Constance/Nyoukis: Whit?

Navel-Gazers #22 is an interview with Karen Constance and Dylan Nyoukis who are going to talk to me about the Constance / Nyoukis Whit? boxset. These artists are fairly new to me, and in surveying the contents of ‘Whit?’, which contains a split tape, a split lathe 7”, a CDr, a compilation album of other artists and a “pocket book” full of drawings and collages, I’m reminded of my earliest encounters with underground music and how astonishing and overwhelming it was to first conceive of all that material floating out there under the radar of the mainstream. It’s a goldmine of sound and on their website, the plot thickens further. They apparently run a label called Chocolate Monk where I recognise some of the artists such as Hannah Ellul and Aaron Dilloway… the rest sound like characters in some fantastical bizarro music world, with album titles like “Life on Bob-Lo Island”, “Bijou Bastard Box Room Suite”, “I Am With The Band Of Gurps”, and of course “Whit?” which is, amazingly, the 500th release on Chocolate Monk. How has all of this escaped me until now? Is it because Constance and Nyoukis are in Brighton, that weird satellite of London where I’ve rarely set foot? I’ve got to hear it all… but first, let’s talk about ‘Whit?’.

AC: Thanks for joining me on Navel-Gazers! So first by way of introduction, obviously Constance/Nyoukis is you two, Chocolate Monk is the label but then what is “Blood Stereo”?

Dylan Nyoukis: Blood Stereo was just the name we performed and recorded under from 2006 until the end of 2020, when we decided to ditch it.

Karen Constance: I always hated the name anyway.

Dylan Nyoukis: Yes you have mentioned that before.

Karen Constance: Back in the mid-noughties you would be led to believe that even if you’re a duo you need a "band name" or fear sounding like a legal firm.

Dylan Nyoukis: Or estate agents. Constance/Nyoukis crack shack lettings.

Karen Constance: That would have been a better name.

Dylan Nyoukis: So yeah Blood Stereo no more. The 'Whit?' boxset is the first Constance/Nyoukis release, mostly it is solo recordings, but it does come with a collaboration CDr called There Goes Blood Stereo which is us both using old Blood Stereo recordings as source.

Karen Constance: Our very first release together was in 2006, another CDr, billed at the time as Karen Constance & Dylan Nyoukis and was called Here Comes Blood Stereo. How witty.

AC: Is there further history prior to 2006?

Dylan Nyoukis: I started dabbling in non music/noise whatever you wanna call it in the early 90s, solo then as a duo in Prick Decay with Miss Dora Doll. Started the Chocolate Monk label in 1993. Karen swooped in in 1996 and made me start holding her hand, and that is when we started playing together, not always as a duo, mostly playing with other folks.

Karen Constance: This started up in Bonnie Scotland, so we would play with Dora Doll, Sticky Foster & Stewart Greenwood, both former A Band members.

Dylan Nyoukis: Neil Campbell who would come visit now and again. We seemed to have quite a few visitors. Which would usually lead to some improvised sounds being made.

Karen Constance: Prick Decay had morphed into Decaer Pinga by this point, which was still the core duo of Dylan & Dora, but myself & others would also occasionally play.

Dylan Nyoukis: We made our escape to Brighton in October 1997, where we still reside.

Karen Constance: Needed that Vitamin D wallop.

AC: But not the Vitamin L?

Karen Constance: Weirdly enough soon after our arrival to Brighton Dora Doll came to visit and me and her had a short lived duo called Vitamin M. By short lived I mean one performance, in our kitchen. Banging and screeching at Dylan for his birthday. It wasn't very soothing.

Dylan Nyoukis: I remembering it being quite relaxing.

Karen Constance: That was probably the other vitamins you were on.

Dylan Nyoukis: I think Lou Reed blabs on about Vitamin M in a Lester Bangs piece, and we share a birthday.

AC: I have to confess I’ve personally always been pessimistic about plugging into any kind of formidable art community in the UK outside London, but of course that isn’t true… Brighton’s a great example and you guys seem to have thrived there. How did it compare, in that regard, to Scotland? Did you know anyone before you moved down?

Dylan Nyoukis: Don't be pessimistic, man. Misanthropy is fine, but you would be surprised what is going in towns and cities across the shitty Brexit isles.

Karen Constance: Or what the “village idiots” are up to.

Dylan Nyoukis: You being a case in point.

Karen Constance: We moved from the arse end of nowhere to Brighton, so to compare the two doesn't seem fair. We had access to Edinburgh and Glasgow though and there was a few good folks in those cities.

Dylan Nyoukis: Though we weren't really playing out live, more a hovel endeavour. Prick Decay had lived in Brighton for about a year around 1993, when we started the label, so I knew a few folks down here from then. It didn't take us that long after moving down in 1997 to find some other folks with a taste for the curious sounds.

Karen Constance: Andy Bolus aka Evil Moisture moved down from London not long after us, and there was several other noise and improv types. Barnacles to a boats wide ass.

Dylan Nyoukis: Again there seemed to be a lot of people passing through Brighton and crashing at our place from quite early on. I would say any “scene” felt way more global than local.

AC: That’s certainly the impression I get from the Chocolate Monk catalogue. You seem to have music from all over the place. Ok so what about the ‘Your Mind Is Hiss’ compilation “complied from mystery tapes” and included on ‘Whit’? Who are these artists and is there anything which links them, geographically or otherwise?

Karen Constance: The mystery tapes is a box that lives in our shed, under a pile of other crap, various home recordings, found tapes, tracks from people sent for long ago aborted compilations.

Dylan Nyoukis: We thought it would nice to add a compilation tape to the boxset, you know like the ones I am sure you have made for pals, or better still the ones you have received and obsessed over.

