Music Portrait | posted 15.10.2020
Dark Entries
Between Disco, Goth and Porno Soundtracks
Since 2009, Josh Cheon has been running his label for underground music from the 1980s and those who want to be the next big underground hit. Next year he will have released over 300 records. We introduce you to the label from San Francisco.
Text Christoph Benkeser , Translation Sebastian Hinz
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You can find the vinyl records of Dark Entries in the HHV Records Webshop.


The story of Dark Entries kicks off with Bauhaus. On September 10, 1998, the British dark wave band performed in New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom. 3000 people buried Bela Lugosi. At the very front: Josh Cheon. A high school kid who would fly to San Francisco a few years later and found Dark Entries, a record label for dark and drifting music from the 80s, camped for over 13 hours in front of the hall—just to be in the first row in order to look Peter Murphy in the eye and give his life a new direction. »At the beginning of 1999, I knew that I wanted to run a record label,« says Cheon, who packs his two suitcases at the age of 25 and relocates his center of life from New Jersey to the west coast. When he gets there he underlines one point on his to-do list: start a label and release music from your idols. In 2009 he founded the label Dark Entries, named after the Bauhaus song that he played up and down in his youth. The first record that sees the light on Dark Entries is »Bas Relief« by post-punk outfit Eleven Pond.

In his youth, Josh Cheon spent summer months in rural Pennsylvania. Two of his best friends were Goths. For rituals they drew pentagrams, drove around aimlessly in the car, a CD entitled »Gothic Rock Compilation Vol. 1« constantly on repeat. To say that Cheon landed on the gloomy side of the moon would be an understatement. As a queer teenager with a penchant for music from the past, he was the outsider in school. While his classmates surfed the indie rock wave and went crazy to Belle and Sebastian, he spun Depeche Mode and The Cure in his Walkman. »It was underground music, a counterculture with a DIY touch. It has many parallels with the gay movement«, says Cheon. The releases on Dark Entries preserve the momentum of this niche by referring to a forgotten time in music history that has become a source of identification for many people in the scene.

Before moving to San Francisco, Josh Cheon interns at Metropolis Records, Beggars Group and the electro-punk label DFA. At that time, he’s also studying neurobiology because he saw »The Silence of the Lambs« in cinema. »It’s still one of my favorite films to this day. I wanted to interview serial killers like Clarice Sterling.« Still, he doubts that his degree is actually helping him work with bands that haven’t released a record in decades. »I feel like I am good listener and I am patient and will wait years for an artist to respond« says Cheon because some bands have fallen out, no longer want to talk to each other or don’t want to know anything more about their music and the past. The virtue of the patient psychologist suits him. »Sometimes I wait even more years for artists to say yes.«

The releases on Dark Entries preserve the momentum of this niche by referring to a forgotten time in music history that has become a source of identification for many people in the scene.

In 2018 Josh Cheon left his laboratory position at the University of San Francisco. Before that, he had balanced between two worlds. Neurobiology as a daily job, the search for obscure 80s albums as a free time fulfillment. The self-labeled »fanboy in the inside« has released over 286 records since Dark Entries was founded in 2009. Nothing less than a full-time job, but Cheon has been working part-time at the university again since July 2020—to free the label from financial constraints, as he points out. The freedoms give him access that labels with commercial interests have no place in: dealing with artists and their music in an upright manner. Cheon conducts interviews, researches background information as well as old photos and tries to preserve the originality of the albums, also in his own interest. After all, some records are long out of print and change shelves at Discogs for several hundred dollars. Too much cash, so the Dark Entries boss tries to reissue them.

If you browse through the back catalogue of Dark Entries, you get an insight into the taste of Cheon. Most recently, the New Age noise of German-American space grandma Suzanne Doucet and the dada-electronic trips from Velodrome appeared on its roster. Again and again the pointer slips from the 80s into the present, for example with wave house by Steffi, who made her debut as Crushed Soul at Dark Entries back in August—or the deep analog techno by Vin Sol. Nevertheless, one name from the past is standing out for Cheon: Patrick Cowley. In 2013 he stumbled upon tapes of the disco legend from San Francisco who used to score a lot of gay porn before he died in 1982 of complications from an AIDS disease. After albums like »School Daze« or »Mechanical Fantasy Box« were released on Dark Entries again. By now, Cheon sees himself as a custodian of his music. »I’m nervous if he would approve of my song selections, so that is why I bounce ideas off his friends for feedback, as they knew him.«

The responsibility of the Cowley estate will be increased by another chapter this year. Tapes of music, which Cowley recorded between 1975 and 1977, will see the light of the day on the Dark Entries imprint. Cheon is also planning to release albums by San Francisco-based Mara Barenbaum aka Group Rhoda and the debut record by techno »Queen of Hell« Jasmine Inifiniti. The John Peel sessions of the Dutch dark wave band Clan of Xymox from 1985 can be noted for 2021. And there’s also good news for acid fans who don’t know what to do with all the cooked-up 90s raves that circulate at the moment: Chicago legend K. Alexi’s early house releases are due to be released—before Cheon will put out his 300th record next year. Good Riddance, Dark Entries!


You can find the vinyl records of Dark Entries in the HHV Records Webshop.

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