Helmut Josef Geier (born September 6, 1962), known professionally as DJ Hell, is a German DJ.
As DJ Hell said about his musical beginnings in an interview with The European: “I was socialized with German electronic music of the 1960s and 1970s. There were no commercial aspirations; it was all about experimentation.”
Hell has worked as a DJ since 1978. Starting in 1983, he began working as a DJ at Club Libella in Kirchweidach, Germany, near his hometown of Altenmarkt an der Alz. This would be his first residency, where he cultivated his eclectic style of mixing New Wave, Ska, Punk, Rockabilly, Hip hop, and Disco in the same set. Further residencies followed, at Park Café and Tanzlokal Grössenwahn in Munich, where, as one of the first house DJs in Germany he regularly performed at house music parties. In 1987 he organized the first acid house party there, and in the same year at Grössenwahn deejayed at Run–D.M.C.’s aftershow party. At the end of the 1980s, he developed his style at various Munich clubs and dance halls from New Wave, EBM, Electro, and Hip hop to include House and Techno.
In 1991, Hell was instrumental in establishing Peter Wacha’s label Disko B, and until 1996 was closely involved as A&R. The label’s first release in 1991, Silicone Soul’s track Who Needs Sleep Tonight was licensed by Hell, who produced a remix for the b-side: The DJ G. Hell Remix.
Hell’s first self-produced single, My Definition of House Music (on R&S) became a club hit in 1992 with over 100,000 records sold, drawing recognition to DJ Hell among the first generation of Techno DJs who also released records.
During his time with Disko B and until 1997, DJ Hell was also a resident DJ at Ultraschall, Munich’s first Techno club, located on the site of the former Munich-Riem Airport.
During the 1990s DJ Hell had further residencies in Berlin, at E-Werk and WMF, from 1992 at Tresor, and in the 2000s at Watergate.
Parallel to his A&R work in Munich, in 1992 DJ Hell became A&R manager for the label Logic Records in Frankfurt, and in the same year compiled the world’s first trance compilation, Logic Trance.
In 1993 he lived for a year in New York City, where was booked as a resident DJ at Limelight, together with Jeff Mills.
In 1994 DJ Hell moved to Berlin and worked for the record store Hard Wax. Hell’s debut album Geteert & Gefedert (Tarred & Feathered) was released on Disko B in 1994.
In 1995, he moved back to Bavaria.
That same year, Hell was the only German DJ to be invited to be on a John Peel Session, including a radio interview, in London. The session was released that year on Disko B.
In addition to his work as a DJ and producer, in 1997 he founded the label International Deejay Gigolos in Munich, for which he served from the first day onward as the label mastermind, A&R, and art director. Parallel to managing the label, as a DJ and event organizer, Hell also curated over 40 Bavarian Gigolo Nights featuring international DJs and live bands in various clubs in Munich.
In 1999, Arnold Schwarzenegger sued International Deejay Gigolos for using his picture in the logo. Hell had to stop selling all records that bore the logo and pay a fine of 150,000 euros.
In 2000, Hell’s second album Munich Machine was released on V2 Records.
According to the music magazine De:Bug: “Munich Machine feels like the result of a dynamic collaboration by Munich residents engaged in the club scene and who know how to work with it. Every aspect of it has been carefully crafted and sometimes it seems as if DJ Hell is using this kind of mega-mix to grow beyond himself. This is particularly evident when he mixes together very different sources.”
In 2001, the label moved to Berlin. Stylistically, its music spans the categories of Electroclash, Electro, EBM, electronic avant-garde House, Tech-House, and Techno, with influences from 1980s Pop and Disco. International Deejay Gigolos has released works by big names on the international Techno, House, and Electro scenes, including Jeff Mills, Dave Clarke, Tiga, Fischerspooner, Dopplereffekt, Vitalic, Bobby Konders, Miss Kittin, KLF, Tuxedomoon, and Laurent Garnier. Fischerspooner was discovered by DJ Hell and debuted on International Deejay Gigolos. In the 20 years spanning 1996 to 2016 that he has handled A&R for the label, Hell has released over 300 singles and albums on International Deejay Gigolos.
The numerous releases on International Deejay Gigolos notably fuelled the 1980s revival in the German and international club scene, establishing DJ Hell as one of the founders of the Electroclash subgenre.
From 2000 to 2003, he ran the disco and nightclub Villa Traunstein, located in the Bavarian town of Traunstein, where he was responsible for the club’s high-profile, international DJ bookings, including the likes of WestBam, Sven Väth, and Jeff Mills.
