44 years old, 1 internationally successful record company, thousands of DJ gigs, 3 albums as an artist, 1 football coaching license, 4 renowned music awards, 1 Ford Mustang, 1 club. Can success be quantified? Probably. Can DJ Hell be quantified? No.
Even though the above mentioned figures are impressive, the Hell phenomenon isn't explicable by numbers. But you can explain it by telling his life story. Born 1962 in the village of Altenmarkt, Upper Bavaria, Germany, Hell achieved a worldwide breakthrough without compromising, without bending himself in any way. After so many years as a DJ and label boss he is still cutting edge, still lives today, is still hipper than any twentysomething. A star DJ without an interest in drugs, an ardent supporter of the FC Bayern Munich football team who collaborates with Donatella Versace, who adores his mum's pork roast, kicked off the eighties revival almost singlehandedly and rocked just about every club from New York to Tokyo. All that in a single lifetime. That is DJ Hell.
It all started with Hell spinning records. First at the legendary Libella club, out in the country, where he was so innovative, so exciting that it only was a question of time before he moved on to nearby Munich. There he went through EBM and the initial stages of techno and by that time it was already him who influenced people rather than him being influenced. And that was noticed in other cities, other clubs. That's how he got to see the world. The first releases came about in a flash: „My definition of house music“ - still valid today – and „Geteert und Gefedert“ („Tarred and Feathered“), the first album. He put a meaning to the terms serious, tough and minimal and when everybody had understood he moved on immediately. That's why he founded his own label, International Deejay Gigolos, and started to release new and exciting music: Miss Kittin & The Hacker, Fischerspooner, Zombie Nation, Psychonauts, Terranova, all household names within the international electronica community by now. Meanwhile he still found some time to work on his own artist career. „Munich Machine“ was a manifesto and love letter to a city he'd made his own, including the Barry Manilow cover version „Copa“, a massive hit. By 2000 it was time for his own club, out in the bavarian countryside of course, the „Villa“. The people look different compared to a regular techno club, it is there that you begin to understand that innovation is a question of your state of mind and not your origin. Summer 2003 sees the release of his new album „N.Y. Muscle“. Fresh again, different again, re-inventing himself again. Hell collaborates with the legendary Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and with P. Diddy. All that in a single lifetime.
I never met Hell. But I saw him on a lot of occassions. At Munich's Ultraschall Club, during the mid-nineties. Focussed, a part of the music, fluid. Or on TV, when they broadcast the Love Parade 2000, towering above a million people. In Munich, too, twice, rushing along the streets in a high collared coat, first you think of a businessman with good dress-sense and then you look back a second time.
Seeing, visualising, that is of enormous relevance to Hell. He managed to convey pure music as well as pure style during his twenty-five year DJ career. Quite understandable for someone who entered the stage during the era of punk and new wave. The individual look, the do-it-yourself approach, the elitism. That's how it grew. Somebody from that background doesn't get behind the decks in a muscle shirt with sunglasses and a tribal tattoo. Later on it was all about high fashion. Black suits, tailor made shirts, black and whiteT-shirts that never complied with the smilie madness of the rave generation.
Still, it never was about the indecisive shopping sprees through luxury boutiques either. It's about individuality. Today Hell Djs at all couture and pret-a-porter shows for Versace, spins for Dirk Schönberger in Paris and works on a music project with the belgian fashion star Raf Simons. Hell owns a Ford Mustang, built in 1965. Hell gets filmed by leading german director Romuald Karmakar in a single shot during a club set at Berlin's WMF club, the resulting film „196 bpm“ earns critical acclaim at the Berlinale film festival. A DJ who predominantly plays electronic music doesn't have a lot of space to explain himself. Hell doesn't need to explain himself. An individual style, an „everything goes“ approach have got him where he is today. I am sure that if I asked him where the limit is, he simply wouldn't understand. A phenomenon.
Florian Siepert / Sehr Gut