to GIUSEPPE VERTICCHIO/NIMH, by Gianmarco Del Re.
Translation from Italian to English by Gianmarco Del Re.
Published on Fluid Radio (Postcards from Italy), March 2013.
Giuseppe Verticchio lives and works in Rome. He began playing
electronic music in 1994 and adopted the moniker Nimh in 2001.
Over the years, he has released many albums of different nature
containing elements of experimental music, ambient, dark-ambient,
industrial, electronic, isolationism, and ritual-ethnic music
on labels such as Silentes, Malignant, Eibon, Rage in Eden, Amplexus,
You are one of those rare musicians who takes an active interest
in other people’s work, having started the website Oltre
il Suono back in 2001 in order to review and give visibility to
the Italian experimental music scene. You must’ve made many
friends and a few enemies over the years?
A lot of friends I would say. Over time there have also been a
few less successful encounters, but all in all, it’s been
a great occasion to meet like-minded people. There were a bunch
of us from Rome who all met through Gianluigi Gasparetti’s
magazine Deep Listenings, while I was taking my first steps within
electronic and experimental music by producing CD-Rs and we were
looking for a way to promote our work. I remember that back then,
just to be able to upload or to hear small excerpts in real audio
on the net was a great achievement, as MP3s didn’t really
exist. Being a computer programmer by trade, I started Oltre il
Suono with no real ambition other than to promote not just my
own work, but also my friends’ releases. I used to meet
other musicians in a natural way, as friends of friends or sometimes
I would personally get in touch with artists whose work I admired.
In a sense, Oltre il Suono functioned as a sort of proto-mySpace
where every single artist had a page, with photographs and real
audio excerpts. The only difference being that with mySpace artists
maintain their own pages, whereas with Oltre il Suono that responsibility
rested with me. In the space of a couple of years the project
took off and several musicians started getting in touch with me
directly, which forced me to redesign the website as I no longer
had time to update everybody’s pages. With the advent of
mySpace this was no longer necessary and my website reverted to
carefully selected reviews.
I get the impression that you were interested mainly in self produced
music, is that so?
We are talking about a very small scene, with only a handful of
labels active back then, such as Stefano Gentile’s Amplexus
and Stefano Musso’s Hic Sunt Leones amongst others. Oltre
il Suono was a way to promote music with little visibility at
a time when Internet was still in infancy. Initially I was concentrating
on CD-Rs and self produced albums, but since it became clear that
the life span of CD-Rs, and especially new generation ones, was
somehow limited I started focussing on CDs. I have always been
interested in well produced music, though, with good artwork and
good overall packaging. Unfortunately, there were many people
who were actually doing things in a haphazard way releasing low
What is the future now that MySpace has virtually died?
Personally, I still have my own mySpace page. I am not too keen
on Soundcloud, I find it a bit sterile and Spartan, and I am not
too interested in Bandcamp either. I make music out of passion,
I am not into it to make money and, even though I do have a limited
number of copies of my albums for sale on my personal website,
I am not looking at selling my work directly as with Bandcamp.
My aim is still to release music and get some feedback from listeners.
GIANMARCO: In your
interviews, talking about your working method, you frequently
stress that you always strive to make something new.
I have never been interested in making the same album over and
over again. There are a number of artists who might’ve started
as interesting only to end up repeating themselves, producing
the same sounds, with the same musical approach, and the same
method, and after a while I begin to find them a tad tedious.
I don’t like clichés. I hope that different musical
influences can be heard in my own music, both within a single
album and from album to album. I try to develop something new
each time I record an album, but nothing is ever pre-planned.
I might bring back a particular instrument from one of my foreign
travels and then start experimenting with it and for a while that
might become my main focus. Another input to try something new
could be a new software or even just a plug-in. Collaborations
are also fertile ground to experiment.
Do you ever start working on an album only to realise halfway
through that you are covering the same ground you have covered
before and therefore chuck it all in and start again from scratch?
No. I work in an instinctive way but I don’t feel compelled
to make something new just for the sake of it. Also, when I say
I instinctively search for new paths, that is not to say that
everything I do is intrinsically original. What is important to
me, is that every time I set about working on a new album, I don’t
fall back into some repetitive pattern. If you put all the 20-25
albums I released so far, solo or in collaboration, next to each
other, you will notice that aside from a few analogies in my working
methods I have always strived for some kind of development. Some
albums are more ethnic, others more dark-ambient, while others
I am quite intrigued by the ethnic side of your work. Could you
mention some ethnic instruments you have discovered and utilised
in your albums?
