Interview: Dementia Five
Dazed and disorientated by the Revolt in the Fifth Dimension, Will and Peri show me the way to the other side…
Where and when did this lunacy begin?
PERI: I’m glad you called it lunacy! That’s exactly what the album is really about and I’m glad it came across. Recovering from broken relationships, be they important friendships, band break-ups, or romantic heartache, can really fuck your brain up. Some are easier to get over than others, but nothing makes you feel crazier than conflict, miscommunication, or just plain being fucked over.
Will and I were both dealing with this – in different ways – and rock ‘n’ roll is the best medicine. We both have an affinity for the earlier days of rock music. Between the two of us, our influences span from the ’50s through the late ’70s.
As for where it began, in theory – our living room.
WILL: The inspiration behind the overall concept of Dementia Five can be attributed to the old Spider-Man cartoon series from the ‘60s. A couple of seasons were produced by Ralph Bakshi, of “Fritz the Cat” infame. Even watching these shows as a child, I could tell that their creators had their minds operating on a different plane of existence.
Also worth mentioning is the music that scored each show. It was produced by a company out of Canada that sold music to TV shows called KPM. It was a cool mix of 60’s garage, surf rock, jazz, and psych genres clearly in line with our tastes. I’ve been able to track down many of these tunes through the miracle of the Internet, but a lot of them are lost to the world because no one can find the masters! A damn shame, but at least we still have the TV shows.
As Peri said, we were watching these shows on my DVD set in our living room one night under similarly altered brainwave patterns to the show’s creators, and during the episode “Revolt in the Fifth Dimension,” which come to find out never aired during the show’s initial run due to heavy psychedelics and vague drug references, inspiration struck! I knew if we were going to start a new band it would have to be different than OGRE. I’m a huge metal head, but I felt that I could never put together or join another metal band that could compete with everything OGRE had done, so I wanted a new group that could pay tribute to other influences.
PERI: We set about looking for talented folks to join in, and it has been a huge pain in the ass to hold onto a keyboard player, but we’ve always been happy with the results.
The late ’60s and ’70s sound is a perfect fit for this journey! The acid-drenched guitars, the organs and wild vocal delivery. All very colourful. Energetic too. Does it feel like a second skin?
WILL: Yeah, a second skin, or at the very least, a third skin! We were lucky that my partner in crime Ross Markonish wanted to come aboard. He is the greatest guitarist in the multiverse, and the only guitar player I’m interested in playing with for the rest of my life. Everyone who knows us knows we’re at home kicking out SABBATH type heavy jams, so the DEMENTIA FIVE stuff might leave some folks scratching their heads, but I hope people will make the jump with us on this new celestial voyage!
PERI: One of the best parts of this particular band experience was the freedom to individually do what we do best, without any one member controlling the “vision”, no overthinking song structures, no rules about solo length, bass solos, or lyrics. Ross, Will, and Jim can jam for ten minutes, and I can pull out something I wrote and make it fit while they’re playing, and we have a song. We all love to be loud. Jim’s almost totally punk rock-influenced, but he gets it, and rolls with the jams. The passion to just make music is there. The chemistry is there. Tighten a few screws (but not too tight), and done. Most of the album was written exactly that way.
Sanity is a delicate thread. Was it difficult to plot this course and retain some form of control of your mind?
PERI: I tried once or twice to present the songs in order of the journey to insanity, but, sonically, it didn’t flow as well. People are confusing. You can’t tell if they’re your friends or not, sometimes, or even if knowing them is good or bad. That can lead you down a scary path, especially if trust is an issue for you.
Ghosts and demons pop out here and there to warn you, but love and joy can create a kind of mist over the mirror. The further you go, the longer you live, the more these things accumulate, and, suddenly, you don’t know where the hell you are, who the fuck you are, or what you’re even doing in life. Some people would call this a crisis. We call it fodder for musical storytelling.
Most of these songs were a release for me. Dumping all the bullshit into words that rhyme to kind of purge the badness, and make it prettier. So, I guess you could say that singing about insanity helps make me a little saner.
Talking flow, what took priority: telling a story through the music and lyrics or simply writing hard rocking songs? To your credit, both appear to be welded tightly together…
PERI: As I pointed out before, we each do our part to make the songs rock. It really is just a matter of magic. There is no effort involved in making the lyrics and music go together. It’s just meant to be.
