them. As long as the music is great, we are willing to deal with people. One artist told me recently: ‘Oh, Ellen, I do therapy now.’ I said, ‘Yeah, the therapy is good for you and your friends. But you know what? Be careful that your music doesn’t change because you’re a genius.’

So it means you are good at handling chaos, right? 

I personally don’t have a lot of chaos in my life, but I do notice other people’s chaos. I try not to let it bother me too much; if I can maintain a normal sleep schedule and feel good, I can handle whatever is happening around me. I know that no one can destroy me except myself. If I let myself become too stressed or sick, then that’s my own doing.

Some people try therapy, and some do other treatments to feel better. Music is healing, and it’s something that I didn’t pursue because it was trendy or for money, but because it’s what I truly love. I’m obsessed with music and have been since I was a teenager. It’s my life. I love my job and I love travelling.

Producing something you love is beautiful. When the freshly pressed records arrive, you check a record sleeve for the first time. When you hold a magazine, you see the pictures and read the interview. When a painter paints an image and it turns out beautiful. You can analyse it and see how you can improve it, which brings you to another level. Being an artist is a beautiful thing because it’s created from your energy. Of course, people have to like it, but even if they don’t, you can still be happy if you love it.

It’s important to know your own tastes and trust yourself. It’s easy to fall into copying others, and it might be hard to be original because there’s so much out there. We all have influences, but if you take the time to analyse and understand how music or other art is made, you can try to create something similar in your own way. Many artists do this, and it can be a fun challenge in the studio. But, personally, I don’t approach creating in this way.

In one of your recent interviews, you mentioned that you don’t like this current trend with blends and edits from pop hits and radio music. It became especially noticeable when the internet culture hit the dance floor after we spent too much time online during the lockdowns. How do you not let the trends that don’t resonate with you affect your approach to DJing? 

Playing pop music that everyone knows makes it easier to make the crowd put their hands up for photos and videos, but that’s not what makes a great night for me. A great night is when people dance with their eyes closed or think while dancing, not just putting their hands up to popular songs by Britney Spears or Madonna. That’s the easiest way to have a big audience, but it should be more about finding a way to grab attention by doing proper research. Nowadays, people go online and take stuff they find without effort. They don’t go to record stores anymore, where the person selling records might have suggestions if you ask for something specific.

So, no, I don’t buy this. Maybe those DJs [playing radio hits] are going to grow fast. But they’re not doing anything original, outstanding or fresh. 

Time and people have evolved in today’s world, and so has the audience. As a DJ, we hold power to transform everything. We change the dance floor and the music if we take risks and blend different things together. We don’t just come to mix what’s already there. We must take chances. If you’re not willing to take risks, then you’re not a good teacher to me. Building a history or a specific journey is important, even if you don’t want to create something entirely new.

You mean building storytelling in music? 

Yeah, a story. I believe that for something to be considered art, it needs to have a story or meaning behind it. Simply playing music from other artists doesn’t qualify as art unless it’s done in a unique and handcrafted way. I love to bring people pleasure through my music. Seeing the audience react emotionally, whether it’s through smiling or crying, brings me joy. My goal is to create an atmosphere where the music takes over and the audience becomes lost in the sound and space. I want to create an experience where people can escape from their daily lives and immerse themselves in the music and atmosphere of the club.

Music is becoming increasingly global, with different scenes influencing each other. For example, many use Baile Funk or other edits of Latin American music in their sets. You’ve recently travelled to Brazil. Did you get inspired by the variety of music there and their unstoppable desire to dance? 

In Brazil, there are so many good musicians in the streets and slums, playing drums and making music everywhere. There are so many talented artists exploring new beat structures and so on. The scene in São Paulo is amazing, and it’s growing. The Carlos Capslock Festival was also fantastic, most of the festival goers are Brazilians, everybody is so kind, you can meet so many people and quickly connect with them. It’s super inspiring. I think it’s essential for Brazilian music to grow because Portuguese is more widely spoken than English. This music has to grow, and it’s great that black artists are getting more recognition now. After Black Lives Matter, everything changed, and more black artists are getting bookings now. This has to be the norm. We need Brazilian and South American music worldwide, playing on the radio in England, America and Germany.