Karen Constance: Our only rule was it couldn't be from any “established” project folks will have heard of, So no inclusion for that unused Evil Moisture track or that Damian Bisciglia zither-autoharp duel.

Dylan Nyoukis: Some of the stuff goes back to the early 90s. I mean The Blessed Vagrants were a couple of teenage girls from Croydon that used to write Prick Decay. Fake Meat was a short lived side project of some reprobates trying to sound like Prick Decay. There might be a couple of acts on there which are presented under a pseudonym. See if you can spot the track by the famously grumpy london based improv guitar 'grunt'!

Karen Constance: The ERN Band was this wild wee Scottish lassie and a couple Jewish weirdos who really should know better.

Dylan Nyoukis: Clearly Blark was this rather eccentric young lady who was studying at Imperial College of Science, she was a real nut, always banging on about the mysterious hidden Kingdom of the Fungi, last I heard she was the Chair of Food Security at some Uni.

Karen Constance: A 'Shroom Loon, the best kind.

AC: Shweet!

Ok so tell me about the other contents… we’ve got the split 7” lathe cut, the split cassette, the ‘There Goes Blood Stereo’ CDR, the book of drawings and collages, which is so cool! … and more.

Dylan Nyoukis: The lathe cut was a brain ache for me. The strange thing about it was we each had a limit of 4 minutes for our respective sides, “Nae bother” I thought, piece of piss, however it was by far the track that took me the longest to complete. I find having that short limit just makes mind burble. Do I go for 1 minimal, consistent 4 minute thing? Or do I try and cram in a ton of ideas? In the end my goal was to try and make it feel longer that 4 minutes to the listener, but not in an excruciating way. So that ended up being the very last piece I completed for the box after a few weeks of it doing my nut in.

Karen Constance: I had my piece already done as part of another release which was running over so the extra was perfect for this. I have zero intentions of making it feel longer than 4 minutes, my aim is to make the listener think “did I even hear that?”

Dylan Nyoukis: The split tape was a lot more straight forward. 10 minutes is a better amount of time for me to let something build up and go places. I used a lot of field recordings, tapes, electronics, field recordings, objects & other instrumentation. The usual. It's a wee meditative stroll for your lugs.

Karen Constance: Again this was something I had been working on for a while so when the tape idea came round it was a good piece to use. I made a little video of it which is on youtube and has 288 views, 31 thumbs up and no thumbs down.....guess that is about to change.

Dylan Nyoukis: The 'There Goes Blood Stereo' disk was just a nod to the killing off of the name.

Karen Constance: Which I always hated.

Dylan Nyoukis: It's better than Smack Music 7.

Karen Constance: Just as bad. The Cdr is a mixture of recordings we both did using Blood Stereo sounds from previous releases as the source material. These two set of recordings were then mixed and spliced together. We dropped the name but continue to work and collaborate together in the same way as before. Passing recordings between each other til are both happy with the result. I think there will be more split releases too, that is always interesting.

Dylan Nyoukis: We make a point with the split releases not to hear what the other has conjured up until we are both done. Now Blood Stereo is done Constance/Nyoukis covers all bases, sound, film, art, whatever.

AC: I get the sense you guys like to work with your hands, is it important to you to continue producing tangible “things” like this in the context of our digital/virtual age, where there's less emphasis on it? Tell us how/why you created this box of goodies?

Dylan Nyoukis: We are proper handsy. I have always had a soft spot for box sets, art objects, readymades, that kind of thing. So when Chocolate Monk was coming up to its 500 release we thought it would be nice to do a little box set of some kind, just small run, low key. No need for a big hoo haa. And it make perfect sense to put a spike in Blood Stereo and do the first Constance/Nyoukis release at the same time, two birds one stone. Not that anyone actually cares.

Karen Constance: Having something to hold and look at is always gonna be how we go, so much more pleasure in that than looking at something on a screen. I do make a bit of art and animation on the old iPad but my absolute favourite is being in my shed painting. Think it is safe to say we both like to create objects. We have started a series of painting together just recently which will hopefully hang somewhere sometime.

Dylan Nyoukis: And we plan to do some more small run sound/art objects. Who disnae like a nicknack?

AC: You two are a hoot!

Ok so, wrapping things up here, what's next for Constance/Nyoukis and Chocolate Monk? anything coming up you'd like our readers to be aware of?

Karen Constance: We have a couple of things recorded which should be out soon. A new lathe cut 7” called 'More Unpopular Songs' which will be out on New Town Records and a split cassette on Coherent States called 'Creased Neurals'.

Dylan Nyoukis: We have started recording two new collaboration albums together too. One for new Irish label Krim Kram run by our good pal Dave Murphy and the other for yank label Ongoing Discipline.

Karen Constance: Run by our old friend Daniel Mitha.

Dylan Nyoukis: These are both gonna be compact disks. Its the new shiny format.

Karen Constance: Mark Knopfler really rates it.

Dylan Nyoukis: So much so it convinced us to take the plunge into doing some “proper” CDs on Chocolate Monk this year. The first of which will be an expanded edition of my collaboration with Seymour Glass which is called No One Cares About The Drama Queen's Potassium Intake which should be out any week now. Some other exciting ones line up and we will plough forth with the CDr releases too, much to the snoots displeasure.

Karen Constance: There has been so much good stuff sent to us, I think the pandemic has really got peoples creative juice flowing.

Dylan Nyoukis: We are also hoping to bring back our festival Colour Out O+f Space sometime in 2022, if we can get that sweet Arts Council coin.

AC: Any final comments or weirdly wisdom you'd like to leave us with?

Dylan Nyoukis: Keep it dirty and give thanks.

Karen Constance: Always lick your paint brush and share your sweets.

Dylan Nyoukis: Thanks for talking to us, man.

Karen and Dylan can be found at Bandcamp and

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