Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

The Dwarves: We're a bunch of freaks

Blag Dahlia and He Who Cannot Be Named

There aren't too many bad boys in rock any more - but the Dwarves are doing their best to keep juvenile-delinquent behaviour top of the menu. They talk bust-ups, devil-worshipping and groupies with Edwin McFee



Meet Blag Dahlia, lead singer for the most controversial band in the world - the Dwarves.

In his 40-something years on 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 old-fashioned sense and right now, in a world of manufactured rebellion and Sylvia Young-schooled prima donnas, we need 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.

Before you speed-dial the Stephen Nolan show in a state of moral outrage, consider the facts; Blag is more a master of the wind-up than the dark arts. "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 1980s. 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. 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 any more. 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 songwriter and "evil genius" behind the whole band, revels in his cult status.

"I always hear lots of funny stories about myself and this band," he smirks. "For example, 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, however, finds the Dwarves that entertaining. Take Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme. He and Blag 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 bandmate in Nick Oliveri.

But when Josh kicked Nick out of the Queens for taking rock'n'roll behaviour to new heights of insanity, well, Blag had something to say.

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. A song called Massacre contained 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**king album."

When Josh bumped into his old pal a few months later at the Dragonfly in LA, things got ugly. Someone poured beer over the other's head and the pair traded blows before bottles allegedly became involved.

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 [QOTSA] like to define reality instead of other artists. I guess the truth hurts."

While Blag appears to be chipper, he himself has run into his fair share of problems with authority. Just recently the band were collared by Scandinavian customs officials and their albums - featuring plenty of naked girls and a vertically-challenged gentleman cavorting on the artwork - were confiscated. The band members were given a full-body cavity search.

"When you tell everyone that you're the Antichrist eventually they believe you," says Blag philosophically.

Don't let the cartoon cliches fool you for one second. 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 performing bluegrass 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).

"I like to write books and I've plans to do more," says the singer. "My latest novel 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 is a bit of a one-off. "The Dwarves are the only band that started out great and got better," he brags. "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. We're legends, after all."



The Dwarves play the Spring & 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



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