You mentioned earlier that you worked with Badsista on a track while you were in Sao Paulo. Is it something new that you will release together? 

We went in the studio and both recorded some vocals—she in Portuguese and me in German. We have to see later if we can use it.

I feel like after the pandemic, the techno scene has become more hysterical. Everyone is trying hard and fast to make it happen. It’s just like there’s not so much community spirit from my experience. To me it seems like many people are agitated to make a lot of money in one go. But how do you feel about the techno scene after the Covid?

I don’t have those feelings, at least not with our artist here at BPitch. Maybe at the beginning, some were nervous about paying the rent because prices for everything got very high. But I don’t feel like artists are hysterical because they have shows. Some promoters have failed, but some have become big. Many shows weren’t sold out last year, but now many of my upcoming shows are already sold out. 

On the other hand, too many artists want to grow fast because they see others doing it and want the same success. For me, it took a long time to start making good money. I had three side jobs for the first ten years, but that’s not something every artist goes through nowadays. However, you can grow fast if you have the right plan and a good manager. So, if that’s what you want, go for it! I just feel like if you don’t build a community around you, you will not last. I don’t care about those who don’t support or invest time in others. For me, music is sharing and caring. It’s also an intellectual exchange. 

To build a community in music, it’s essential to connect with people. You can invite your friends to collaborate on mix tapes or DJ sessions and make music with others as we did in Brazil. Even if nothing comes out of it, it’s still worth doing. This is a movement, and you’re just a little part of it. So it’s important to go with the flow.

If you’re nervous about business or money, people can sense it. They can see it in your face and on social media. Narcissists get anxious easily. They crave attention, money, and success; if they don’t get it, they freak out. They lack empathy and don’t care about building a community. They may create music that pleases the crowd, regardless of quality, just to gain popularity quickly. These people are not part of the true music movement. They have their own agenda and are only focused on their personal gain. Unfortunately, there are more and more people like this, as many grow up without a strong family structure or support system. 

Your own parties ‘We Are Not Alone,’ held at RSO Berlin, invite various artists from big names to local emerging talents. Are you planning to get more extensive and international with it, or do you want to keep it intimate in your hometown?

Our approach with ‘We Are Not Alone’ is what I meant by ‘the community.’ We invite artists we love but also ask friends from our BPitch family to play. We try to have a colourful, queer booking. Our lineups are made with love, and we research a lot. We listen to the sets and productions and make sure that the artists we want to present fit our lifestyle. For example, when people run labels, you can see they do something for the movement. 

I like how you use the word ‘movement’ and not ‘scene.’

Movement means that there is a big river and we take each other in the right direction. I find this metaphor powerful because it reminds me to create and not get too nervous, even when our governments are stirring up fear. I see this as a radical way to survive in big cities, by not giving in to what they try to put on us and working for small companies instead. By building our own companies and supporting other talented people, we can make our movement bigger and stronger. But it’s not possible to do when you are working with Madonna edits, there are so many other talented singers to work with and reference. Just do your fucking research!

When your Rosen EP came out in early 2022, you started using the metaphor of the mask from the album’s artwork by Erased Memories. Is this about becoming more genuine when one takes off their mask?

When I released the album, I wanted to play more with this alien figure with a gold aura, based on the artwork of my album cover. I then decided to wear masks on my face as a way to emphasise that the image people have of me is not me but a projection of their beliefs and values.

Everyone sees me differently, depending on their religion, education, and other factors. That’s why I feel like I’m a fictional character that people create in their minds. But I’m okay with that, because I understand that people’s perceptions of me are influenced by the stories they hear or the media they consume.

Wearing masks helps me to emphasise this fictional aspect of my persona. It’s like a visual cue that reminds people that what they see is not necessarily the real me. This concept also applies to how I write my lyrics, as I often use metaphors and symbolism to convey my message. I like to keep things open-ended. The sentences in my music have a spiritual quality to them, allowing people to interpret them in their own way and let their imaginations run wild. That’s what makes techno so important to me – it’s electronic music that can allow people to dream and fantasise in their own way. My music is not about me or my message, but rather what people can make of it themselves. While I appreciate punk bands and raw lyrics, I also need music that lets me fly and dream and put my own ideas into it.

