The devilish DJ Hell celebrates the release of two new albums.
Thu Mar 19 2009
"This album was originally going to come out in summer of last year, but there were all these legal discussions.... I don't want to say legal troubles, but you just need to make sure everyone is happy, you know?," Helmut Geier, better known as DJ Hell, says as he explains the long-delayed release of a new album of original tracks called Teufelswerk ("devil's work"). "There were contracts and major label things to deal with, a lot of which was because I have Bryan Ferry on one song and P. Diddy on another."
Those two vocalists—one sacred (Ferry), one profane (the other guy)—succinctly sum up the German veteran and his music. His carefully cultivated image positions him as a Faustian debauchee, posing in publicity shots alongside painted ladies in various stages of undress. But he and his label, the aptly named International DJ Gigolo, are responsible for some of the most exquisite electronic dance music produced over the past 11 years. Hell, 46, will be celebrating the release of both his own album and that of a new Gigolo compilation, CD 11, when he spins for the reSOLUTE crew at its Heaven & Hell affair on Saturday 21.
If past Hell gigs are any indication, he'll be playing in full slithery regalia—dressed to the nines, hair slicked back and with a sinister glint in his eye. "I'm very conscious about my persona," Hell says. "I always think about what Andy Warhol would say, that everything was art. I've always tried to play around his concepts of image and art and bring them to the modern world, always working with graphic video artists and stylists and new ways to present things."
Of course, iconography is subject to interpretation, a fact that Hell is well aware of. "We've always used a lot of gay imagery in the label's artwork, like the naked cowboy logo, or like when we used pictures of Amanda Lepore or Arnold Schwarzenegger," he says. "So a lot of people thought we were only doing music for gay clubs. But however people interpret it, at least they interpret it as something, which is what I want. That confuses a lot of people, but that's okay. People misunderstood Andy for years as well, like 'who is this crazy guy?' And things worked out okay for him—well, maybe not at the end, but up to a point, certainly."
Of course, no amount of imagery could make up for lack of content; though Teufelswerk is only Hell's third album, Gigolo has amassed more than 260 releases over its 11 years of existence. The sound that Hell is popularly associated with—latter-day electro—makes up only a fraction of the discography. "I don't think there is a single track that you could call "electro" on either my album or the compilation, and they are both double albums!" Hell exclaims. "The truth is, I stopped playing electro—or electrorock or electroclash or...what is it they called it for a while? Nu-rave?—many years ago. I just got tired of that whole sound, even though it still keeps getting rehyped. I'm more interested in what is happening in 2009, not 2002."
Judging from Teufelswerk, Hell is currently concerned with music that's sprawling and cinematic—particularly on the album's second disc (subtitled Day), a stunning collection recorded with Peter Kruder of Kruder & Dorfmeister fame. Of particular note is current single "The Angst," an epic, 13-minute Western-movie trip through the high chaparral. "I thought that people would be a little surprised by that song, but so far, people are sending only love letters," Hell says. "Not that it matters if people like it, though that's always nice; I'm more interested in just never repeating myself. A lot of people find some special formula and repeat it their whole life, and they do it really well—but I'm always looking for some ground that I've never touched."
DJ Hell plays at reSOLUTE: Heaven & Hell Sat 21. CD 11 is out now; Teufelswerk comes out Apr 27.
Buy CD 11 on Amazon.com | Buy it on BN.com