“Tell a joke!”
“Don’t worry, we’re about to play 11 of them.”
The infamous first utterances between the audience and band right before the very first Dialysis show in 2012.
I’ll never forget that. And, right off the bat, can I state how awkward it is to write about my own band? I know, I’ve done this more than once since starting this project, but I am committed to doing something about every record released through this label. And just to warn you, there’s a few more Dialysis records to go. So let’s get weird, shall we?
Dialysis was born out of boredom and down time for the long-running Syracuse black metal group Ebony Sorrow. The duo of John Bukowski and Matt Calabrese has been the core of the group for most of their existence, going back to the early 2000s. So at a point when that band was not doing much the two began fucking around with writing extremely short, spur-of-the-moment punk/grind songs. On a larf, I can only assume, John messaged me to see if I would be interested in putting vocals to these short bursts of ridiculousness. I should, at this point, point out that John has been a close friend for probably around 20 years. His family lived right near my mom’s house and this awkward, geeky metal teenager would regularly walk over to her house to see if I was home and drop off bootlegged cassettes he would make by bringing a tape recorder to shows and recording bands live sets. I didn’t ask for the cassettes. He was just nice enough to think of me. What a guy. We’ve been friends ever since.
On the other hand, I barely knew Matt Calabrese. I knew who he was, and that he played drums, and played exceptionally well. But we didn’t really know each other. Well, that guy is kind of out of his mind as well I soon learned and it’s made the experience of being in a band together pretty damn entertaining.
But back to being asked to be in a band with John. We had previously had a ‘project’ together back in the late 90’s not too long after becoming friends called Human Shield and it was terrible. It was intentionally a joke band. None of us could play worth a shit and the whole idea was to ruin other’s peoples good times with random acts of destruction. We would show up to something, sort of play, and break a lot of stuff, or pull awful pranks. If I was maybe 15 it would have been excusable, but I was older than that and probably should have known better. But there were some pretty clever pranks shoehorned into all the immaturity and recklessness.
So John plays me these rough room-recording Dialysis songs and I’m already hesitant about doing a Human Shield Part Two. I hear what they got, let them know that these songs need a little extra to them, like at least 10 seconds of material to go with the 15 they already have, and see if they actually want to follow through with it. And lo and behold, they actually did put some work into them! So at this point I felt obligated to at least give it a shot. Plus, I had no band at the time so why not, right? We met up a few times, worked out a few of these songs, and then somehow started writing more of them. And then we got to talking about other bands we all really liked and wrote some more stuff and before we knew it we had a demo. I was kind of surprised actually.
The notion of just having a guitarist and drummer to go with vocals made writing very effortless. It was incredibly economical and there wasn’t too much in the way of decision-making. I enjoyed the simplicity of just playing really fast, really short songs with a drummer who could run circles around anyone else any day of the week. So we eventually put things to the test and played a show. And a first show led to several more, and then some out-of-town gigs (which, if you can tour in a minivan with just a guitar cab, head, and drums I highly suggest it. It’s soooo easy), and before you know it, it got kind of real.
I think of Dialysis as just being fun. It’s a way for the three of us to dig into our love of music across a very wide spectrum and fuck around with those influences in the form of short, fast songs. Plus, we all have a warped sense of humor and I personally feel like punk music should be fun while being energetic and ripping at the same time. It’s totally possible to convey serious topics while still being humorous and that’s what Dialysis aims to do.
And I have always been one, at least with my bands, to not wait around for someone else to offer us a record when I know full well how to do it on my own. So once I felt that Dialysis was serious enough (in terms of writing, recording, and playing out) to be a continuing project, while still being a lot of fun, I put out our first seven inch. The title was obvious since we are all big Spaceballs fans- “Ludicrous Speed”. And so with that I may as well get Evil John on the line and get his impressions of this ridiculous and fun record.
So it is weird to interview my own band. However, you and Matt have a sort of different perspective because you started the band before I joined.
