I just want to sign music that can make me feel something.
Incendiary are sat round the table with two of Erased Tapes leading lights, Ryan West, aka Rival Consoles and label boss Robert Raths. Both are interesting characters. West is a lively and eloquent lad who alternates his approach between thoughtful musing and needle-in the eye like observations whereas Robert hides his obvious steel and clear eyed determination behind a geeky, slightly hippy cloak.
Before we get going Mac, our technical honcho, passes over a miniature mic cover for my tape recorder…
RW: That (the mic cover) looks scary by the way.
IN: It does look rather odd doesn’t it? Like some miniature busby as worn by the British Brigade of Guards.
RW: Is this a royalist interview?
IN: I’m sure we could push it that way; we could talk about the kings and queens of England if you wish (giggles)…
… So last night, I was talking to Codes in the Clouds and we were discussing your gig and I said you came on like some feral child high off Coco Pops.
RW: (Laughs) I’ll take that… I’ll take that as a compliment…
IN: You were vicious and you “attacked” the gig…
RW: Yeah I know. It’s usually how I operate, it does depend how many drinks I’ve had but, usually if it’s right, it’s right and I just get into it. Because the music’s quite bold and you get in there straight away.
IN: Being a man of mature years…
RW: You? Mature? No… (laughs)
IN: …your music has certain nostalgia for me, 1985 does sounds like 1985… that whole monolithic attack, that whole record had a big vision. Fair point?
RW: Hang on, is this, before I go any further is this IO you’re talking about? And not KidVelo?
IN: IO, I haven’t heard KidVelo as of yet…
RW: It’s quite stripped down in a way, there’s a richness but it’s like a lot of nineties and eighties electronic music in that there’s a really defined synth noise and there’s lots of hooks you go through… but it’s just that so many people do that I wanted to do a record where it wasn’t just a hook for five minutes. You know when you go to a lot of clubs and you hear a lot of electronic music where it’s just very, very subtle changes. I wanted clear changes to say “this is a progression and this is a progression”…
IN: I thought it was very interesting in the way your music is put together. You’re not scared of breaking your music down and you’re not scared of inspecting a minute part of the music, and to focus on it and then come out of it which I find refreshing. Dance seemingly has to fulfil a purpose. But you just allow things to happen through your approach, you allow silences…
RW: There are two sides to Rival Consoles I guess, there’s a side that is more dance functionality but there’s another experimental side.
RR: For me those are always the two elements battling and both are important. I find it a lot more interesting if you can do both at the same time, you know keep people waiting and have a moment when you think “how long can he keep this up for” because like you said, eventually it will come back. It’s like a club, a real club where you go outside for a bit and dance or have a fight with your girlfriend… because that’s life.
IN: Interesting point. The way clubs are presented as ideal places for fun, when they’re not… it’s something like from Goebbels isn’t it? You will go in here and you will have fun. Clubs can be desperate places or fabulous places…
IN: And they are not always noisy sometimes you can go into a very quiet, private world on a club. Club culture is depressing.
RW: I think it’s because some people have dome it amazingly and then people go “wow” but inevitably it becomes diluted because there have been so many imitations… Like Minimal House, because of poor imitations it gets a bad name. And then there are so many club nights in the world…
RR: It has to fulfil a purpose… it’s kind of like an agreement the promoter has with the deejay... you have to keep the audience going and that’s really sad actually.
IN: It’s like being a battery chicken in a way…
…Last night though, (the Erased Tapes night in the Spiegel Tent), was great because it was a whole experience, you had the chin-stroking element, you had a lads element and some people necking in the background, and that was great because there was a space created that allowed people to do what they wanted. And yet clubbing now has such a dickhead image…
RW: I definitely try to distance myself from the sort of… we are all aware of this type of electronic music that is just a kick drum and not anything else interesting, so I try and make it more for the brain. In a way it’s got references to classical music because there’s a constant development through each track, especially on the new album I see there’s a huge development there, so yeah I want to distance myself from a monotonous set of sounds…
…But there are people out there who will present something that at first glance you think is monotonous but actually is amazing, but it’s hard to seek them out amongst the people who have given minimalist music a bad name.
IN: I think you can say that about a lot of music full stop now.
RW: A flooded market.
IN: Yep, and there’s no filter. You know I am no journalist, and don’t set myself up as the best thing at all but I see there are so many hobby journalists, it’s easy because of the net, and they fall into the trap of following a pack leader. And so much criticism is based on Chinese whispers, this awful critical mass thing.
…I suppose this leads me on to the label because that’s one thing Erased Tapes isn’t about, critical mass… It’s very nice and - I say this in the nicest way, Robert - it’s very odd.
…I was saying to Codes in the Clouds that the aesthetic is like Factory, very simple and confident and integral to the artists. And you have a broad base to the kind of acts you sign, all under this very simple, all encompassing, maybe naïve banner.
RR: I think…. Hmmm… I mean the most beautiful thing about it all is that I don’t try and think too much and that’s all I can see in all these young people making music, you know there will be always be someone who will put them on a pedestal and say this is genius. And then there will always be someone who says why is Rival Consoles on the same label as new classical geniuses.
