The First Criteria _ Interview With Reaktivate Records / RKT
SO, as a location, what is Portugal like for people who are starting a Techno label? Are you affected by what is going on economically in your country at all? It’s a challenging enough mission to undertake in even the most favourable of times.
Gustavo: I wasn’t going to answer this as Nuno can talk better than me, but I have do have something to say; Portugal = Shit for Techno. And yes shitty crisis kept me held back MANY TIMES for not being able to do even better stuff with RKT.
Nuno: It´s hard setting up a label of any kind here, to be fair. When it comes to techno it´s specially hard, there´s really not much of a tradition or culture for it here. There have been spikes in it´s popularity, like now, for example, but nothing sustained, I´d say 90% of the people who´re now into techno will be into something else in 2 years, tops, and then we´ll see who´s in it for the right reasons. The only cases of people who´ve done it with any degree of success are guys like Michaelangelo and A. Paul, who wisely bet on doing most of their career outside of Portugal. I cannot state enough how much respect I have for them, and even more people should check them out even though they´ve been at it for years. The scene here is made up of all these little posses, so it´s not easy to gain support indoors, and most of the times you have to be recognized outside of the country before anyone in Portugal does the same.
Moneywise… well, let´s just say that we all have lost much more money than we’ve earned it doing this. It all comes from our own pockets. When you combine that with a deep economic crisis, you can easily see that you have to be an absolute nutter to be doing this in the first place. But I´m proud of being a nutter and it´s so rewarding putting out music I love, that I´ll keep doing it as long as I have enough money left to eat.
Well, the recent Astronomical Telegram record was a great success for you. Hopefully that success will continue. Would you mind telling us a little about it’s background? How it happened, about the artists involved and some of the impact it had?
Gustavo: Well I had to do a video job for a family member to get the money for the first vinyl. That took like AGES… Guess my uncle has a piece in all this ahah…
Nuno: When I joined RKT it was pretty much already set that Near-Heart Object was gonna be the first vinyl release. I think it was as much a case of the guys loving the tune as a question of belief in Daniel Restrepo´s (AT) talent and wanting to bring his work out to people and him being just a great guy. Working with great people is as vital to us as their talent. We then set about thinking of remixers and we got everyone we wanted, which is amazing for a label of unknowns. The hard bit came aftewards since we basically knew fuck all about how to put out a record. I have no problem in saying it´s been a learn-as-you-go experience. Some people have this attitude of “pff… noobs putting out records” but you have to start out somewhere and we worked our asses off. It was really funny when we approached the distributor and he basically told us the record was unsellable. “No one´s gonna buy it and I´m gonna charge you extra for that reason”. I kept saying, “oh you think this is not going to sell, well then you´re really gonna hate RKTV002”. But we negotiated and got it done and it´s been doing well enough. It´s been quite amazing to hear about DJ Pete, a hero of mine, playing it at Berghain, seeing it for sale on Hardwax with the coveted KILLER adjective next to it, or having some of our fav DJs like Henning Baer and DJ Deep charting it. We may even have a big licensing deal coming through for it but I can´t say much more for now… We´ve all lived it with a kind of adolescent fascination. Dreams coming true type stuff, really!
Gustavo: Yeah, it’s true. We kept on learning the vinyl process and still are! I’ve handled a big part of it and talked with many many friends who are doing it to find the best way possible. Sometimes you can’t do the best way because of once again, MONEY. However, we found a way to do it ourselves and it turned out to be one of the best things we did. We are just trying to figuring a way to put it in more stores… And that’s not easy at all!
How far ahead have you releases planned? How do you follow up success like that? If it’s a surprise success, do you have to consider shelving stuff, or bringing releases forward?
Gustavo: You make me blush with that question because it feels like your talking about a HUGE LABEL..
Haha.. Well, its true. It was a good one mate. Great music, great artists and a great reception. Can’t get any better than that!
Nuno: We´re always thinking 3 to 6 months ahead, at least. We keep listening to demos but we also reach out to artists we love and between those two sources, we are constantly finding great music to put out. To me that should be the first criteria. If you have great music, in which you believe, to put out every month, then do it. If not, I don´t mind if we stay 2 or 3 months without releasing, though that hasn´t happened so far. When I joined the label, we were releasing too much stuff, but it´s kinda understandable in the beginning when you´re trying to put the name out there. Now we´re trying to pace ourselves and stay focused. It´s not a question of focusing on success. We never decided on a release thinking “Oh this more banging stuff sold more, so let´s just keep doing that!”. Since we don´t want to stick to just one kind of music, what we do is we try to plan it in a way that the change from one release to another, sound-wise, is not too jarring, and we try to intercalate a release from a bigger name, with another one by a lesser known name.