Whether DJing dark ambient drones or danceable electro or performing as Erika, Erika Sherman is capable of working within a given context while still maintaining a certain distinct personality. Once a part of the Detroit outfit Ectomorph, Erika performs as both a DJ and with a live PA setup. She opts not to use a computer, an increasing rarity in modern electronic music.
Her debut solo record, Hexagon Cloud (Interdimensional Transmissions, 2013) is often sparse and unsettling. Some tracks are upbeat and danceable and compare to modern techno. Others have a darker ambient feel to them, sounding more like soundscapes. All of them have the deep, rich sound reminiscent of classic analog synths and drum machines.
"Erika just proves that you can't judge a book by the cover; no stereotype will fit her." Brendan Gillen, who calls Erika his "co-conspirator on many levels with Interdimensional Transmissions," says. The pair run the Detroit-based label, which has released records from the likes of Perspects and Derek Plaslaiko, in addition to releasing Hexagon Cloud. In a recent live set, Erika DJ'd using three turntables, creating dark drones and textures, in a set for Eye Teeth, an Interdimensional Transmissions sub-label.
"As a DJ she is pure id, this raucous mix of everything great about techno today and the stranger darker part of Detroit house, just tearing up the floor with devastating music, taking no prisoners, and burning down your village," Gillen says.
According to the Interdimensional Transmissions website, Erika was running a BBS (Bulletin Board System for the noobs) from her bedroom before she was in high school. She was also a jazz DJ and a program director at the University of Michigan radio station, WCBN-FM. She then joined Ectomorph in 1997. She has run a free-form Internet radio station, Erika.net, since 1999. We caught up with her through email.
Metro Times: The last time I saw you perform, you played a live PA set. How does that compare to DJing?
Erika: Giving a live PA and DJing are two completely different mindsets. In a live PA, I present all of my own music and ideas; it is very personal. When I DJ, I choose to bring a selection of music based on the party and time, and then play individual tunes based on the crowd and the vibe.
MT: Do you have a preference when you perform or does it depend on the situation?
Erika: It 100 percent depends on the situation. Most of all I like to perform/DJ for a crowd who is really into music.
MT: You've been running a freeform Internet radio station since 1999. How and why did you start that?
Erika: When my time at WCBN was coming to an end, it was a natural next step to start a streaming station, as there were very few options for online listening at the time. I add and remove music from the playlist based on what I feel like hearing at the moment.
MT: What things or sounds inspire you to create your own music?
Erika: I listen to everything — most of what I hear at my home is motors, birds, echoing car stereos, the weather, a toilet flushing, heels on tile. I like to listen to what's around me while getting lost in thoughts and fantasies. Sometimes I like to block it out with drum machines and synthesizers. I like to dance, and transfer collective human energy into motion.
MT: How would you describe the Detroit musical landscape?
Erika: Detroit is very diverse musically, with a ton of talent. There are many scenes, and where they intertwine is the most interesting.
MT: What are your plans for the future?
Erika: Have a drink with whoever the lifeform they meet on Enceladus actually turns out to be.
Erika performs at the No Way Back after-party Sunday, May 24, at the Tangent Gallery. It runs from 11 p.m. – 9 a.m.; 715 E. Milwaukee St., Detroit; tickets are $20; must be 21 and over. Listen to Erika's music at soundcloud.com/ithqdetroit.