I feel like often, because of this escapist and hedonistic side of the club culture, people lose connection to reality and forget what techno represented originally. The idea of escapism was also there, but it was initially about exposing and resisting the world’s injustices and striving toward a more equitable and inclusive future. In today’s techno world, people often lose the connection to the times and places where music was a statement.

Music is still a statement. At least, at our parties, music is a statement. Of course, there’s also the capitalistic side of techno now because promoters want to make money with it. But there are communities in the underground who seek freedom, and by exchanging their ideas, they get stronger. That’s why a club is a place where not everybody should be able to enter.

The community must have space to communicate and create new forms of life. In underground clubs or rooms that aren’t accessible to everyone, people exchange ideas and make changes. They can say, ‘Tomorrow, let’s take to the streets and stage a demonstration, and 5,000 people will join us.’

All of this is created on platforms, whether physical or online spaces, that are not accessible to everyone. The club scene is particularly important for this. I’ve met many people I work with at clubs, bars, and restaurants. These places serve as essential meeting points. They are not just drug dens like some movies portray them. Instead, they serve as platforms for people searching for something they can change.

I hope we can create change together and find people who share our passions, whether in politics, photography, design, or any other field. On the other hand, some people are consumers [of club culture], and they need these spaces as therapy. 

We need these experiences to lose ourselves and sometimes to find ourselves again. It’s also a way to feel reborn. However, some become addicted to the lifestyle and end up in financial trouble, and you don’t see them around anymore. They may move to a different place or start doing something else. On the other hand, some creatives draw inspiration from the music and the people they meet there, and it fuels their creative blood.

I’ve met many people who used to have regular jobs but quit to work with creative communities. This transition can happen if you meet a diverse group of people, not just those from your field of study. In Berlin, many people meet at clubs. These clubs need areas where the music isn’t too loud so people can talk, sit and communicate effectively. This is crucial because it’s where many great ideas and collaborations start, eventually leading to art and other creative projects in the city.

Berlin is still attractive for newcomers, but many are complaining about gentrification and how it’s changing the city and its club culture. Local creatives are concerned with rising rent prices and living expenses.

The solution is to start rebuilding Berlin further outside the city centre, where space is still available. It’s up to us to bring our energy and make something happen rather than trying to fit into already overcrowded areas. When I started living in Kreuzberg, it was an underdeveloped area, but someone made it happen. We should remember that and try to replicate that success elsewhere.

In an earlier interview, you once said that in the 90s, when you were starting your DJ career, being a DJ also meant being a freak. To me, it means that being a DJ requires a certain level of uniqueness or quirkiness. What does this ‘freaky energy’ mean to you today? 

Like I said earlier, if you’re not different from others, you can’t create music that is truly unique. Having freaky energy is always good when creating music. You can approach music in a mathematical way, and it can still convey a lot of emotion, but it may lack some empathy. I prefer music that’s a little bit dirty and strange rather than ‘clean’ or sweet. However, it’s up to the listener to decide what they prefer, and I think every type of music has the right to exist. Having a bit of freakiness helps to create something new and different.


Talent · Ellen Allien
Photography · Nina Raasch 
Styling · Fabiana Vardaro
Hair · Berenice Ammann  
Makeup · Sabina Pinsone 
Set Design · Stefanie Grau 
Photography Assistant · Žilvinas Tokarevas
Set Design Assistant · Lars Schefftel
Styling Assistant · Eimoan
Location · Plush74, Berlin 
Interview · Mariana Berezovska
Special thanks to Milena Brandy Crow and Melissa Taylor


  2. Trenchcoat RICHERT BIEL
  3.  Bustier FENDI, trousers SIA ARNIKA and shoes VERSACE


The In-Between: Overmono create a layered and boundary pushing sound that exists between emotional states. 

Overmono are a UK electronic music duo made up of brothers Ed and Tom Russell. Raised in Wales, the siblings had individual success as producers before joining forces as Overmono. Wanting to reduce the influence of their individual pasts from the mix, they isolated themselves in a cottage and started to develop the foundation behind their music. Now, through a standing relationship with pioneering British label XL Recordings, they have released a series of layered and boundary-pushing work that define their distinctive sound today.

For this issue, NR had the opportunity to catch up with Ed and Tom to discuss their memories of growing up together, their experience of shaping Overmono to this point and their ambitions for the future.

