Early this morning as I wrote my comics section for AU Magazine I was listening the Dwarves. As well as loving catchy pop music, I adore punk rock. I like the speed, agression and snottyness of the scene like a chubby bloke loves Dominos and the Dwarves are easily one of my favourite punk bands.
Last year they finally made their debut in Belfast and typically enough they managed to put more noses out of joint without even knowing it. It was a hell of a gig by a hell of a band and it’s strange how you can become accustomed to looking at a naked bloke in a gimp mask after 15minutes (even when he’s rubbing his mickey on the Spring and Airbrake pillar). Below is my interview with Blag Dahlia that ran in the Belfast Telegraph. Broadsheets can be punk rock too, you know.
Meet Blag Dahlia, lead singer for the most controversial band in the world-the Dwarves. In his 40-something years of planet Earth he’s been arrested, beaten up, made a music video with the Suicide Girls for FEFU, been hit with countless bottles, accused of perverting the nation’s youth and being in league with the Devil. You see Blag is a rock star in the traditional sense and right now, in a world of manufactured rebellion and Sylvia Young schooled prima donnas; we need someone like him more than ever.
“Satan is a personal friend of mine and you never know where we’ll strike next,” cackles the California-based singer.
Now before some of our more sensitive readers’ speed-dial the Stephen Nolan show in a state of panic, Blag is more of a master of the wind-up than the dark arts and is only joking with us. We hope…
“For those of you who haven’t yet heard of the Dwarves-we’re just a bunch of freaks really,” offers the singer “I think we are a pop band that makes you sick. That means we have catchy songs and big production, but we talk about doing drugs and underage women. I think there’s something there for everyone.”
The Dwarves formed in Chicago, Illinois in the late eighties. They quickly became notorious for their smash mouth brand of speed punk and released their first album, fittingly entitled Horror Stories, in 1986. Since then, Blag’s been offending people over five continents and he shows no sign of stopping.
“A lot of people think we behave like this just to sell records-but if you look at my bank balance you’ll realise that just isn’t true. For us, making t-shirts with slogans like ‘teach your children to worship Satan,’ is just a bit of fun. Images like that are just the kinds of things that occur to us and we’re not afraid to put it out like most bands are. Oh yeah-and like everyone else-we love looking at naked girls.”
The Dwarves have released 12 albums over the space of two decades. They’ve split up too many times to mention, hired and fired countless band members and become infamous for their penchant for performing five minute-long sets. Their guitarist, Hewhocannotbenamed, performs naked-save for his leather wrestling mask to spare his blushes and if Dwarves mythology is to be believed the six-stringer keeps his true identity secret as he’s on the run from the police. Dwarves stories are always popular in the punk rock scene and everyone has a favourite, but this writer’s personal pick has to be when the band faked the death of their guitarist in 1993. At the time the band were signed to Nirvana’s former label Sub Pop and had sent out a press release to say that Hewhocannotbenamed had been stabbed in a nightclub in Philadelphia. They even included a fake but touching tribute to the guitarist in the inlay card to their album Sugarfix. Of course, when the story was exposed as a hoax, Sub Pop were left red faced and the Dwarves were arrested by the police. Shortly after their stunt, they were dropped by their label.
“Let’s get one thing straight-Sub Pop never dropped us,” states Blag. “Our deal with the label was up at that point. They got paranoid that all the rock magazines wouldn’t like them if they were associated with us and the truth is they couldn’t make a decent record anymore. The whole grunge thing was dead at that point and they were panicking that the cash cow was milked dry. Either way, they eventually got the whole paying royalties thing figured out and now we pretend to be friends.”
With a band like the Dwarves you never really know who’s telling the truth and who’s pulling your leg. They seem to actively encourage the gossip mongers and Blag, as the chief song-writer and “evil genius” behind the whole band, appears to revel in his cult status.
