The First Criteria _ Interview With Reaktivate Records / RKT
Strength in numbers and diversity.
RKT are a really great bunch of guys. Very passionate, honest and funny. I guess that’s why we all get on so well with each other. Their label is doing well, with strong releases and good support. They’ll continue to grow because of their ‘don’t give a fuck’ DIY attitude, which they are combining with a positive approach and confident imagination, which is getting more and more evident with each release. The ambition they have is not driven by ego, but by the desire for change. This is influenced as much by the place where they live; Portugal, as the wider Techno ‘scene’ that surrounds them.
In the interview, we chat to Gustavo, Nuno, Ivo and Pedro about the beginnings of the label and the recent streamlining of their gameplan. Afterwards, we talk about their music, Portugal, Techno nights and making the move to vinyl. You’ll get a good sense of what makes them tick during this interview. They’re genuine and loyal people.. which is also plain to see in subsekt 040, as over half of it is unreleased material.
Enjoy the mix and enjoy the read. Please don’t expect a proper ending to this one as the story has just begun.
Hey Guys, we’ve been friends for a good while now and your label is really gathering momentum, so it’s exciting to watch it all come together for you. Will you begin the interview by telling us a little about the history of RKT?
Gustavo: Well RKT history first? I got fired from Apple in Jan 2012. I was jobless, had plenty of time and finally had serious time to start up something I really love. I had the money to start it up and a close friend, Simão Janela; who now became Honorary Founder Member, told me he would handle costs of mastering. So from that moment I knew what to do. Gather my closest friends, Ivo Polonia and Tomas Gamboa, who are into music and sell them the project. I explained that even if we do it for fun, that it would still be like opening a professional company who wants to deliver top premium products. The other thing that made me start RKT was the fact that good friends who do pounding Techno, strange stuff and original music I really appreciated, weren’t having any opportunities to show their work. The labels who accept good Industrial, Broken, Ambient, Experimental bla bla bla don’t accept unknown guys. So I had to finish it and open the doors for them (and also myself) so that one day they can climb up to labels like Sonic Grooves, Stroboscopic Artefacts, R&S, etc…
Neither Pedro or Nuno were there at the start. The aim of setting up the label was to help good artists, the unknown people to become someone in the scene and give them a chance. I also had the vision that if I wanted to leave a legacy as an artist I had to do this to open more doors in the world and gain respect from this “scene” (scene with quotes since today it’s a bit rotten) and put Portugal in the Techno Map as a WOW place. We are very patriotic, even if this country is tearing us apart. Also because I’m sick of shitty labels not being professional, not behaving like it should be and ripping people off. As an artist, or something like it.. I get mad when labels I deliver tracks to , promote them, pay the royalties, ask for more work in the future and market them to help the guy who burnt his brain doing it, just do the opposite and well it’s just became a useless piece of digital crap laying on the web. I don’t like to rip people and I also don’t like to deliver shit. If one thing my past job at Apple taught me is that sense of doing things right or else throw it away. Originality, taking risks and betting with your heart is the way to go.
Nuno: I actually didn´t know any of the guys in person when I was invited to join the label! I´m based in Lisbon, while Gustavo and Ivo are in Porto and Pedro lives in a cave in the mountains, so we met through Facebook due to a common love for Techno. I knew their work with Quantic Spectroscopy and had heard some early RKT stuff, but we didn´t speak daily or anything. I can actually pinpoint the moment when the invite came, November 2012 and we were watching the Boiler Room session where they had Regis, Surgeon and Karenn. We were commenting about it on FB and Gustavo messaged me to ask me if I wanted to do some A&R work for the label. His enthusiasm was so convincing. I said “Fuck it, let´s do it”.
Gustavo: Well first time I met Nuno was some years ago. 2003 or 04 maybe. On a Portuguese Forum called Versus. LOL at that time I was more onto Minimal / Techno and Nuno was more on Progressive / Techno! To be honest, our opinions diverged a bit ahaha! But after Versus got shitty and we grew up, we didn’t talk or meet for some years!
Ivo: Nuno was a great addition to the team. That time was a turning point for Reaktivate as we did a bit of reshaping on the label, starting on the design. I’m in charge of that part of the releases. We all decided that Nuno should be the Label Manager because his best skill is his experience with music and with artists, so like he said “we are a team that complement each other”.
And how has the vision changed or been strengthened since Nuno came on board? I’ve noticed since the RKT abbreviation arrived that there seems to be a lot more energy and presence? Is that fair to say?
Gustavo: Yes Nuno was like getting Mourinho to FC Porto and Inter… It really closed the gap and became a very serious “job”. It was the turnaround point after a year of experimentation on the market, to see how people would react. We always had this in mind. Let’s try stuff, see what people like and how they process it. We had some different releases during the first year, some not so good, but it was all part of the process to create something solid and humble. The rebranding of RKT was also prepared and thought since day one.
After the ‘try out’ time, we had to go all in and Nuno was an important piece for that. We all worked on rebranding, Ivo started sketching and trying out visual concepts while we established new relations with people who could bring something more, like Joanna Jago who does our official RKT videos. I’m like the Handy Man, the “President”, the guy that does it all, from A&R, to finances, dealing with distributors, research.
Even if I had the idea and made it possible, RKT is as mine as it’s Nuno, Ivo or Pedro. We all sign documents, we all are owners, we all row to the same shore and we are like a team, one that is so close and united that nothing can tears us apart. Remember this one thing as it is the core foundation of RKT.
Pedro: I think Gustavo said it all really. When Nuno joined the label I knew things would change a little, but for the best because he’s the only one who’s been partying since the 90’s so he knows all about Electronic Music. Metal and Rock has a huge influence on his view of music too. Basically he is the father of us all and I’m pretty happy to know him he’s 38 and I’m 18 in real life. He could be my father and I’m glad I can be a truthful friend of him without that “respect” you have to have with older people. It’s the same with Gustavo and Ivo. Sure there is respect, but I can call them names and stuff without them being pissed off you know?!
Nuno: I think what makes RKT work so well as a team is that we truly complement each other. What one of us lacks, one of the others has. I guess, being older, I bring some knowledge and experience… I´m really fortunate to have built some great friendships and affinities with a lot of my favourite artists and that has helped in having them work with us, for sure. I actually have more of a metal, industrial, post-punk background, but when raves and dance music had an explosion in Portugal in the early nineties, I was there, I lived every aspect of it, even the naughty bits. When I´m not listening to music, I´m reading about it, reading musician biographies, industry news, stories behind the tunes, on all kinds of music. On the other hand, the other guys have a different kind of energy and even some much needed madness and “fuck it” attitude that I sometimes lack. They also know a lot more about making music itself than I do, and all the technical aspects! The rebranding thing was part of the whole idea of cleaning up and fine-tuning what we do, into a leaner, more focused and more effective way of working, as well as having less releases, less remixes, having videos, just working each release with the care it deserves, in general. I believe the music needs to be loved and the work of the artists deserves to be respected and on top of the priorities.
Sounds like a tight unit and it shows to be honest. You can see it. Lots of responsibilities to keep you out of trouble anyway. Good haha.