Tom and Ed, thanks for joining us for this issue. I’ve been looking forward to having this conversation with you. I want to start by asking you about your memories growing up together, and what your individual influences and gravitations were because you’ve both done so much individually before Overmono.

T: I’m the elder of the two. Growing up in a house together, I was getting into rave music and Ed could hear the music through my bedroom door. I had turntables and some records and Ed got a pair of turntables when he was ridiculously young, like when he was around 10 years old. Then he was stealing records from my room, so there was some cross-pollination going on. As we got older, Ed developed his own taste and went on his own journey, and I developed mine and went on my own one, but it was all generally electronic music.

E: It feels like over the years our influences or what we were into individually were sometimes miles apart from each other, but then 6 months later we would come back and we’d be listening to the same thing.

“As we got older the distance between us got narrower and narrower, and nowadays it’s really rare that Tom plays me a record and I turn around and say “that’s shit, I don’t like it”..”

T: Haha when that does happens, I get really annoyed and I’m like you’re just not getting it!

E:Yeah haha, and these days we’re so similar in the sense of what we’re into, which from a writing point of view, makes everything pretty effortless because we both know what we like and what we want to try to achieve.

That connection is definitely felt in Overmono, but as a listener I can also hear and distinguish your individual influences feed into this project as well. Listening to your individual projects, it feels as Overmono is a cumulation of all those individual journeys. I’d love to hear more about you experience during those earlier projects – Tessela (Ed), and Truss, MPIA3 and Blacknecks (Tom). 

T: I’ve always been really into Techno. Various styles of it. It has been a constant for me since my teens. I remember hearing Tanith on Tresor, it completely blew my mind and sent me down this rabbit hole. So, I just carried on doing that, and through the 2000’s I was getting more and more heavily into production, which led me into the projects you mentioned. I think for me, and I guess Ed can come back to this too because I’m speaking a bit for him as well, I felt really pinned in at the end. Because I’d done so much producing into a similar lane, I felt like that was what was expected of me. As much as I loved listening to that stuff, I felt like there were broader horizons I wanted to explore, and that inevitably led us down this path to start this project together.

E: I feel like we both started feeling that similar feeling around the same time. I remember releasing this one record and someone said to me “I’m all for artistic development, but where are the break beats?”.  It got to a point that I felt like I had to put a break in every single tune otherwise people would be like this doesn’t sound right. Tom you were probably at a similar point with more distorted stuff..

T: Yeah, if I didn’t do something that was really tough and distorted it would just get no attention or traction. I could make something in 5 minutes that was distorted, and don’t get me wrong I love that sort of stuff, and people would go mad for it. But I could spend a couple of months crafting something and think it was one of the best things I’ve ever done, and nobody would care.

E: And That was a big thing both of us were going through around the same time. When you’re making music and figuring out your sound, cultivating it and honing it, it might feel really nice; to know exactly what you need to do to make something good because it becomes effortless. But after a while, when the expectation becomes “this is what you do” then, you start to think there’s so many other influences I have that I want to start to broaden what I do here. You end up feeling blocked from doing that. 

“We got to a point that we were like “let’s just start making music together and see what that’s like. No one needs to know we’re doing it together, or that this project even exists. Let’s just write some music and see what that sounds like”.”

The series of first ten tracks we wrote, in a really short period of time – like 3 or 4 days – sounded quite different from our previous work but we were surprised by how cohesive it all sounded. There was no plan for it, we just said let’s take this equipment, go to this place, lock ourselves away, write some music and see what it sounds like.

T: It was so nice to be in this headspace where we had no expectations at all, and no personal expectations either. We just said “let’s go to this place, make some music and whatever happens, happens.” We had no intention to start the project at that point, we just wanted to write some new music together. The whole idea for Overmono came quite a bit afterwards. It was really amazing to have that freedom and it’s something we still try to maintain because it was so liberating.

E: It gets harder and harder the further down the road you get because the expectations start growing again, and once you put out a few records that have done well, it’s harder to come out with something that is really weird or super headsy. But that being said, we still have that same mentality that we try to go somewhere that isn’t our own studio, somewhere that is a different environment, somewhere that we can’t be contacted and we can’t contact other people. We just go there to sit and try to make some music.

