DJ MAG | April 18,2018 | EN

Lena Willikens has always been an outsider. Born in the south-west German city of Stuttgart to a Hungarian architect mother and an artist father, formative childhood weekends spent in galleries and gothic churches coupled with a distinct, non-Swabian accent had her labelled “unusual” by her peers from an early age. “I was always the freak,” she tells DJ Mag over Skype, half-laughing. “She’s different!’ She doesn’t speak the same way that we speak!'”

Those years would prove prophetic, but one should not for a second think that being an outsider is something the Cologne-based DJ/producer/noise-maker sees as a bad thing. Rather, it is an identity she wears with pride, an armour that has defined her artistic trajectory up to this point. From her days as a student in Düsseldorf’s arts academy, cutting her teeth as a resident in the tiny Salon Des Amateurs club, to her current status as one of the most sought-after DJs on the European circuit, Willikens’ course has consistently been one that invokes the oddballs, punks and forgotten geniuses of 20th century music, their influence laden throughout her own tracks and remixes of S U R V I V E and Lena Platonos. Not to mention her increasingly notorious DJ sets.

In a dancefloor setting, Willikens draws from her outrageous and esoteric record collection to seamlessly fuse propulsive industrial sounds, krautrock and EBM with cavernous new-wave, post-punk and deep electronics. Elsewhere, through her archive of Sentimental Flashback shows on Radio Cómeme, one finds her exploring genres, cultures and movements from across the global and artistic spectrum, from Japanese minimalism to mysterious spoken word and sound design. It should come as no surprise, then, that when asked about her affinity with acts such as the seminal industrial trio Throbbing Gristle, she becomes far more animated than she does when discussing the glossy club universe that DJs of her calibre are so often expected to occupy.

“You could never pigeonhole Throbbing Gristle, and that was outstanding to me,” she says with a grin. “That idea of being an outsider… of being in a scene somehow, but also not really belonging in it. For me it was always like this, and it’s something I transport into music. I never had the idea of wanting to be a DJ, or of belonging to a group of people who play house and techno.”