The first ethnic instrument I picked up one was the didgeridoo,
back in ’97 at a time when it was very difficult to find
one in Rome or in Italy for that matter. I liked Steve Roach where
he played the didgeridoo like the double album Dreamtime Return.
Aside from that, I have played mostly Thai instruments as I have
a brother who lives in Thailand, which has enabled me to travel
extensively throughout the country. If I had to mention a few
I would pick the Khaen, a Thai mouth organ, the Tzeebu a 3 string
Thai banjo, the Soong, a 4 string Thai guitar and the Pin Pia
a chest resonated stick zither with two to five strings, originating
from the north of Thailand and which is actually very hard to
find. I even wrote an article on Sandzine about it. It is quite
complicated to play and produces a wah-wah effect
You are mostly self-taught, how do you get the hang of these instruments?
Some are more difficult than other to play. For instance, I couldn’t
work out the Tibetan trumpet, which I have at home and is very
nice but I still haven’t been able to play it. Generally
speaking, though, while not a virtuoso, I have been able to play
most instruments reasonably well enough to be able to produce
some loops or even more articulated melodies.
Do you have a classical training background?
No. When I was a child, though, my mother used to get me toy instruments
to play with. From then on, I picked up the guitar, which most
of my peers seemed to be strumming in some way or the other back
then. Little by little, I have been able to work out a few chord
and wind instruments.
How important is it for you that these instruments are recognisable
as such in your music and for the sounds to be, generally speaking,
of organic nature?
Many consider experimental and electronic music to be something
produced by synthesis with a computer. One can fiddle around with
filters and stuff, but personally speaking, while I am happy to
work with electronic instruments and keyboards, as well as traditional
instruments, such as guitars, what I try to do is always to uncover
new sounds which, to me, should have an organic origin. This,
for instance, is what happens with field recordings, which I take
with my Tascam DR-05 and I then process digitally.
GIANMARCO: Tell me something more about your field recordings.
Many of the sounds that I incorporated in my first “Thai
albums” were actually audio excerpts from video recordings
I took with an old Sony Video 8 videocamera. The quality was quite
low, but by digitally processing the sound I could eventually
extract something I was happy to work with.
Generally speaking, even if field recordings are an integral part
of my music, they are never the primary subject. When minidiscs
came out about 15 years ago, there was a proliferation of field
recordings with people recording everything and anything. It became
a trend. That is something that happens time and again, just as
it happened when synthesisers first became affordable, with an
explosion of electronic music made with synthesisers. It really
depends on the technological developments of a specific time and
place. As for myself, I never focus on anything in particular,
in the sense that when something new comes out, I may be interested
in it and I might use in my music, but it never becomes the focus.
I try to keep the overall structure of the music in mind.
Would you consider field recordings as simply adding texture to
your music, or do they have a narrative function?
It could be both. I can use the sound of rain, for instance, or
that of an escalator in the underground, to add a certain percussive
quality to a particular track, which might however be sustained
by different and quite specific subject matter. In my more ethnic
albums, field recordings are used to locate the sounds in a different
geographical context. In the album Missing Tapes, for instance,
field recordings can be kept in background or come to the fore
depending on the specific track.
Do you ever use any Italian ethnic instruments?
I don’t believe we have that many we could call ethnic.
There’s the Sardinian reed instrument launeddas, which is
difficult to find and to maintain. Other than that, we have the
mandolin and similar instruments, but very often, people confuse
ethnic with traditional and popular music, which is something
I am not personally too keen on.
When it comes to ethnic instruments, how important is it to you
that the original sound retains a certain element of recognisability
while processing them?
I don’t have set rules. Travel Diary for instance is entirely
constructed from organic sounds. No synthesisers, not even an
electric guitar. It consists purely of traditional Thai instruments,
which are nonetheless digitally processed. It really depends on
the circumstance. I can heavily process the sound of a Thai oboe,
for instance, and treat it with all sorts of effects in order
to achieve a particular drone, while at other times I can use
the same sound by adding just a simple reverb to it and use it
as melody and subject matter for the same track. In The Missing
Tapes, on the other hand, ethnic instruments are mixed with purely
I read in a recent interview that you are more interested in sounds
and timbre rather than melody and rhythm. Could you elaborate
I like to create a sense of melody out of heavily processed and
richly layered sounds. There is something more personal in someone
finding a melodic quality in a carefully nuanced drone, rather
than something specifically designed to elicit a specific response
on an emotional level. There’s a different kind of empathy
at play, which runs deeper.