Since 2002, DJ Hell has been based in both Munich and Berlin. From 2007 to 2010, he served as musical coordinator for Berlin fashion designer Michael Michalsky, for whose fashion shows he regularly produced the music. Hell has also performed at the after-show parties of Michael Michalsky’s StyleNite, held during the Berlin Fashion Week.
DJ Hell has been producing music for fashion shows since the mid-1990s, for the likes of Hugo Boss, Raf Simons, Patrick Mohr, Dirk Schönberger, and Donatella Versace – ever since he was first asked by fashion designer Kostas Murkudis to accompany one of his fashion shows in Berlin with music.
DJ Hell occasionally works with renowned fashion labels, either lending his name or collaborating as a designer. This work has given rise to an underwear collection for Wendy & Jim, women’s underpants for Agent Provocateur, CD cases for Magma, and a pair of glasses for Freudenhaus.
In 2004, Karl Lagerfeld photographed DJ Hell for V Magazine. These photographs were then exhibited at a gallery in Berlin.
DJ Hell on his affinity for fashion (in SPEX #316/2008, p. 95f): “In England, fashion and music have gone together for decades. In Germany, however, one tends to deny a musician’s competence if he defines himself superficially, that is, according to things that are visible. Just think of David Bowie on the male side, and Grace Jones on the female side, and it becomes clear that a union between fashion and music can be incredibly prolific.”
As a DJ, Hell has toured worldwide, and repeatedly headlined international festivals such as the Loveparade and Mayday in Berlin, Fuji Rock and Wire in Tokyo, the Montreux Jazz Festival, and the Time Warp Festival in Mannheim. He was the first Techno DJ to perform at the University of Havana in 1997. The performance was filmed by a German film crew directed by Torsten Schulz, and screened in 2000.
In 2002, Romuald Karmakar shot a segment of his film “196 BPM” during a performance by Hell at WMF.
In 2003, GQ magazine named DJ Hell “Man of the Year” in the category of music.
That same year, DJ Hell lived for a second time in New York City, where he produced his third studio album NY Muscle, for which he collaborated with several artists, including Alan Vega, Erlend Øye, James Murphy, and singer Billie Ray Martin.
The website allmusic.com wrote about NY Muscle: “This is the sound of nighttime New York City from the outsider perspective of an infamous German named Hell, and it’s dark, dark, debauched fun.”
In 2009 Hell released the album Teufelswerk (Devil’s Work), which again features several international guest stars, such as Bryan Ferry, Peter Kruder, P. Diddy, Roberto di Gioia, Mijk van Dijk, Christian Prommer, and Billie Ray Martin. The double album is conceptually divided into “day” and “night” parts, and ranked in the Top 50 of the German Media Control charts.
According to Hell in an interview with Resident Advisor: “I did Kosmische Musik in a new way. This is where I come from, I grew up with the early German electronic pioneers of music, and this is why I went in this direction. Often it is called German electronic avant-garde, or psychedelic music. I went back to the '70s and tried to do it in my own way.”
The Guardian on Teufelswerk: “With Hell acting as conductor, and Kruder, Prommer, and Roberto di Gioia playing a mixture of synths, acoustic guitars, Wurlitzers and ‘rhythm machines,’ the four sweep back and forth across Europe, mapping the psychic highways that link Kraftwerk’s Dusseldorf and Jean Michel Jarre’s imaginary, futuristic Paris; Pink Floyd at the UFO Club in 1966, and Café del Mar in 1987; cavernous booming dubstep nights in modern Berlin and Goblin’s progressive 1970’s Italy.”
Since 2009, DJ Hell has supported the feminist Ukrainian activist group FEMEN with various DJ and television appearances.
The self-confessed fan of the FC Bayern Munich soccer club is a jersey sponsor for TSV Altenmarkt, the football club of his hometown. Contrary to rumors, he does not possess a professional coaching license. For the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Hell was booked as a DJ for the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, but the event was canceled on short notice by FIFA.
DJ Hell on his football passion in Alert, 8/2002: “I watch the home games of FC Bayern Munich. I also represented Germany as a DJ at the recent European and World Championships, travelling with the German national team from city to city, and deejayed on the evening before the games. My contract stated that the organizer had to get me tickets for the games.” (See Alert 8/2002, p.51)
DJ Hell is the designated curator for the planned Museum of Modern Electronic Music (MOMEM), which is scheduled to open in Frankfurt in 2018.
