It’s been two years since Chuk Fowler passed away, and to celebrate his life the V Club is hosting a memorial celebration show Saturday night. The Herald-Dispatch approached a few of those who knew him best to share stories and talk about the singer, musician, artist, joker, but most importantly, friend.
It was on a Monday six years ago when I met Chuk for the very first time. I was a bartender at Echo, the bar that would later become The Ale House, and Chuk was the DJ for Doom Room, a weekly event that consisted of cheap booze, heavy music, and a rowdy good time.
We became acquainted over Mickey’s and shots of whiskey. As I went to grab another for him, I felt a small glass explosion at my feet from the grenade-shaped bottle. I knew exactly who did it, and jokingly shook the baseball bat that was kept behind the bar in his face as profanities were expressed. He laughed at me and we were friends ever since.
We went on to be roommates, and even fought like brother and sister from time to time, but I’ve never had a more unique or staunch friend. I’ll still randomly run into a stranger every once in a while who recognizes him from my stories. He made a lasting impression on anyone he met. A truly larger-than-life kind of person.
--- Melanie Dawn Walker
I guess one thing I could say is Chuk lived very much on the edge. What I mean by that is, he had no problem saying and doing whatever he wanted just to get a laugh/shock/angry feeling out of people. Things normal people wouldn’t do because they saw it as very much socially unacceptable, he did with no shame. Pretty honest and real trait if you ask me.
It reminds me of when he lived in a small cottage style house behind Tat-Nice. His landlord at one point told Chuk he was going to raise the rent and Chuk could either pay it or move. No room for debate. Chuk decided to move and it was a decision all the rest of us being friends of his told him he should make.
He decided to have one last party there. Plenty of friends and liquor and of course a keg of beer. Great time, and of course as the night got later and later and people would filter out. There were about four or six of us left. We got rowdy and started smashing glass on the sidewalk in his yard and the parking lot in front of his house. Took one of the living room chairs and threw it in a tree. Broke the hammock. Playing Slayer as loud as we could and screaming as loud as we could -- at 5 in the morning.
Some of the details are fuzzy as this was seven or so years ago and we partied a lot back then. However, the cops arrived at around 6:30 a.m. They didn’t say much, but “What the hell is wrong with you guys?!” with a look of shock on their faces as they saw all the destruction and chaos around them. Pretty sure something was on fire too.
All they did was tell us to clean it up and go inside -- and I swear we didn’t get arrested cause they wanted to get as far away from us as possible.
--- Matt Pauley
I first met Chuk in 1996, I was 14. I met him his usual way around that time, he grabbed me and began to dry hump me while his bellowing machine laugh was shared with the other elder punx as he did his signature bridge of the nose finger blast, a sure sign he was amused.
During the rest of the 90’s I frequented his various apartments around downtown Huntington hanging out and when I wasn’t skateboarding. Playing music and going to concerts together well into the 00’s, he was the cool big brother I didn’t have but always wanted. I think he filled that role for many people too. He was kind of a misfit magnet.
His peaceful aura and ability to listen, actually listen, and return a unique perspective was a part of his sincerity. He was always sincere, or insincere, either way it was very apparent. All our friends parents loved him and a few of them grocery shopped specifically for him too! My mom lovingly called him “Grape Juice.” His charisma combined with a natural gift of gab and life experience was a very key element in how closely people felt to him. I’d say dozens of people (probably more) considered him a best friend and confidant.
I have many, many great memories to share but I think something a lot of folks don’t know about him, besides his great visual talent and excellent penmanship, is that he lived in Las Vegas for a short time. He and some friends drove out to visit while I was living there and he decided to stay. We walked almost everywhere doing the casino hospitality thing so he inevitably lost around 50 pounds instantly despite us crushing those infamous buffets on the regular. He took up residency at a busted down motel in the Old Freemont district for $100 a week, this place was grimy. Within three days he had a black market phone sales gig and was the singer for a classic rock band. Half Ozzy, half Biggie, 100% amazing.
