Dwarves Frontman Blag Dahlia Tells Us Why His Band Is Just As Untamed As Ever.
When it comes to a band like The Dwarves, it can at times be hard to separate real life from the myriad of myths that the band's legend has spawned over the course of their lengthy career. For the past 30 years, the band toured the country, building a reputation along the way for shocking antics that include, among other things, onstage nudity and leaving their audiences bloody and stunned.
For their part, the band has done nothing to dispel these myths, either. In some cases, they've gone to great lengths to add to them. In 1993, for instance, the band was famously dropped from Sub Pop Records after sending out a press release stating that guitarist HeWhoCannotBeNamed was stabbed to death in Philadelphia.
When we spoke with Dwarves frontman Blag Dahlia earlier this week, he made sure to insist that age hasn't softened The Dwarves — not in the least. He even went so far as to tell us that he's looking forward to creating a few more myths this Friday when the band is in town performing with The Queers at Three Links.
You'll find the rest of our conversation below, including Dahlia's thoughts on sexism in rock 'n' roll, and why bands shouldn't mix music and politics.
Where'd you guys play last night?
Last night was New Orleans. Off the chain wild behavior in New Orleans. Dallas needs to get their asses up to the level of New Orleans. There was some wild shit.
What kinds of stuff was going on?
I was showing my tits, that's how extreme it got.
When was the last time you guys were in town?
I think we did Dallas like two years ago at the Double Wide. It's always a good show out there. I'm a Dallas fan.
Any crazy stuff ever happen to you while you were in Dallas?
I fucked a phlebotomist there once. That was a long time ago. If there's any phlebotomists around, send them down to the show.
The Dwarves have been around for 25 years now, so I imagine it's pretty hard to catch people by surprise at this point. What do you guys do to keep fans on their toes?
If there is an audience, that's the surprise. Actually, we've been a band for, like, 30 years now. When we did the 25-year thing, it had been about 28 years. So now it's about 30. Isn't that weird? Bands have to celebrate their 25th anniversaries. When we made that last record, Born Again, it'd already been 27 years. We figured we were already two years overdue to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Now we're just about coming up on our 30th anniversary.
Do you think you guys have tamed at all over the years, or are you just as wild as ever?
We're quite untamed. That's why it's just a revolving cast of bizarre human beings. You never know who is going to show up or quite what they're going to do.
How do you keep pushing boundaries after 30 years?
Failure is a big part of it. If you're successful, then you have to keep doing the same thing over and over. If you fail miserably, you get to do whatever you want.
Over your history, the term “punk” has come to mean a lot of different things. What do you think it means to be a punk in 2013?
A punk is a guy that gets fucked up the ass in a prison cell. That doesn't really describe me. It used to be kind of a way of doing things where you were different. Now it's a pretty circumscribed genre, where everybody is supposed to do the same kinds of things. There are very acceptable punk rules. We never really went by any of that. I liked it better when it was kind of a way of doing things as opposed to a really tedious genre of music. We're punk in the fun sense.
Sexism in the music industry has been a big issue as of late.Is this something you've noticed at all — especially as a band that's been called out over the years for having sexist album covers?
I don't even know what that term means anymore. I don't think most people that use the term know it what means. It has lost all meaning. Sexism would be if you hired somebody for a job and then paid them less because they were a different gender. That's sexism. Talking about pussy and tits does not make you sexist. Everybody likes pussy and tits. It's ridiculous. People need to lighten the fuck up.
Do you consider your live shows and your albums two totally separate forms of art?
Yeah, I do. There's no real budget behind the live shows so you just gotta rock 'n' roll. It's a very pure form of entertainment. Live shows are just 'Get out there and do it.' It's all about bringing energy to a crowd. There's zero production value. On the other hand, on a record, I like to take a lot of time with it and make something great that's going to last.
Over the years, your live show has often been labeled as shocking. Do you think the fact that you've been able to stick around for so long indicates that there's a little more substance to it? Shouldn't the shock have worn off some by now?
Anybody that is interesting is shocking. Anybody who does something that you haven't heard before is shocking. Lots of artists self-censor themselves, so when they see someone who is not self-censoring themselves they think, 'Oh, you're just trying to be shocking.' It is a form of expression of how we actually are. I don't find it shocking very much.
How did the onstage nudity start? Where did that come from?
I don't know. We were all trying to kind of one-up each other. At one point, one guy wore a pair of panties [on stage] and it was like, 'OK, I'm just going to wear a pair of sheer stockings.' Then [guitarist] HeWho just went totally buck naked and was very free-form. Then, when you get older, you need to do sit-ups and stuff if you want to maintain the onstage nudity, so laziness has also intervened somehow. Personally, I prefer it when females are naked. That's more pleasing to me.
It seems like a lot of other bands in your genre are politically-motivated. To me, though, you guys seem more fun-oriented and don't seem to worry about politics as much.
Well, I mean, they're two separate spheres. I worry about politics in the political sphere and then I worry about rock 'n' roll in the rock 'n' roll sphere. I think combining the two comes off a little simpleminded at times. Like a paper tiger, if you go out and fight the same political fight that every other punk band is fighting, it's sort of like preaching to the choir. Basically, the country has moved incredibly to the right in my lifetime. I think that's a big problem for the country. I don't think any incremental steps any other way are going to do the trick. It's extremely serious. It's a situation where we're basically becoming a fascist state. That's kind of a concern in that I'm not going to try and take that on in a one-minute punk song or a two-minute pop song. There's really nowhere to go with that in my view. We're just an expression of an apolitical view. We don't judge [politics] one way or another in the context of The Dwarves. If people think that that makes us not as smart, then they're probably looking for their politics in all the wrong places.
Being around so long and having a reputation for such wild live shows, a lot of urban legends about the band and its antics have emerged over the years. Have you heard any stories of things that supposedly happened at Dwarves shows that never really did?
Yeah, of course. That's the whole nature of mythical bands. The Dwarves are rock legends. When you're a rock legend, there are myths about you that's part of the whole fun of it. We encourage the mythologizing of us. Because we deserve it. We're a truly legendary band.
Do you have any favorites?
No, I want them all to be true! That's the great thing about myths! I plan to create another myth in Dallas at this rock show. I can't live on my past myths. I've got to constantly create new ones.
The Dwarves perform Friday, May 5, at Three Links with The Queers.