Maladies D’esprit

Dementia Precox Back Together to Continue the Musical Legacy of Gyn Cameron

By Gary Spencer

There are many Dayton artists whose musical contributions and legacies are well known and acknowledged all over the world such as Zapp’s Roger Troutman and Guided by Voices’ Robert Pollard.  But for every one of those well known and respected artists there are at least few musical innovators from the Gem City who unfortunately never got the recognition, success and respect they deserved.  That seems to be the case for the late Greg Stover, aka Gyn Cameron, the artistic visionary and frontman behind one of Dayton’s most unusual and often underappreciated musical acts, Dementia Precox.

The band Dementia Precox was founded by Cameron and Rodger Revlon in Dayton in the year 1980.  Birthed in the wake of punk rock, Dementia Precox both fit in with and defied expectations of both local and national post punk musical trends.  The band had all the energy and rhythm of a young band from the post punk era but with a more intriguing take on what was possible working both within and outside of that musical framework.

“(I) got turned onto ’em in ’82 or ’83 when I was in high school…we thought they were stars,” states Dementia guitarist Eric Purtle.  “I went and saw ’em at Wright State and was fucking drop-jawed. I was sold.”

The band soon augmented its core of guitar, bass and drums with keyboards, odd electronics, samples and percussionists scraping, clinking and pounding seemingly random pieces of metal giving the music a sometimes primal, tribal and industrial feel that often recalled the sounds one might hear coming from one of the many factories in the Gem City back in the day.  But ultimately for many young fans it was the stage presence of Gyn Cameron that won the hearts of audiences throughout the Midwest.

“I first became aware of Dementia back around 1987,” says current Dementia Precox singer Jason Himes.  “I found the primitive yet modern mixture of energy to by very compelling. He had that certain je ne sais quoi that is so intriguing and necessary for a good front man.”

This musical brew that Gyn Cameron and Dementia Precox had concocted continued to evolve over the course of their 10 or so years of existence as the band continued to incorporate more electronic and computer-centric elements to its live shows and recordings such as “SCHP” and “Of Parts Unknown,” setting themselves far apart from any other artists or scene subdivisions in the tri-state region.  While locally popular, the band never did find an audience beyond the Midwest.  And while Dementia was occasionally resurrected for an odd show or recording here and there during the 90s and 2000s, for the most part Gyn Cameron kept a low profile until his all too soon death in September 2011 at the age of 52.  The loss had an incredible impact upon local musicians and former bandmates.

“I spoke with Gyn on the phone about a month before he passed,” bassist Troy Green told me.  “It was heartbreaking when I heard the news that he had died.  I knew he was of poor health, but I thought that he would be with us a while longer”.

Following the news of Gyn Cameron’s death in 2011, a group of musicians from Dayton and beyond decided to pay tribute to the late Cameron by performing a tribute show at the Oregon Express under the Dementia Precox name featuring many former members of that band from different eras of Dementia’s storied existence including bassist Troy Green, guitarists Max Nye and Eric Purtle, Patrick Himes on keys, Rodger Revlon on percussion and Jason Himes filling Gyn Cameron’s enormous shoes as frontman and lead vocalist.

“I threw this version together in response to Gyn’s passing,” Purtle tells me.  “Wasn’t planning on it being a ‘thing’ insofar as I never anticipated it would be long-term tolerable, let alone viable, but we’re working together swimmingly.”

Apparently still motivated by the spirit of Gyn Cameron, these musicians have decided to carry on the music of Dementia Precox with their second performance at Blind Bob’s this Saturday.  The current band members feel a sense of love, tribute and duty in keeping Cameron’s music and the Dementia Precox name alive in the modern millennium.

“(Gyn) was a peer, a brother, a mentor, a friend,” says Purtle.  “Shame we weren’t tighter when he passed; it’s a signpost for the notion of ‘Life’s Too Short’.”

“Gyn was quite an influence on my life,” says Green.  “The way I think about music, the way I work on music…Gyn and Rodger in my opinion were REAL musical innovators, as in they created music/art that was their own, like no one else had done before. Sadly most people missed it or were not able to recognize the talent and creativity (and) did not receive the attention they deserved.”

“Gyn Cameron was a major influence on me both sonically and visually,” states Himes.  “My respect for him is one reason I take great honor in attempting to represent his art.”

Dementia Precox performs this Saturday May 26 at Blind Bobs at 430 E. Fifth Street in downtown Dayton.  Absinthe Junk and The Dirty Socialites are also on the bill.  Show begins at 10pm.  Admission is $5 at the door for patrons 21 and up. 

Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at Gary Spencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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