Best known as the longtime drummer for the influential German punk band Die Ärzte, Bela B.
also enjoyed success as an actor and solo artist. Born Dirk Felsenheimer in Berlin on December 14, 1962, Bela B. (a stage name derived from actor and childhood favorite Bela Lugosi) first served in the short-lived Soilent Grün before co-founding Die Ärzte (German for "the Physicians") in 1982 with singer/guitarist Farin Urlaub and bassist Hans Runge. Quickly emerging as a staple of the Berlin club circuit, the group soon appeared on the 20 Überschäumende Stimmungshits compilation, and after winning an amateur showcase spent their winnings on their 1983 debut EP, Uns Gehts Prima. The record brought Die Ärzte to the attention of Columbia Records, which issued the band's debut LP, Debil, in 1984. Die Ärzte made headlines in 1987 when the German Federal Center for Media Harmful to Young Persons blacklisted a number of their most popular songs, including the incest ditty "Sibling Love" and the zoophilia ode "Claudia Hat 'Nen Schäferhund." The ban forced the trio to remove the offending songs from their live shows, and record stores selling their albums were subject to criminal charges. With no product at retail, Die Ärzte's career sputtered, although the adults-only compilation Ab 18, a collection of their most tasteless songs past and present, attracted critical raves. With 1988's Das Is Nicht die Ganze Warhheit, Die Ärzte cracked the German Top Ten for the first time in their career, but at the peak of their fame they announced plans to dissolve, with a farewell tour yielding the chart-topping live LP Nach Uns die Sintflut.
Bela B. soon formed a new band, Depp Jones, so named after a character in the German comic book series Lucky Luke. Their 1990 debut LP, Return to Caramba!, failed to capitalize on the popularity of Die Ärzte, and subsequent efforts including 1991's Welcome to Hell and 1992's At 2012 A.D. fared even worse. Farin Urlaub's new band, King Kong, also struggled, and in 1993 he and Bela B. agreed to reunite Die Ärzte, adding Depp Jones alum Rodrigo Gonzales on bass. Their comeback single, "Schrei Nach Liebe," was also their most explicitly political effort to date, a polemic against the growing rise of right-wing extremism and racially motivated violence. With the Berlin Wall and its Cold War resonance now resigned to history, Die Ärzte were now upheld as champions of independent thoughts and ideals. With 1998's 13, the trio reached its commercial apex. The lead single "Männer Sind Schwein" proved their first number one German single, and its success launched the album to the top of the LP charts as well. During a subsequent hiatus from Die Ärzte, Bela B. returned to acting. A longtime character actor with a series of B-film supporting roles to his credit, he now enjoyed a recurring role on the TV series Alarm für Cobra 11-Die Autobahnpolizei and co-starred in horror pictures including 2000's Salamander and the 2002 Jess Franco feature Killer Barbys vs. Dracula. After a brief tour of Japan, Die Ärzte issued the double album Geräusch in 2003, returning to number one on the singles chart with "Unrockbar"; three years later, Bela B. issued his first-ever solo LP, Bingo, and guested on Lee Hazlewood's all-star swan song, Cake or Death. His 2009 album Code B featured Bela's new backing band, Los Helmstedt, along with guitar legend Chris Spedding as a special guest. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi