HellenBach is the moniker used to describe the talented tandem of Joe "Sklz" Valentin and Stephen La Morte. Long-time friends since the early '90s, Joe and Stephen share a common passion for music. Having similar backgrounds, life experiences and tastes in music, the duo complement each other perfectly. Through both the smooth and rough times in their lives, music has served as a catharsis.
Joe "Sklz" Valentin
Born and raised in Newark, NJ, Joe was highly influenced by his uncle who listened to great classic artists such as Santana, Gil Scott Heron, Richie Havens, Mongo Santamaria, Janis Joplin and Eddie Palmieri just to name a few. As a child, Joe connected with these artists. He had an understanding of why they rendered their souls to music, as evidenced by their performances. Growing up in an urban environment, hip-hop also played a large part in his musical background.
Joe's passion eventually transferred onto the dance floor in his teens. Frequenting places like Club Zanzibar, Wild Pitch, Sound Factory Bar and The Shelter, Joe soon became a notable house dancer among his peers and inspired a new generation of dancers and future DJs from Newark, Irvington, and Elizabeth, New Jersey.
During a 13-year hiatus from the house scene, Joe battled against many of life's challenges. However, music remained a consistent entity. Though no longer able to attend the clubs as he once had, dancing continued to serve as a way for Joe to release the tension that would build from daily life. When he emerged from this trying time in his life he wrote, "Ambushed by the unforeseen, life's scars write our story. Through dance, rhythm, and beats, we tell it... triumphantly!" He resurfaced onto the house scene in the spring of 2009, never having skipped a beat.
Today, as a producer and a writer, Joe's love for music continues to flourish. When asked where he draws his inspiration for his music from, Joe said, "I've had some tough times, like a lot of people. Fortunately, God's given me hope and blessed me with perseverance and determination allowing me to overcome hardships. In fact, that's where I got the name. HellenBach is a play on 'hell and back.' Anyway, I want our music to reflect that. I hope it motivates and inspires people to do the same."
Stephen La Morte
Born and raised in Elizabeth, NJ, Stephen grew up listening to great rock bands like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd and legendary guitarists like Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix thanks to his older brother and sister. Additionally, having been raised in a predominantly Latino community, Stephen was introduced to the Hispanic culture and embraced everything from the music to the food. As with any other inner city youth, hip-hop had its share of influence as well.
In his teens, Stephen was introduced to the NYC club scene going to places such as House Nation, Sound Factory Bar, Save the Robots, Tunnel, The Vinyl, and Body n Soul. When asked what made him fall in love with the scene, Stephen said, "Hearing the music, watching the dancers. The way people just let the music take over their minds, bodies and souls, it was truly amazing to me."
At that moment, Stephen knew he wanted to be a DJ and dedicated most of his spare time to work on his artistry. Before long, he earned a reputation as a skilled DJ by playing at local parties in his hometown.
Stephen took a long break from the house scene to address some of life's challenges. What once was a career goal had to temporarily become just a hobby. But those silent years served their purpose. Stephen worked on further honing his craft. Today, many consider him a genius at what he does.
While Stephen has graduated to producing, DJing still remains his passion. He attributes Louie Vega with having made an enormous impact on the way he mixes. Stephen describes his own mixing style as old school. "For me it’s all about making the music seamless," he said. He definitely achieves this by blending the tracks so well that listeners don't even realize they are playing simultaneously.
With phenomenal blends and enchanting song selections that take dancers on a journey, Stephen epitomizes what a DJ should be. With Stephen's masterful technique and Joe's ingenious creativity, HellenBach is sure to leave its mark on and make a major contribution to the world of house music.