Italians Do It Better: An Interview With Herva

Kila is Herva’s fourth LP in just under four years. A messy jumble of influences in the best possible way, Kila sees Herva covering vast amounts of ground, from IDM to house, breaks and electronica, in a delectably A.D.D full-frontal assault. Musical themes stutter, jump and disappear completely from the picture only to reappear torn apart, smudged and smeared. Herva is no stranger to the game, having previously released on Delsin, Kontra, All City and Italian house stalwarts Bosconi, who played an integral part in kickstarting his career, but his fourth album is a clear step into the big boys arena, having received the backing of Mike Paradinas’ Planet Mu imprint. We caught up with Herva aka Hervé Corti to discuss the album, his production process and influences and what’s it like to go record shopping in Ivory Coast.

KALTBLUT: Hi Hervé so how’s life treating you at the moment? You are just about to release your first album on Planet Mu. Your career and catalogue are already so impressive by any standards. Was working with Planet Mu a long time goal of yours?
Herva: It was a dream. When I started making proper music and was getting my head around serious labels and artists, my goal was to make music for Planet Mu or Rephlex. Now I’ve achieved one of those goals. I still make as much music as possible and I’m 100% focused but it’s definitely a step up for me.

KALTBLUT: I read you’d sent material to them before but they didn’t get back to you…
Herva: I guess the first time round my music wasn’t ready for them or it wasn’t the right period

KALTBLUT: The labels you’ve worked with all have very strong identities. Bosconi, Kontra, Delsin… When you’re writing music, are labels something you keep in mind?
Herva: I make music for myself, it’s never about the label. I make music because I want to make music. I don’t think it makes sense to make music for labels because you can’t be in the mind of the label boss, it’s pointless. You can’t contaminate your ideas with this, your music is first of all for you.

KALTBLUT: Your music also has a strong identity regardless of the genres you produce. A Herva track is very recognizable… But you’re still young, you’re only 24. What was your musical upbringing like?
Herva: I used to listen to a lot of different stuff. At first artists like Frank Zappa, Nirvana, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I wasn’t really into electronic music, I used to play drums in a band and I used to think electronic music was shit. But a lot of people that listen to pop, rock or play live music think electronic music is shit. I started making electronic music because I was annoyed about all the issues that being in a band implies, 4 or 5 people taking decisions, finding time to practice, that kind of stuff.

KALTBLUT: It is true that when you’re involved in the electronic scene you tend to forget how it’s perceived from the outside. The outsider view tends to be somewhat reductive, people think it’s not real music for instance.
Herva: People don’t even give it a chance. They listen to the mainstream stuff and judge according to that.

KALTBLUT: I notice your first influences, Frank Zappa, RHCP, were all quite funky
Herva: I was also really into POD, Linkin Park, like any average teenager. For Frank Zappa, it was my father that introduced me to him.

KALTBLUT: Did your father make music too?
Herva: He makes electronic music as well but he’s more of a guitarist

KALTBLUT: What does he think of the music you make?
Herva: I guess he likes it, we don’t really speak much about it. It’s a rare event when I hear his stuff or he hears mine. We’ve been speaking about making music together for about a year and we’ve both always really been into music but it became a bit boring to always talk about music. There’s so much going on in life, music is a big part of it but not the only part.

KALTBLUT: Let’s talk about your production process. You used to work on Fruit Loops and now you’ve switched to making your own software and hardware. Can you talk us through the process?

Herva: I work on filters, oscillators… I’ve not built a proper hardwsare synth yet. I like to build the parts I need, use them on breadboards (ed. construction base for electronic prototyping, similar to an electronic circuit) and when I don’t need them I unplug everything and I make something else. I don’t focus too much on just making things though. But when I need something and don’t have the money to buy it I will try and make it. I’m studying electronic engineering right now so maybe I’ll start working on a proper synth at some point but not right now.

KALTBLUT: You’ve dismantled the set up you used for the album, does that mean that your setup is changing all the time?
Herva: When I need to change, I do it. I’m always making music and I like to mess with my stuff and keep it fun. If you use the same setup too much you get bored by your approach to making music. I think it’s always good to try different things, switch equipment… Obviously money is an issue but it’s always worth experimenting. Doing simple DIY things and modifying your equipment is a bit more challenging but if you take your box and start working on it, you’ll begin to understand how everything works and you become better at using it. It’s also fun to always be making new stuff…

KALTBLUT: I feel that the way you DJ is very similar to the way you produce. There are lots of rough cuts, the vibe is always changing, you’ll hear funk, acid, techno, disco… It’s very intense. When did DJing come into the picture for you?
Herva: The first time was when I was playing with a friend at his place. I remember that we were mainly playing trance. The first good record that was actually not trance that I remember playing was DJ Rolando’s Jaguar. It was a massive hit in Italy at the time.

It wasn’t my focus for a while though. I started to really enjoy DJing once my cousin taught me how to play properly on turntables. At the time I had really bad Ion turntables, so when my cousin got Technics my world changed. I’d already shifted my focus to electronic music, I was digging, I was looking for records…

KALTBLUT: You’re from Florence, which isn’t the first city you think of when you think about electronic music, especially the kind that you make. How was the scene there as regards finding out about new music? Did you start off digging in record shops?
Herva: The situation now is quite different, there are some good record shops in the city but at the time it was very limited. But with internet, you had access to everything anyway.

