Words and Photos by Chris Lever – May 2005
Outsider has never been an alien word to these guys. Since I first caught earshot of the band on Punk ‘O’ Rama III and the other truly great Epitaph bands like Zeke and Osker, I started to sense that these guys didn’t really fit in. Therefore I wasn’t surprised to hear that their brief stint at the prolific Sub Pop Records was made somewhat awkward when their guitarist He Who Cannot Be Named thought it would be good for a laugh to fake his own death. Funnily enough, they didn’t see the comic side, and after a few years of laying low, It’s my pleasure to announce the triumphant exhumation of…THE DWARVES!
Interview with Blag [The Ripper] Dahlia somewhere in the murky depths of The Mean Fiddler.
LH: Ok, first question I guess, is going to have to be, how’s the tour going and how many hours did it take you to drive here today? I think I’ve clocked in just under 8 hours of travel to get here myself today…
Blag Dahlia: Oh, really?
LH: Yeah, I’ve had to come all the way down from Newcastle to be here tonight.
BD: Aha, well we’re gonna make it worth your time, man. We’ve been riding around all fucking day for a month but it’s been great. Berlin, Stockholm, crazy shows everywhere, it’s been really, really fun!
LH: And you’ve been taking care of yourself? I saw the photos last time you bounced heads with a bottle on tour!
BD: [laughs] I’ve been trying to take care of myself, but it should be more about other people taking care of me!
LH: Switzerland: What happened there and how did they justifying taking 3,500 Euros off you?
BD: Switzerland; those cocksuckers! It’s incredible isn’t it? It’s so fucked up! I think they were just disgusted by the look of our merchandise, and so they totally fucked us over. They grabbed our shit, they arrested us, they body searched us and it was insane! They stole our money and they fucking lied. We had to cancel the show and it was really fucked up. I’ll never go back to Switzerland, so I guess that’s what they wanted?
LH: And now you’ve been banned from supposedly, the most liberal country in Europe?
BD: [laughs] Liberal is funny word. What does that mean? I don’t know!
LH: So now you guys have been fully exhumed as a band, I read the Janelle Jones interview where you were outed saying ‘people obviously want and need The Dwarves….but do we need the people? Was that the underlying reason behind your reformation, and this tour?
BD: Yeah, I think The Dwarves is like a necessary evil, you know? Every couple of years somebody has got to come along and re-open the genres. Most bands just play one kind of thing and they push that forever, and it’s easy to market, but we just made this record ‘The Dwarves Must Die’ and it’s got every genre on there, every different style. Punk rock and hardcore, pop and hip-hop and surf and garage, and so I think the scene desperately needs us!
LH: How long are you playing for tonight?
BD: We’ve been doing a good 45 minutes, which is pretty crazy for us, you know we were always known for doing ten minute shows and shit, but you never know, it could happen tonight?
LH: Yeah, I was only expected a 25 minute set at a push, as I always have done with bands like you and Zeke, because to ask for 40+ minutes is like asking for 3 albums in a set!
BD: I like to refer to Zeke as ‘The Dwarves Junior’ [laughs] or sometimes ‘Dwarves III.’
LH: [laughs] And you’ve got no problems with tonight being a loud and proud Clear Channel affair?
BD: As long as they’re paying money…
LH: And charging £13.50 a ticket, which seems a little more reasonable if you’re playing for 45 minutes?
BD: As long as they’re paying, I’m fine with it. I don’t really know Clear Channel and I don’t really care what they do. I think they should be playing our record on the fucking radio, but unfortunately radio is all about ‘paying people off’ and shit, but if there was any justice The Dwarves record would be all over the radio because it’s the best hard rock radio record of the last year for sure!
LH: How have people taken to the record; have Maximum Rock and Roll offered their two pence on it yet?
BD: [laughs] I don’t know. After Tim Yohannon died I quit paying attention to Maximum Rock and Roll. They never really were known for having much taste; they just knew who their friends were from Berkeley, kinda thing. But there’s something on this album for everyone to hate, you know, so on that level if you just hate hip-hop or if you just hate pop then you’re going to hate it.
LH: Do you still get that quota of people who say, ‘Why can’t all you songs be like the ones off ‘Blood, Guts and Pussy’ again?’
BD: For sure, but then you’ve got to ask yourself, why didn’t you buy ‘Blood, Guts and Pussy’ when that came out? For years, every time I put out an album people tell me how much better the one five years before was, and I’m just like ‘wait five years and you’ll get this one, and then you’ll be telling me that what I’m doing in the future is not as good as what I did five years ago,’ you know? Every Dwarves record is a classic in its own way. This one’s just really killing! There’s been a lot of really, really good reviews about it. I think a lot of people picked up on what was happening with this record so I’m glad, people seem to like it a lot.
LH: Do you think the little resurrections you’ve had with ‘[The Dwarves] Come Clean’ and your latest record allow you to change your direction and do what you want to do by going underground for a while and then saying ‘we’re coming back, but if you want to see or hear us again it’s on our terms and now I like hip-hop, or I’m going to fuck around with some electronica?’
BD: Or we’re going to do a speed-metal song? Yeah, that’s part of the thing this band has been dying for twenty years so the death is half the fun.
LH: What’s wrong with kids today? [Sorry for all the question puns readers, It was a long coach journey to get to this gig and I had gone a little stir-crazy! - Lipgloss]
BD: [laughs] I don’t know, you know? I think kids today have got better music than kids from five or six years ago; it was really lame. Things go through phases. The music that’s out right now, and the garage stuff and that, to me is more appealing than the nu-metal stuff that was around five or six years ago, but the point we make in that song ‘Kids Today’ is that people are always bitchin’ about the kids today but really it’s the adults – people like me – who keep fucking it up for them. We always make a disaster of everything and then say ‘oh, what about these kids?’ and they don’t have much power to do anything so they’re just a reflection of us… but…. I like teenage girls a lot still. They’re my favourite thing! [Yuk! - Natalie]
LH: That reminds me of something Henry Rollins once said; that you’re the generation that’s going to be remembered for being more hardcore than your parents who may have been slightly alternative enough to remember Woodstock the first time round, and more hardcore than your kids who are generally seen as listening to weak generic pop music.
BD: Well that’s my generation! I started going to hardcore shows when it started in 1980 so I’ve been around through all these phases. It’s kinda inevitable you know? Some people start something and then other people come in and profit off it because they’re like a wimpy, weaker, easier to digest version of it, it happens that way all the time. We were playing 60s garage type music twenty years ago and nobody could really understand it and now, all this time later, people come along with an easily digestible version of it and they’re like ‘oh sure, that makes sense!’ That’s how it goes, but I don’t think it ever makes sense to sit around really thinking that things have changed. Human beings have changed infinitesimally in the last ten thousand years but we’re roughly, exactly the same, so the idea that people are way different a couple of years later doesn’t really make that much sense to me. I imagine people are pretty much the way they’ve always been; it’s more like some bands rise to a certain level of excellence that other bands can only dream about, and most of them get there with a lot of help from managers and agents and big labels but The Dwarves are a truly independent band, and even the people who are always waving the flag of being independent, they would just never have the guts to do it the way we’ve done it for twenty years and we continue to do it, always making better, more interesting records, but never having a big apparatus behind us. If something happens to us at the Swiss Border we’re just fucked, it’s not like there’s a label or management company to bail us out, you know, so young people talking about how real they are; they can only dream of being as real as us, you only get to be that way when you put in the time and it remains to be seen. Most people would just chicken out and go home, that’s how it works.
LH: You can really see that you’ve pooled a lot of different interests into the new album; where did you get the choir from for ‘Christ on a Mic’ or who did you persuade to do it?
BD: Wow, the choir is about six or seven different voices layered. Some of it is Spike from Me First And The Gimme Gimmes, some of it’s Jula Belle who played in lots of punk rock bands in L.A. Some of it is Eric Valentine, the producer; but we just called in every resource we could and we really, really worked hard on it and there’s a lot of interesting moments on the record. The idea was to do something different every 30 or 40 seconds.
LH: Was it a similar vocal combination to the Dead Kids sample?
BD: Well the Dead Kids are actually young kids. It’s four twelve year-old kids – two boys and two girls – and then we just layered their voices over and over. They’re also on ‘Kids Today’ doing the 1, 2, 3, 4! chant. But, there’s just a lot of different people on there and a lot of different stuff and it took a long time.
LH: Where do you see your album/ photo theme going? You started out with ‘Blood Guts and Pussy’ and ‘The Dwarves…Come Clean’ and now you’ve got ‘The Dwarves…Must Die!’ but do you have any ideas for the photographer to work with in the future. I thought you could all fly into Switzerland under fake names, get together, borrow some instruments and play an illegal show and if you recorded it you could release it under the name of ‘Swiss Chocolate!’ You could have the 3 naked girls being body searched by the dwarf as the cover art.
BD: Ha, ha, ha, ha, I like that, that’s good! Switzerland Live, I like that!
LH: Live and Unendorsed!
BD: Yeah, the artwork is funny though, we’ve had that same photographer, Michael Lavine for years. This band’s always been very lucky, really talented people will take pity on us, or perhaps it’s because they love our music and they love what we do, so they’ll do cool shit for us for a fraction or the cost.
LH: Frank Kozik!
BD: Kozik’s always helped us out a lot, and people like Eric Valentine on the record who’s a big producer and Dexter Holland came in and sang on it. These people who recognised something good and have been very successful will come back and help us out which is great because that makes up for the lack of official support; the support from other people that are good.
LH: Have you produced any good albums yourself recently? I know you worked on the Swingin’ Utters album.
BD: The last punk…I did a punk record by a band called The Godawfuls for Kung-Fu and that came out really, really good. It was their debut record and they’ve been touring around a lot so people are probably hear more from The Godawfuls. And the newest one, I did a female punk/new-wave record with these really cute girls in L.A. called The Hologram. They’re half-Asian, half-white chicks and they’re very cute, funny and they write some funny songs and that record should be out soon on a label called teenacide [www.teenaciderecords.com] and I’m pretty excited about that one.
LH: I’ve also heard that you don’t listen to a lot of punk rock yourself, does it get a bit annoying when you’re on tour and you’re saturated in it every day?
BD: [laughs] Absolutely! I don’t think anybody in my band listens to it. There’re always great bands around and you’ll see them here and there, but as a genre a lot of the interesting shit already happened, so if people keep hashing out the same old shit I don’t need to hear it. It’s not that I hate it or I object to it, I’m not going to sit around listening to it. I’d rather hear something else.
LH: If you could say fuck the kids and have it your way by taking any band of any genre on tour with you, who would it be?
BD: The best record I’ve heard recently was William Shatner, you know, Captain Kirk!
LH: The one produced by Ben Folds?
BD: Yeah! Ben Folds did a great job on this record and it’s a very funny record and it’s really honest. I like anything that gives me a real taste of something, this guy Richard Cheese, this guy doing all these cover songs in a lounge style, anybody who makes it interesting. What I’m not interested in is people just repeating something that they already saw someone else do. It just doesn’t hold a great thrill for me, and also, most rock music is just very loud to get you to forget that there’s nothing there. As long as it’s loud enough and it can beat you into submission then you’re supposed to pretend that there’s something there…
LH: Which has been the whole sXe ‘Hardcore’ genre as it’s called these days for me through and through.
BD: Yeah, and Nu-Metal. It’s all about production value and spending a lot of money on your record and hiring lots of roadies. Heavy metal bands suck and they’ve always sucked, and the simple reason is not even that heavy metal music is so bad, which for the most part it is. Sometimes you hear some decent heavy metal music, but what really sucks about heavy metal music is that they hire all their friends to be their cheerleaders and run around carrying their equipment and kissing their fuckin’ ass. It’s so pathetic, and punk bands now largely operate like heavy metal bands, so they do the same thing, and it’s just all these phoney-assed bands like Queens Of The Stoneage, or whatever; it’s all about hiring people to be your friend and be your roadie and call you a genius and The Dwarves never needed any of that! We just don’t give a fuck about that at all; we are geniuses, we don’t need anyone to tell us.
LH: Ok, we’ve already talked about one of the mid-career crisis routes you’ve taken with producing, let’s clear up the rest: Whose label is Greedy?
BD: Greedy is The Dwarves’ it’s just like a production company. That’s just stamped on there to let you know that we made the record, we own the record and it’s our thing.
LH: Have you got any plans to branch out into anyone else’s records?
BD: Yeah, well I always like to produce. I’m not really interested in running a record company because that entails a lot of stuff that I’m not really interested in, but Greedy Worldwide is actually a merch company now, that’s coming up because we had to organise it to sell our merchand now we’re selling merch and different things. We’re going to be getting into Japanese toys and all that kinda bullshit, just Greedy Worldwide selling merch, which personally I think is a total waste of time but it makes me money so I do it. Personally I would never buy anything from anybody; I think it’s fuckin’ silly! I’ve never bought a t-shirt in my life, fuck it!
LH: Any plans to write another book?
BD: Yeah, I have another book written and it’s getting illustrated now by a guy called Chris Jackson, so I’m waiting on that, but that book’s a lot different to the other one, ‘Armed to the Teeth with Lipstick’
LH: I haven’t read it yet because the only place I could find it when I last had money to spend was fucking Amazon.com and they told me it was going to take months so I think I might have to ignore your advice and buy something off Greedy Worldwide!
BD: Yeah. Well that book’s out of print now so we probably only have a few left, in fact we ran out of them on this tour, there might be a few still at home. The new book will probably be out within a year or so, it’s called Nina. Armed To The Teeth was more of a stream of consciousness but Nina’s a story about a really dirty 15 year-old chick and all the people she fucks, and the people she fucks-over, and all the things she does, so I think that’s going to be a really fun book and people are really going to get into that one I hope. We’ve got a DVD coming out, which was us live in New York. It should be out in about a month, so there’s some neat stuff coming.
LH: OK, just a couple of quickies to wrap this up with…firstly, what does He Who Cannot Be Named teach, if the rumours are to be believed?
BD: [laughs] It’s all lies about He Who, but he teaches me how to be a really nasty person!
LH: Well, thanks for the chat, thanks for the free CD and for saving me £13.50 tonight, and thanks for Punk ‘O’ Rama III, without which, I probably wouldn’t have been here!
BD: Well it’s my pleasure man, thanks for listening!
Muchos Gracias Pour Favor to Blag for the chat and Russell Skullduggery for working the floor.
The Dwarves Must Die is out now, and hocked alongside Blags books and their Japanese toys at www.greedyworldwide.com