GIANMARCO: I am
not an expert in computer programmes, could you give me an idea
of the ones you use?
I use a simple setup as I don’t like to have too many programs
open. I need to have everything at hand, and if I have to wreck
my brain trying to unravel the thousand functions of a software
and the multitude of links to the instruments I loose the spontaneity
of making music.
The program I mostly use is WaveLab, which I started using when
it was just a mere digital audio editor.
No Max Msp then?
No, just WaveLab, and sometimes FruityLoops, a digital audio workstation.
In the past I also used ReBirth, which emulates two Roland TB-303
synthesizers, a Roland TR-808 and a Roland TR-909 drum machine
all at once, on albums such as Frozen, released on Afe, and Line
of Fire, out on Silentes, but that was a long time ago.
Do you prefer low frequencies?
Not really, I like a warm and well balanced sound. The most crucial
aspect for me is the quality of sound with a good dynamic range.
In terms of effects, is it mostly delays and reverbs?
At present I use a Boss multi-effects pedal with delays, reverbs,
distortions, and chorus which I use for specific purposes when
I have a clear idea of the kind of sound I want to achieve. For
my next album I have used an electric guitar by distorting the
sound while I play. Often, though, I like to record clear sounds
and process them at a later stage with my PC.
You also do mastering work. Within this particular musical genre,
in Italy, the only other name I can think of is that of Giuseppe
I would add that of Andrea Marutti, who also does vinyl mastering,
which is something quite different and specific.
What is your particular strength in terms of mastering?
I wouldn’t be able to say. This is a niche market and we
all know each other. Generally speaking, people who came to me
have either heard my albums, or liked the work I’ve done
for Stefano Gentile’s label Silentes.
What are the most important qualities one needs to have in order
to deliver a good mastering job?
First of all, one needs to have a certain knowledge of the specific
musical genre one is working with and a certain sensibility in
order to respect the sound of a particular album and to determine
exactly where, when and how to intervene without prevaricating
on the original intentions of the musician. The other fundamental
requirement is to have a good stereo. Often, people master albums
on small speakers and with a small woofer. I always rely on my
tried and tested hi-fi stereo, which I’ve had for 25 years
now. That is what I use to do music and listen to it.
Do you work with headphones on?
No, I hate headphones… Well, they are handy in order not
to disturb the neighbours and they are crucial when listening
to a mastering job but in terms of making music, headphones always
make music sound so much better and can give a false impression.
The separation of sound on headphones between left and right channels
makes for a totally different listening experience, and to judge
the real sound propagation of an album I only ever trust my stereo
system because I know it and my ear is attuned to it.
To give you an example, when I record an album with Andrea Marutti
we tend to seclude ourselves in a small house I have in the Abruzzo
region. We both take so much gear, that I couldn’t take
my stereo with me as well. This means that once I get back to
Rome, I normally end up having to spend more time mastering the
album that it actually took to record it. This might be an exaggeration,
but sometimes I do find missing frequencies, which means I have
to add new layers of sounds.
would you say to those who recommend listening to their music
If an album has been made specifically to be listened to with
headphones on, that is what one should do. Also, it is true that
it is more economical to invest in a good set of headphones rather
than a first class stereo.
You don’t listen to music on your laptop then?
My computer is connected to my stereo.
In your interviews you often stress that music should have an
emotional impact for you.
That is crucial to me and I say this in a critical way towards
a lot of experimental music that very often is just a collection
of field recording or technically proficient digital sounds, which
leaves me rather cold. Experimentation for experimentation sake
doesn’t go very far in my opinion. I would like my music
to have the same emotional impact of pop music.
Do you believe that there needs to be an organic element in the
music for it to have an emotional impact?
Generally speaking, yes. I can’t think of a single album
in the past five years, produced in a purely digital way that
has moved me on an emotional level. I find works that combine
acoustic and digital to be more interesting and to have more of
an impact. Also, I believe that music should be pleasing on the
ear, that is not to say that it has to be easy, but if one is
predisposed to certain atmospheres, one can appreciate difficult
music as well.