I’m a big, loud, storyteller; Will is a rock Frankenstein monster, made up of all the best parts of every great drummer before him; Ross has the “kevorka” for guitar-playing – everything is just plain ridiculously heavy, awesome, and epic; Jim is like a growling, sweaty glue that winds his way into each gap between us; and we have been lucky enough to have had Portland, Maine’s own rock princess contribute her keyboard and vocal prowess for this album.
I love the image of the downtrodden Magic Man! But who in the audience is so enamoured with him?
PERI: The “Magic Man” is actually someone I know, and love dearly. I’ve known him a very long time, and he has morphed and evolved so many times, in so many ways, and always with critical acclaim. It’s really quite hard to explain when someone just has “it”, in whatever he does. He’s always been that way, and – fortunately for those close to him – he has grown into someone sweet and loving, as well.
That’s what keeps important people with you in life. If not in person, then in spirit. There’s just something about them that never goes away, and influences you forever. Will doesn’t think the lyrics are very flattering, but I think the subject knows what I meant. And the “chasing butterflies” line was quite literal. To answer your question, just about EVERYONE in our audience is enamored with him.
WILL: I just wanted to add that the Magic Man that she speaks of actually brought Peri and myself together years ago, so we’ll always be in his debt!
Somehow I’m reminded of the innocence of the child who calls out the Emperor. A timely reminder of the folly to please and chase those in power?
PERI: The Emperor doesn’t know he’s naked and disillusioned until someone points it out. Scads of people who can’t see the truth will often follow a false prophet, while those who can see clearly what’s happening gnash their teeth on the sidelines in frustration. I’m afraid my “child” was less innocent, and more resentful and frustrated that no one could see the Emperor was naked and making a fool of himself.
Actually, it’s more like the merchant in the kingdom who actually had the best cloth ever made, who got passed up for a charlatan, than it is like the child. Hence the crazy-making. Seeing people who aren’t what they seem be adored and celebrated can be a very lonely, frustrating, and depressing feeling.
In “Path of Decay” is Death the ultimate foe?
PERI: Yes. It is Death. It is the wheel of life. It is all of the bad, powerful, inevitable things that happen to all of us. Ignorance is bliss. The fact is, these things don’t happen to anyone for a reason, other than it was meant to be. And so it will be, for all eternity. As a foe, it is pointless to fight.
“Crossroads of Indifference” is beautifully bleak. Acceptance? Borderline revelry in the descent?
PERI: “Crossroads” is a personal favorite. It ties in with “Path of Decay” in the way that we are helpless against the powers of the universe, of fate, of mortality. The hazy mirage will show you the wonderful, beautiful, truly joyous parts of being alive, of having lived – the parts that make the whole journey worthwhile. We know, since the loss of our first goldfish, that it will be over someday. We live our lives seeing things die. We KNOW it’s going to happen. Yet, in the end, we’ll cry and plead to avoid the inevitable. When the song picks up, it more of an admonishment. Wake up, before it IS too late. Stop ignoring what’s right in front of your face. “Open our eyes, we see nothing. Open our minds, we learn nothing.” This happens every second of every day, because we are only human. That’s all. There’s nothing we can do. To me, it’s kind of freeing.
“All The Way Around” seems to be one of those hazy mirages. An upbeat delusion before the final fall?
PERI: The placement of “All the Way Around” is the best example of the chronological order of the songs. It comes early in the story, just after “Magic Man”, and is indeed one of the mirages we follow. Everything is real to us, yet each of us experiences reality in a different way. ATWA is a love song. It’s about love, it’s about my love, it’s about everyone’s love. Ross, Will, Jim, and Gina created the most beautiful music that puts you in a trance, much like love does, and it spirals, almost dangerously. The best versions of that song were at rehearsals. It’s very difficult to capture the same gorgeous vibe every time – much like love itself.
The artwork as much as the music is screaming for a vinyl release! Will, please talk us through those tormented visions, the medium of your craft and how you feel it translated into physical form.