“It’s that thing of disconnecting completely and forgetting about all the noise and any expectations. Then you end up writing some of the best stuff because we’re just having fun.”

Yeah, the Arla I-III series! It’s interesting to hear the process you went through to write this collection of tracks. I realise that you did projects together before this too, projects like TR//ER. To me, the Arla series definitely sounds like a more cohesive beginning or foundation to Overmono. I’d love to hear more about your process of forming your sound as Overmono at this earlier stage.

T: There was a lot of sampling in the Arla I-III EP series, and it was nice because I didn’t do a huge amount of sampling before so it was a fresh perspective in production for me, and – I learned a lot from watching Ed because he’s great at it, and for me this was cool because it was an area of production that I wasn’t familiar with and got to explore. 

I was given, as a long term loan, a large record collection from my brother in law, which was a DJ in Leeds in the late 80’s and early 90’s. He had loads of old House and Techno records, and it was just in his basement collecting dust and getting a bit of mould on it,. So, I was like I can take care of it for you. But it turned out there were only a few good records in there, and most of it was utter crap – white labels that probably never made it to an official release, but it was still a pretty good archive of early British House and Techno. We decided to make something out of it, so we went through it all and started to make this huge sample bank. That was kind of the foundation of a lot of the Arla tracks. This is also maybe why they have a cohesiveness because they were recorded through the same turntable and through the same process. 

E: They were so dusty weren’t they…

T: So dusty! So much crackle and noise, and it’s also why those tracks don’t translate to sound systems very well haha. A lot of it again, was me watching Ed using the sampler and also Ableton, because to that point I was mostly a Cubase user for all my life. Ed kept asking me to switch over to Ableton and I was like “Nah, I’m used to Cubase, that’s what I know – blah…-blah blah…” After a few days in the cottage writing the Area stuff, and watching Ed use Ableton, I was like holy fuck I gotta start using this! It made other stuff look so archaic. The amount of times I would try to set up a side-chain in Cubase and I couldn’t be arsed because it was so long-winded, and then watching Ed do it in seconds. Also, seeing how you could manipulate samples with warps and time stretches was really inspiring. 

E: I think during this session we had a few synth lines that have been just sitting around, so we started to process them through the same process that we were using for the record collection, so that added a different dimension to them. If you listen to original Arla samples a lot of them have a late 80’s sound to them but we just mangled them over and over till it didn’t sound like that. 

Because we weren’t in our studio, we just rented a cottage in south wales, we had a limited amount of equipment with us. We had a small mixing desk, two speakers…

T: Didn’t we borrow an Allen & Heath?

E: Yeah! We borrowed an Allen & Heath mixer from David.

T: Shout out to him for lending that to us. Everything went through that and we also had a Lexicon PCM 80. I don’t know if we had any other effects?

E: We just had that one Reverb, and we took a Virus C synth, and probably a compressor. Think there was another synth as well…

T: We took the JD 800, didn’t we?

E: Yeah it was the JD 800! Haha.

T: Haha it’s pretty much the heaviest synth we could fit in the car.

E: It was this beast of a synth that we only ended up using for one day. The rest of the days we were super productive and for one day we just dicked around for 6 hours on the JD 800, and we thought the stuff we wrote was super deep. The next morning we listened to the track and we were like “Jesus christ that one’s getting axed” haha!. I think it made it to some of the tracks at the end though. It was a bit fucked up and it sometime would go weird and out of tune. You would be recording a synth line and move a fader or open up a filter a tiny bit, and it would go mad! So we chopped some of those bits up and put them into the tracks too.

You could feel that, considering the amount of tracks in the series, there were different approaches between them. Going from a track like O-Coast to Phase Magenta to something like Harp Open, although there was definitely a cohesiveness, you could tell that there were different influences and gravitations behind each of them as well. I want to ask you about your first studio in Bromley, and your experience of setting up that studio together shortly after the Arla series.

E: After that time writing in the cottage, we both had separate studios for a bit. Tom had a studio in Soho and I would go there quite a lot. The studio was right across from Black Market Records, and we would end up writing a lot of the stuff at his studio. I had a studio in my flat too, and we split our time between there and Tom’s studio. 

