Robert Raths, founder of Erased Tapes, is a gentleman. A few nights ago, I was sitting across from him at a restaurant in London, eating pasta and drinking wine, while he told the table beautiful stories about artists who are obsessed with coffee and long bumpy bus rides across Europe. And I was feeling really lucky, not only because we were drinking good wine, but because Robert’s the type of guy who inspires you to cultivate your passion and follow through on what makes you want to wake up each morning.
Robert’s got one of the best ears in the industry. Since 2007, he’s built a label specializing in a niche genre of music so beautiful it’ll make you want to cry. He’s constructed a home previously unavailable for innovative and imaginative ambient musicians, now a goofy little family boasting artists such as Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm. Back in the day, this sort of music didn’t really seem to have a place in the scene. Now, with Erased Tapes, they’re touring the world. Together, his label is crossing boundaries between the traditional and the contemporary, constructing a constant dialogue between what they neatly describe as the opposite poles of digital and analogue.
I sat down with Robert to ask our traditional three Do-Tell questions right before the second to last show of his label’s 5th year anniversary tour. We talked about what it’s like to work your love in an industry that’s always on the move…
So, what inspires you?
Life. I mean, since you’re only asking three questions I should probably say more, no? [Laughs] I guess just waking up and having 24 hours to spend is enough inspiration. I just think life is great. It’s a gift.
What’s keeping you busy lately?
Lately? Well, I’m on tour so looking after 14 artists on a sleeper bus with my copilot Sofia. Making sure that everyone is in the right place before the show, during the show, and after the show. And things like eating dinner with new friends. You know, I like meeting as many people as possible that we’ve previously only met by e-mail. I like to combine things when I’m on tour. So I wouldn’t just go to meet [“the press” or the audience] – I go on tour to meet people who inspire me, people who inspire us as a label back. Plus, it’s cost effective for me to go on tour like this because then the artists don’t have to pay for a merch guy…
What are you excited about?
Excited about? Whew. The next 5 years!
I’m excited about spending more time in America actually. About waking up in my own bed again after tour. I’m excited about going to Istanbul, the next stop on our tour. I’ve never been there and it’s the climax of the adventure. We thought London would be a great way to end it, but Istanbul is even greater. London’s our home, so we’re proud to be at Hackney Empire tonight, but I think it’s even more awesome to see how far music can travel. From London to Prague to Istanbul…
Bonus question since I’m looking at your tattoo. It says “live or die but for the band” – what’s that mean to you?
Back when I founded Erased Tapes, it was a time when I made music for myself. But the meaning is universal. To me, as long as there’s a reason to wake up in the morning – and you share that reason with people close to you – then I think life is better than when you’re by yourself. So it doesn’t matter if you live or die, as long as you do it for you and the people around you. In that point in time it was the band, but now it’s the label. But now it also applies to my family, you know, my gang. [Smiles]
You can find out more about Robert and his label on the Erased Tapes website. Below you can watch a short video documenting their 5th year anniversary.
* First photo via The Monograph