Founder Robert Raths and label artists Peter Broderick, Ólafur Arnalds and Rival Consoles look back on 10 years of a delicate DIY family
Robert Raths meets me at the front door of the Sound Gallery smiling like a proud homeowner. After a flurry of handshakes he shows me around Erased Tapes’ new East London home, eagerly pointing out where he’s moved a beam, remodelled a wall or altered a floor. An ex-children’s bookshop on Victoria Park Road, the gallery is yet another way his label is reshaping what it is to be a modern record company. A remote label until now (with something of a base in an industrial unit in Fulham), their new premises will provide valuable offices and a custom-made space for events, performances and workshops. “In a way, it’s an extension of the label’s principles,” Raths tells me as our tour reaches the newly renovated open-plan boardroom. “For the first time, we can show people what we’re about spiritually and politically as well as musically.”
There aren’t many record labels that can claim to have defined a whole genre, but, founded by the German-born Raths in 2007, Erased Tapes has been nurturing and shaping avant-garde music for a decade now. Home to the likes of Douglas Dare, Nils Frahm and Masayoshi Fujita, among others, the label’s artists might explore the worlds of post rock, ambient electronica and modern classical composition, but they all orbit around a shared love of hypnotic melodies and sonic innovation. It’s this, combined with the sheer level of care and attention that they pour into every release, that has won Erased Tapes a cult-like following among a certain section of music fans. From Berlin to Los Angeles, there’s an army of people readily hoovering up any LP, film or artwork that is stamped with the label’s understated mountain peak logo.
2017 marks Erased Tapes’ tenth anniversary, and, unsurprisingly, it’s shaping up to be a banner year. In addition to their new home, there are also two celebratory shows at the Royal Festival Hall and Village Underground this September. The largest shows the team have ever done, these will see almost all of the label’s current roster performing in one way or another. So, on the eve of this massive milestone, think of this oral history as a whistle-stop tour of the last ten years, from Erased Tapes’ first EP with Rival Consoles, through the construction of a genre-defining roster of ambient and avant-garde musicians, to their recent move to East London. Over the past month, I’ve spoken with Raths, and label artists Peter Broderick, Ólafur Arnalds and Ryan West aka Rival Consoles.
Part 1. 2007; a beginning
Robert Raths: You could say that the roots of Erased Tapes lie in Myspace. As cheesy as it sounds, that website really brought a generation of people together.
Peter Broderick: Erased Tapes started at a time when music was shifting a lot in the digital age. Rather than stick with the old model of how record labels should operate, Robert has been able to carve his own path.
Robert Raths: I moved to London in 2004 from Germany to study architecture, particularly the design of acoustic spaces. I’m drawn to the idea of creating buildings that bring people together.
Ólafur Arnalds: One thing that has always struck me about Erased Tapes is that they don’t sign an artist unless they’re friends with them. They’ve always liked to keep things close to their hearts in that way.
Robert Raths: I just love the idea of exploring sound. Before starting the label, I used to share my own music on Myspace but I was never really all that happy with the results. One day it just dawned on me that maybe I’m better at figuring out what people need to do and maybe I should help other artists to blossom. That’s how I sort of ended up working with Ryan.
Ryan West aka Rival Consoles: I’d been making music for a while and I was looking for a label to release it. God knows why; I wasn’t ready at all…
Robert Raths: It was a little bit out of the blue. Ryan just sent me a message on Myspace. It said something like, “hey, I came across your page and it looks really interesting. Even though I have no idea what you are all about, here’s some of my stuff – it’ll sell like hotcakes.” The four tracks he sent me became the ‘Vermeer EP’, the first record we ever did.