Interview: Cruel Nature Records
On 20 April, Cruel Nature celebrates its 10th birthday. A decade of channelling sonic diversity. We’re celebrating the occasion by releasing ‘Spectrum’ a double-album compilation, featuring 23 exclusive tracks from a variety of artists involved with the label. It’s a great introduction for anyone new to the label and all the proceeds from the album will be donated to The Toby Henderson Trust, an independently funded charity in North East England which supports autistic youth and adults.
More underground than the Newcastle Metro, Toon’s Cruel Nature Records is now a ten-year-old. Kindness personified, their founder, Steve Strode, tells us about his passion for sonic diversity and Spectrum, his 23-track curation celebration to raise money for charity, which we premiere exclusively below.
E&D: Hi Steve, tell us a little of how this extraordinary label began…
Steve Strode: Cruel Nature Records is based in Northumberland and run by me. I’ve been involved with underground music for over 30 years, always taking a DIY approach: self-releasing sounds; playing in bands; promoting shows etc. Cruel Nature started in 2013 and the basis for the label is to give a platform to new artists, irrespective of location, and also give them the chance to have something published as a physical format. Over time this has been complemented by already established artists. It’s not genre-specific. I publish what I like and the roster is fairly reflective of my genre-spanning tastes. Many of the releases are found via submissions although I do approach artists directly who I may have seen at gigs or heard elsewhere.
E&D: And all your releases are on cassette?
“Steve Strode at Cruel Nature is an authentic champion of often overlooked musicians, and as a consequence his small yet mighty label has one of the most diverse rosters amongst UK labels today. Steve takes great care and pride in putting out a steady stream of always engaging and interesting releases, often by musicians who wouldn’t even get a listen by the bigger indies. In an age where physical format costs are high and streaming on corporate platforms is the norm, CN tenaciously forge ahead with an admirable DIY ethos that keeps the spirit of real musical experimentation alive.” Adam Stone, POUND LAND
E&D: Cassette production on a large scale – isn’t that a lot of work and a lot of tape recorders?
Steve: For the first three years of the label, I was buying the blank cassettes, cases etc online; home-dubbing the audio using a rack of Technics tape decks all daisy-chained together in the front room; getting the inlays and labels produced at the local print shop and having it all hand-assembled on the kitchen table. As the frequency of the releases and number of copies started to increase, it just wasn’t physically possible anymore and I also wanted a better-quality package, with options for fancy shell art, so everything is now pro-produced and I’m at 255 releases, publishing up to six titles a month.
E&D: Tell us about the album you’ve curated to celebrate the label’s anniversary
Steve: On 20 April, Cruel Nature celebrates its 10th birthday. A decade of channelling sonic diversity. We’re celebrating the occasion by releasing Spectrum a double-album compilation, featuring 23 exclusive tracks from a variety of artists involved with the label. It’s a great introduction for anyone new to the label and all the proceeds from the album will be donated to The Toby Henderson Trust, an independently funded charity in North East England which supports autistic youth and adults, as well as their families and caregivers.
“Cruel Nature is an important label for artists like me who want to get their work out there, but don’t have the resources to do so themselves. Steve is a pleasure to work with, really dedicated, and has a strong sense of what’s going on in underground music internationally. He really cares about important causes too, such as The Toby Henderson Trust. I’m really pleased to be working with the label this year and congratulate Steve on an amazing ten years of diverse music. The ‘Spectrum’ compilation is a beautiful idea. I myself am neurodivergent and many people close to my heart are too. I’m glad we are learning more about these things, and creating space to include people in music who struggle with the reality of these diagnoses and also care for those who do to.”
KATIE GERARDINE O’NEILL
Spectrum is released on limited-edition double cassette and download on April 20, 2023 via Cruel Nature Records and can be pre-ordered on Bandcamp.
Twenty-three exclusive tracks and 110 minutes of sonic diversity, featuring: St James Infirmary, VHS¥DEATH, Aidan Baker, K Of ARC, Charlie Butler, Pound Land, Nathalie Stern, Clara Engel, Petrine Cross, Empty House, Katie Gerardine O’Neill, Holy Island, Score, Whirling Hall Of Knives, Kitchen Cynics, TANKENGINE, Gvantsa Narim, Omnibadger, David Colohan, Salisman & His Celestial Beings, Mirrored Lips, Lush Worker, and Lovely Wife.
100% of the profits will be donated to The Toby Henderson Trust,