Words by Hannah Tinker
At first, you may believe that the picturesque North Yorkshire market town of Thirsk, is the unlikely home of Steve Kirby and his internationally-renowned independent cassette tape and bespoke distribution label, Industrial Coast. But soon, upon getting to know the essence of the label, as well as Steve himself, you find that similarly to the Northern landscape of England, there's more than meets the eye.
Industrial Coast came about during one of Kirby's excursions, which was a twenty-four-hour jaunt to Porto to see performance artist and experimental musician John Duncan perform. Duncan was supported by the electronic, early techno act Saturn and the Sun, which is made up of Henryk Rylander and Joachim Nordwall - the founder of iDEAL Recordings - whom Kirby had got to know via the means that Instagram gives us. "He kindly invited me for pre/post gig drinks. During conversation, I must have bemoaned my boredom with my corporate job and the fact I was looking for an interesting sideline." The passion that had remained dormant in Steve's mind was given an idea, something to latch on to that could filter this dedication: "He suggested a tape label, and I foolishly ran with the idea." Flash-forward a few years later and at present, Industrial Coast releases are stocked in Korea, Japan, Russia, USA and here in the UK, as well as having worked or collaborated with a plethora of artists and activists, spanning a multitude of genres and subgenres.
That conversation with Joachim in Porto was a catalyst - Steve was already aware that his own interests were in music that sadly weren't often in physical format. The aim, was to change this. Thus, the labels releases cover those genres that unfortunately don't often fall into the view of the general public and has covered everything from noise to ambient, including techno, jungle, drum and bass, field recordings and black metal. "The only thing I won’t consider is anything remotely Alt-Right or similar. I don’t consider Industrial Coast to be a political label, but it wears its heart on its sleeve as it were with regards to political leanings." By no means forceful or coercive, Industrial Coast do continually fight the good fight with their regular donations to charities and fundraisers through profits from releases or the sales of their popular slogan-emblazoned merchandise. In fact, last year, through sales alone, Industrial Coast donated £1400 to BLM-associated charities as well as a further £1000 of profits to various bail funds. Though there isn't a check-list of sorts that potential artists are met with, it's more of an organic fit - the right-wing or those who don't seek change, often don't gravitate towards working with Industrial Coast.
"I guess the original inspiration was simply to put music I really liked into a (physical) format I could listen to it on." Industrial Coast's very first release was with Moscow-based minimal noise act, negativemeditation, then Italian noise artist, Leather Parisi, followed by Philadelphian drum and bass outfit BMA and the "experimental bleeps & loops" of Sean Dvln. Steve finds his artists by approaching them via various websites such as Instagram, bandcamp and similar sites, or by them approaching him, admitting that trawling through these sites takes up most of his time but "-shy bairns get nowt as they say."
Higher profile releases appeared from there onwards, with Joachim releasing on the label a handful of times, with Saturn and the Sun material and later under his Idealist alter-ego. "If I like it, I’ll try and release it, if I don’t, I won’t put it out, irrespective of potential sales." Later still, releases have appeared from Autoerotichrist, Black Leather Jesus, God is War, 1-800 Iceman, Johan Zetterquist, DJ Speedsick, Crazy Doberman and so many more - "it’s a broad church, as they say." They've also turned their hands to compilations, featuring Broken English Club, Dungeon Acid, Ted Byrnes, Autumns and more, including the recently released Save The Stones Psychedlic Junglist Hardcore Druids compilation, which is a journey into the history of underground music from recent decades. As well as collaborations and archive editions, working with the likes of Scott King on the recently released STRIKE tape which attempts to re-create and spread awareness of The Redskins' iconic 1984 move to bring a striking miner on stage whilst they performed on Channel 4's The Tube, during which the power was suspiciously cut and mans chants were not heard by the viewer.
Though despite the labels success, Steve continually remains down-to-earth about his work: "I’m always mildly surprised when these people say yes to some bloke from semi-rural North Yorkshire." There are no tie-ins with others, no agreements with artists, no profit discussions and archaic business spreadsheets. But this is why Industrial Coast is wonderfully inspiring, because it feeds from the same ethics that you often find amongst those living in rural parts of the country - the ethos of living life as you find it, being proud of what you can create, not putting up barriers and simply helping others, with the added bonus of no pressure. "I’ll continue to take it as it comes, trying to put out stuff I’m into with care and attention, that I’m proud of and the artist is happy with. If I manage to sell a few tapes along the way, then great!" His closing advice? "Never stop listening to and looking at new stuff. And buy a tape deck."