THE MONOGRAPH INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT RATHS
Erased Tapes Records was set up by ‘initiator’ Robert Raths in 2007. Boasting artists such as Rival Consoles, Codes In The Clouds and Ólafur Arnalds, the London-based label specialises in a genre of music that the Erased Tapes website describes as ‘cinematic pop music’. An up and coming and widely recognised label, Erased Tapes has a reputation for being innovative and forward thinking, and for taking great care of its artists. The Monograph caught up with creator Robert Raths to find out a little bit more about his musical background, his methods and his beliefs…
‘My Dad was really into soul singers, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin. And my Mum was more into bands, like The Shadows, Kinks, Beach Boys, Stones. But what I was really interested in was the records that were still sealed, unappreciated wedding gifts. The ones that my parents would describe as ‘too heavy or experimental’, like Pink Floyd, Miles Davis or Leonard Cohen. I think those kind of built the foundation of it all’ explains Raths when questioned about the roots of his interest in music.
Following on from the early musical education of his parents’ record collections, Raths soon came across more ‘challenging, deeper, multi-layered’ music acts. ‘Being a teenager in Germany, I really got into electronic music…and I quite quickly discovered other things like Björk, Tom Waits, Flaming Lips and a German band called The Notwist, who in my eyes formed the perfect cross-over between experimental and pop music. I think that’s where my real journey started in terms of contemporary music, and getting more and more into modern classical music at the same time, like Keith Jarrett, Arvo Pärt or Steve Reich.’
Raths’ journey towards founding his own record label took an unusual and unique route. His passion for painting, film and photography led him to a position at a German music television station as a set designer, before beginning to train as an architect, and finally setting up Erased Tapes in 2007. So was creating a label always the plan? ‘No…it’s a mystery to me, still. Obviously, I had a decent record collection, and I was always interested in music. I played the piano when I was younger, and in my teenage years I was in several rock bands.’ Following his stint as a set designer, his view of the music industry was less than savoury, ‘everything that I knew about the industry back then was just people on cocaine, people in a rush…not really caring about the actual, creative bit.’ After leaving the television station, Raths travelled America before going to London to study architecture, and it was only due to University bureaucracy leading to ‘a forced gap year’ that meant that Raths had some time on his hands in London to rediscover the musical and artistic creativity overlooked by colleagues in his previous job.
Discussing the foundation of Erased Tapes, Raths explains that ‘all my artists back then got in touch with me online as they saw that I was being creative and forward thinking in finding new currents for music and art, and I tried to help them get up on a platform. The whole record label part just came with it.’ Rather than playing just a business role in the record label, Raths continues to be creative, both in advice for his artists and in providing a title for his own position, ‘I don’t feel like a C.E.O or a director, or a label boss…they’re all tags that just don’t fit my purpose. The thing that I came up with was ’initiator’ simply because, initially I’m just the guy that has good ears, I guess. I hear something that moves me and inspires me, so I help that person to develop their gift and to move more people with it. I’m an initiator, the guy who makes the initial effort to promote their music.’
What approach does Erased Tapes take that perhaps differs to the treatment artists would receive from other labels? ‘I like to think of every artist as a friend, as a human being that I’m interested in as well, not just in a business sense, but as the man behind the creation. I don’t want to sign someone up to the label and then just see them as a product or a catalogue number or something.’ Raths goes on to explain how ‘it’s very important that you have people around you that, as much as they value your gift, also help you question things and to see things from a different angle.’ Every 10th release from Erased Tapes marks the time for a compilation of tracks from each of the artists to be showcased. ‘As much as every artist is unique and they should be a composer in their own right, it’s also very important to show that we’re a family, we’re a lot of different kinds of people, but we are under the umbrella of Erased Tapes.’
How do you go about finding artists for Erased Tapes? ‘I get approached every day, I get sent links and I do listen to all of them. I try and take my time, I usually flag them in my inbox and then eventually find the time when I’m travelling or something, to go through the tracks and have a listen.’ Although sometimes a monotonous task, Raths explains that he continues with this method as ‘there could be that one guy who sends a really unimpressive looking CD-R but what’s coming out of the speakers is magic’.
Raths seems to take a laid back approach to his signings, believing that ‘if someone out there is interested in finding the right people, I’m pretty sure they will. The best bits in life are just meant to be, you know, and just as Ólafur and Codes In The Clouds and the BEF and everyone else on the label ended up working with me, I believe others will also fall into place. Now I actually meet new artists through my existing artists, like I met Nils Frahm through Peter Broderick for example, and Nils is obviously a producer in Berlin, so he meets a lot of new artists. He’s introducing me to new people all the time.’
So what’s happening in the world of Erased Tapes at the moment? ‘I’m in the process of uploading a brand new release. It’s called ‘Unter | Über’ (Below | Above) by Nils Frahm. It’s a beautiful teaser of what’s to come next because we’re going to release a new full length album with him in the winter.’ The video for Unter can be seen HERE. ‘It feels like the end of a long summer, it’s something you can play over and over again, it gets me every time.’
Incredibly passionate about what he’s doing, and full of enthusiasm for what is to come, Robert Raths is a shining example of a modern day label ‘boss’. Nurturing, warm and open, he encourages the best from his artists and receives stunning music innovations in return. ‘That’s what I like about music, and that’s what I like about running a label, you can make people happy with it. All my life I’ve been looking for something that feels fulfilling, and this is it. This is what I ended up doing, and it doesn’t really matter how I got there. There are so many other things I could have done, I could have been a famous architect or a famous singer in an infamous band! But I ended up forming Erased Tapes and it’s something that means a lot to me, to my artists and to a lot of other people out there.’
From all of us here at The Monograph we would just like to say thanks to Erased Tapes for being so helping in working with us for Label of the Month. For more information on Erased Tapes and the work they do please visithttp://erasedtapes.co.uk