That was really good for a while, but after a bit we thought let’s combine all our gear to one big studio because we were writing so much together. It just so happened that this really big studio was becoming available in Bromley, which is a half an hour south of Peckham. It hadn’t been touched since the mid 90’s. It had this swirly paint job that was pealing off, and old school carpets with fag burns all over it. That said, it had a good feeling to it. It had this massive control room, a live room and a kitchen. It was big enough to play a five-a- side football game. So we decided to take it. 

We set it up into two rooms. All the stuff that we used less often or used for our live shows one live room. There would be a bunch of synths set up with loads of effect pedals – and some random kit that we collected over the years. You could spend a day in there and have the freedom to start recording loads of stuff with all the gear, which was really fun. Then you had the control room that was properly a sound-proofed studio, which had all our gear set up in it and sounded amazing. That’s where we’d work on the tracks together. We were in that studio for three and a half years, and we spent quite a lot freshening it up. We took all the carpets off and sanding the floors back, but unfortunately the whole building got sold to developers. It was such a unique place. It was in the middle of nowhere.

T: It was the most unassuming place for a studio, just in the ass-end of absolutely nowhere –

E: There were no other studios there. It was opposite a chip shop, above a church, beneath a magazine printer, so it was so random. I remember every now and then we had someone come over to produce something with us. We had VK, a drill producer, come over and when I went down to get him, he  was like “nah, don’t know about this”. You had to go through this bin store and get to these industrial stairs and I remember looking at him and he was like “this isn’t right”.

T: The previous occupant put up these weird hospital signs, like “blood unit this way” or “radio therapy that way”…- obviously trying to put people off it.

E: It looked like a really weird NHS unit and was sort of an outlier. But yeah we were there for three and a half years and it was amazing. We wrote a lot of the Overmono stuff there. Still, when we had that studio we would book times to go away. We went to a remote hut in the Isle of Sky in the Highlands of Scotland. We would get as much gear as we could and fit it into a few peli cases to fly with. We would always keep that mentality of taking some gear and go write for however many days; where all routine could go out the window, to see what we come up with. Sometimes in five days we’d end up doing what we did in three months in the studio. But yeah R.I.P Bromley studios, we really loved our time there and it was an amazing place.

T: Yeah it really was!

One of the things that really stuck out to me reading about you in the past was you saying that you always felt like “you were always looking in from the outside”, even from early on in your careers. That you grew up outside of a big city and it never concerned you what the trend was at that time. I feel that these moments where you disconnect yourselves have been so potent because it’s so close to what’s been true to you from the beginning.

A track that I listened to a lot early on when I was getting into your music was actually called Bromley, which you did together with Joy Orbison. Before we move on from your time at Bromley, I want to ask you about your experience of working with Joy O, and also discuss the tracks you mentioned you made towards the end of this period because they’re some of my favourite work you’ve produced together.

E: The stuff with Joy Orbison started when he came to the studio a couple of times. We started to hang out and record a few things, so we decided to work on something official together. I remember I sent him a rough idea before and he was into releasing it on his label Hinge Finger, but I never ended up finishing it. So we thought “why don’t the three of us try to work on this track together and maybe we can get it to something that’s more finished”. We started pulling some of the stems from the original idea and started working on it together at the studio in Bromley.

“Us and Pete (Joy Orbison) have totally different working methods. For us, we’re really instinctual and we don’t really think of rules and structures.”

T: I think we’re just too disorganised for that kind of stuff. Personally I just don’t have the patience to stick with something for too long if I’m struggling with an idea. Ed usually perseveres longer than me, and often there are times it’s the right thing to do because the track gets cracking on.

E: Pete can persevere the longest, I’d say.

T: He has an unbelievable ability to stay laser focused on something. He can make these decisions hours and hours after being at the studio, where I’m just like I don’t know what’s going on anymore. He has an amazing ability to do that.

Really interesting to hear the story of how that all came together. I want to talk to you about your more recent releases on XL Recordings like Cash Romantic. I’m interested to hear about your process of shaping the sound behind these more recent releases.

