Besides cute kitten pictures and pornography, the internet’s main reason for existence is to provide a global forum for people to scream at each other. Guarded safely by a built-in cloak of anonymity, the web allows regular folk who might agree to disagree in normal, polite company to kick into ALL CAPS overdrive, explaining at length why your contrary opinion should condemn you and everyone you’ve ever loved to die slowly and painfully. Need an example? Take a gander at the comments section below any article involving legendary punk band The Dwarves, especially interviews with Dwarves front man Blag Dahlia. Based on what you read, Dahlia and The Dwarves are either a bombastic breath of controversial fresh air within an over-sensitive punk scene that is afraid to offend anybody, or a group of misogynistic Neanderthals who’ve confused ” being controversial” with “being assholes.”
Regardless of what camp you find yourself in, few can argue that the The Dwarves aren’t seriously talented musicians. The band has always displayed serious chops throughout their nearly 30-year career, and their signature sound, which sees hardcore punk writing a gushy love letter to traditional rock and roll, has endeared them to fans across the globe.
We caught up with Blag via email prior to their May 17th show in Montreal as part of Pouzzafest.
Your newest record is called The Dwarves Invented Rock & Roll. You guys have been clear about being the inventors of rock pretty much from the get go. Did people need reminding?
Every time we make a record it sets the bar for all other bands. The fans know who invented rock, too. At this point, it’s game over!
The Dwarves’ sound is tough to pin down; you seem to pull from a variety of styles and genres. However, I’ve always felt your music demonstrated a deep love of early rock and roll – are there particular artists from that time period that are particularly influential to you?
We started as a 60’s garage band; the 13th Floor Elevators, Seeds, Chocolate Watchband. We loved 50’s rockers like Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Hasil Adkins. We loved early R&B records by Wynonie Harris, Little Richard, Bullmoose Harris. Girl group records by the Crystals, Ronettes, Little Eva. Swing records by Cab Calloway, blues reecords by Son House, surf records by Dick dale…the list goes on and on.
Add to that; the bands we were seeing every week- Cramps, Ramones, Misfits, Replacements, Gang of Four, Black Flag, Violent Femmes and you get a pretty heady stew of rock & roll that fermented into…us!
The album includes performances from a lengthy list of former Dwarves members. What is the talent process like when you are recording a new record? Do you and HeWho put out a call to everyone and see who is available?
HeWhoCan NotBeNamed is often the one that’s hardest to track down! But he always comes through along with past, present and future members like Fresh prince of Darkness, Chip Fracture, William Shat, Rex Everything,Gregory Pecker, Sgt. Saltpeter, Marky DeSade, DJ Marz…the list of people who love playing with the Dwarves but can’t stand touring with me is extensive and growing all the time!
You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that many Dwarves alumni are great songwriters, but does having so many cooks in the kitchen ever cause problems when you are trying to create a new album?
I find it easier with a lot of cooks in the kitchen. More flavor! Everybody knows I’m ruthless in the studio and production is my thing. The best thing goes on wax, period. But there are heated disagreements about what the best thing is all the time. They still hate me for trying to rap or sampling Miley Cyrus, etc. Fuck ‘em!
It’s not really a Dwarves show unless you’ve gotten the audience whipped into a frenzy / pissed everyone off. Have you ever noticed a difference in the way crowds react in different parts of the world? Where would we find the craziest Dwarves fans?
Great fans make a great show. A band can only do so much, the audience has to run with it. We usually score best in big towns- London, NY, Chicago, LA, but little spots like Bologna, Bilbao or Lubbock, TX can go off too. You never know who has got the fever until you go there and stick a thermometer up their ass!
You’ve been a very vocal proponent of artistic freedom of expression, deriding artists who self-censor or bow to a pressure to be politically correct. Are there any lines The Dwarves won’t cross, or is any topic fair game?
Any topic should be fair game but it isn’t because it’s so easy to misunderstand stuff. We can joke about anything in the van, but some stuff is just too funky to touch. Still, we push enough buttons that you’d never know we even think about it. We never set out to shock people, just to keep it real and sing about what we think about.
We recently got hacked by Islamic fundamentalists (no joke!), so here is an article I wrote on that. Pass it on.
Due to lyrical content and your album covers, The Dwarves are sometimes labeled as a sexist band, but in a number of recent interviews you’ve described yourself as a feminist. Is it possible to be a feminist while singing “Skin Popping Slut”?
Yes! A feminist believes women are equal to men. That means they can handle art and provacative subject matter. They are smart enough to have a sense of humor. That’s called respecting everyone, not pandering to them.
Most of the folks who scream sexism all the time are deluded and uptight. Many are prudish and scared of sex in general. Many are young men trying to get laid by being perceived as sensitive. Guess what guys; it doesn’t work. Be a caveman!
One of the problems with being a controversial band in this day and age is that everyone can record everything and then argue about it forever on the internet. Has this changed how you approach your live show? Do you ever engage with that online discussion?
Very little. It’s a pointless discussion. Our art speaks for itself. Disreali said- “never complain, never explain.”
Over your career, you guys have shared the stage with a very long list of awesome bands. Is there any group you haven’t toured/played with yet that you would like to? Who is on The Dwarves’ bucket list?
I just saw the Replacements. What a great band they still are! In Europe just now Nick Oliveri turned me on to Trash Talk, a great thrash band from Sacramento. Their live show was spectacular. There are still great bands to play with, we just never get invited to do so. Except at Pouzza Fest!
So after Pouzzafest, what’s next for The Dwarves?
We’ve been touring for a month solid. I’m going to go home, sleep, eat and fuck for a month until I’m human again.
This year we celebrate 25 years of Blood Guts & Pussy with shows of the complete album featuring the original lineup at various festivals and stuff around the world. Should be great!
Written & Compiled by Jesse Gainer