- “Most successful national A&R,” Dance Music Award, 2001
- “Man of the Year,” GQ Magazine, 2003, category: music
- “Best DJ,” Music and Machine Award, Berlin, 2004
- “Best Techno DJ” (nominee), DJ Awards, 2007
- “Best Techno DJ” (nominee), DJ Awards 2008
- “Best German Act,” Echo nominee, Berlin, 2009
- “Best German Album”, Echo nominee, Berlin, 2009
Groove Magazine Reader Polls
- 1995: DJ National: 2nd place
- 1996: DJ National: 2nd place
- 1997: DJ National: 2nd place
- 1997: Label National: 1st place
- 1998: DJ National: 2nd place
- 1998: Label National: 2nd place
- 1999: National: 2nd place
- 1999: Label National: 3rd place
- 2000: DJ National: 3rd place
- 2000: Label National: 3rd place
- 2001: National: 2nd place
- 2001: Label National: 1st place
- 2002: National: 2nd place
- 2002: Label National: 2nd place
- 2003: National: 3rd place
- 2003: Label National: 4th place
- 2004: National: 3rd place
- 2004: Label National: 3rd place
Spex Magazine Reader and Editors’ polls
- SPEX 1/99: Year in Review 1998 // Editors’ Picks for Best Album: 43rd place: DJ Hell: Munich Machine
- SPEX 1-2/01: Year in Review 2000: Reader Polls for Best DJ: 2nd place: DJ Hell
- SPEX 1-2/02: Year in Review 2001: Reader Polls for Best DJ: 2nd place: DJ Hell
- SPEX 1-2/03: Year in Review 2002: Reader Polls for Best DJ: 2nd place: DJ Hell
- SPEX1-2/04: Year in Review 2003: Reader Polls for Best Song: 26th place: Hell Feat. Erlend Øye: Keep on Waiting
- SPEX1-2/04: Year in Review 2003: Reader Polls for Best album: 36th place: Hell: NY Muscle
- SPEX1-2/04: Year in Review 2003: Reader Polls for Best DJ: 2nd place: Hell
- SPEX 1-2/05: Year in Review 2004: Reader Polls for Best DJ: 2nd place: DJ Hell
- SPEX 1-2/06: Year in Review 2005: Reader Polls for Best DJ: 2nd place: DJ Hell
- SPEX 1-2/07: Year in Review 2006: Reader Polls for Best DJ: 2nd place: DJ Hell
- SPEX 1-2/10: Year in Review 2009: Editors’ Picks for Best Album: 35th place: Hell: Teufelswerk
- SPEX 1-2/10: Year in Review 2009: Reader Polls for Best Album: 37th place: Hell: Teufelswerk
- SPEX 1-2/10: Reader Polls Best Song: 26th place: Hell: Electronic Germany
- Geteert & Gefedert (Disko B)
- Mixes Of Gary Numan Vol. 2 (Random Records)
- Repassion (International Deejay Gigolo Records)
- My Definition Of House Music (R&S)
- Red Bull From Hell EP (Disko B)
- Sprung Aus Den Wolken / Butter Säure (Kickin Records)
- Three Degrees Kelvin / Like That! (Magnetic North)
- Ultraworld EP Vol. 1 (Disko B)
- Allerseelen (Disko B)
- Albino EP (Disko B)
- Original Street Techno (Disko B)
- Totmacher (Disko B)
- Totmacher Interpretationen (Disko B)
- Munich Machine (V2 Records, Inc.)
- Suicide Commando (V2 Records, Inc.)
- Copa (Disko B)
- Rock My Body To The Beat (International Deejay Gigolo Records)
- Keep On Waiting (International Deejay Gigolo Records)
- N.Y. Muscle (2003, Motor Music)
- Listen To The Hiss feat. Alan Vega (International Deejay Gigolo Records)
- Je regrette Everything feat. Billy Ray Martin International Deejay Gigolo Records)
- Best of Hell (International Deejay Gigolo Records)
- Fun Boy (International Deejay Gigolo Records)
- Teufelswerk (2009, International Deejay Gigolo Records)
- Teufelswerk House Remixes Part I (2011, Embassy of Music)
- Teufelswerk House Remixes Part II (2012, Embassy of Music)
For a complete discography see the article about DJ Hell in the German Wikipedia.
- Durch die Nacht mit… mit Bai Ling and DJ Hell (Documentary, directed by Hasko Baumann, ARTE, 2005)
- Fürst Nachtleben – DJ Hell (Documentary, written and Directed by Hilde Bechert, Bayerischer Rundfunk, 2006.)
- Freak Show (Directed by Angelika Leppert, Producer: DJ Hell, International DJ Gigolo Records, 2005.)
- 196 bpm – Die Nacht der Raver (Documentary, directed by Romuald Karmakar, Pantera Film, 2002.)
- Techno Salsa (Documentary, directed by Torsten Schulz, Absolut Medien, 1999.)