Following our in-depth review of Errorsmith‘s fourth studio album ‘Superlative Fatigue‘ on PAN a couple weeks ago, we met up with the Berlin-based producer in the lush green setting of a canal bank in the district of Neukölln for a face-to-face interview and photo shoot, as we looked to find out more about the making of his stunning new full-length.
In the interview below Erik opens up about the concept and terminology behind the album’s intriguing title. Delving further into the roots of his craft, he also sheds light into his introduction to new wave, hip-hop and electronic music before moving to Berlin in the mid 1980’s and discusses his relationship with developing the Razor and Reaktor synths for Native Instruments.
Interview & Photography by Tom Durston
"Superlative Fatigue is fitting as an album title because my aim was to do something over-the-top, exaggerated and a little bit ridiculous."
Tell me about the area in which we are in and what it means to you?
It’s very simple really, it’s my way from home to my studio. I often take my bike or walk as it’s only a few kilometers long. I really like the canal along Weigandufer and at the corner to Wildenbruchstrasse there is a nice park.
What excites you about making music?
I get a lot of kicks from trying out technical stuff with Reaktor and developing my own ideas about synthesis. When I make sounds that I have never heard before then that’s really satisfying. But in the end of the day I want to present my music and contribute towards the artform that is music.
It’s wonderful when people have an emotional response to your music. This kind of positive feedback is what fuels every human being. We need this to survive and not to feel isolated.
When did you get triggered to move away from listening to pop music and explore other genres of music?
It was my sister’s long time boyfriend back in the mid 1980’s. He was into New Wave, The Smiths and more electronic stuff such as The Human League. I got the virus from there and I started to listen to the radio a lot, which featured underground music.
In the late 1980’s I was into hip-hop; Boogie Down Productions, Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane etc. In my home town of Kassel we had that club called ‘The World’, specialised in R’n’B and hip-hop, as well as a very good record shop that had all the hot imports from the USA. Then I was wondering where all of these samples were coming from.
I wanted to find out the sources, so soul music was very important. Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye. I also listened to early house and Detroit techno. I then moved to Berlin in 1991 and I continued to follow mainly dance music.
"Trump is a prime example of using superlatives and exaggerations at an excessive level. He uses them so much that everyone with a brain recognises that he’s not telling the truth."
What’s the story behind the coining of the name Errorsmith?
I was with a couple of friends in a park and someone said something about Aerosmith, the rock band, and someone else said “wait what, I never heard of Errorsmith“, which made everybody laugh. I thought that it would fit as an artist name for me. I like the rocking aspect and that it pokes fun at the genre called ‘glitch’, which was a thing back then. Scratching audio CDs and making music with the resulting skip sounds for instance. I’ve never worked in that way though.
Can you explain the album title ‘Superlative Fatigue’?
When you use superlatives too much, there is this sense of fatigue, when the superlative words lose their meaning. I didn’t invent the name. I just stumbled across it in a text about Donald Trump. Trump is a prime example of using superlatives and exaggerations at an excessive level. He uses them so much that everyone with a brain recognises that he’s not telling the truth. But also on social media people tend to express their excitement of things in a superlative way.
‘Superlative Fatigue’ is fitting as an album title because my aim was to do something over-the-top, exaggerated and a little bit ridiculous. So this remotely connects to ‘superlative’. The ‘fatigue’ part is more tricky. For me it stands for a reality check, the second more in-depth look on things. And there you may find sincerely felt emotions in the album. There is a delicate balance between the over-the-top ridiculousness and sincerely felt stuff.
For me the music contained within the album has an aura of pent up energy and reminds me of the early days of dubstep in London back in 2009. What do you think?
I would say it has more similarities with UK Funky than dubstep. I love UK Funky, especially early Lil Silva tracks, they are amazing. UK labels such as Night Slugs stand out to me, they broke up genre boundaries. It was grimey and housey at the same time.
Another influence is Dancehall. In the beginning of the millennium I was buying Jamaican singles mainly for these wicked instrumentals. These were very modern productions, which anticipated what came later in UK funky and bass. But also Video Clash by Lil Louis, a Chicago house classic, is an important reference.
"I knew that these 8 sketches would make a great album as they all shared similarities, and they present a good bandwidth of ideas."
The album also sounds particularly clean, the drums, the synths it’s as if it they are crystalline.
It’s because I was using the Razor synthesizer, which I made for Native Instruments, almost entirely on the album except for two tracks (3 and 4), these use 808 drums. The voice, drums and everything else is made with Razor. It has a crisp, crystalline sound.
Another reason is that I usually don’t use a lot of effects, which results in a very dry and ‘in your face’ kind of sound. I try to make the sound right at the source, the synthesizer, so it doesn’t need effects.
Would you say that the album is a cohesive journey or a collection of individual tracks?
The story for the album was that after the release of Razor in 2011, I wanted to prove myself that I could get an album done. My last album was in 2004 and then I had this collaboration with Mark Fell on PAN in 2015.
I felt really bad about myself for always getting distracted by Reaktor work. When I am in the studio I mainly do Reaktor work. I imagined using these synth creations to make music, but I rarely did.
So after the release of Razor I collected eight sketches I made with it, which all ended up on the album, and I pushed myself to finish these tracks and not to spend too much time on Reaktor development or working on other tracks. If I didn’t have this restriction then I’d certainly have lost myself. I knew that these 8 sketches would make a great album as they all shared similarities, and they present a good bandwidth of ideas.
What about the track titles, are they chosen at random?
Usually when I work on tracks I pick stupid working titles, maybe just a preset name of a sound I used, or I give them names that are too descriptive, which is boring. For a release I need to change these names, so I started to collect possible names in a text file for future use.
When I stumble across funny or interesting words while reading like ‘Superlative Fatigue’ or ‘Retired Low Level Internal Server’ I write them down. But also ideas like ‘Internet Of Screws’, which comes from ‘Internet Of Things’. From this file I take names that somehow fit the tracks. This approach works nicely because it connects the music with something from another realm and forms a bigger picture.
For instance ‘I’m Interesting, Cheerful & Sociable’ is lifted from an article about dating sites. I thought this is such a weird profile description to write. Very clean and superficial. I thought it fits very well this track I made. Since the renaming I think of the main sound as a character, which is kind of the opposite than this dating site description. It’s like a hysteric emotionally unstable character getting overly excited just to have an epic breakdown. Again it’s like a reality check, you see how this character is in real life.
Superlative Fatugue is out now in vinyl and digital formats, order a copy now via Bandcamp.
3. I’m Interesting, Cheerful & Sociable
5. Superlative Fatigue
6. Retired Low-level Internal Server
7. Internet of Screws
8. My Party