Interview with Matt Walz and Bryan Ericson of DEMENTIA

Often we all wonder whatever became of certain bands or where they disappeared to. Certainly, those bands who had the chops and drive to go somewhere. Such is the...

Interview by: Chris Martin


Often we all wonder whatever became of certain bands or where they disappeared to. Certainly, those bands who had the chops and drive to go somewhere. Such is the case with DEMENTIA; a band that offered up a solid slap of technical thrashing metal with their 1991 ‘Recuperate from Reality’ album but soon after fading into obscurity. Many years later their name would once again surface with plans to reissue their catalog, only to have the whole project end before it began.


Chris Martin: Let us begin, well at the beginning. The core of the band came together under the name Syrys in the early half of the 80’s. Were there ever any recordings that came out of this early outfit?

B Ericson: The core of the band was traced back to 1985 in a group called Grand Jury, that featured Brian Ericson, Kurt Krause, Kurt Peth, Joe (Barney) Miller, and Marty Trainor. In 1986 Shawn Olson replaced singer Miller and Skylar Kennedy replaced drummer Trainor and the band became Onslaught. “9-Song Demo” was released on cassette locally and featured “Born to Die”, which would later appear on “Recuperate…”. In 1986 or 87, singer Olson was replaced with Kevin Ehlert, prompting the name change to “Syrys”. Olson came back in the band briefly to be eventually replaced by Mike Walz, with guitarist Peth leaving shortly afterward.

C. Martin: Around 1988 there was a direction change in the music and the band changed the name to Dementia. Then you guys would record and self-release ‘Cursed from the First’. How well did this release work out for the band; did it garnish a lot of attention?

B Ericson: By late 1986 or early 1987, the 4-piece band Syrys was formed that would become Dementia switching to strictly original music on 1/1/1989. In preparation for studio work, this line up recorded the epic “Sadistic Fibrosis” demo which would include “Insane” (featured on “Recuperate…”), plus “Battery Deth Battery” “F.O.A.D” and “Suicide Ride”, which appear on “Cursed from the First”. “Cursed…” is a 13-song album that was recorded digitally in Chicago at Midi Productions in 1989. Released only on cassette by Diskmakers, the first 300 blue cover copies sold out in three months, then the second run of 300 in red was produced.

C. Martin: In 1990 the band decided to pick up move over to Chicago. What brought about the decision to move to the Windy City?

M Walz: We needed a better scene, a place to call home, and it was perfect. Raw, although new to the area we booked and played some amazing shows in Chicago and the surrounding area. The famous “Thirsty Whale” with Forbidden and locals Demented Ted and Cyclone Temple we enjoyed the music scene and availability of musicians.

We moved to Chicago without a bass player with an album coming out. So other than getting moved in, our first objective was to find a bass player which we did; CJ Phinney joined the band played for our first couple years in the area. We later had musical differences and led to his departure from the band and we were again searching. We found Matt Snell and instantly we connected, we had, in my opinion, the greatest era our Dementia from then until the demise of the band.

C. Martin: Chicago had many bands around the time such as Radakka, Wrath, Aftermath, and Stygian. How well did Dementia fall into this scene?

M Walz: I think well, we didn’t hesitate, we did our thing. We played with a few of them; most bands were really supportive of others which were cool. Many show or most were with multiple bands so we got to interact a lot.
We played with a few of those bands, also Lung Brush, RIP Roach… Cyclone Temple, Jungle Rot, and others. It was hard to get people out to your shows in Chicago, a lot going on, anyhow, we represented, I think, we came to town and we were passionate about total metal Dementia style.

C. Martin: ‘Curse…’ was being shopped around and finally fell into the hands of Tombstone Records. Why did they not officially release that material?

M Walz: I don’t think that was ever even a thought or at least not a completed idea. Tombstone was over their head as we were going into recording in my opinion. Once we released ‘Recuperate’ on vinyl and CD overseas they were almost totally broke, to the point of never released officially in the states. We actually were considering and planning a small tour of Europe and then everything fell apart.

C. Martin: In 1993 Tombstone would release ‘Recuperate from Reality’. How well was ‘Recuperate…’ received?

M Walz: Good other than the “reality” of what I just discussed, it was shelved almost immediately, not promoted, there was one ad and very minimal exposure, and extremely limited distribution.
I remember hearing of many in Poland that were really into the band, sales were doing well there anyhow, so unfortunate after all the work that the music was dropped, literally.

C. Martin: By 1994 the band’s direction was beginning to change. Most thrash bands around that time began to move into a more aggressive Pantera direction. Did DEMENTIA follow this trend?

M Walz: We had already done that vibe, but we surely influenced by them and many others that were evolving right alongside all of the other bands that ended up popular. We didn’t hit the big time but we evolved a lot from beginning to end.

C. Martin: In 1996 the band decided to call it quits. What brought on the decision? Did the members of the band go into other projects?

M Walz: It was the normal difference in musical direction and overall relationship stress, Skylar and Brian and I had been playing and living together in bands for seven years. Life, girl friends, day jobs, bills, it sucks, we were fucking awesome and at our best just as we did, if you caught one of our last shows, you know what I mean…

C. Martin: Earlier this year Heaven and Hell Records re-mastered and reissued ‘Recuperate from Reality’ with the label’s continuous top-notch treatment.

How did the project come about and what did the members think of the finished product?

M Walz: Facebook… Haha, I have a love/hate relationship with F-Book. But the truth is without it the release may have never happened. Not to mention the passion of someone like Jeremy Golden trying to keep metal alive!
He pursued finding me or Skylar or Brian and was stuck other than me on Facebook, and finally, I responded to this random message to see what it was about and soon Heaven and Hell Records and I started to plan out the release. It was exciting, we had great ideas. I talked with Brian and Skylar and we were all in and looking forward to sharing our music again.

Heaven and Hell Records was interested in also releasing our first release, “Cursed from the First” and then soon after we talked about releasing our last material. We had big plans of a three CD box set but it was all scraped and we almost didn’t do anything.

With Cursed and our last material in the release also I needed to contact Matt Snell regarding our last material. Matt was great, we were and have remained friends and buds, even after his success with Five Finger Death Punch and now INVIDIA. I also needed to call Kurt Krause because he played and wrote some material on “Cursed”. Unfortunately, he was not in agreement and said he was planning on releasing “Cursed” on vinyl. He would not give me his blessing and it nearly blew the whole release. Everything!

Luckily Heaven and Hell Records and specifically Jeremy came through with that passion of let’s just make this happen and we released the reissue of ‘Recuperate’.

I am very disappointed that the box set didn’t happen, and I hope that ‘Cursed’ gets released someday but it will never be what I had planned, and I apologize to the fans for that one.

C. Martin: As the age of the “Metal Renaissance” continues it seems that more and more bands from yesteryear are reforming and giving it one last go. Has DEMENTIA entertained joining the ranks of the reunited?

M Walz: This would be inhibited by geographical logistics and chemical dependencies. A blood transfusion and plane tickets though would overcome those impediments.

C. Martin: Any last words for our readers?

M Walz: Dementia was about a temporary loss of reality, metal, and music to distract the listener to enjoy and appreciate life. We had many, many great times, saw and met many, many cool people. We appreciate our fans, every one of them, we appreciate the music and the shows we were able to play, and we salute you all. I wish I could say we are planning a reunion, but I don’t think it will happen. I do hope everyone enjoys the re-issue!!

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Photo Credit: Ange Cobham

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