T: By the time we moved away from the Arla series, we started using samples less and less, and we actually started making our own sample bank. We spent some time making up loops, synth lines and chord progressions that make a large sample bank that we now share. So a lot of these more recent tracks, their start points are from these samples we made. Gunk, for instance, is from a synth line that we originally came up with for our I Have A Love Remix, which is actually the last ever track we made at Bromley studios. So it was a really nice way for us to start Gunk off like that because that track – I Have A Love (Overmono Remix) – was a really special track for us. I think over the years, developing this sample bank that’s made of all our own samples, is a big part of our sound and serves as an important jumping off point for us. We started programming our own drums and aren’t doing much break-beat’s anymore. For example, the drums for Cash Romantic, the title track, is made from all programmed drums from a contact multi-sample drum pack. There’s no actual old sample break-beat, but instead everything’s much more processed.

“We always want to bring out the most grit and character we can out of things. Most of the time we have to use stuff in a way that they’re not designed to be used.”

That might be, for example, using an EQ to boost stuff so harshly that it starts distorting, but once you take that in the computer you can bring it back a little bit and take away some of the harshness.

“It’s about building layers of character and a sense of physical space. I struggle sometimes when listening to music that is too clinical or clean because there is this lack of physical space. That’s something we think about a lot; how the music itself sounds in relation to its space. Even if you’re listening with headphones with no interaction with the space around you, does it feel like it’s in its own space? And I think a lot of that comes from getting it out and running it through the different cables.”

It sounds like you’ve simplified or programmed your set up so that it’s more responsive to your making process, and that creates space for you to be more instinctive and expressive when shaping your sound. 

I’m curious to hear more about the story behind the imagery and visual content of your recent releases as well, and about your partnership with Rollo Jackson in creating that content.

E: There’s a few things that came together with the imagery. Mean dogs have traditionally been used in UK rave music like in old Drum & Bass records, and there was always this thing of dogs on chains snarling at the camera. It was something that became quite pastiche and didn’t age that well. Dobermans are perceived as these” vicious dogs”, but they’re not at all. That’s just how they’re trained and how people portray them to be. They’re actually really lovely and friendly dogs. So we thought “why don’t we do these sleeves with Dobermans on them?”. As soon as you tell someone “I have two Dobermans sat in a BMW on the cover of my album” they’re like “oh, that’s a bit cliché.”

T: And part gangster..

E: Yeah, haha! But they actually look quite playful and dopey, and in reality they are actually really playful.

“From a musical point of view that ambiguity of emotion is something we always gravitate towards. Something that feels like it’s between a few different emotional states. I think that’s what those dogs represent. Because of how we’re brought up to view Dobermans, when you portray them in a different way, you instantly feel like your are conflicted between different emotional states.”

You ask yourself “is this supposed to look aggressive and mean, or is it just lovely dogs being playful?”

Rollo (Jackson) has such an incredible eye and is able to see things in such a unique way. So many of the shoots we’ve done have been serendipitous. When we were shooting the cover for Everything You Need, it was in the carpark of the Bromley Football Club because we got kicked out of the other location. We showed up in a van with a couple Dobermans and a Boxer and they were like “what the fuck you guys doing?” haha

T: Haha, they were like, “get off our property!”

E: So we went to the football club and they were more accommodating. I just remember the sun coming out from behind the clouds and bouncing off the leather seats of the BMW, and we all looked at each other and were like that is it, that’s got to be the shot. And there’s still so much more to explore with that.

T: Also with Rollo, he’s so deeply involved in UK music culture. He has such a knowledge of UK dance music, specially London-centric forms of music, so he really gets where we’re coming from. Because of that we really feel like there’s a kinship there between us and we can really trust in his judgment of what we’re trying to achieve. Also, his judgment of what to avoid specially, like things that might be a bit pastiche, brings a fresh angle too while we explore things that we’re collectively into. 

I think this is a good point to ask you about your live shows and how this imagery ties into it. I’m curious to hear about how your live set up has evolved over the years and where you hope to take it next, as you are now embarking on on your UK, European and US headline tour. 