Yeah, I guess that’s sort of true. We wrote four or five of those demo songs before we thought about giving them to you. We were going to see what you thought of them. And I didn’t want to sing because I was already doing that in Ebony Sorrow and we didn’t know who else to get, ya know? You had recorded that one Ebony Sorrow song with us and that went really well.
Is that why you had asked me?
Yeah, and we loved the way it came out. It also got to be that Ebony Sorrow was writing a bunch of songs that sounded like that one you were on that we had to stop because it wasn’t really what Ebony Sorrow was about. Like the song “Hot For Preacher” on the Dialysis demo was an Ebony Sorrow song at first, and we even had it in our set for a bit. So when more of the songs started sounding like that I thought, ‘wait a minute, we have to break this off and do something different because this doesn’t really sound like a black metal band anymore.’ So after you recorded that one song with us I thought you might be a good person to ask about doing this new thing, which was stuff that was kind of too punk for Ebony Sorrow, and that became Dialysis.
I thought you all just had down time, like the rest of the band wasn’t doing anything so you and Matt started writing Dialysis songs.
That’s how a lot of that stuff came about. There would be a lot of days where Jay Bailey (other Ebony Sorrow guitarist at the time) wasn’t available. So we would just start ripping out some of these tunes and once it became apparent that it would be just me and Matt that’s when we wrote “Sedative” (on the Dialysis demo and 7”) and “Opposable Thumbs” (Dialysis demo) and that’s where those ones started off.
If I remember correctly we sent you a few shitty recordings to see how you would take to them/
You sent me like six songs! And they were all like 10 seconds and I was like, ‘these aren’t songs, write some more shit.’ I remember I was rather blunt about it because I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to be in a band.
I remember that! I remember you were iffy about it. But here we are, years later.
Seriously. Why does this continue?
We just don’t know any better. At our age what else are we going to do? Let’s get in van, buy a few records, and play for like two kids.
That’s true. I see that a lot of people we’re friends with in our age group still doing bands, but they’re more serious about the music, and less serious about playing out because they have adult lives. We’re like the opposite.
(laughs) At the end of the day if it’s not fun, why bother? I mean, we’re really just playing for ourselves and maybe 20 of our friends. And if we’re lucky enough sometimes we play out of town and it’s good. It’s really just an inside joke for all of us and that’s what makes it so great.
Yeah, honestly. So was that your intent? Start a fun punk band and make jokes?
Not really. That wasn’t the intention at all. We wanted to have punk parts, but I wanted it to be grind-y like Nasum and Terrorizer, and I wanted it to have Aus Rotten parts as well because that’s the shit I was really listening to at the time. I just ended up writing all this stuff and here it is. It ended up not being like anything I had envisioned, it’s better to me.
Originally, when we started jamming this stuff we were going to have Gabe Hamm play guitar too (local Syracuse guitarist from a million bands, currently of Kalki), and I wanted to write riffs with him and have two guitar players. It didn’t end up working out.
I did not know Gabe was going to be part of the band!
Before I even sent you anything I was writing parts and I thought, ‘Gabe knows punk, let’s jam with Gabe!’ We just couldn’t coordinate schedules. We wrote some riffs together once. He was going to play guitar and we were going to figure out a bass player later.
We’re still figuring that out.
(laughs) Right! We haven’t settled on any one yet. We’re waiting for the right prospect to come along (laughs)
(laughs) ‘We’re waiting for the right person, but rest assured, we will be holding auditions.’
Did you ever expect we would record anything? Did you even plan to play shows?
the shirt says all that ever really needs to be said about this band
I thought that we would get a demo done and maybe play five or six shows and it would probably fizzle out. That was my expectation. I honestly didn’t really have expectations. I just thought it would be something fun and that would be it. A little footnote.
So you came up with the name. And there has been a lot of internet confusion as well from people who are offended that we’re named after a medical procedure, to people who think we’re some sort of internet page for medical things.