KALTBLUT: Italian producer Rufus was a big influence for you when it came to digging?
Herva: Yeah, Rufus is a real digger, he’s the one. Before becoming involved with Bosconi Records I was more a club DJ, looking for club tracks. The Bosconi crew introduced me to other kinds of music and I became more curious. That’s all thanks to Mass Prod, Rufus, Fabio della Torre… Then I started looking for what I like. Now I dig for samples, stuff to listen at home, stuff to play during DJ sets… But just digging for music to DJ isn’t the best. I don’t like wasting time with polemics but I really don’t like people that sample directly from electronic music.

KALTBLUT: What do you mean?
Herva: Why would you sample off from someone who makes similar music?

KALTBLUT: But your music is particularly sample heavy…
Herva: Yes but what I find pointless is to sample from someone that makes techno, electro, house…

KALTBLUT: It’s true that most of your samples come from jazz, disco or weirder records…
Herva: I buy a lot of records for listening that end up being good sample sources.

KALTBLUT: Speaking of samples could you tell us a bit more about the main vocal sample in Kila?
Herva: It’s from a record of traditional African music. It’s from Burundi. Traditional music is the future, it always has been.

KALTBLUT: Traditional as in stripped-back, maybe more basic percussion music?
Herva: It’s not basic because the people that make this music really have to think about it. They have to make instruments from loads of random stuff… The people are actually challenging themselves.

KALTBLUT: The title of your record, Kila, means everything in Swahili. Why did you settle for that name? Did you pick it after you made that specific track or was it an idea from the beginning?
Herva: I picked the title after listening to the album in its entirety. It contains so many of the musical periods I went through so it means everything in the sense that everything I’ve done so far.

KALTBLUT: The notion of everything fits your music well though, it’s very all encompassing influence-wise.
Herva: I love so many things, I’ve got all these things that try to get out of my brain. I’m a big mess man. When I make music I like to put as much in it as I can. I also only listen to my own music so I have to include stuff that I like (laughs).

KALTBLUT: Do you not listen to other music?
Herva: For DJ sets yes but when I’m in the car, when I’m at home I like to listen to my own stuff. I know there’s loads of amazing music and I used to listen to music by other artists but now I mainly listen to mine or my friend’s stuff, guys like Duqwa, Dunk, or Bosconi releases…. We have a great connection of people in Florence that make really good music, so I like to keep up with what is going on here.

KALTBLUT: What other artists from Florence would you recommend?
Herva: Dukwa, Sciahri who has released on Ilian Tape, Lorenzo and Dunk but they haven’t released anything yet so people will have to trust me here.


KALTBLUT: There are quite a few African influences in the album: the title, the samples you use, the mask on the cover. You told me your mum comes from Ivory Coast?
Herva: Yes and going to Ivory Coast really got me into digging for African music. I found a record shop in Abidjan, it’s actually not a proper shop, the guy records his collection on tapes and sells them to his customers. An uncle of mine introduced me to the owner and there were so many records, it was a massive mess.

KALTBLUT: Was it more traditional stuff you found there or more on the disco and funk side that’s been quite fashionable in recent years?
Herva: I found a lot of stuff but not that much funk. I hope I’ll find some more stuff next time I go back because I didn’t have that much time the last times, only 3 or 4 hours on one day. I took a lot of random stuff from there. There were LPs without their sleeves or artwork and some stuff I wasn’t allowed to buy. Next time I’ll bring more money because I’m sure that was the real shit. I found some US records from there that I have no idea how they even got there and I also brought back quite a lot of rubbish. I didn’t really know the artists so I went by the instruments which were on the covers or by instinct, what I think could work for me. There was maybe 30% really cool stuff, 20% average, 40% shit and 10% really shit.

KALTBLUT: Was the shit stuff more on the pop side?
Herva: Yeah anonymous pop stuff. It’s disappointing when you land on a shit record because you really have this opportunity of owning crazy music that no one else has.

KALTBLUT: Do you consider sampling to be the cornerstone of your music?
Herva: No. I like to sample but I also build my tracks around synth sounds, drums and I can also play guitar and bass. My home is full of instruments and I’m a messy guy. I don’t have a protocol or a safe approach when making music. I rarely start tracks the same way.

KALTBLUT: You played in Panorama this year, how was that?
Herva: I think it was one of my best sets!

KALTBLUT: Did you feel the pressure of the club?
Herva: Not really. When I stated my set I thought, “Okay, let’s see what happens” but I didn’t feel too much pressure. I play music for the people that are there and there’s nothing that can really go wrong. If the needle skips or you have sound system issue then no worries, this stuff happens… I’m doing what I love, I’m playing my stuff, it’s all about riding the wave of enjoyment instead of the pressure one. You’re playing a great club, on a great console, you’re playing for 4 hours, you’re allowed to do whatever you want… And I was opening. There wasn’t anyone there at first so I got to start with ambient and downbeat then moved to house, electro and weird tribal stuff. You’re doing what you love doing so you can’t be afraid.

KALTBLUT: Do you think that becoming a Planet Mu artist is going to be one of those life changing things? Do you even want things to change?
Herva: I don’t think so. I like my current life. I want to continue doing my stuff. I am going to get a wider attention but I still like my music the same way, make it the same way as before, buy my records like before…. I’m just happy that Mike Paradinas found my music good enough to release. I’m proud of that.

Kila is out now on Planet Mu. Grab digital and physical copies over at Juno
herva-kila album