Fast becoming one of the biggest names in techno, Antwerp-born Amelie Lens’ ascension to festival main stages and dancefloor destruction worldwide has been meteoric. And as she launches her own label LENSKE ahead of a set at DGTL Amsterdam this weekend, it’s easy to see why she’s risen so quickly.
“I used to go clubbing alone because none of my friends had the same interest in music as me,” she begins, “but because of that I met so many people within the scene who are still my friends today.”
Having only started developing an interest in music as a teenager (mostly listening to Nine Inch Nails and Underworld) Amelie’s earliest clubbing experiences were seeing Boys Noize and Ellen Allien around the age of 15. After turning 16, she went to one of Europe’s biggest festivals, Dour, and the experience was “life-changing”.
“For the first time I felt really passionate and connected to music,” Amelie remembers. “As soon as I got home, I started reading about the history of electronic music and discovered so many new artists and labels. It was like a whole new world opened for me; I made playlists in iTunes, putting tracks in an order that I liked, kind of like a podcast but not mixed,” she laughs of her formative years.
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Continuing to travel - mostly by herself - to gigs or club nights, Amelie met her boyfriend of ten years and they started going clubbing together. “He was a bedroom DJ and producer and had all the equipment at home, so I learned how to mix and spent a lot of time in the studio with him.”
The first time Amelie - who was working in fashion and had her own breakfast brand - felt like she wanted to get in the studio by herself came when an idea for a track took over her mind whilst at a gig. “I decided to drop everything so I could focus full time on making and playing music. That turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life!” she enthuses.
Putting her dream to open an animal sanctuary aside - “I plan on doing this in the future” - Amelie’s ascension to the top tier of techno has been stratospheric to say the least. Ever since releasing the massive ‘Contradiction’ EP on Pan-Pot’s SecondState label, her fusion of mesmerising whispered vocals and heart-throbbing, unforgiving, bass-heavy production has taken Amelie across the globe and seen the launch of her own club night, EXHALE, at Labyrinth club in Antwerp where she often takes charge for all night sets.
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I decided to drop everything so I could focus full time on making and playing music...
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With an intense international touring schedule, and having just finished an American run of dates including shows at Miami Music Week when Clash catches up with her, Amelie is showing no signs of slowing down. Rather, the self-confessed perfectionist is just getting started.
“2017 felt like one huge highlight to be honest,” she reflects, recalling her set at DGTL Barcelona as one of the standouts. But that’s not to say pressure - from herself and the industry - hasn’t taken it’s toll. “I tend to overthink everything...” she considers, admitting she puts most of the pressure on herself.
“The gigs I got and the responses from the crowd were everything I could ever wish for. I felt so grateful and proud to get all these amazing opportunities, but I also want to exceed all expectations and play the best sets possible. There is no room for mistakes or an ‘OK’ set (again, this is mostly me setting the bar high for myself)...”
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Perhaps more so than other DJs, preparation is essential when Amelie - who travels light with just her clothes, laptop, USBs and headphones - gets behind the decks. “I think, as a DJ, you are booked to make sure the crowd has a great time and I take that very seriously.”
Last summer, though, as things went crazy, her rapid success came at a cost. “I felt so nervous for all my gigs because I did not have the experience I wish I had,” Amelie considers, remembering having a panic attack just moments before playing at Awakenings Festival.
“This was the beginning of what was going to be a big festival season for me. It was early but the tent was packed and my set was being live streamed. I realised how many people were curious to see my set and I felt so watched that I had a panic attack right before I had to start.”
Amelie didn’t let it affect her though; after a drink and calming down, she stepped up to the decks - despite her hands still shaking when she started. “As I looked up and saw all the happy faces, my stress just faded away.” Unknowingly, it was a performance that saw her go from ‘local’ to headliner within weeks.
“I didn’t have a lot of time to get used to that,” Amelie considers, adding that she still fears people not showing up for her shows - although she’s sold out all of her gigs over the last few months. And it’s largely because, as Amelie says, “headlining an event comes with such a big responsibility...”
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I felt so nervous for all my gigs because I did not have the experience I wish I had...
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She needn’t worry though, because a quick glance of her Instagram page shows crowds in their thousands packing the dancefloors in front of her at cities across the globe. But it’s hardly surprising, given the incredible energy she exudes and transfers onto audiences.
Having witnessed her bring thunderous techno and electro to Pukkelpop festival in her come country of Belgium last summer - watched on by her 80-year-old grandmother raving at the side of the decks - anyone heading to DGTL Amsterdam this weekend should head to the Generator stage from 4.45-6.45pm to see why she’s so in-demand (she’s booked to play DGTL Barcelona this August, too).
“There was the option to play last year and I was disappointed that it didn’t happen, so I’m extra excited to be there this year!” she says of this weekend’s slot, where she’ll play before DVS1 and Speedy J.
As for the rest of 2018, Amelie plans to get in the studio more so she can focus on her own productions. In April there’s a collaborative EP with Regal coming on his label Involve, and in May she’ll release a joint EP with Farrago (as well as a remix from Kobosil) on her own label LENSKE... all whilst working to a 15-gigs-per-month schedule!
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Amelie Lens plays DGTL Amsterdam on March 31st and DGTL Barcelona in August. For tickets visit www.dgtl.nl
Words: Ben Jolley
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