And really, who likes dialysis? You know? That’s like saying, ‘I like getting a blood transfusion! Where can I click on a ‘like’ page for that?’
Also, who likes Dialysis?
(laughs) There’s at least one person who likes Dialysis, the band.
But as for the name, it was symbolic. I was going through some bad shit and I wanted to use this fun music to filter out the bad shit. That’s it. So it became a personal, spiritual ‘dialysis’, for lack of a better description.
Our name doesn’t really imply what we do.
No, it really doesn’t. But then, what name would? It’s gone on this long, so why change it?
How did you meet Matt?
I met him through Ron (Ebony Sorrow bassist). He was 14 years old and he came to try out for us. And Ron was telling me, ‘I know he’s really young, but he’s really fast!’ So Matt snuck out of his parent’s house at 9:30 at night, snuck out his basement window and Ron picked him up, and I had just gotten out of work at like 10 or 11 at night and I see this young-ass kid behind the kit. I looked at him and just said, ‘play me a blast beat’ and the kid fuckin’ ripped. And other than Mike Dunham from Demonic Prophecy (Syracuse death metal band) he was the fastest drummer I’d ever seen. We found a way to work around things and he’s been with us ever since.
So that’s been like 16 years now? You guys have been writing partners forever.
It’s been about 17 or 18 years. Yeah, it’s nuts. It’s fucking weird. Matt’s always down, as long as it’s not conflicting with other things he has to do, like school, or teaching.
the variant full color cover (of 50), art by Shaky Kane
What’s your favorite thing about that 7”?
Probably being excited about it being the first thing I ever had released on vinyl. Writing it, knowing that it was going to be on vinyl was exciting. Getting Shaky Kane to do the artwork was cool. I wasn’t familiar with his work until you had mentioned that you got him to do it. It was cool to see how that came out. The Human Shield cover lives on (“Tough Guys Always Lose”), which was nice. I remember the writing of the record being a lot of fun. I don’t remember anything about recording it. We wrote a song in the studio and we sprung it on you last minute, but I can’t remember which one it was.
I think it was “Population Smoker”
OK. That would make sense. I remember Matt wrote the riff to it and said, ‘I want to do this’, so we recorded it real quick and it worked, so we kept it.
That makes sense because it’s a very punk rock, three-chord sort of riff and that’s how Matt writes when he ends up writing riffs. But I also remember nothing about recording it.
It’s the weirdest thing, isn’t it? It was fun writing it though.
What’s the worst part of the band?
The worst thing about this band is, right now, is it’s tough to keep motivated when you’re on the other side of the country. That’s really the only bad thing about it. And there was that really bad weekend we did where like one person came to both shows total. Those shows in Long Island and New Jersey?
Oh yeah, that was dismal. Not only were they the most poorly attended shows, but they were in pretty shitty places as well. There was nothing redeeming about the venues or the towns.
We had to load in through a street fair!
The only redeeming thing was the guys in Trunk, who we did the shows with, were really fun. They were wild dudes.
I’d go out with those guys again in a heartbeat.
But everything else stunk. Literally. The towns we played in smelled bad too.
I don’t think we even went to any record stores or scored any records on that weekend either! We didn’t find any good record stores! And I was thinking, ‘if we’re out on the road and we can’t find any record stores why are we even doing this?’
And now is the part where I hawk wares to you. Sooo, feel free to grab a copy of "Ludicrous Speed" and with every purchase you will also get a copy of... "Ludicrous Speed, the fuck up" 7"! That's right. If you read the Taxa 7" article (you didn't) you'll remember that when I went to repress that bands two song 7" the pressing plant grabbed the wrong plates and ended up pressing "Ludicrous Speed" onto records containing the labels for a different record. Not sure how you mix up a 2-song 7" and a 10 song 7", but hey, either way, I got a bunch and I don't want them. See picture below for details. So you can get either the 7" for $4 or the digital for the same price (c'mon, 10 songs on a record, that's a deal).