--- Kris Hillen
I have been racking my brain trying to figure out what to write about Chuk. There is just so much I can think of. To encompass everything about him -- his incredible brimming-with-life personality, his genuine friendship, incredible talent for writing and music -- would take a novel, easily.
I first met Chuk in passing at an all-ages gig in Charleston around 2000 or 2001. He had come down for the show, which if memory serves with either the Wartime Criminals or Human Racist. He was rocking out to all the bands and getting along with everyone, like he always did.
Fast forward quite a few years to Huntington. My band had broken up and I had begun attending Chuk’s Doom Room DJ nights, which jumped back and forth from Shamrock’s to the V Club, to I believe Club Echo? He was playing all this incredible music and turned me onto a lot of the doom and stoner stuff I listen to now. The first time I heard Torche, Harvey Milk or Big Business was thanks to Chuk.
He told me he wanted to start a heavy project. Asked me if I wanted to drum in it. I asked what he wanted to call it. “Wizards of Ghetto Mountain.” I immediately accepted and began one of the more exciting musical projects I can count among those I have worked on.
Along with Luke Belville, Garrett Babb, Matthew Walters, and Greg Gilbert, we wrote some really great stuff, always with Chuk at the forefront lyrically, and with plenty of ideas for riffs and rhythms. Chuk was the driving creative force. We all chipped in, but we had day jobs, other things going on. I don’t think he ever stopped thinking about the music.
Chuk was a wordsmith. An amazing musician. He played guitar upside down and left-handed. I still can’t wrap my mind around that, but I guess that’s how he learned. Still boggles to think about it.
I count myself among the incredibly lucky folk who got to know him through music, art, and his ability to craft words. He was also, as many can attest, a joker of the highest order. Whether it was partying, writing music, or just chilling on his porch drinking a beer, being able to spend time with and get to know Chuk is a gift from the universe I will always treasure.
Ride the frequencies aligned, brother. See you in the ether.
--- Bob Morris
I first met Chuk Fowler at Punk Rock movie night back in 2003. I have no idea what movie we watched that night but I remember the exact moment I became friends with Chuk: the moment I met him.
Chuk had this huge personality that seemed to creep inside you and made you a part of him whether you wanted it or not. To me being friends with Chuk was a privilege and I would have done anything for the guy. I even bought a van so we could go on adventures together since he couldn’t fit in my tiny car.
I want people to know Chuk as I knew him and that’s why Chris Woodall and I are making our comic, Chuk: Dawn of the Defiler.
I know Chuk is drifting through space right now with an iPod full of Black Sabbath in one hand and a big hunk of the moon in the other laughing at me for being sappy and crying as I write this. “Crumple.”
--- Justin Steele
I had the pleasure of getting to know Chuk and the other members of Wizards of Ghetto Mountain back after I had started doing flyers for the V Club. I did some flyers featuring them, then they asked me to take some photos of them in front of my Hunter S. Thompson mural, and after that we started becoming friends.
Chuk was one of those immediately likeable people. He wasn’t afraid to talk to anybody about anything and he usually used humor as the great equalizer. He had the ability to get anybody to laugh about the crudest/grossest things, riffing jokes into hilariously dark places, and he was usually the one laughing the loudest.
Not only was Chuk a hilarious, imaginative, and intelligent human, he was also a talented musician who could sing, play the guitar, and the drums. He was a huge fan of music in general, and loved making it as much as he loved listening to it.
A formidable front man in Wizards of Ghetto Mountain (among others), a rapper under the name of DJ Gilbert Grape’s Mom, and even I was lucky enough to jam with him (and Garrett, Luke, and Blair) for the summer of 2012 in our project “Siege Perilous” in which he played drums. We all mainly just hung out and made mighty space jams, which none of us could remember from week to week. Chuk would always say “Alright, I’m gonna do some big Dale Crover s*** on this” and then he would just go into disco beats. His sense of humor definitely spilled over into his musical endeavors. The project never did get to play out live, but I am eternally grateful to have those experiences.
