Cruel Nature

Location: Morpeth, Northumberland Est: 2013

Potted History: “Cruel Nature is run by me,” explains founder Steve Strode. “I’ve been involved with underground music for over 30 years, always taking a DIY approach – self-releasing sounds, playing in bands, promoting shows and co-running the Distraction Records label in the early 2000s. For Cruel Nature, I settled on cassettes as a physical format because I grew up with cassette culture. I like the organic depth you get from a cassette.

“For the first three years of the label, I was buying blank cassettes and cases online, and home-dubbing the audio using a rack of Technics tape decks all daisy-chained together in the front room. I had the inlays and labels produced at the local print shop, and I hand-assembled everything on the kitchen table. As the frequency of the releases and number of copies started to increase, this process just wasn’t physically possible anymore. Now, everything is professionally produced and I’m at 255 releases, publishing up to six titles a month.”

Mission Statement: “With Cruel Nature, I wanted to establish something that would allow me to publish diverse sounds that are not genre or location-specific,” says Strode. “I can take risks with what I release, giving artists an opportunity to get their work out on a physical format. The aim of the label is to provide a platform for new artists, irrespective of location, complemented by releases from already established acts.”

Key Artists & Releases: “One of the most prolific and creative artists involved with the label is Chris Tate, who’s released seven albums with us under his solo project, Score. There’s also his US/UK collaboration, Salisman, and One Key Magic, a project with political geographer Michael Mulvihill, which explores the electronic phenomenon produced by RAF Fylingdales, a Ballistic Missile Early Warning station on the edge of the North York Moors.

“I also have to give a shout-out to James Watts, who aside from being my go-to artwork designer for the past seven years, is also a productive musician. He plays in a multitude of bands, who’ve all found a home with Cruel Nature.”

Future Plans: “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. We have a busy schedule for the rest of 2023, featuring new works from established artists such as Pound Land, Whirling Hall Of Knives, Aidan Baker, David Colohan, Clara Engel and Charlie Butler, along with new material from Gvantsa Narim. We’re also welcoming Latvian artist Waterflower to the roster. Exciting stuff!”

Any Other Business? “It’s important to me to let the artists have full creative control over their work, from the inlay art and design to the colour of the cassette shell. In some cases, they might just provide the sounds and leave the packaging and design to me, but it’s always a fully collaborative process throughout.”

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