“I always hear lots of funny stories about myself and this band,” he smirks. “The most regular rumour is that I always get blamed for the unattractive girls that the other guys in the band have slept with on tour. They get away clean while I get mocked for my apparent lack of taste. For the record though-there is a height and weight requirement to get backstage with me, but there’s no age limit.”
Not everyone finds the Dwarves entertaining however. Take Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme for example. The pair had been friends for years, Blag had guested on QOTSA’s third album Songs for the Deaf in 2002 and they also shared a mutual band-mate in Nick Oliveri. Oliveri regularly moon-lights as a member of the Dwarves and plays bass under the moniker of Rex Everything, so when Josh kicked Nick out of the Queens for taking rock ‘n’ roll behaviour to new heights of insanity, well, Blag of course had something to say on the matter.
But he waited until the release of the latest and greatest Dwarves record The Dwarves Must Die in 2004 before he made his feelings clear. It was a song called Massacre that Josh was particularly peeved about-especially the line “This one goes out to Queens of the Trust Fund. You slept on my floor and now I’m sleeping through your mother-f*cking album.” So when Josh bumped into his former friend a few months later at the Dragonfly in LA, things got really ugly, really quick. Homme poured a beer over Blag’s head and the pair traded blows before the QOTSA frontman allegedly bottled him. Blag had to be taken to St Mary’s hospital in Hollywood to receive stitches and Josh was later charged with two counts of misdemeanour battery, sentenced to three years probation and was ordered to enrol in anger management therapy. He was also told to stay at least 100 yards away from the Dwarves frontman and is banned from carrying deadly weapons.
“Having a sense of humour is something that commercial rock bands just don’t seem to have,” says Blag. “I think bands like that [Queens of the Stone Age] like to define reality instead of other artists. I guess the truth hurts.”
At the moment the Dwarves are planning on making an inaugural visit to Belfast. It might have taken 20 years in the making, but now, once and for all, we finally get to see what all the fuss is about.
“I’m really looking forward to coming to Belfast. The girls are gorgeous and they say the crowds are good fun. For me touring has become the same old thing-but since that same old thing is sex, drugs and the adoration of thousands, we’re down for it until death.”
While Blag appears to be quite chipper about the endless cycle of touring, he has run into his fair share of problems with authority along the way. Just recently the band were collared by Scandinavian customs officials and the band’s albums-featuring naked girls and a vertically-challenged gentleman cavorting on the cover-were confiscated and the band were given a full-body cavity search. But Dahlia takes it all in his stride and views it all as an occupational hazard if you will.
“When you tell everyone that you’re the Antichrist eventually they believe you,” he remarks.
But don’t let the clichéd sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll image fool you. Whether he’s writing pure pop punk songs like Saturday Night or Salt Lake City that the Ramones in their prime would have given their leather jackets for, or he’s performing blue-grass music under the pseudonym Earl Lee Grace, Blag is a genuine talent. He’s even started writing novels (including 1998’s Armed to the Teeth with Lipstick and 2006’s Nina) which make Katie Price seem like Fisher Price.
“I like to write books and I’ve plans to do more,” says the singer. “My latest novel Nina is the story of a young girl who is remorseless in her lusts. It’s a fun read, a guilty pleasure and written in a pretty minimal style. You could almost call it literature!”
Love him or loathe him, Blag Dahlia is a true punk rock one-off. His band are still kicking ass and taking names and they’re not afraid to walk it like they talk it. Respect.
“The Dwarves are the only band that started out great and got better,” concludes Blag. “I keep waiting for younger bands to come out and blow us away but it just never happens. Punk used to be a way of doing things-now it’s a genre of music. In other words, it’s not as fun but we get paid a lot more now. We’re rock legends after all.”
The Dwarves play the Spring and Airbrake in Belfast tomorrow night with support from Numskull and the Scream. Tickets are £10 and available from all Ticketmaster outlets and www.wegottickets.com. More details are available on www.myspace.com/roadsideattractionsbelfast and www.thedwarves.com