28–29 July 2018

25 Years of Chocolate Monk

Chocolate Monk celebrates its 25th year by asking you to come along and unravel the knot inside your head over two evenings of sound and chunder crunk.

“i became aware of a human named dylan nyoukis when a friend returned from a mid-'90s uk tour, complaining loudly about some asshole who had invaded his band's backstage area, consuming every drop of “strong water” on the premises before anyone could do anything. he had left only some horrible noise cassettes in his wake, and we listened to them thinking about all the good booze that had been quaffed in return for these sonic turds. chocolate monk? what the hell was that? some sort of trick candy that smells like ass? when i try to imagine how much liquor has been transmuted into these rotten cassettes over the last quarter century i am gripped by a thirst so deep it almost makes me weep.

but there are no tears strong enough to stanch the thick flow of the chocolate monk and his master, father nyoukis. perhaps now, 25 years deep, it is time to just surrender to the slurry. it is rare that a plot so mad can be sustained for this long. but dylan has found a way to do it.
all hail the monk.” - Byron Coley

“As functioned the literature of Sir Walter Scott in centuries past, so Chocolate Monk has likewise offered shelter since 1993 — and a spotlight — for the fruits of hemorrhaging imaginations worldwide, a self-conscious antidote, if one may quote Arthur Herman’s How The Scots Invented The Modern World, “to balance the world of sober and sometimes dismal fact.” Aye, reader, if your sphincter is in full clench already, but one sentence in, take my advice: go sharpen a pencil in it. Because the doctor now doing business exactly where the pub in Brighton once stood, a dodgy shithole called The Racehill, site of Chocolate Monk’s inaugural ahem “music” event held to launch the label’s first batch of five or six tapes, even this leeches-wielding quack set aside his rainstick and halted the examination of his patient’s shoulder pain to inquire, “Are you the Dylan Nyoukis I read about in Wiremagazine?”

So, the early ’90s — what a time to be a metalhead! How could our Dear-Leader-In-Training have been anything but? There is no doubt photographic documentation somewhere suggesting that Dylan Nyoukis was a twee C86 cutie pie who would offer up his own face should Stephen Pastel so much as hint that he wanted to sit down. Puh. It was a costume. Dora Doll will confirm. She knows. The boy likes to play dress-up, but he was a hundred percent Scots hesher, living in the wilds of Blackburn, West Lothian. As far as he knew, cassettes were demos, bait for record deal sharks. But then the sun rose one morning and silhouetted against the gray and red orb ascending from beyond the hills was a DIY pioneer who would change much of that — Jod Russell, resident of Patcham and your man inside the Oska label. Faster’n you can say “That’s the way we do things in medieval Scotland,” Dylan moved to Brighton, determined who his contemporaries were — Betley Welcomes Careful Drivers, Union Pole, Shrimper, American Tapes, School of Meat Cutting, Beast 666, those Sun City Girls tapes on Abduction that seemed like bootlegs — and launched Chocolate Monk.

But how committed was he to this enterprise? The year has twelve months most of the time, with a new and eventually toxic flavor assigned to each one by the invisible hand of trend-making, after all. We have a right to our suspicions. Was this anything?

“I was gone, man,” says the man himself. “A prisoner to the whole wobble and whump of the strange sounds makers. Glorious discombobulation ruled, wake and bake. I just wanted to release ahem ‘music’ by freaks from all over. Within a year of starting the label I was back in the shitty backwater of Blackburn and the sweet tendrils of postal communication saved my sanity and put a spark in my sporran. I felt then, like I do now, that I will continue the label until I hop the twig.”

But make no mistake, dubbing Harry Pussy C120s for a living will take it out of you. Some time in the early 2000s, Chocolate Monk transitioned to CDR, the most terminally unhip format of all, but we can all agree such an unfair assessment is the fault of spray paint and resealable sandwich bags, not because of anything inherent to recordable compact discs. Twenty-five years on, three hundred releases later, or is it four hundred, whatever, the label still patronizes the medium of cassette tape on occasion. A return to that harsh saddle known as “releasing vinyl” is not out of the question either, but who gives. Chocolate Monk’s mission statement is to “clear a space for original, non-idiomatic sound and feral performance modes,” according to a magazine in the waiting room at the above referenced sawbones. The paths to your ear are many, and Chocolate Monk’s gonna walk whichever one it wants. All you gotta do is get your skull positioned.” - Seymour Glass