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Label Insight: R. O. T

Based out of Berlin, the Respect Or Tolerate brand has grown well beyond a notion that first came to fruition some 23 years ago. From a concept to a label, and on to a global collective that empowers a diverse roster of talented artists that includes names such as Schlindwein, Thomas Lovelace, Doctors On Decks, or label founder NHOAH, R. O. T has become a hotspot for some of the hottest music in electronic music.

Now with a revamped website, R. O. T is set to move forward in full force, tackling new projects, supporting recently discovered artists, and expanding as a collective, stretching well beyond the realm of music and into its uncrossed frontiers.

We caught up with label founder NHOAH to learn more about their new platform, their inner workings as a collective, what it means to truly cater to an expanding roster, what it takes to run a label, and more.

Electronic Groove: Hi NHOAH! It’s a pleasure to have you with us once again. How have you’ve been? Congratulations on this new phase for the label!

NHOAH: The pleasure is all mine ; ) We had a very good time these past few months. Summer made it possible for many of our artists to perform again. We were able to again be on stages and in clubs. Sun, music, and happy faces – just wonderful.

Electronic Groove: The notion of ‘Respect Or Tolerate’ has been with you for many, many years now. How did that come about? At what moment did it materialize into more than just a notion?

NHOAH: R. O. T stands for ‘Respect Or Tolerate’. That was our philosophy; a playful thought at the start that still matters 23 years later. Back in the day, we started full steam ahead with pretty much immediate success. Two of our bands are especially memorable. We played some of the biggest festivals with one of them and were awarded gold records.

Sometimes it’s crazy to think back on us three friends, sitting in an empty room, deciding this would become our new office space. We sat there and simply went home after an hour because nobody called us. Who would? Nobody even knew who we were! Haha!

Electronic Groove: How would you define the sound of the label? How has your vision evolved since its inception?

NHOAH: We love many different styles of music. Over the years we’ve come to focus more on electronic music because we do enjoy a night out. Dancing has always meant a lot to us. Our main criterion for working with artists is that we inspire each other, that we motivate each other, and that we share a drive to succeed.

Music is the be-all and end-all. But connecting on a human level is important to us. We ourselves are artists. We’re not just economists who look at the figures. Yet, of course, we also do that and have built a worldwide network of supporters.

Electronic Groove: Do you feel like a label must mutate over the years as the scene does in order to stay relevant?

NHOAH: The changes we made are more on the business side. Going from vinyl to CD to streaming, from TV to video to YouTube … the major ways of distributing music have changed and we, as a label, have become much more effective. However, we are as passionate about creating music, planning with our artists, and envisioning goals as we were at the beginning of our careers. Of course the longer you’re around, the more you’ve learned and gotten better. Having an excellent ear for recognizing relevant music and living in tune with the continuous developments of our time is a basic requirement. It has to be within, you have to want it – but you also must be able to do it. Apart from that, musical epochs tend to repeat themselves every 20 years. So you’ll have a chance to know better next time around… Haha!

“Music is the be-all and end-all. But connecting on a human level is important to us. We ourselves are artists. We’re not just economists who look at the figures”

Electronic Groove: So, you try to be more than just a label for your artists, right? How so? What does that mean?

NHOAH: We’re always there for our artists. Even when nobody knew what a 360° deal meant. We saw it as just another opportunity to fix up gaps prone to appearing in artist’s careers. If our artists don’t know how to work in the studio; if they don’t know how to work in a club or perform live on a 12×20 meter stage; how studio technology works; how to do a billing or tax return or how to stand up to big business partners who want to push them… We support them through it all.

Electronic Groove: What is the creative process like for you when selecting a new track or EP for the label? Do you have some sort of blueprint? What about the artist? Do you look for something in particular image-wise?

NHOAH: Our blueprint is ‘goosebumps’; but…no, really, that’s the point. Music must captivate and move you. The artist must also be able to express this without being phony. It’s absolutely a mutual process. You inspire us, we inspire you. Then something great can come into being.

We are significantly involved in artistic design. Artistic design foremostly means helping to find the right expression and the means to express. There are several studios, in Berlin and Vienna, while we also work internationally, such as from Miami. All our artists play live or DJ. We’re always interested in boundary-breaking ideas. Stereotypes bore us.

Electronic Groove: R.O.T has got a brand new website! Congratulations on that. What was the process like, artistically speaking? What were your trying to convey through it?

NHOAH: We’re very pleased to take the next steps on our label’s journey. On our new website, we introduce the circle of artists we’ll work with intensively in the near future. There we show the wide range of areas in which we’re active.

For example, even before we started the label, I was a successful producer. So I can offer very specialized skills in production and mastering. But we also design light shows, play drums, manage, publish, and hang out with our artists. We’ve always been more of an artist collective -a sworn-in community as opposed to business partners. To this day, family cohesion is what turned us into a successful label.

Electronic Groove: Do you guys have any recommendations for anyone looking to start their own label?

NHOAH: Now more than ever, starting a label has to be your true passion. Business points of view shouldn’t be the only thing driving you. You should set yourself a time limit for the projects you seeded to bloom. This last sentence only applies to those trying to make a living out of it. Network, work as closely as possible with the artists, inform them about everything. This kind of transparency shows just how tediously much of the label’s work can actually be. Bring about mutual understanding. Make music and art that you like and don’t worry about what others may think of you. Stick together. The most unbelievable things bear fruit. Who could have foreseen punk or techno? or that club tracks would speed up so much during the lockdown of a pandemic?!

“Our blueprint is ‘goosebumps’; but…no, really, that’s the point. Music must captivate and move you. The artist must also be able to express this without being phony. It’s absolutely
a mutual process”

Electronic Groove: Which R.O.T releases are your favorite ones? Which ones do you think represent the ethos of the brand perfectly? 

NHOAH: Oh, that’s a difficult one. There are releases that have made a big difference. But maybe this is one more good reason to visit our website.

There you can check for releases that are highlights for us, as well as listen to and watch releases, stream DJ-sets, track live shows, and more. Also, look at highlights or ask for studio/mastering or light show offers. Promotion offers are also possible if our networks complement each other… and very important: submit demos! To do this, you have to overcome a few hurdles on the website (laughter).

Electronic Groove: What can we expect from R. O. T going forwards?

NHOAH: At the moment totally exciting projects are in the making. Thomas Lovelace is making a new album, as am I. Doctors On Decks, a brand new signing with us are going to release a fabulous album and present it audio-visually on the highest level. Schlindwein has just released a track in cooperation with Schwarz… in fact, there’s a lot more in the pipeline. Spring is going to be epic!

Electronic Groove: Thank you for sitting down with us NHOAH! We wish you and R. O. T all the best!

NHOAH: Thank you very much for the interview!

Follow R. O. T: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Bandcamp

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