…You know, there are so many people thinking about it and I kind of… you know when I started I wasn’t really meant to think about it (laughs) and that’s why I think I can relate to Factory or early Island because I just want to sign music that can make me feel something. There’s something they all have in common, they’re not sticking to a certain template you know? They just do what they feel. If Ólafur (Arnalds) really wanted to make it big in the classical world he would have finished his studies, he would have tried to work with orchestras from really early on. But he did the opposite he said “okay I could continue this path but there are certain things I don’t like about it”. So he rebelled against it and he didn’t finish his studies and tried to make music people of his age would actually appreciate, incorporating electronic elements… I mean he used to drum in a hard core band. And that’s actually something… why would he not want to… I actually would feel bad as a label if we allowed him to hide that. I don’t want him to feel he has to hide his past because that’s a part of him.
…There are labels out there that people associate us with and they say, “you are very much in the vein of…” and then I’m like “actually, no!” these other labels only take on their own particular kind of stuff and these artists that are on these labels are actually in competition with each other. For sure they can start off working with each other and liking each other but they are in competition for the same market. On Erased Tapes we allow that diversity as artists to constantly inspire each other, and that’s why the artists on Erased Tapes always…
IN: Dance at each other’s gigs?
RR: Exactly! How happy did they look last night? And they all agree actually Ryan killed it that night!
IN: It was like a Christian Union meeting with the youngsters drunk on cheap cider… There was an innocence that was enlivening last night. If we talk about great labels you can also look to Postcard for that spirit. Okay it all goes to shit, don’t laugh Ryan, but these things are beautiful really. I’m bored of all the glum thickos in music, who are in it to get a pension. I mean we all want to get a pension but not at 30+ and it shouldn’t stop you trying to do something special I see all these bands and I think about the labels a I think, “you are only signing them to makes someone else’s record for your label”, it’s such a bad thing…
RR: It’s an unnecessary pressure as well.
IN: Ryan do you feel pressured on Robert’s label?
RW: Yes… but, what I’ve noticed is that something has to be much bolder, but you have something to stand out and make a point, but I don’t want it to make a point just for the sake of that, so it’s hard to just “stand out” in a diluted market unless it’s good music.
IN: Look at Wild Beasts. They know how good they are and how individual they are, two contraltos singing in a band from Cumbria... imagine they are doing something with their talents rather with what they are supposed to do in the market…
…this idea of promoting content, in terms of a label, you exist in a world – the Erased Tapes world - where none of you seems to give a fuck.
RR: That’s the thing actually.
RW: Because, erm, we’re so focused… normally you could have a mentality where you could spend 50% on the art and 50% on the networking whereas on the label… it seems almost absurd… the focus is on the art and the promoting it is an afterthought, really. It sounds negative in away but it isn’t because you start with building something you feel strong about. What can we do with this? How far can we take this?
IN: Ah the classic cliché; “How far can we take this?” To the skip and back again. And if I hear that “pushing content “mantra I’ll piss in someone’s mouth…
(Robert starts giggling)
… Having said that your content is beautifully packaged. I admit I get Erased Tapes records out and put them in squares, they look so nice.
RW: Well, that’s this man…
RR: There’s a few I’ve not done when I had a friend involved as a graphic designer.
RW: Everyone’s involved on this, we send stuff off all the time, and it’s like a family.
RR: Sometimes it’s really funny how things pan out; with Ryan’s latest release I was working on some amazingly tacky 3d cinema idea ‘cos I really wanted to impress Ryan ‘cos he really knows about all these software things so I was working on this software that I’ve been using for my architectural studies and then one day I just ended up on Boomkat… as we all do… and there was this list of top downloads and they all had these techie covers, they all look the same. And I was like; actually it’s not what I want I wanted the opposite. I wanted to show that Ryan’s a person and all this cold electronic music has to have this entire techie image. And within a second I thought, no, I want him to be on the front, that it’s actually this kid, you know he is from Leicester and there’s nothing more to it.
IN: The feral child (laughs)
RW: (Leicester accent thickening somewhat) Hey come on!
RR: And it was funny because I was looking through all these old press shots and there was this one picture and it doesn’t look like him and I thought, perfect, you know? (Laughs). It’s an arts version of him.
IN: That’s fun! Very much like BSP sending on the Patrick Mooreheads at Glastonbury (Read Do It for Your Mum By Roy Wilkinson, pop pickers)
RW: That’s ballsy! You know, I’ve suggested that to my girlfriend, I’ve said, why don’t you go on stage and do it, I’ll write you out a list of things to do and then I can just watch.
RR: Get some instructions! (Robert starts to get excited)
IN: So the record is out now?
RW: This is it: (hands me a flyer)
IN: You look like a ski instructor
RW: Blame him! Anyway it’s far more ambitious than IO, it’s IO magnified! It’s more symphonic.
RR: It gets me into a certain mood when I’m driving; this one is very much alive!
Erasedtapes.com/kidvelo, released track by track, week after week