‘The Dwarves Must Die’. So goes the title of The Dwarves’ new album. With a title such as this, naturally one wonders if this truly is the mysterious band’s final album, their swan song, if you will. However, the one and only Blag Dahlia (a.k.a Blag the Ripper, Blag Jesus, et al), vocalist of the long running, rude and crude band, won’t say for sure. “All of The Dwarves’ albums have dealt with death, so you never know… We’ve died so many times, been resuscitated so many times” – even guitarist HeWhoCanNotBeNamed supports this theory in microcosm, having died himself upon the release of ‘93’s ‘Sugar Fix’ and subsequently being miraculously resurrected – so who’s to say the same can’t be said of the band itself? In any case, Blag continues ominously, “I think the people want and need The Dwarves. The question is: how much do WE want and need the people? The answer’s not very much.” What the hell?!!!! He finally breaks into laughter, and goes somewhat off-topic, praising his new album rather than setting the record straight. So much for getting a concrete answer… But seriously, at the end of our conversation, as well as saying The Dwarves “rule”, the frontman DID say the band “shall return.”

Though at the time of their inception in Chicago way back in 1983 The Dwarves, then known as The Suburban Nightmare, were a psych-garage rock band, showcasing their jangly ‘60’s-influenced compositions on 1986’s ‘Horror Stories’, they’ve since cemented their status as punk legends with numerous albums. Essentially, therefore, The Dwarves are not newcomers to re-invention, and now they’ve come back with their minds set on defying their hardcore punk sound on their latest album. Turns out ‘The Dwarves Must Die’ (out September 21, on Sympathy for the Record Industry), is one big mindfuck, really. The band is all over the place on the 15 tracks included. Don’t worry; it’s still offensive - just check out the artwork…

Okay, okay; of course a bunch of hardcore punk beauties are present like the insanely intense, hard, and fast “Dominator”; the super-speedy yet melodic “Relentless”, “Another Classic”, and “Go!”; and the frenetic, hyper “Blast” with its shouts of “Blast this asshole,” but the guys also give us quite palatable tastes of other genres, though perhaps it will take a while for some fans to appreciate the band’s great musical expanse. The guys venture into industrial (the outstandingly tough and throttling “FEFU”, which translates to “Fuck Eat and Fuck You Up” – DEFINITE standout if you ask me!), surf/pop (the sugary sweet “Salt Lake City”), silly acoustic pop-punk (“Runaway”, with the requisite exceedingly disturbing lyrics), oddball lunacy (“Christ on a Mic”, which starts out with a chant-along, church organ-dominated sound that appears every now and then throughout the song in between rock and hip-hop bursts) and perhaps most shocking – hip-hop! “Demented”, a song falling under this category, is undeniably cool with its heavy groove-laden rhythms. What makes “Massacre” so intriguing is the irony of the whole composition. Basically, it’s a stab at what punk rock has become, but it’s done from a hip-hop standpoint because, according to Blag, “[It’s] a battle and the best place to do battle is in a hip-hop song. It’s a battle rap but it’s about rock bands and how lame they are.”

Of directly name-checking some bands on this track (“This one goes out to Queens of the Trust Fund/You slept on my floor, and now I’m sleeping through your motherfuckin’ records”), Blag says, “It’s all in good fun. I’m just making fun of people – see if they can take it.” Shortly thereafter, his distaste for what rock is comes through: “Rock ‘n’ roll is full of [bands] with their managers and lawyers, and they can’t really take anything direct… It doesn’t mean I don’t like the band. All it means is people gotta be ready to answer for their SHIT. That’s part of what I like about hip-hop: if somebody has something to say, they come out and say it by name, whereas in rock ‘n’ roll there’s a lot of hiding behind your manager, hiding behind your agent.”

I wonder if some people won’t “get” the album, leading Blag to respond, “That’s part of the whole point to me. I like all different kinds of music and so we do all different kinds of music.” He adds that “you can do cool things really with any kind of musical set up as long as you have a little bit of originality, and some songs just lend themselves to a hip-hop approach and others are more rock ‘n’ roll and other ones are kind of a combination of the two. Part of what we did on this record was like a lot of songs people wouldn’t think are hip-hop songs are actually songs where we took an old ’60’s garage song or an old punk song and then looped it the way you loop an old hip-hop beat, and then made a song off that. People hear that and they don’t call those hip-hop songs, but in my mind they [are] ‘cause they come from loops. I think it’s a question of how far your mind ranges in this stuff.”

Along with producer Eric Valentine, The Dwarves got some special guest stars to contribute to the record, including Urge Overkill’s Nash Kato, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes’ Spike, The Offspring’s Dexter Holland, Josh Freese, gangsta rapper San Quinn, AND Mr. Gary Owens, announcer extraordinaire (‘Laugh In’, ‘Space Ghost’, POWDERED TOAST MAN!!!, to name a few…). Of featuring Mr. Owens’ recognizable voice, Blag says, “When it came time to introduce the band at the beginning of the record [on “Bleed On”, a hellishly rousing and fun number], I thought nobody would be better than Gary Owens.” They found him in Hollywood and he agreed to appear on the record. “And who would’ve expected, like how many people get a 70-year-old guy on their rock record? That’s just The Dwarves. Most punk bands just get older and worse and most rock bands just get older and more pretentious, but only The Dwarves get better and better. There’s just no stopping us.”
I had to know for what Blag would want his band to be remembered when all’s said and done. Logically, he first replies, “Most of what we’ll be remembered for in reality will be like nasty album covers with nudity on them and also saying ‘fuck’ a lot…because people need very simplistic things to boil it down to.” Upon further thought, however, he adds, “We’d like to be remembered as the first punk band to incorporate samples and sounds into their music long before there were samplers and shit. We’d like to be known as the first people to loop garage records and punk records. We’d like to be known as interesting lyricists. I always thought of The Dwarves’ songs appealing on two levels: the one level’s real basic – ‘Fuck, Eat and Fuck You Up’. The other level’s like what does that actually mean? What’s the song about?” he ponders. “To me, it’s about survival and what it takes to live, but then on another level, it’s just about saying the word ‘fuck’ a lot [an area in which this band is more than adept.] I would like it if people understood that there’s more to The Dwarves than meets the eye, but then again, most all anybody gets out of anything is what meets the eye, and then they superficially move on.” Not one to mince words, in essence, Blag hopes they’re remembered as being one of the “great rock ‘n’ roll bands, which is what we richly deserve.”

Interview date: Aug 3, 2004

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