“Dayton was slow coming around to punk and new wave,” says David Mench. “It was more of a country, southern rock or Van Halen style area. It was cool when the punks started infiltrating the clubs that usually had that music on the jukebox.”
As co-founder and scrap metal percussionist of the Dayton industrial music project Dementia Precox, Mench aka Rodger Revlon helped inspire post-punk noise groups like Nine Inch Nails and Ministry. Mench’s journey with Dementia Precox saw him on stages from CBGBs in New York to San Francisco’s On Broadway. Now 55, Mench runs a record store and record label in the foothills town of Valdese, North Carolina.
Mench was born in San Angelo, Texas. His father was in the Air Force, and when David was a year old the family moved to the Dayton suburb of Beavercreek, Ohio. “I was a misfit in my school,” Mench says. “I didn’t want to be a jock, although I had the height for playing basketball. I leaned towards art and music instead, attempting guitar, later learning to play clarinet quite well. I brought music to school all the time to share with close friends. I was a huge Todd Rundgren fan in high school.
“I always liked music,” he continues. “I remember playing my parents’ Big Joe Turner record, ‘Get out of that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans.'” While in high school, Mench worked at Dingleberry’s record shop in Dayton. After taking painting and welding classes in the Job Corps, he returned to Dayton and worked at several other record stores. He formed one of Dayton’s first punk bands, The Rulers, with colleagues from work.
He began playing in a band called Occupants with some Beavercreek friends, and through them met Gyn Cameron. “We began practicing together as a two-piece in his basement,” Mench recalls. “Gyn got a real kick out of playing the guitar with a screwdriver. I liked playing with tin cans, which evolved into larger pieces of scrap metal and sheet metal oil drums that I played with hammers, while inside a chicken wire cage.
“Einsturzende Neubauten (German industrial band) was a major influence on me choosing to perform on all sorts of metal objects,” Mench recalls. “My favorite was an old lawnmower body.”
Cameron and Mench had similar musical tastes — Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, Suicide, SPK, Virgin Prunes, Roxy Music, Lou Reed, and David Bowie. They decided to form a band, naming it Dementia Precox — intentionally misspelling a medical condition described in the Tennessee Williams play (and later film) Suddenly, Last Summer.
“We made crude recordings and released a cassette tape in a zip lock baggie in very limited quantities — Dementia Precox: The Not So Hidden Persuaders. The tape is very rare now,” Mench says. “If anyone knows where one is please let me know.”
Dementia Precox was completed with the addition of Occupants’ bassist Troy Boyahue and guitarist Max Noise in 1980. Working with the manager of the Dayton band Toxic Reasons, they recorded a single in Cincinnati (“Dead On Two Legs Luncheonette” b/w “Mines,” Hospital Records), and toured the US and Canada, taking along a dummy head mascot that they nicknamed Syd.
Mench performed with the group for three years, playing all kinds of “found” metal percussion, saxophone, and doing some “singing, or er, ranting. “I stepped off the stage at Berkeley Square (punk/new wave club in Berkeley, CA) and landed on my feet after about a four-foot drop, while singing ‘Dock Of The Bay,'” Mench recalls. “It is really neat to play an instrument that you do not have to keep investing money into like most real instruments. When a piece of metal is beat to crap and the sound is dead, I look for another piece and usually find it for free.”
After joining Toxic Reasons for some shows on saxophone, and working on a performance art project with painter Eric Nunn, Mench left San Francisco in 1984, and moved to Valdese, North Carolina. “My parents had moved to Valdese to be near relatives,” he says. “It was convenient to move to North Carolina.”
Mench opened Play It Again Records in 1986, started the Waggletone record label in 1993, and an eBay business by the same name ten years ago. “It was an easy transition,” he says. “I already had a lot of experience. First I started selling at a booth at Jamestown Flea Market (in Morganton, NC). Later I rented a small shop in Valdese, eventually outgrew it, and am now in a much larger building, which was one of the first Roses department stores.
“I thought that if you had a record store it was cool to have a label,” Mench says. “I was interested in trying it after being around Hospital Records (Dementia Precox’ first label in Cincinnati), Risky Records (Toxic Reasons), and later Repo Records.” (Charlotte indie store that became an online business).
“I look for diversity,” Mench says. “Waggletone is not a ‘sound’ like some labels seem to have. I don’t know what I’m looking for until it falls in my lap. Always like to be taken by surprise.”
Waggletone boasts 18 releases, including music by Charlotte heavy metal bands Seducer and Antiseen, as well as Subklinik, Pandora’s Lunchbox, Jeff Bright, Rhenium, Flip’n’Boogers, and the Terry Eckard Band. The label’s most recent title is Johnny Cryboy’s Turn On The Tears.
Mench continues to create music as well. He recently returned from Negril, Jamaica, where he recorded at Chop Chop studio with reggae artist Jah Pure. He is working on a Rodger Revlon solo release, and Dementia Precox, in the wake of Gyn Cameron’s 2011 death, is tracking a new album at Cybertechnics studio in Dayton with several members of the band Dark Backward. “I’ve learned that you have to be in it for the long haul,” Mench says, “which I am.”