Just a matter of time
An interview with Robert Raths, founder of Erased Tapes. Visit music is okay to read the German version.
Robert Raths originally came to London for architectural studies, but he stayed for music. Three years ago he founded the label Erased Tapes and proves in a quite impressive way that “the best things in life happen naturally.”
You gave up your own musical project to set up Erased Tapes. What was the reason you’ve changed your mind?
Erased Tapes: First I wanted to express myself musically. When I tried to transfer the music into a live show, I had to accept that it wasn’t working. It was hard trying to explain my musical concepts to other musicians. They usually gave me the questioning look. But for me it was always about creating something new and different, I never wanted to sound like anybody else.
I think the point is, my music was packed with ideas and sounds which needed more space to develop themselves. The bottom line is, I came across all these musical elements I wanted to combine, which are now individual artists on the label. I started to focus more on other artists’ work than my own, rather being the observer than the creator, and that was a very fruitful development. For me it’s all about supporting my artists on every level and being constructive as a part of the creative process.
Talking about support, what do you think is the task for a good label?
Erased Tapes: I think it’s really important to have someone who can say ‘no’ from time to time. Artists are often surrounded by people telling them how awesome and excellent everything is. But musicians need constructive criticism – call it quality control. Obviously it means you have to argue and deal with different opinions, but I think you need this kind of energy to achieve the best result. I want to create something interesting that attracts people’s attention. At best it inspires them to create something their own.
How does it affect the individual work with your artists?
Erased Tapes: The work with my artists is very versatile. Often I’m involved in the mastering, recordings, arrangements, co-production, part of the conceptual process or create the visual counterpart to the music in form of cover art or video scripts. When I first listened to Ólafur’s debut tracks, there was no doubt that it’s perfect the way it is. Even though there was no need getting involved in the creative process, there were lots of other things we had to deal with. For instance the fact that he was almost unknown and never toured England before. I was also able to help with marketing and networking, finding him booking agents and so on.
Later with his first EP, he had no ideas for song titles. I suggested to take the most important line from each of his computer-spoken poems and translate them into Icelandic to use them as the titles. It was a real simple idea really, but sometimes you don’t see the forest for the trees. I’m always there for them to get some advise. It’s all about exchanging ideas and being able to brainstorm with others.
How do you decide which artists go with the label?
Erased Tapes: For me it’s essential that their music is something I can imagine being timeless. I am interested in artists that put their heart and soul into their work, rather than making music to please others. Only a timeless record can be astonishing over and over again. It surely sets the bar quite high and often makes the decision whether to sign an artist very difficult. Or in case of Nils Frahm it makes it a very simple one too. I knew right away, that he had to be one of us.
All artists on Erased Tapes are connected through the timelessness of their music, but spread throughout a varied range of genres. What does “Cinematic Pop” stand for?
Erased Tapes: Cinematic describes the effect on your imagination when you listen to our music. I want us to leave enough space between the lines to let people’s imagination run free. Pop forms the contrast to show that our music is not just niche music and should not be seen as such. As a representative of my artists I don’t want to tell someone like Ólafur that his music is “niche”. I mean, you would never ever say that to your kids, would you? “You’re kind of niche.” Nobody wants to hear that. Literally, Erased Tapes could be described as a crossover from extremes such as techno or classical music to pop. What I like about the word pop the most, is its universal meaning – it knows no boundaries. So if people feel the need to pigeonhole our music, I prefer our box to be open.
The discussion about the music industry’s future and the loss in value of music continues. How do you deal with the development?
Erased Tapes: It was clear from the start that we are in a sector where a lot is happening and all future prospects are mainly described as bad. But I believe that what Erased Tapes stands for will always have a certain value for people. People who are into our music and let it be part of their lives won’t just take it for granted. And it’s up to them to decide what it’s worth. Wether they buy the record, a band t-shirt or a concert ticket, we can’t ignore the fact that it’s not only about selling stuff. There are many other things playing a major role as well.
How important is the timelessness of the music on the label?
Erased Tapes: Due to the fact that our music is timeless we’re not in a hurry and essentially give ourselves more time. Erased Tapes is about substance. If something has substance and sustainability people are willing to invest in it. People want to discover music themselves. I don’t believe in Zeitgeist or in supporting music by ramming it down people’s throats. Things need to happen at a natural speed and sometimes it takes a little bit longer.
And how long will you keep up then?
Erased Tapes: Creating something I’m proud of is pretty important for me. I always wanted to come into my own, be passionate and find what I’m here for, which seems to have worked out very well the last three years. Lots of good things have happened, I never dared to dream of. I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but that’s what keeps it so exciting for me.
At the end of music all happiness will be erased. What does this sentence mean to you?
Erased Tapes: A human being can’t exist without music. It’s not all about what we are creating. The universe has a sound and if this sound would disappear, it would be unthinkably quiet and sad.
Check out the Erased Tapes myspace site for the latest dates.
And you can see Olafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm & Peter Broderick on 7th and 8th May at the Friction Festival in Berlin.
Erased Tapes Collection II available for FREE exploration using the following download code: MY-FREE-ERATP020