JOSH CHEON ON THE BANK, PATRICK COWLEY AND STARTING A RECORD LABEL
During the early days of the pandemic I came across a band called Solid Space whose only album, Space Museum, quickly became a quarantine favorite. After ordering the vinyl I finally decided to do some research, which is when I learned about Dark Entries Records. Founded by Josh Cheon in 2009, it’s main goal is to re-release DIY music from the 1980’s in an effort to preserve and re-introduce younger generations to affordable vinyl from the days of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Clan of Xymox. Named after the first 7” from Bauhaus, Dark Entries has re-released music from bands like Eleven Pond, Art Fine, Maxx Mann and Patrick Cowley. In addition to reviving underground 80’s music, they have also co-compiled a list of more than 2,500 black musicians and people behind the scenes available on their Instagram. Below is the conversation we had on the label’s founding, Josh’s background in music and the time he tracked someone down using an old porn tape.
What inspired you to start Dark Entries?
I remember asking my roommate who had a label in the early 2000’s about how to start a record label, and he pointed me towards all of these resources for vinyl pressing, mastering, having jackets made, etc. In 2006, I met Phil Maier who runs the blog called A Viable Commercial. I bought a record on eBay off him and he dropped it off at my house and immediately we clicked and became friends. He then pushed me to look at his post on Eleven Pond where one of the band members left a comment about wanting to make a reissue. So I contacted the band and drew up an agreement. Then Jeff Gallea from the band drove up from LA and helped me silk screen the first edition. My original plan was to release a reissue then a new release, alternating with reissues on odd numbers and new releases on even numbers. And this was the way it was with my first release, Eleven Pond and my second, Death Domain, and my third release Second Decay, but then I realized that there weren’t enough new artists for me to release, and that I had a dearth of archival stuff to get to, so I just kept going with the archival stuff.
Tell us a bit about The Bank, the Goth club in New York you used to frequent, and how that influenced your decision to bring darkwave to San Francisco.
My friend, whose father was a cab driver, introduced me to the Bank. She had been sneaking in for a few years and when I turned 16 I started to join her. My cousin Kara was a huge Synthpop and New Wave music collector and went to the Bank every weekend. When I wanted to know what song was playing, I would see her dancing and run up to her and ask her first rather than annoy the DJ.
What’s the most Goth thing you’ve ever done?
That’s easy, the night I finally discovered who the band was that sang the song that Buffalo Bill dances nude to in Silence of the Lambs. I was in the back room and immediately ran up to the DJ and asked who the band was. He told me Q Lazzarus and I soon found the song on the Married to the Mob soundtrack and bought the vinyl, CD and cassette
Why do you feel it’s important to revive music from the DIY scene from
30 years ago?
If I hear something I like and you can’t find an affordable copy or it was never released on vinyl I guess that’s where I come in. I guess I stick to mainly “underground” bands so perhaps we can call it underground NRG.
Do you have to do some detective work to find who owns rights? Are many of these artists still performing on other projects?
Some are easier than others, it depends on if the band members are still talking and agree on the details of the reissue. It took over 5 years to get a response from Jordi Guber of (Velodrome, Metropakt, Lineas Aereas). I was in Barcelona for a week between DJ gigs and renting an apartment on the same street as his business office. I walked 5 minutes down the block, introduced myself and we had a coffee. I was in total disbelief I was finally talking to him.
Who are some of your favorite black and queer artists from the 80’s, and how did minorities like these impact music movements?
Sylvester is my absolute favorite. He lived unabashedly queer and was the first gay pop star on television with number one hits. He was an influence on so many people and musicians to live their lives out and proud.
There was a very vibrant queer music scene in the 80’s, do you find that crossing over with the dark wave/goth/underground movements of
Yes there is a freedom in dressing up in drag and costumes and dancing all night because it goes against mainstream heteronormative society.
What are a couple of your favorite re-releases so far?
All the Patrick Cowley releases. The story begins in November of 2007.
Honey Soundsystem met the former owner of Megatone Records John Hedges. Hedges' was moving to Palm Springs and invited us over to his basement to collect over 2,000 records from his collection. Among the archives we noticed three moldy boxes of reel to reel tapes. Some of the tapes had unreleased music by Patrick Cowley. Feeling inspired, I contacted Patrick's friends and family and conducted interviews to discover as much information as possible. In October 2009, Honey Soundsystem celebrated the release of "Catholic", an unreleased album found in John Hedges' basement. During this event a few of Patrick's friends asked me if anyone had discovered the gay porn soundtracks Patrick had composed. Digging deeper, I unearthed John Coletti, the owner of famed vintage gay porn company Fox Studio in Los Angeles. I was able to locate John Coletti in Los Angeles though an old address on a porn tape. In May 2013, I flew to LA to pick up the tapes from the Fox Studio storage garage and brought them back to San Francisco.
You also release current bands’ music too right? What bands do you have signed currently?
Bézier, Group Rhoda, Crushed Soul, Violet, Bill Converse, Photonz and more..
For more information on current releases available, please visit the Dark Entries website and shop HERE.
Artwork by Justine Eby