An Interview with Blag Dahlia of the Dwarves

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Logo-Preview-2-1.png

Interview with Blag Dahlia of The Dwarves

It’s time for another interview, this time I’ve got OG veteran of the scene, Blag Dahlia, with us and it’s a good one. Blag has been the leader of legendary Punk Rock band Dwarves since the 80s (learn more about them via their website here). If you’re into legit, well produced, nuanced Punk, then Dwarves are definitely for you.

It was really great to speak with Blag, and have the chance to get to know him a bit better. We talk about his roots, the early days of the Dwarves, his new solo record, pushing over street crossing old ladies, his thoughts on the scene and much more. As I mentioned earlier, for songs and videos and dirty pictures, head over to the Dwarves’ website here. Dig in.

Andrew:
Blag, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. This last year has been rough, right?

Bkag:
It’s been weird alright, but I managed to record a solo LP I’m really stoked about! A lot of novelty songs and Americana kind of stuff. And I finished a new novel as well, so creatively a pretty great year, actually. I even made some hilarious tracks with Mickey Avalon!

Andrew:
Tell us about your backstory. What was your musical gateway so to speak?

Blag:
My dad liked marches and musicals and Pop songs from the 30s and 40s. My mom liked Folk music, The Beatles and the Bee Gees. My brother was a modern Jazz DJ and I liked the Bubblegum songs on the radio when I was a kid, like “Sugar Sugar” and “Yummy Yummy Yummy.”

Andrew:
As an artist, who are some of your earliest and most important influences? How did you develop your signature sound?

Blag:
Frank Zappa was big deal for me, I really liked musicals and the Monty Python songs and all that kind of stuff. Then I discovered The Ramones and suddenly heard the only music I was talented enough to play. Seeing the Decline of Western Civilization movie, SNL and Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video were big influences moving me toward Punk Rock, too. The band has had a few signature sounds. The early Dwarves was very 60s Punk- The Seeds, Chocolate Watchband, Sonics. Then we sounded a lot like a Garage version of The Misfits and Motorhead, but always with 50s Pop overtones. After that, it went very eclectic because all I listened to were Hip-Hop records, but I didn’t want to be one of those white guys in a sideways ballcap. Eventually, we became a repository for every Rock ‘N’ Roll and Hardcore style all mixed together.

Sometimes Chaotic, Often Pugnacious, The Dwarves 'Don't Have To Put On An  Act' | The ARTery

Andrew:
Let’s jump right in and talk about Dwarves. For those that don’t know, tell us the story of how the band got started.

Blag:
Me, Sigh Moan and Saltpeter started the band in high school as Suburban Nightmare. HeWho joined by my senior year and we became the Dwarves by 1985. We moved to San Francisco and started getting in a lot of fights, which we rarely won. Our rep expanded the more we traveled and by 1990 we were already pretty legendary for destroying clubs and pissing off industry folks.

Andrew:
Tell us about the Dwarves’ sound. How did it develop to where it is today? It’s been called a lot of things, and it would be easy to boil it down to “Punk.” That said, what would you describe the Dwarves as?

Blag:
Speeded up Garage and Rockabilly music is the essence of it musically. Lyrically, we are always pushing buttons, getting people to reevaluate the words they sometimes take for granted. It’s a return to Rock that made people squirm a bit, that was never too pleasant or easy to handle.

Andrew:
Dwarves have put out 14 full length studio records to date, as well as a few compilations, three lives records and 4 EP’s. Thinking back, how have you evolved as a band since your early days? What’s your favorite record?

Blag:
I have three favorites- Blood, Guts & Pussy is our ultimate straight for the throat Hardcore Punk record. It’s so basic, honest and stripped down, it just works. The Dwarves Are Young & Good Looking begins the better produced era of the Dwarves, it’s still fast and hard, but the musicianship gets better, and the production gets more recognizably “Pop.” That one is still our most popular LP. I also really love The Dwarves Must Die. That one has every single Rock genre- Surf, Garage, Punk, Pop Punk, Noise, Experimental, Hip-Hop, it’s all there and the production is spot on perfect.

The thing is, most Punk bands never make a good record, or they make one or two when they are young and then get progressively worse over time. Dwarves records are still killer, still fast and hard, still breaking new ground 35 years in. We’re not just the last Punk band, we’ve made better sounding records than everybody else for decades and get zero credit for it. If only we had better hairdos or talked about politics all the time, we could be as generic as our contemporaries!

The Dwarves Take Back the Night | The Dwarves

Andrew:
The band’s most recent album was Take Back The Night, which came out in 2018. With all this downtime, can we hope for some new Dwarves music soon?

Blag:
There is always another Dwarves record coming. Everybody in this band is a songwriter, including the guys who no longer play shows. When you’ve got me, HeWhoCanNotBeNamed, Saltpeter, Fresh Prince of Darkness, Rex Everything (Nick Oliveri) and Josh Freese all writing songs, how can you miss? As soon as we can get back together and hang, we’ll start hatching a new record. Meanwhile, the BLAG solo record is going to blow minds in 2022, very funny stuff.

Andrew:
Dwarves have a pretty wild and crazy history dating back to the 80s. That said, what’s it really like within the band if we were to peel back the curtain? What are some things that people don’t know, that would probably surprise them?

Blag:
That we are all armed robbers, arsonists, child molesters and tax cheats? That we intentionally push over old ladies trying to cross the street? That we encourage school shootings? There’s got to be some surprises there!

