The Dwarves hate you.
"I've never really got the misogyny angle we've been pegged with," says Blag, lead singer for the infamous band the Dwarves. "I always thought that we hated everyone equally. We're misanthropes. We don't make distinctions." That should put to rest the still angry cries from feminists over its 1990 release Blood, Guts, and Pussy, which featured young naked women covered in blood and cavorting with a creepy-ass dwarf. But what do you expect from a record that contained the songs "Let's Fuck," "Fuck You Up and Get High," "Fuckhead," and "Motherfucker"?
Not that the band gives a shit what you think. In fact, its sole purpose seems to be to piss people off. And not just by saying something offensive or playing sets that last all of two songs, something they are well-known for. No, the Dwarves have beaten people up in the audience, kicked or thrown bottles into the crowd, and unleashed barrages of fan spit heavier than a Colorado snowstorm. The front row of a Dwarves show is for the naive, stupid, or self-loathing.
At the center of the band is Blag, formerly Blag Jesus, then Blag Dahlia. Now it's just "Blag." "I want to be like Cher," he jokes. In person he's not the asshole one might expect -- he's friendly and even a bit self-effacing. He's definitely imposing though, standing well over six feet and looking like an angry Italian parking garage attendant. There's definitely something going on in there -- what else would drive a young lad to form a band like the Dwarves? "My parents fretted a lot about me, bailed me out," he chuckles. "I had pretty top-notch parents. I shudder to think what would've happened if I'd had others."
Whatever was driving Blag in the '80s, he channeled it into his band. And this wasn't some straight-edge, lefty punk outfit in the spirit of Minor Threat. This was more like the Mentors -- aggression, ego, women being treated like orgasm generators, and of course the glorification, abuse, and general worship of drugs. The Dwarves would throw after-show disco cocaine parties to supplement the before-show disco cocaine parties.
Probably the band's biggest disaster -- or coup, depending on how you look at it -- was when it faked the death of its guitarist, Hewhocannotbenamed. This resulted in them getting kicked off the Sub Pop label in the early '90s. Hewho was reportedly "killed" in a Philadelphia bar fight, and Blag and the whole band went along with the joke, to the point of offering fans an address for flowers and condolences. Folks who sent stuff got a thank-you note from Hewho's "family" in Wisconsin. But when the folks at Sub Pop found out it was fake, they were pissed. Apparently stuff like that is okay for the Beatles, but not for a band actually known for its bad taste. In a press release following the incident, the label stated: "When we discovered it was a hoax, we accepted Blag's defense that it was a 'punk rock' thing to do. While the aforementioned may be true, it is also true that the whole ordeal unforgivably overstepped the bounds of media manipulation and self-promotion. In light of this hoax being known to Hewho, his friends, and his family, it is hardly an exploitation of his own life and/or death. It is, however, an inexcusable exploitation and trivialization of death itself."
Blag thinks that the fact that the Dwarves didn't sound like any of the other bands on Sub Pop at the time was the real reason the band got kicked off the label. At the time, the Dwarves played fast hardcore punk. Though signed at the height of the label's momentum, the Dwarves sounded nothing like Nirvana, Tad, or Soundgarden. "Nobody up there really saw punk bands as commercial at the time, so Sub Pop really didn't give a fuck one way or the other," he says.
Nowadays, the band is a punk-rock ensemble of stars à la "We Are the World." Shifting band members and guest musicians trade off at shows and on the records, but Blag and Hewho remain constant. "He's the ruler of the known world," laughs Blag, referring to the guitarist who always appears live completely nude with his face covered, usually by a wrestling mask. It's a gnarly sight: A skinny bird-like guitarist with a rather large scrotum and the visage of a rapist. The current lineup also includes female bass player Tazzie Bushweed from the Creamers, Toss on drums occupying the spot once held by Dwarves drummer Vadge Moore, and on rhythm guitar, Blag's "favorite cocaine addict, 'The Governor of Peru.' " Spike Slawson from the Swingin' Utters and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes usually gets up and sings some, and Nick Oliveri from the Queens of the Stone Age plays with them as well under the guise of Rex Everything. Oliveri has the dubious distinction of being the only guy so far out of control to actually have been kicked out of the Dwarves. "He's still a really good friend of mine," says Blag. "He just goes through phases. At one point he went through a not-so-great phase."
But don't worry about Rex Everything. Now Oliveri's QOTSA side-project Mondo Generator is opening up for the Dwarves on Thursday night at the Justice League. And the Queens have just taken in Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) as their new drummer.
The Dwarves also have come through it all relatively unscathed. Although shifting influences and new directions aren't really something you'd associate with the band, that seems to be what's happening. Before its last few records, the band had always been more about the process than the result; the music was a vehicle for chaos. But with 2000's Come Clean a new sound emerged. Electronic sounds, downright sensitive lyrics like "How could I ever get over you?" and some actual production popped up. It was still punk, though, and it was a deservedly well-received hit. Apparently, underneath all that bravado, snot, and noise lurked some actual musicians. Blag even uses his discriminating ear to supplement his income by producing records for artists such as Joey Santiago (ex-Pixies) and the Swingin' Utters.
This year the Dwarves released How to Win Friends and Influence People, which is mostly old songs reworked. At first, Dwarves fans might take offense at the idea of cleaner, better-produced versions of old standbys like "Drug Store" and "Let's Fuck." But this should really be looked at as a greatest hits collection; a primer for the uninitiated.
And speaking of the uninitiated, Blag says: "Tell the people we are coming home," referring to Thursday's show. "We invented San Francisco. That means that long after the current crop of snotty-nose weeds have passed, the Dwarves will always rule. And half-price if you're a girl I've slept with." See? He really is sensitive.
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