T: It’s a bit more professional these days that’s for sure, haha, It was a fucking mess back in day! We started with a booking request from Ireland in Limerick, and this was before Overmono even existed and before we did anything together. They were like “Would Ed and Tom like to play together?” and we were like “we’ve never done that or hinted that we wanted to do that together haha, but sure yeah why not!” So, suddenly we needed to figure out a techno live set-up. We had only released one track and suddenly we started getting a few gigs together. We were travelling around with the most insane amount of kit. We had this colour-coded pillow case system with different leads and cables in them. We had a blue pillow for our midi leads, a red one for our power cables, and a black one for our audio cables. They were all crammed into these giant peli cases with the rest of our gear. They would take two hours to set up and two hours to take down. We’d take some gear like a big drum machine and we’d only use it for 5 minutes.

E: I remember you used this synth that didn’t have any controls on it..

T: The EX, the Korg EX-800 desktop version!

E: Yeah haha, you’d be playing a pad off it and you’d want to open up the filter and you had to press this button to find the filter and keep pressing it to turn it up… it was a mess and quite lawless. We would just have to improvise and some of the shows were alright and some of them were terrible.. So by the time we started doing stuff together as Overmono we already had learned a lot. When you’re playing electronic music live, there are these pit-falls that are waiting for you to fall into and you have to spend some time navigating those from a technical point of view.

“Performing electronic music live is a big technical process that needs to be continuously worked on and refined.”

For the first few years after every Overmono live show, we would almost redo the entire live show after every gig. We would sit down in our hotel room after every show with a notepad and write down all the things we wanted to change or improve. We would write down what worked and what didn’t work, and record all the technical problems we had in the show. We would keep repeating this and over the years we started honing in on what it worked for us from a performance and technical point of view. 

Now we’re in such a different spot, the set up hasn’t changed for six months, which is a new personal record for us. We feel more confident and comfortable than ever because we spent a long time developing a set up that is all properly functioning and cabled so it feels more professional. That means we can focus and have fun with the performance side of it, instead of worrying about why that drum machine went out of time again. But now our headspace can be filled with the more exciting stuff like wondering what I can make with these drums do for the next five minutes, and do something interesting and weird.

The next logical step was figuring out the visual side of things, and for a long time we were figuring that out ourselves. But generally we had no idea what we were doing, so we just borrowed a bunch of modular video gear and recorded a lot of things out of it.

T: It looked good on a tiny screen and we were like that’s killer, but then got to a festival with a giant LED screen and it looked so bad and so pixelated.

E: Now, we thankfully got more people on board to do that with us. We’re still pretty heavily involved because we have a clear idea of what it should be. So we’re more directly involved in the creative direction of the visual content, but now we have people that actually know how to use that gear. The visuals are generally split between footage that Rollo captured, like thermal images of the Dobermans running through a field, and then a lot of processed content we created with a visualiser called Innerstrings, who uses a lot of the same gear we were using but knows how to use it and he’s great with it. That’s enabled us to grow the show to what it is now, and we have ambitions to take it even further.

T: Like Ed said, the live show is something we are so deeply passionate about and something we’re continuously trying to grow. To make it more of an immersive experience in every step and try to think of the evolution of it. So that’s a big priority for us, but the biggest priority is to always keep writing and making music every opportunity we have.

“Our aim is to keep progressing and moving forward in writing music that we think is an evolution from where we were before.”

E: Going back to the live show, thinking about the covers we made with Rollo Jackson and our ambitions for the future, the live show gives us the chance to expand that into something more cinematic and the sleeve images start to feel more real.

“You suddenly feel like that whole world has opened up, so the further along we go the bigger we want that feeling to be. You see a Doberman running through a 50 meter screen, it’s just glorious and there’s nothing better. That’s what we want to keep growing and pushing towards.”


Talents Tom and Ed Russell (Overmono)
Photography · Oli Kearon
Fashion · Kamran Rajput
Grooming· Daniel Dyer
Photography Assistant · Nic Roques
Fashion Assistant · Elza Rauza
Special thanks to Abigail Jessup, William Aspden at XL Recordings and Jon Wilkinson at Technique PR


  1. Left to right, jacket NORSE PROJECTS and hat Talent’s own; jacket SAUL NASH
  2. Left to right, jacket and trousers ONTSIKA TIGER and boots ARMANI EXCHANGE; jacket CP COMPANY, trousers TEN C, shoes and cap Talent’s own
  3. Left to right, full look ARMANI EXCHANGE; jacket and trousers MONCLER and shoes Talent’s own

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