FEATURE: Cruel Nature | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Cassette label Cruel Nature has only existed for around four years, yet this month hits its eighty-eight release, which is remarkably prolific for a one-man operation. That man is Steve Strode, who fetched up in the north-east from Bristol in 1989 and has been something of a mainstay of the Tyneside underground scene ever since. Before Cruel Nature, Strode had run a tape distro, been involved with the early days of Distraction Recordings and played in “in various fairly underachieving bands for well over two decades now”, including local heroes Fret!.

“Cruel Nature started in 2013, through my interest in tapes being reignited by labels like Winebox Press and the long-running Matching Head. I also had a desire to do something self-sufficient, which could be run at my own pace.  It wasn’t kickstarted with a release in mind but did have the basis of being global and the ability to take risks.  I’ve just put out the eighty fifth release and it looks like the hundredth might tie in with our fifth birthday.  So maybe that would be a good time to knock it on the head, call it quits before it starts to suck and do something else. Or not….”

cutting the bullshit, it’s just bloody good music

The dizzying variety of music Cruel Nature has released makes it clear there’s no house style. “It is very much a case of releasing what I like. The label is a good reflection of my own taste, although I am still seeking Happy Hardcore and J-Pop submissions.” Like any similar venture, Cruel Nature is a label of love, sometimes barely covering costs despite almost always selling out its short runs. “For the first year, at least, it was not breaking even and there have been peaks and troughs since.  As I don’t follow any strict schedules (except if a band request a release to coincide with an event), I can hold back releasing anything until I’ve got the cash to cover it.  But that doesn’t mean it’s commercially driven. I don’t put releases out because I know they’ll sell, it’s all about letting bands have something on a physical format, along with putting out the music that I (and hopefully others) will like.”

Cruel Nature has released a hefty selection of music by north-east artists (including recent tapes from Blackdamp, Watts / Drooping Finger and Culver) alongside other UK acts like $un $keletons and Sly & The Family Drone and even international acts like Mirrored Lips from Russia, Woven Skull from Ireland and Argentina’s Riel. Some releases take longer than others to come together, if at all. “I have had promising discussions that have just petered out (notably Extreme Noise Terror, Sutcliffe Jugend and Shit & Shine).  But as the recent Lovely Wife tape has shown, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Might just take a bit of time. Three years in that case.”

Cruel Nature has strong links with the incredibly prolific and wonderful Irish scene that’s given us Woven Skull and David Colohan’s Raising Holy Sparks.  “Raising Holy Sparks was the first Cruel Nature release from that circle and my initial introduction to this amazing music emanating from Ireland.  I like the free-form spirit of it, that draws on traditional and dare I say pagan elements, which creates this transcendental meditative experience.  Or cutting the bullshit, it’s just bloody good music.”

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