Photo Credit: Anouk Schneider
One of the most eclectic and iconic producers in EDM culture is Berlin based DJ Hell. He has been involved in the arts for over thirty years, with a resume that includes production, performing, designing fashion and running a record label (the heavily influential International DeeJay Gigolo Records).
Last month, DJ Hell released the Kern Vol. 2 Mix on Tresor Records (Volume 1 was mixed by the equally iconic DJ Deep). As far as DJ Mixes go, Kern Vol. 2 is one of the better reflections of electronic dance music; providing education on both the legacy and future of the genre. He’s also just a damn fine DJ.
Currently working on his new album and live show, DJ Hell gave Magnetic an excellent interview about the process of recording Kern Vol. 2. He also gives remarkable insight into the past, present, and future of EDM.
First, congratulations on putting together a great mix on Kern Volume 2! What’s been most of the response so far?
As far as I know there is very good response and great feedback. But this is not why I did it; or let’s say the critics are not the driving force behind my work. I like to hear an opinion of people I respect and people around me.
The level with the first Kern mix of DJ Deep was pretty much hard to beat, but I went the same direction and put my own flavor on top.
The mix incorporates new and old styles of electronic music. How did you put together a cohesive, cumulative and current mix without putting too much emphasis one era?
The concept from Tresor was already a strong formula – [Look] for unreleased old and new house and techno material -old and new school of Chicago house and Detroit techno.
I went to my own private collection of the last 20 years and found all this obscure music -timeless and unique. Suddenly there was lots of material released from the US in the early 90s. The production level that time was already excellent and lots of producers and DJs where pushing the limits and experimenting with this new kind of dance music .
[During] that time everything was produced analogue and the Roland drum machines like 808 and 909 where ruling the dance floor. On the other hand there [are] lots of tracks on the mix with a very strong African touch and this was another surprise for myself.
You picked a few tracks that might have been overlooked or underplayed in the past. What role did they play in shaping the overall direction of Kern Volume 2?
It’s very simple -only the best tracks went on the mix. Lots of these tracks where forgotten or some I found and was thrilled to put my own hand on top of it and did remixes/reworks of three songs .
There’s mention that this mix brings up a lot of memories for you, and the records that you chose have meaning. What was the best memory this mix brought back? Do any of the tracks remind you of harder times or struggle?
Odori’s “Movements 1-4” is a track that changed my world the first time i heard it in 1992. It’s mind blowing and there is no other track like this. Great production. The producer died after I found out who owns the right of this song. He was the ex-boy friend of Madonna and he produced her first single called “Everybody” also he was the first DJ who played Madonna in the radio and clubs in NYC that time. I am also working on a re-release of this record on vinyl and I will do a remix as well.
There are great stories and memories to every single track. It was like looking back to the time when techno was starting this world revolution and American producers from New York -Detroit and Chicago ruled the world.
[ It was] also very important was to get [these] ideas connected with the new wave of producers here in Europe- Recondite and Jonas Koop are the new school of European techno .
Do you have to be in a certain type of mental state to make a mix or work on new music? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I prepare [for] a live show in the near future and it will be more like a show, not bringing the whole studio on stage and perform like a electronic band. I like to go in a new direction. Inspiration comes from noise and everyday life -watching people on the street and traveling the world.
What equipment did you use to record Kern Volume 2? Did you record it live or in a multiple takes?
The focus was on the edits I did and and the mastering of the old material. Lots of traxx where not available digital so we needed to master from the vinyl. The mixing was done at the gigolo studio and it was pretty much like a original DJ mix .
Of the new artists on the mix, who really stands out to you and why?
Recondite and Jonas Koop are great and speak the new languages. There is a new strong wave of DJs and producers following the original ideas of street techno music with a digital twist.
There were lots of options to put more new traxx on the CD but that would be a 3 hours mix. DJs like Ben Klock or Marcel Dettman are the best example for the new school of Berlin techno and they are innovative producers on top.
As an artist who has really seen it all, from the underground to work with pop culture artists, what exciting aspects are you seeing in the recent explosion of electronic music into the mainstream? What aspects are you apprehensive or fearful off?
I think even David Guetta opened some doors for the US market the last [few] years, But Puff Daddy was doing it already years ago when he released a single feat Kelis called “Let’s Get Ill. This was future music and totaly shocking for lots of people in the music biz.
I remember the day when I heard house music the first time at a McDonalds restaurant and was completely shocked [by] it. Times have changed and electronic music rules the world, but [there is] still lots of work to do; even here in Germany. DJ work and producing electronic dance music is not very highly accepted in the regular world. Independent labels don’t get any help from the city or governments here in Germany. GEMA still can’t handle this music and come up with new concepts and ideas that are definitely against this nightlife culture.
Some have described certain genres of new electronic music as the ‘punk rock’ of today’s youth. Why do you think there is this comparison?
In the early 80s lots of punk bands stopped playing guitars and went into electronic music together with a magical machine called Korg MS 20. When this analogue weapon came out- it changed the world. So called punk bands went into electronic music and started a movement what was called ‘new wave’ or here in Germany it was called ‘deutsche welle’.
As an outsider, it sounds like there is a very good scene going on in 2013 Berlin? Describe your thoughts on modern electronic music in Berlin.
There is no other city in the world like Berlin when it comes to nightclubs and never ending weekends.The club culture here in Berlin is the best in the world. For electronic music the city is a paradise.
What is next for DJ Hell?
New album and new live show.
Special thanks to DJ Hell for taking the time to speak with Magnetic. His Kern Vol. 2 mix and Rarities Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (Vinyl EPs of select tracks from the mix) are out now via Tresor Recordings.