The Dwarves: Back at It… and Still the Best
Anyone who has ever been a fan of The Dwarves knows that they are true originals. The band’s two staple members, guitarist HeWhoCannotBeNamed and lead singer Blag Dahlia, are anomalies all their own. In recent years, they have branched out with solo projects, but are now ready to put their reckless energy back into the Dwarves. The band has seen trend after trend go by the wayside while they have grown a following of devoted fans around the world. Somehow, this highly explosive punk rock outfit has lasted for 25 years, and to mark that occasion, they have released their twelfth full-length record Born Again. I had a chat with Blag about where the band is now and what they want out of the future.
SLUG: What was your approach to the new record?
Blag: Well the idea this time around was to get every member of the Dwarves over the past 25 years together and make a sick record, still make it punk rock, and make it great for our fans… and we succeeded.
SLUG: The band has evolved so much over the years, and you’re all over the place influence wise. How would you describe what the Dwarves sound like?
Blag: The early Dwarves were like a ‘60s garage band, and then you had the hardcore Dwarves with Blood Guts and Pussy. Their was kind of a pop punk Dwarves with Young and Good Looking, and after that it kind of became a free for all with death metal one minute and hip hop the next and just whatever we wanted. To me it’s a rock n’ roll band and the problem with most punk bands is that they’re playing so fast that they forget that its rock n’ roll.
SLUG: Between this record and the last record both you and HeWhoCannotBeNamed have put out solo records. What did you get out of those as opposed to doing more Dwarves stuff?
Blag: For HeWho he got to sing which obviously he doesn’t get to do in the Dwarves very much. For me, I had a bunch of songs that were more traditional Americana type songs like country or even disco songs and duets.
They weren’t going to fit on a Dwarves record so I met up with this group called Persephone’s Bees and they’re this two person group—a man and a women team—and they’re very complex and pop. So I just thought I could make record with these guys and it would be a cool combination of style. I’m really proud of Candy Now, even though I don’t think too many people know about it, but it’s really the first thing I’ve ever done that you could fuck your girl too.
SLUG: How did that affect going back into Dwarves material?
Blag: Well I had spent some time away, and one day I woke up with the line “Let’s just get high and fuck some sluts,” in my head and it made me think, “Okay, I’m ready to do this again.” The stuff we do as the Dwarves is very intense and after awhile you just can’t think about it anymore, but it will always come back around again.
It was while writing “The Dwarves Are Still the Best Band Ever” that I got the idea to bring back everybody for the next record, which was a lot of fun. I was like a reunion without playing old songs and still pushing ourselves further.
SLUG: You mentioned intensity—your live shows are infamous for their combustible nature. Where does that intensity for the live show come from, and how do you try to capture that when recording?
Blag: I came up in early ‘80s punk rock and back then we were working without a net. I’d see bands like Black Flag, the Misfits, or Minor Threat and there was this feeling in the room that anything could happen, and that was really wild, but at the same time I was always a huge record listener, to all kinds of records, so to try and make those two things jive together has always been my goal.
On record I want to create something interesting, and focus on making something that’ll last forever, but the live show you want to recreate that, but I don’t want be careful about that because then you lose the spontaneity of it. It’s the duality of Dwarves I guess.
SLUG: Who really blew you away live?
Blag: I saw Spinal Tap when I was in high school and I’ll never forget that. As far as lead singers Lux Interior of the Cramps could just hold down room to the point that you couldn’t look at anything else.
SLUG: How has life on the road changed for you over the last 25 years?
Blag: The novelty of it wore off awhile ago, but now we take the time to enjoy it more. It is nice when people know your songs. In the early days it was more chaotic, and a lot of people didn’t care, or were just waiting for the next band or whatever, and now when we play everyone is there to see us, and I gotta say that now I’m an old man it’s so easy to get young pussy. In the old days I’d have to lay siege on some drunken girl for hours just to get a hand job.
SLUG: Hypothetically, what will the Dwarves Sound like in another 25 years?
Blag: First off I hope we’re alive to find that out. I would hope that a few new genres that haven’t been thought of will come about and we’ll be able to incorporate whatever that is into what we do. That’s been the thrill, to stay current without just going with whatever is trendy. I was always trying to use samples and drum loops and people would tell me that was wrong thing to do, or that rap and punk shouldn’t be on the same record and I always thought being punk meant I could do what I wanted to do.
SLUG: When are we going to get you back in Salt Lake?
Blag: We love Salt Lake. It’s full of sad, damaged, repressed, horny chicks, and that’s what I’m always looking out for. We’ve got our famous “I’m Not Going to Salt Lake City” song but we love it there, so hopefully if we can find a venue that’ll allow us on stage we’ll be playing there this fall.
If I know the true spirit of punk rock or rock n’ roll, it’s because I heard it in a Dwarves song. The thought of them somewhere out there trashing a stage or exposing themselves to a surprised crowd brings a grin to my face. Nothing has been able stop them in 25 years, so no matter what you think of them you have to respect that kind of might. Their new record Born Again is out this May and they’ll be touring later this year.
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