WILL: Once again, I have to talk about the Bakshi Spider-Man shows. Admittedly, the animation was pretty limited, with a good chunk of every episode consisting of Spider-Man just swinging around, but the background paintings he was swinging around in front of were some of the most beautiful examples of 20th century fine art that I’ve ever seen. Pure psychedelia! I could stare at them forever. I am nowhere near the genius level talent that worked on this show, but I tried to use a similar palate of saturated color, making a painting and overlaying a line drawing on it digitally, kind of like an animation cell. With everything I do, I try to go for an aged look. As the son of antique dealers, I was brought up to love and see/hear the beauty in old stuff. Not sure how successful I’ve been, trying to capture an earlier zeitgeist, but I think I’m getting better. I’m hoping we can put out some more material so I can explore that visual universe to a greater degree.
Cassettes are a little crazy in this day and age! Having now received the pressing, what do you make of it? Will anybody care?
WILL: I hope they do! I must admit I’m a little baffled by the re-emergence of the cassette format. I have too many memories of trying to spool them back together with a pencil as a teenager. That being said, I am very happy to have people still interested in listening to music from a physical object. I really tried to make it a collectible in terms of the art and design, and like OGRE’s cassette release of our “Secondhand Demons” compilation, I tried to recreate the look of all my old SABBATH and DEEP PURPLE tapes on the spine. I think they look great, if I do say so myself! As I said, this is a bit outside the usual sound of OGRE, so I hope it’s well received. I’m sure some people will see me playing music with my wife, and think it’s some kind of Yoko Ono type situation, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I think Peri has an amazing and distinctive voice and a similar passion for music, and we wouldn’t be working with her if she wasn’t super
talented. I’m super-proud of this release, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
We’re all goners so let’s talk celebrations! The asylums in Maine will open for one day only this August. What are you brewing in the taverns of ill repute for the crazies?
WILL: This show is gonna be wild. We have projection artists RARER EMPTYPRIZES doing some work with us for the show. You can look them up on the Internet to see what they’re all about. Not sure how it’s going to take shape exactly yet, but we’re all about the spontaneity of live performance and experimentation.
PERI: I like to add to the visual spectacle, so I’ll have to put together an appropriate stage costume. So, I’ll be dreaming up something special for this comeback performance. The only running aesthetic is madness and pure rock. So, anything goes!
Have you played live much before? Would you like to project a particular aesthetic going forward?
PERI: Live shows are the best part of this band. Like most groups, it’s hard to nail that exact feeling of synchronicity, perfection of chaos, heart-pounding bass drums, piercing squeals from the guitar, sweat drops flying, lights flashing and swirling, and raw energy that materializes once the cords are plugged in when you’re in a studio. Never the same twice. Even muffed notes, forgotten lyrics, drunk assholes in the audience add to the experience, making it truly real. It’s our reality.
WILL: The most musical fun I’ve had on stage ever has been with DEMENTIA FIVE. Some of our songs, like “Revenge is My Gasoline” or “Temptation” are straight up rock n roll numbers, but the other stuff we can spread our wings on a little bit, and change it up according to how we feel that night. I love that spirit of spontaneity. .
If you are looking for another keyboard player, what unhinged Gina?
WILL: As Peri alluded to before, Gina Brown is rock n roll royalty up here in Portland, ME. Her father, Kip, pretty much invented rock music in the area, playing with bands dating back for decades. I first saw him in his group THE PONTIFFS when I was in college, and soon after that, he had Gina on the keys. His famous line about her when he’d introduce the band every show was “I needed a keyboardist, so I had to make one!” We were really happy to have her on board. She brought the raw rock reality, and her voice harmonized perfectly with Peri’s. I think we came up with some cool songs together. Upon our recent re-emergence, she decided to bow out, deciding to focus on fronting her own band, EUPHEMIA, and we wish her well! Filling in on keys is Patia Maule, from a band up here called FORGET FORGET. Not sure if she’ll be with us for the long term, but I’m excited to hear what new sonic pathways we will be traversing! When one door closes, another opens.
PERI: Next, we’ll explore the home, the sanctuary, the labyrinth, the vault of the mind of the insane. Some of the various illusions we create for ourselves, self-sabotage, and moments of normalcy that trick us into thinking everything is “fixed”. Anything can happen, and anything does.
I have more than a vague feeling that this will not be the last of our conspiracies…
WILL: Thanks, Danny! Once again, we’re very happy that this is going to have the potential to reach an audience!