INTERVIEW Rotte & Ralf Köster

With the next release, a remix of Butterbrot und Peitsche from Thee Church Ov Acid House, of Christian Rottler’s so called personal relationship project Rotte on Pudel Produkte, the label of Hamburg’s infamous cultural (nightlife) institution Pudel Club, run by Ralf Köster, Torture the Artist had the chance to chat to both key figures and especially pull the Pudel-head Ralf Köster a little bit into the spotlight, something the handyman usually avoids or let’s say is not known for. He does not have to be though, because Ralf’s work in either one of his active fields speaks for itself, be it the type of artists playing at the club, his own artistic outing via his DJ-sets, his abilities as a video director or the artists signed for the label. Everything seems to be connected, everything seems to be chosen by a man, who is pretty certain of what, who and how he wants something to be and interact. That Christian Rottler alias Rotte and Ralf Köster found each other may have been coincidence but is probably just the result of both doing what they are best at and stand up for it, for years. Following Ralf and Christian reveal how the fruitful relationship of the two came to terms, how the Pudel boss has remained motivated over all those years, why Rotte’s music is a fit for the label and much more.

Torture the Artist: Hello Christian, tell us something about your day.

Rotte: I started the day with a few cigarettes and cups of espresso – Schwarzer Krauser and Drago Macambo are my daily routine. From 4:00 PM I will switch to pipe and decaffeinated espresso.

Torture the Artist: Christian, for your electronic music project Rotte, you usually team up with various producers, for Butterbrot & Peitsche (Note: a one to one translation would be buttered bread and whip, but the title derives from the idiom carrots and stick), you teamed up with people like Peter Armster or Jörn Wuttke. How do you select the people you want to work with on your Rotte project, is it a natural process or a bit of both?

Rotte: With this project the personal relationship is the starting point. It’s not a question of music genres. For example, the musical collaboration with Peter and Jörn was never planned. Peter worked at Word and Sound and took care of the distribution of my tracks. Last year Peter sent me an instrumental, a few minutes later Butterbrot und Peitsche was born. I really don’t remember, whether Peter asked me specifically to sing on the track or not. I just did it. That instrumental was the start for the project. Through Peter I came in touch with Jörn who liked my singer songwriter and Punk Rock stuff. Jörn did a lot of mastering for me and took care of my tiny music career. You can call him my manager who is my friend. Or a friend who tries to manage me. Beyond that Jörn and I never planned to produce music together. But it was bound to happen. On the other hand, at Rotte I work with people whom I’ve known for almost 20 years: Douglas Greed and Ruede Hagelstein. With Douglas I studied at the Bauhaus University in Weimar. We did a lot of radio shows and plays together. Ruede was my label mate at Freundinnen Records, a former Label run by ND Baumecker. In short: This project is a story of contingency and personal relationships.  

Ralf is the Rainer Fassbinder among the club operators. The story of contingency and personal relationship goes on.


Torture the Artist: Now the single is ready to be released on Pudel Produkte, the label of Hamburg’s infamous Pudel Club. What’s your connection to Ralf Köster, the man behind the club and label, and how did the release come about?

Rotte: Jörn sent the Rotte stuff to Ralf. The story of contingency and personal relationship went on. Ralf knew me as a Punk musician and didn’t associate this project with me at first. A short phone call later I was a Pudel artist. I few weeks ago I visited Ralf in Hamburg, in May Ralf even directed a video for the Rotte release Deichtorhallen. Ralf is the Rainer Fassbinder among the club operators. The story of contingency and personal relationship goes on. We’ll see where the journey goes. Maybe in the future we will shoot films for the early evening program.


Torture the Artist: Christian, why do you think your music is best released on Pudel Produkte? How much does a political direction and creative freedom play a role for releasing your music on a label and does one thing outplay the other?

Rotte: When you are interested in independent music, you know that the Golden Pudel Club is a special place. The club is connected – also with its proximity to the Hafenstraße – with the history of the political leftwing. For me the Pudel thing stands for humanism, antifascism, critical theory with other means, the fight against gentrification and so on. Concurrently it’s a place of creative freedom. In other words: People who party in the club are usually located in a left-liberal context. But that’s only my interpretation. Artistic freedom and political persuasion are mutually dependent. Before I entered the club for the first time, I already had known countless stories. In 2009 I made a radio drama about my heroes and generally about role models. Schorsch is part of the Pudel family and was a key figure in the radio play, because I have been admiring Die Goldenen Zitronen since I was ten years old. Schorsch was my first link to Pudel. The fact that I now publish music on Pudel means a lot to me.

Torture the Artist: Christian, you have a long history with electronic music and artists from the scene, still you are not the typical electronic music artist but rather have a history with Punk. Does the Punk in you mix up the electronic music scene as you break with most conventions when it comes to your (electronic) music?

Rotte: By now I don’t care about music genres. For me Punk is an attitude, a mindset and mode of operation. Purists of the punk music wouldn’t agree, that I am a Punk musician. But that’s another story. When I work on electronic music, the objective is not technical perfection but to capture the initial intention. Interference noise and failures are welcome. The first take artifacts like coughing and smoking sounds are often part of the songs. Furthermore I would like to avoid overdubs and ideally use only first takes. But you can’t enforce this intoxicated moments, you can only create a space. Sometimes the unfaithfully muse comes around. Mostly not. The most artists work for weeks and month on their tracks. Dying in perfection. When we work for the Rotte, we are disciplined and detail oriented too – but only at the home stretch. The start is always chaotic, anarchic and frenzy. 