Andrew:
How about your upcoming solo album. What more can you tell us about it? How does it differ from your work with Dwarves?

Blag:
The new record is musically much different than the Dwarves stylistically. A lot of Americana kind of styles- Country, Acoustic, Rockabilly, Easy Listening. It’s the lyrics that supply the through line back to my previous stuff. Funny lyrics, novelty lyrics, lyrics that are a bit too dumb to be smart and a bit too smart to be dumb. I’ve been really lucky in the Dwarves to get such great musicians for such an offbeat band. The same thing happened with this solo record. I got help from Josh Freese, Andy Carpenter, Tom Ayres and a whole lot more people who can really play, arrange, record and produce. Music is only fun for me when I can do it with people who have the same drive as me to make it great and unique. Without those guys and a lot of other people it wouldn’t have happened, but we brought it all together this time and it’s fucking brilliant!

I’ve also started doing funny parody songs with my old friend Mickey Avalon. We’ve got a new one based on Just a Friend by Biz Markie coming soon. Enjoy this one based on Exs and Ohs that we released a couple months back-

BITCHES & HOS VIDEO- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AnfAoTsIzI FREE DOWNLOAD/STREAM https://thedwarves.bandcamp.com/track/bitches-hos

Andrew:
A lot of people have an idea of what “Punk” is, but still people like to judge and/or put artists in boxes. What does “Punk” mean to you? Is it an ethos? A lifestyle? A aesthetic? Or just a genre? Tell us your thoughts.

Blag:
I liked it when it was the ethos of doing it your way and making it work. At this point though, it’s basically a genre, and a pretty weak one at that. I’ll take Dubstep, Klezmer or Armenian Folk music over most Punk records at this point. How many different ways can you say, “I’m a good moral person with PC politics, but my girlfriend upsets me with her mysterious ways?”

Top 10 Albums of 2019: via Blag Dahlia (The Dwarves) - PunkWorldViews.com |  Punk/Metal/Hardcore Coverage

Andrew:
Touring is usually a huge part of a working artist’s proverbial machine, but as we know, COVID has disallowed it. What do you miss most about touring?

Blag:
Nothing. We’ve played over a thousand shows. Point proven. I do miss the random pussy aspect of it though!

Andrew:
One disturbing fact I’ve learned over time is that Spotify doesn’t pay artists well, if at all. What are your thoughts on that issue? How do we as fans do our part to help?

Blag:
Fans are the lifeblood of music! Without them, there is nothing. Fans can help bands by buying stuff direct from the band whenever they can and going to see bands live or online.

The music industry has fucked musicians since its inception and continues to do so through streaming and other unfair labor practices. The only difference between now and 1905 is that musicians are even dumber now, and more willing to take any shit shoveled at them by the industry. (If “industry” is the right word for trust fund brats spending their entire budget on useless “promotion”).

Andrew:
In a world dominated by capitalism and social media, can artists really, truly get ahead? How do we keep the playing field level so that everyone has a chance to succeed?

Blag:
A) No and B) we can’t. All we can do is stay independent, make the music we want to make and either starve or get very lucky. I suggest a different line of work, kids…

Dwarves set to destroy The Underworld! | Punkinfocus

Andrew:
Where has COVID-19 left the music industry? Specifically, the indie music industry? Do we come back from this? If so, what does that even look like?

Blag:
It’s tough because our whole business model is: put as many people as you can in a room and have them breathe all over each other. What it looks like going forward in the short term is venues, labels and business folks that want to make the same profit margins they made before, so it’s going to get a lot worse for bands and artists generally. Getting paid anything for anything you do will get increasingly difficult. Many bands and artists will be knocked off course permanently by this. Young artists will emerge into an industry that is consuming itself. Happy times!

Andrew:
Are you into records? Tapes? CDs? Digital? Where do you like to shop for music? Who are some of your favorite artists? Ones that mean the most to you.

Blag:
I love LPs and singles, nothing will ever be as cool as the tactile feel and sound of a record, the artwork, the credits, it’s all good. I’ve mentioned a lot of artists above already. Here’s a few more: The Cramps, The Stooges, The Dead Boys, The Kinks, The Beatles, Eddie Cochran, Cab Calloway, The Boswell Sisters, Billie Holliday, Wynonie Harris, Slick Rick, Outkast, NWA, The Geto Boys, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Robert Johnson…

Andrew:
Last question. What advice would you have for young artists just starting out? How do they stay afloat in a world that seems to be so abhorrent to creatives?

Blag:
Stay open to cool new stuff, switch it up if things aren’t working for you. Don’t get too fucked up! My good friend Jim Ellison once said, “Do one thing for your band every day.” Solid advice! And check out www.thedwarves.com – BLAG

an interview with the Dwarves & pics from The Kingsland

Interested in learning more about the artistry of Dwarves? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

Published by Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. After losing his life-long vinyl collection in 2014, Andrew began his vinyl collection from scratch again when he met his future wife Angela in 2015. Andrew’s love of music only further blossomed as his collection spanned all genres possible. After amassing 5,000 albums, Andrew knew it was time to finally follow his dream, and thus, Vinyl Writer Music was born. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict, for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island with his wife Angela and their four cats, Oliver, Patrick, Charlie, and Kevin. Andrew works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night. Andrew is also the admin of several Facebook groups dedicated to music.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: