Star Scene: Blag Dahlia ~ The Dwarves

Photo by Ester Segarra

Blag Dahlia’s scene is similar to his music – shameless and satisfying. The Dwarves’ singer bluntly states: “My scene is: sex with gorgeous people … and a joint.”

The Dwarves emerged into the garage rock scene in the late ’80s. Thirty years later, Dahlia still feels “bad” when the band is not “taken seriously” and called a ‘shock band’. He states: “If you have nudity, immediately, people don’t take you seriously. Unless there’s an enormous publicity machine behind you telling them they should take you seriously. But for the most part, as soon as you introduce nudity or profanity in the music, you’re really not taken seriously. Again I say unless there are some huge machine behind you in which case we can push it down people’s throats and it’s marketed as transgressive but actually when The Dwarves first started we were more of a 60s garage band. We weren’t known for being super offensive.

But for the most part, as soon as you introduce nudity or profanity in the music, you’re really not taken seriously.”

This was back in the ’80s, before the internet, and so people didn’t really know all these obscure ’60s garage songs, and we really liked them and would check them out and only certain people knew about them. So we made a band like that. But then we drove downtown to Chicago, and we came from the suburbs of Chicago, we’d go to play our shows and always get in fights or our stuff would get destroyed or we’d get thrown out of the club or something would happen. After a while we kind of looked at each other and said, ‘Oh Shit, we’re sort of punk band’. And we were punks. Musically we had this 60s garage thing but just in terms of personality, we were punk. And I loved the early 80s punk bands that I had seen, like Black Flag, the great bands that are around then, the   bands that were really interesting. So we kind of morphed in to that by the late 80s early 90s, when we made Blood Guts & Pussy, that was the first sort of punk thing we did. In between the garage era and that, we made an EP called Toolin’ for a Warm Teabag and that had a little more punk to it so we started off as garage back then, we quickly went on to more hardcore punk.”

Though he’s “learnt to embrace” the band being labelled as “punk”, to Dahlia “the definition of punk is people who were not afraid to not sell records, or to have people look down on them for doing what they were doing; it’s the early definition of punk like Blondie, Talking Heads, Ramones, where you didn’t have to sound like everybody else. Now punk kind of means you play at a certain tempo, you have a loud guitar, and you’re in a punk band.”

“To me it’s rock n roll. I don’t play around with all the genres, that all slides into one thing. I mean I like a punk record if it’s good, I like a garage record if it’s good, I like a surf record if it’s good, I like a folk record if it’s good. I like any type of record that is good at what it does. So for me what’s punk, and who’s punk, is never an issue. I mean, fuck, I put my body on the line for this for decades. I don’t think I have to prove to anybody who’s what -it’s pretty obvious. I’m one of the last guys standing. So it’s like: I’m in a rock band and I’m cooler than you.” Always charming, Dahlia quickly adds: “Well. Not cooler than you, the interviewer, but just cooler than the average person you know. I mean I certainly wouldn’t assume that I’m cooler than the person I’m talking to.”

The Dwarves are legends. We deserve it.”

Dahlia welcomes being called cool and legendary. He states: “I am a legend. I deserve it. There’s rock stars who make a bunch of money for a couple of years and then are never heard of again. The Dwarves are legends. We deserve it. There are stories about us that are legendary, because most of them happened and even the ones that didn’t happen, they’re even fun to talk about. You know, you can’t fake being a legend, you can fake being a star with just money behind you and management behind you and marketing behind you but you can’t fake being a legend, that’s just something you earn. And nobody can take that away from me and my band. Because HeWhoCannotBeNamed, is a legend, and Rex Everything – Nick Oliveri – he’s a legend, and these guys have earned it with the shit they did, and we’ve earned it collectively as a group, and I’ve earned it individually. That’s just one of the little things you get. But as my grandma used to say, that and a token will get on the subway.”

As for touring, Blag states: “You have to have the right attitude about touring. If you’re the kind of person that needs everything just so, then you’ve got a lot of expectations of how everybody else should act, then you’re not going to have a good time on the road. But if you’re able to accept you know the randomness of that life then there are some great rewards to it.”

“Touring? How else is a middle-aged person going to have sex with young attractive people?”

Dahlia doesn’t usually discuss past touring escapades. He states: “I don’t usually do that, not because I’m ashamed of them, but just because I don’t like to dwell in the past. If you remind me of one, I might say if it happened. You know sometimes there are triumphant performances, sometimes everybody hates them but both can be equally interesting. Sometimes you get into a fight, sometimes you smack somebody, sometimes you meet some gorgeous girl and sometimes you meet some … I mean I just look towards the next experience as opposed to dwelling on the ones I had. And some of the latest ones might have legal liabilities. I want to make sure I get into the country.”

Dahlia’s impressions of Australia are favourable. He exclaims: “I love Australia. It reminds me of the America that I grew up in. People are actually nice to each other and there’s some democracy and some general good feeling about your neighbour. My country has lost that sadly but Australia still seems to have it. I love it, I’ve always had a great time there.” Australian audiences can expect “action” from this tour. Dahlia elaborates: “expect to hear some great songs, we just made a brand new record so you’ll probably hear some new stuff you’ve never heard.

In food form, Blag hopes his music sounds like “ice cream; it looks good, it tastes good, it’s the right thing for you. And it can get kind of messy.”

The new album, The Dwarves Take Back the Night, was real collaboration, everyone had a couple songs. My songs on this record are kind of garage rock, Ramones; I’m kind of reverting back to my old days. But then the other guys have brought in this hardcore punk kind of stuff which I have a blast singing. So it’s just an interesting record in terms of switching pretty wildly from style to style. So expect there will be action, but for me it always comes down to the audience. If you have a boring audience, you kind of play a boring show, if you have a great audience you have a great show so it’s kind of up to the people who show up. But our bass line level is that we’re always fucking great. If we have a great audience then we’re really amazing. And we’ve always had great audiences in Australia.”

The DWARVES’ Australian Tour starts tonight.

Go to http://www.thedwarves.com/ for more information.

04/28/2017 SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA DWARVES LIVE at Imperial Hotel
04/29/2017 HOBART, AUSTRALIA DWARVES LIVE at Brisbane Hotel
04/30/2017 BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA DWARVES LIVE at Crowbar
05/01/2017 GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA DWARVES LIVE at Miami Tavern Early Show 3pm-7pm
05/03/2017 ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA DWARVES LIVE at Crown & Anchor
05/04/2017 PERTH, AUSTRALIA DWARVES LIVE at The Boston
05/05/2017 MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA DWARVES LIVE at John Curtin Hotel
05/06/2017 GEELONG, AUSTRALIA DWARVES LIVE at Negative Waves Festival Geelong
05/07/2017 MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA DWARVES LIVE at Cherry Rock Festival Melbourne

The Dwarves are Rock Legends. Birthed in the garage rock revival of the 1980’s over 30 years ago they continue to confound and confront audiences all over the world with searing live shows and masterful new records.

Coming to prominence as one of Sub/Pop’s first signings The Dwarves reputation for live madness earned the fear and loathing of grunge era crowds and the shock and awe of their peers. Between 1988 -92 they performed live with many of the most popular bands of the era including Nirvana, Green Day and the Offspring to name just a few. 1990’s “Blood Guts & Pussy” LP with its no nonsense punk rock and disturbing cover art helped to awaken a nation anaesthetized by hair metal and cry baby flannel. The LP’s “Thank Heaven For Little Girls” and “Sugarfix” came next.

Following the death of guitarist HeWhoCanNotBeNamed The Dwarves signed to Epitaph and proceeded to do for pop punk what they had done for grunge, making “The Dwarves Are Young & Good Looking” and “Come Clean” the definitive LPs of the skateboard punk era.

By the turn of the century The Dwarves had toured Europe and the US extensively and as well as Japan and Australia. Appearances on television and radio and dozens of song placements in film and TV solidified their legendary status. In 2005 “The Dwarves Must Die” (Sympathy) was hailed as their most eclectic album yet with producer Eric Valentine and a cast of underground notables featured in cameos that had the dying recording industry buzzing until they remembered who The Dwarves actually were. 2011 saw the release of “The DWARVES Are Born Again” returning to the punk ferocity of yesteryear, but continuing the genre defying experiments their fans now demanded.

With 2014 upon us, over 1200 shows under their belt and three decades of sickness to draw from, The Dwarves continue their assault on good taste with “THE DWARVESINVENTED ROCK ‘N’ ROLL” (Recess/Greedy). The relentless middle finger drive, catchy songwriting and deft production that set The Dwarves apart have never sounded better. And let’s face it, there’s only one punk band left that matters, so catch them soon at a theater, nightclub or crackhouse near you!

THE DWARVES INVENTED ROCK ‘N’ ROLL

About Mary Boukouvalas 700 Articles

Mary is a music photographer and reviewer.

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