Dayton music fans to honor Max Nye of Dementia Precox

From left: Chris Green, Max Nye, and Gyn Cameron in 1981.
From left: Chris Green, Max Nye, and Gyn Cameron in 1981.

Dayton music was dealt a blow earlier this spring with the passing of Tim "Max" Nye on March 30 after a short battle with cancer.

In 1980, the guitarist, along with bassist Chris Green, left The Occupants and joined singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Gyn Cameron, and percussionist and saxophonist Dave Mench, as part of Dayton's seminal dance industrial art noise band Dementia Precox.

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The group began turning heads after recording the Dead On 2 Legs Luncheonette single and the SCHP EP , and in so doing, released music no one anywhere near Ohio -- and possibly this planet -- was making. Nye's wonderfully eerie guitar work was also garnering attention.

"His distinctive style melded well with the three other distinctive styles in that band," longtime fan Don Habil said.

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Dayton music lifer Eric Purtle, member of groups like Mondolux, Luxury Pushers and Dark Backward, witnessed Nye's work as he was beginning to form his own guitar style as a teenager.

"We had no vocabulary for what they were playing or what it meant,” said Purtle. “You just knew you wanted to walk into that light. They were absolutely crucial in my personal musical evolution.”

Dementia became arguably the biggest name in Dayton at the time as witnessed by Washington, D.C.-based rock critic and former Dayton resident Dave Hintz.

"Robert Pollard named them with Toxic Reasons as the two key bands of the Dayton scene when he was forming Guided by Voices," Hintz recalled.

Max Nye with Dark Backward.
Max Nye with Dark Backward.

Nye was gifted with the innate ability to make sense out the nonsensical and vice versa.

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“I’ve never heard anybody get such a great sound out of such terrible equipment. It was uncanny – he could mad-scientist together literally any configuration of crap and it’d sound amazing,” Purtle recalled.

With Nye, Dementia would go on to tour the country and Canada -- even sharing bills with the Ramones over one stretch. He left the group in 1985, before resurfacing in other Dayton projects like BOAT and Funeral Home.

Purtle would take over Dementia guitar duties in Nye’s absence until the group disbanded in the ‘90s.

With both Habil and Purtle, as well as bassist Jeremy McWilliams, Nye formed X-treme Unction, releasing the very rare Venial Sins cassette in 1990. But then he dropped out of the scene, and Dayton itself, for more than a decade.

Dementia Precox (circa 1981): (from left) Gyn Cameron, Dave Mench, Chris Green, Max Nye
Dementia Precox (circa 1981): (from left) Gyn Cameron, Dave Mench, Chris Green, Max Nye

Returning in the new millennium, Nye formed Dark Backward with Purtle and others while switching over to bass. He also participated in Dementia reunion shows over time. When Cameron passed away in 2011, Purtle, Green, Mench, Nye and others reformed the group as a tribute and began working on new material before the project was scuttled in 2013.

This weekend friends, musicians and Dayton music fans alike will hold a private gathering to reflect, remember and honor Nye and his contributions in accordance with his final requests.

With Nye's death, and Green's passing in 2014, Mench is the only original Dementia member remaining from the SCHP era.

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“The Dayton music scene owes a lot to (Nye) for pushing boundaries of what people believe music should sound like,” Mench said from his home in North Carolina. “ Max's work was never done; his life cut short. He has left the world with a lot of good music!”

“It’s a cliché, but he was like the older brother I never had,” said Purtle.” The best metaphor for Max I can think of is, he was so larger than life, so utterly memorable, that practically everybody I know has an impersonation of him.”

Habil put it succinctly when asked about Nye’s legacy.

“Max's tenure in Dementia has stood the test of time.”

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