Saturday, May 10, 2008

Indieobit: Tony Kostrzewa

Genuinely sad news: Tony Kostrzewa, founder of Red Rhino, has died after losing a battle with cancer.

Born in Bradford to a Polish father and a Yorkshire woman, Tony - known universally as Tony K by people willing to avoid trying their luck with his surname - might have had a very different life, originally applying to join the RAF. The forces, however, wouldn't have him due to his Polish ancestry - this as recently as 1966 - so Tony drifted from job to job.

In 1977, though, he discovered a way of making a living out a passion, opening Red Rhino record shop in York. Two years later came the associated record label and distribution network, a crucial part of the proper independent scene that was starting to form from in the post-punk wilderness. Red Rhino would go on to become a key part of the Cartel in the 1980s. Tony took on the role of managing The Catalogue, the Cartel's attempt to move indie music publications away from the xerox machine and into the newsagent. A luxurious, glossy monthly, the regular free flexi disc often featured the biggest fish in the indie pond: The Breeders, Big Black and so on.

Over a ten year period, the label released 125 records, including Akrylykz's debut - featuring a young Roland Gift; the first Pulp album; and a skeleton army of Goth and Industrial classics including Skeletal Family, Front 242 and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry.

Red Rhino would eventually fall victim to the problems of independence - when times get hard, there's nowhere to cross-subsidise from; the label collapsed in 1989 and the shop closed in 1992. Tony moved to Leeds, working in the Laser Game business, although in 2004 he made a return to music, launching 10 X Better Music promotions company.

His love of music never left him; consultants would chide him for dancing when he should have been receiving treatment. He died on May 1st, and is survived by his wife, Gerri, and their two children. The family have set up a fund in aid of the Yorkshire Cancer Centre in his memory.