In the large scheme of things, we weren’t really friends that long and I know I didn’t know him as well as others did, but I truly loved that dude. He just made you feel better when you were around him. Frowning was impossible. Before he passed, I didn’t get to see him for a while, but I heard he was doing well, trying to go back to school and recording a rap album. He genuinely seemed excited for the future.
My last experience with him was one day I was walking down 8th Street in Huntington. I was walking about 20 steps behind this unassuming middle age lady and all of a sudden I hear someone yell (over my earbuds, mind you) “SEX DOLPHIIIIIN!” from a moving car. I immediately knew who it was and looked up to this woman looking at me very awkwardly on the sidewalk. All I could do was cackle and keep on walking.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to see him again after that, but strangely enough this was the perfect coda to our friendship.
--- Jimbo Valentine
I couldn’t exactly pinpoint where I first met Chuk. What I am certain of is at that time we were both human versions of the film “Runaway Train.” It was whatever, whenever, wherever 24/7. We bonded over a shared love of the absurd as well as various intoxicants. Things were more innocent back then. The false safety blanket of youthful naiveté. The idea of immortality that comes with young age.
Chuk was a mountain of a man but it was his personality that made him truly larger than life. His sense of humor, that barreling laughter, his warmth and true blue heart emanated from him a way that could only make you wanna love the guy. He affected so many through those attributes. Being at his memorial was literally like being at a rock concert. I have never seen so many people come out to pay their respects and I’ve been to more funeral homes than I care to count. They were there because of his warmth. They had been touched. All of them and for only the best reasons.
I do remember the last time I saw Chuk. He and Melanie came to visit me at this old, super f***ed up house I lived in. we spent a large portion of the evening drinking beers and discussing a music video I was set to direct for his project DJ Gilbert Grape’s Mom. A week later he was gone. I was at a friend’s house playing music when we stopped for a break. I picked up my phone and was worried when I had received some 40 odd text and/or missed calls. The news hit me hard and I only remember feeling numb and shaky.
The void he left is as big as his personality was and he won’t be missed as long as he isn’t forgotten. So, there is no worry as to forget Chuk is a true impossibility.
Rest easy, brother and don’t drink all the beer before I get there.
--- Christopher Lusher
Writing from the place I still consider you the most, my love, an empty subway station at 1 in the morning half lit on wine I can’t afford. Sometimes I still feel pangs of guilt for staying here in the city you once told me not to move to -- “I can’t protect you there, and I don’t f*****g like it.”
Remember the times we drank dollar beers and rot-gut whiskey in the Pig and filled the jukebox with Kyuss and Fiona Apple, only keeping ourselves from getting kicked out by throwing on some Sabbath hits? That’s what we did together. We held hands and let ourselves cry when it hurt, then we’d bang our heads in communal forgetfulness and celebrate the moments we had that weren’t steeped in worry and fear.
I’m sorry for the times we fought over dumb stuff, like me being too boy-crazy or you messing around with girls I thought were trouble. I’m sorry I told you to quit screwing around and get your life together, but I’m more sorry that I didn’t get to hug you so hard when you went back to school. I was, and am, so proud of you and what you were and could have been.
I’m not sorry the last time I saw you was while I was wearing King Diamond corpse paint, but the last text I ever got from you was “I’m listening to King Diamond and wish you were!” so I guess it was fitting after all.
I miss you every single day, I tell everyone I can about how wonderful you were, and I’m happy that even in death, you’re the phoenix I knew you were. I hope someday when I walk into a sleazy bar in Valhalla, you run over and pick me up and shake me like a rag doll again.
Yours truly with the heaviest heart forever,
--- Kelsey Zimmerman
IF YOU GO
Chuk Fowler Memorial Celebration Show
w/Sangoma, Horseburner, Dinosaur Burps, Sweatband
WHERE: The V Club, 741 6th Ave., Huntington (304) 781-0680
WHEN: 9 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 24