We rather lack determination and radicalism. Also because we know that we ourselves would have to give up some privileges and comforts.   


Torture the Artist: Following the question before, do you feel the scene is missing some rebellious attitude these days?

Rotte: I think most musicians would describe themselves as rebels. Basically the variety of political topics has increased. Feminism, climate rescue, system and consumption critique and so on. Rarely have these issues been so much of a part of the public discussion. Because the issues have reached the political and civil society, the radical core has been ground down. It is more about pragmatism and small steps within the system, there are only a few who really strive for the radical overthrow. The system has made its critics compliant and assigned them their playgrounds. Everyone seems to be happy with that. Of course, everyone can criticize and express their dissatisfaction. At the same time, many have made themselves comfortable in this bubble. Criticism of the system thus degenerates into a phrase. So we do not lack of rebellious attitude. We rather lack determination and radicalism. Also because we know that we ourselves would have to give up some privileges and comforts.     


Torture the Artist: Butterbrot & Peitsche is a modification of the idiom Zuckerbrot & Peitsche (English: carrot and stick). We know you like wordplays, but besides that Butterbrot rhymes with Zuckerbrot what was your lyrical approach when you wrote it? And what’s your relationship to buttered bread? 

Rotte: All my work is based on my diary. I always take notes everywhere. In the case of Butterbrot & Peitsche tried several lyrics on Peter’s beat and then realized that these lyrics had a parenthesis of content. Seen in this light, this text is the distillation of a phase of life. A protocol of a restless mind. For example, the phrase “bread and butter” is a pun from my fiancée. I wrote it down. In almost every relationship there is the principle of promote and encourage. But politics works that way, too. Rights and obligations were important issues in the pandemic. The Ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder coined the phrase “Fördern und Fordern”, when he trimmed the welfare state. The danger is always that this principle carrot and stick becomes toxic. This applies equally to the private and the political. Buttered bread? A prime example of how a few ingredients can create a great result. But if the butter is rancid, the bread can still be so good.

What both videos have in common is that they are a permanent sensory overload.


Torture the Artist: There’s a video for the original track as well as the version by Thee Church Ov Acid House. Latter one can exclusively be watched/ listened to via Torture the Artist. What was the approach and procedure for both, the original video and the remix and who did you work with for the videos?

Rotte: The basis of the two videos is a painting of mine. It is a tribute to Piet Mondrian. Painters like Daniel Richter, Gerhard Richter and countless others work with this aesthetics of squares. Max Pfisterer from the Stuttgart-based Vj- and 3D-collective Frischvergiftung threw the 2D-painting into a three-dimensional world and applied snippets of the painting via texture mapping. In addition, I held my visage into the camera and also worked with ink drawings in the original video. Max, with whom I have been working regularly for over 20 years, then helped me to bring these different levels into harmony with each other. What both videos have in common is that they are a permanent sensory overload.

Torture the Artist: Let’s come back to Butterbrot & Peitsche, which is kind of a “roady“ as Christian lives in Stuttgart, Thee Church Ov Acid House guys Frankfurt and Ralf’s label is in Hamburg. What’s the overlap of all of you guys, musically as well as manlike? 

Ralf Köster: Music is the key, and we’re all a bit dispersed…

Only the right fan can really diss out of respect for the original.

Ralf Köster

Torture the Artist: Ralf, you signed a couple of Christian’s tracks, what do you appreciate about his creative and musical approach most and why is it such a good fit for the label?

Ralf Köster: Rotte is a bit too clever, he likes to get on your nerves with his manner. The Stuttgart revenge on the Hamburg school, the fanboy diss in good, because only the right fan can really diss out of respect for the original, I thought that would fit and that’s how it turned out. Rotte and Pudel Produkte, das passt. (Editor’s note: that’s a fit)

Ralf Köster

Torture the Artist: ThePudel Club as well as the label feature a broader spectrum of music if not to say loves to showcase the experimental side of music. What does a track or the music have to have so that you enjoy it? Also do you only sign music you personally enjoy or what does music have to cover so you consider having it on your label?

Ralf Köster: It should please, because it’s not a collective decision what the label releases, it should please me personally and be playable in the Pudel Club, also the person responsible for it should act in the “Pudel sense”, whatever that means. And the next Pudel generation can do it differently, e.g. pay attention to the look, or to the smell, good smelling artists, that’s it!

Torture the Artist: You’ve been a scene’s mainstay for nearly three decades, how do you remain passionate about what you do and keep your head clear and fresh to find artists and music that fit in the Pudel-rooster?

Ralf Köster: My advantage is to be talent-free, my only talent is to recognize other talents, which is a great advantage for a label A&R, to be ego-free but still egocentric, please. So I keep my ears open, stay curious, and get up early…

Words by Holger Breuer

Pictures of Christian Rottler by Philipp Köhler

Pictures of Ralf Köster by Katja Ruge

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