Let’s talk about your collaborations now. You have already
mentioned Andrea Marutti who seems to be one of your most regular
Every two or three years we produce an album together either as
Amon / Nimh or under the moniker Hall of Mirrors. He is a great
musician and a great guy. The albums we have released together
are quite different to each other as we always try to add new
or different elements. The music itself could be seen as dark
Another more recent collaboration I have initiated is with the
French musician Philippe Blache who records under the moniker
Day Before Us and plays piano and organ, amongst other things.
He got in touch with me a few years ago, as he reviewed some of
my albums. This lead to a personal meeting here in Rome and to
our first joint work, Under Mournful Horizons, which came out
last October on the Polish label Rage In Eden. I am very happy
with it. I have also just finished mastering Philippe’s
most recent solo album, which will also be released by Rage In
Another recent collaboration is with Davide Del Col with whom
I’ve made an album, which should come out at some point
in March also on the Rage In Eden label.
There’s also been Pierpaolo Zoppo, aka Mauthausen Orchestra,
who sadly passed away last June. Even though we never physically
met, we spoke very often over the phone and I considered him a
dear friend of mine. I regret not having been able to record a
follow up album with him.
I also need to mention Maurizio Bianchi, the father of Italian
power electronics and industrial music, with whom I released a
four CD boxset.
Aube did a rework version of my album Missing Tapes, and I also
collaborated with Nefelheim, who is actually my cousin, and with
Amir Baghiri on an old album rereleased by Silentes in 2005.
How did you collaboration with Maurizio Bianchi come about?
We met through Andrea Marutti as we both had albums out on his
label Afe Records. At the time I didn’t know Maurizio’s
work that well, even though he was very well known. He gave me
a tape of pre-recorded material to work with and complete freedom.
The outcome was the album Secluded Truths which came out back
in 2005 as Nimh + MB. It was the first time that Maurizio had
collaborated with another Italian artist. Stefano Gentile then
suggested a split album, which became Together Symphony, which
is the title we also used for the box set. With the split album
I put together his tracks and mine and did the mastering for it.
would you say is Maurizio Bianchi’s strength?
Maurizio works in a rather “rudimentary” way. He doesn’t
even use a computer, or at least he didn’t use one back
in 2005. He has a piano, but uses mostly tape loops with which
he creates a layered sound which might not be technically very
sophisticated but has a deep emotional impact. In Escape to Bela
Zoar, for instance, there’s a very simple 10-15 minute long
drone track which is made out of a sample of what seems like a
cello, which gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it. His
sound has an organic quality to it and is never aggressive.
Which are the most interesting Italian artists in your opinion?
I am not saying this because they are friends of mine, but all
of the people I have collaborated with I have done so because
I really rated their work in the first place, so I would mention
Andrea Marutti, Pierpaolo Zoppo, Maurizio Bianchi, Davide Del
Col, amongst others, as well as Gabriele Panci, even though he
has been repeating himself as of lately. More recently, I would
say Pietro Riparballi who contributed to Altered Nights, the album
I did as Hall Of Mirrors with Andrea Marutti.
Speaking of Pietro Riparbelli, could you give me an idea of the
working process on Altered Nights?
Together with a number of other artists including Andrea Ferraris,
Andrea Freschi, New Risen Throne, and Vestigial, Pietro gave us
some material to work with, that could go from 10 seconds snippets
to 10 minute improvisations. Andrea and I created the structure
of the album and then added some of this material, adding some
distortion or reverb or sometimes sampling some of it as with
Vestigial’s contribution, which Andrea sampled with an Akai
sampler and replayed with a Roland. We tend to work instinctively
without thinking about it too much.
Any labels you’d like to recommend?
I am obviously biased, but Stefano Gentile’s Silentes is
a very good label, even if I haven’t liked every single
release he has put out. Still, Stefano has been capable of reinventing
himself moving from his previous label Amplexus to Silentes while
retaining a very open-minded approach. He listens to everything
without prejudice and has always supported me even in my more
radical change of direction. Another label I rate is Boring Machines.
Is there anyone here in Rome you would like to mention?
I can only think of Claudio Ricciardi who was in the ensemble
Prima Materia together with Roberto Laneri.