A darker side of Detroit.
Erika Sherman has been working behind the scenes in Detroit techno for decades. She helps run the esteemed Interdimensional Transmissions label, which has been going strong since 1994, and she's been making arresting electro with IT founder BMG as Ectomorph for about as long. She was an internet radio pioneer, running a 24-hour station for almost 15 years. But it's only in recent years that Sherman has stepped out from the shadows as a solo artist, with an album of ghostly electro in 2013 and a string of live and DJ sets around the US that followed. Anyone who saw her DJ around that time would tell you about her preternatural ability to read a room, and the way she effortlessly glides through techno and electro records.
"As a DJ she is pure id, this raucous mix of everything great about techno today and the stranger darker part of Detroit house," her partner-in-crime BMG told a Detroit newspaper in 2015. He's not wrong. Sherman balances both sides of No Way Back, the party she co-hosts that's gradually become one of the hottest tickets of Movement festival weekend in Detroit. She's got the hard-hitting floor-working part down pat, but she's also got a taste for the ethereal and spacey. Those dual forces are in play on her RA podcast, where she blows through tracks from Polar Inertia, Mary Velo, Dasha Rush and Oscar Mulero, moving quickly through her records but never rushing.
What have you been up to recently?
Traveling a bunch, working with BMG on recording the new Ectomorph LP and writing new solo material, including a collection of ambient tunes I first created to perform at a private event in Colorado.
How and where was the mix recorded?
I recorded the mix in Detroit, on my (mismatched) DJ setup: an old Xone:62, Technics SL-1200 MK2, CDJ-2000, XDJ-1000 and a borrowed XDJ-700.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
Simply a collection of tunes I've been enjoying lately!
You've been touring more and more outside the US these past couple of years. What's that experience been like? Has playing in less familiar places changed the way you DJ at all?
It's been really fun to travel and play for new venues and crowds, eat food and meet people. It's been interesting (and inspiring) to see how crowds respond to techno. I don't think that playing less familiar places has changed things for me, but playing more frequently certainly has, in that I get exhausted quickly with tunes. Since I'm playing more often, I'm going through more music, and spending more time listening to, selecting and organizing tracks. I've also switched from playing primarily vinyl to digital, since it's more versatile (I can have more options for different kinds of situations, set lengths, time slots, etc.) and it's so much easier for traveling.
You recently told us about a new wave of young people going out in Detroit, and how the city is changing really quickly in general. Setting aside specific clubs (or plans for them), do you think Detroit's music scene could be on the brink of some interesting new era?
Detroit can't seriously change or evolve without the ability to throw a regularly occurring party that legally and safely goes all night. One-off events can't cultivate a crowd or culture, and illegal or unlicensed venues are bound to end—and not well. There's certainly new energy in the city right now that could be harnessed to create something fresh and exciting. A lot of young people who lack the negativity about Detroit of previous generations really want to dance and are connecting to music. It's disappointing that the city that birthed this music is so far behind how the culture has evolved globally, but we can't change that without first changing the laws and then investing time and energy in building the culture to be focused on the music and not the bar.
Beyond being a great party, No Way Back has become an event other promoters around the world look to for inspiration. What are some events out there that you admire?
From my perspective, the most important aspect of No Way Back is creating a high quality environment that people can lose themselves in. I don't get to spend much time at events that I'm not playing at or throwing, but I did get a day off at Nachtdigital last year and I really enjoyed its isolation from reality, safety, great music and crowd. Same goes for Labyrinth. I highly suspect that I would adore the Honcho Campout, but I have not yet been able to attend.
What are you up to next?
Finishing off this pizza.