Erma from Casa Degli Specchi brings you an ironic world of music.
Creativity, in music as in life, and originality in the approach to creative doing, in general, are becoming a scarce commodity these days.
In the era of standardization, of the so-called “type beat culture” (what a f*cking culture biting, or copying another’s style, can it be?!), of the artificial intelligence that makes Biggie sing Nas’ verses, exceptions still exist.
In corners of the world not too far from international routes, in a pleasant dark area of Italy, between Liguria and Piedmont, exceptions thrive.
And, despite modest appearances, following the purest hip-hop mantra and heritage, they go strong beyond the barriers of what has already been heard and seen. Think of Erma.
A gentleman who defines himself on “sunset boulevard”, Erma is an old-timer only for personal issues, who sounds fresher than a lot of stereotypical kids. Probably because he doesn’t care about current fashion.
Recently returned from his long production silences, he recently dropped the second volume of the now underground cult called “Follow The Lidl 2” (unlimited puns are one of the specialities of the house, you are warned) via German-based label VinylDigital, collaborated with our head honcho FFiume, and fed other collaborations on the net with as many rappers of his crew, Casa Degli Specchi.
Renowned in the Italian underground scene for being unorthodox and particularly creative, booze-influenced, and irreverent in rap as in the beats, the CDS guys aren’t exactly your average wannabe-American rappers.
Their musical director, therefore, cannot be different, albeit more reserved than the other members of the band.
We took the opportunity to chat a bit with the taciturn and extravagant gentleman. It was the right opportunity to spread some of his sound and give away some production input, telling us a little about his journey.
So if you’re looking for lo-fi beats, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re looking for lo-fi beats that look like 100 other beat-makers copying the usual one or two, you’re in the wrong place. If you’re ready, enjoy the trip.
Hey Erma, welcome: do you want to introduce yourself to our readers?
I’m a hip-hop beatmaker for more than 20 years now. I walk on a sunset boulevard and make music that appeals to nostalgic boom-bap lovers.
When did you start making music? What were your inspirations when you first started?
I started in the early 90s, like everyone else at the time I was listening mostly to Public Enemy, Run DMC, and so on. But the record that really struck me was “3 Feet High and Rising” by De La Soul, in 1989.
How long did it take you to produce something that you were proud of?
A long time. At first, I made beats with a shabby 4-track Tascam and even tried to rap, but after a while, I realized that it was better for me to turn off the microphone and study production techniques.
What was your first commercial beat sold, or placed, ever?
A beat for Strike the Head, MC from the Turin hinterland. Greetings to Strike!
What’s your favourite production set-up?
I’ve never been an obsessive “upgrade gear” freak, my setup has always been pretty much the same for a while. I use an Akai MPD, an Akai LPK keyboard and a couple of software for mixing and editing tracks. The essential feature of my productions must be the warmth in the sound, I don’t like the cold sound of digital, I don’t like the “clean and lacquered” sound.
What’s the best digging advice you’ve received from someone ever? Any digging stories you want to share with us?
I don’t have particular stories to tell, the only beatmaker I’ve always consulted and confronted with is Roggy Luciano. I don’t remember most of the advice though, because we were always half-drunk.
Producer, in the last 3 months, that made you say: “Oh, shit, I have to go back to the lab!”?
Mmmmh…when I listen to Madlib my reaction is always: “But what am I doing on these machines?!”. I am very self-critical about what I do but on the contrary, I recognize that I have also done some good things, as that guy said.
If you should tell, what’s your worst production mistake ever made?
Surely I don’t really like my first productions, like those of the first album “Ermageddon“, you hear a lot of ingenuity on a technical level, but I think it’s a pretty obvious and normal thing.
One essential mixing tip?
Listen to lots of music, get your ear used to it, trust your intuition when mixing a song and don’t just trust the thousands of tutorials you can find online. I have always mixed my beats by making many plays on multiple supports, and let’s not forget that it is very important to have external feedback from friends who can give you a fundamental suggestion to make your track sound right.
Any final word for the readers?
Go shopping at Lidl.
Hold on a second: this is important. Why Lidl?
(laughs)…well, man, it’s a good question…It all stems from an internal dispute in Casa Degli Specchi. We had a long beef due to my indisputable side with the Lidl supermarket chain, my trusted supplier of spirits (and not only).
Other members of the crew, especially Roggy Luciano, however, were in favour of buying booze at Eurospin. Roggy was a Best-Brau beer large consumer, and it’s a staple from Eurospin…if you know you know…
Things got even worse when factions split and hostilities escalated over vodka and whiskey. Lidl’s excellent Nikolaj was rivalled by this whiskey from Eurospin, which tasted like diesel. Everything came from there. That’s why the CDS Orchestra was born, to produce Lidl VS Eurospin.
But, hey, don’t think for a second of going the other way: go to Lidl!