Blag Dahlia of the Dwarves: I Really Only Care About What Women Think
Blag Dahlia (birth name: Paul Cafaro) of the Dwarves is looking for women to come to the band's show tonight at Yucca Tap Room with the Queers, Masked Intruder, and the Atom Age buck-naked and ready for fun. He knows it gets hot in Phoenix, so "Why not be comfortable?" according to Blag. If the Dwarves singer has any hang-ups, nudity is definitely not one of them.
Talking to Blag Dahlia of the Dwarves is definitely enjoyable. The guy clearly knows how to have a good time, and what is even way more interesting is that he almost perfectly walks the fine line between brilliant and bullshit, evil genius and closet good guy. He seems to revel in any opportunity to playfully push buttons. In fact, he'll freely push his own buttons just to see (and enjoy) your reaction. That is, of course, if you don't react to his jabs at men, women, or....well, people, really. With the Dwarves, anyone and anything is fair game, especially if there is a way to work in quick hits of tits and ass on top of one f- bomb after another.
We sat down and had a nice, polite little chat on the phone with Blag a few nights ago. Here is how it played out.
Up on the Sun: What's going on with the Dwarves these days? I noticed on your website you have some really cool shows coming up.
We're going to be in the SLC Punk 2 movie, I guess since we wrote the best Salt Lake City song ever and at Punk Rock Bowling we're doing the main stage this year. We plan to tour a lot to support the upcoming record The Dwarves Invented Rock N Roll. Another bona fide classic!
You're sitting in some sort of waiting room. A stranger strikes up a conversation with you and eventually asks you what you do for a living...what do you tell them? What do you tell them about the Dwarves?
I don't. It's too confusing. Sometimes I pretend to be an astronaut, unless they know science, in which case I pretend to be a professional cat walker. The best is when someone mentions the Dwarves without knowing I'm in it. I like to go into great detail about why I hate that band and how atrocious they are. I'm still waiting for someone to defend us, though.
How often does that happen, that people mention the Dwarves to you without knowing who you are?
We've done some festivals over the years where I've been able to catch folks talking shit about us without them knowing. It's been fun, for sure, but I don't really give a shit what people think (laughs). I'm much more concerned what people think if they have vaginas. If they have penises, I'm not almost completely unconcerned with they think.
That's a good strategy, you know, to keep the species going...
That is my main concern, keeping the species going.
Tell me about the current lineup...any changes to the band recently? Is Greg [Pecker] still drumming? He came over, several years ago, when you guys were playing in Tempe, and had some beers with us at our band room. Cool guy...
Gregory Pecker is still with us on drums. Chip Fracture, Fresh Prince of Darkness, HeWhoCanNotBeNamed and Rex Everything split guitar and bass duties. And I'm Blag the Ripper, rock legend, on vocals.
We love hearing stories about you guys. It seems like everyone has a Dwarves story, whether from sharing a bill with you guys to being in the audience when mass chaos broke out....what is your favorite DWARVES story that you heard from someone that was not even close to being true? There has to be quite a few floating around that never happened.
HeWhoCanNotBeNamed is a transgendered florist from Poughkeepsie, New York, who studied ballet in Moscow before fomenting the current troubles in the Ukraine. He likes macramé, sodomy, and long walks on the mine-strewn beaches of Cambodia. He co-founded the organization Mothers Against Everything with Martha Stewart and Andrea Yates and hopes to run in the 2014 Miss Wretched USA pageant.
What, in your opinion, are the biggest misconceptions about the Dwarves?
Oh you know, I think a lot of people just think that they wouldn't like it. That there aren't enough poppy overtones, when I think we are a really poppy band, in my opinion. A lot of the PC (politically correct) crowd would just sort of label us as misogynists or violent, and we really just like to make satirize all that and think it is funny.
You definitely like to skewer everybody, including yourselves, in your lyrics...
Oh, definitely. A lot of rock bands don't like to call attention to themselves in their lyrics, but I am influenced a lot by hip-hop, where people are calling attention to themselves all the time. We have a song called "The Dwarves Are the Best Band Ever." It isn't actually about us, but I liked the idea of calling a song that to try to inject some humor wherever I can.
Do promoters get nervous, even today, about booking you guys? Do you ever mess with them a bit?
At [famed Berkeley, California, venue] Gilman Street we insisted on having a dressing room with walkie-talkie-toting security guards so we'd have somewhere to do our coke and fuck underage girls. They said even AFI doesn't get that stuff anymore, but they'd see what they can do.
Admittedly, it blows me away that they let you guys play Gilman Street.
We were there when it started. I was friends with Tim Yohanon from Maximum Rock and Roll that helped get it going. There is something to be said for the fact that it is nonprofit and they keep the prices low. I'll always stick up for Gilman Street, even though I don't know if they'll stick up for me. I wouldn't hang out there if I was looking for drugs or pussy, but they'll still let you play and have a good time.
Have you ever had any promoters offer to pay you by the minute?
(Laughs) No, but they probably should have. When we played with the Afghan Whigs I told Greg [Dulli, lead singer] that we get paid more by the hour. We don't really have those kind of 12-minute shows any more, but when the mood struck us, we just went with it. It's more about knocking it out and trying to have some fun with it.
Are you the principal songwriter in the Dwarves?
I have written a helluva lot of songs. One of the great things about the Dwarves is that there have been so many great songwriters in it. I have gotten to write and play songs with Nick Oliveri (ex-Queens of the Stone age, Kyuss), HeWhoCannotBeNamed, Fresh Prince of Darkness, and so many others. I have felt really lucky that I have guys who could do that because that is the most important thing in a rock band is having people who could come up with really good material.
Is it harder to write short songs?
It's harder to write good songs. Short songs are just about editing. If you write a good song with a good chorus and verse, you don't really need to repeat them over and over. To us, it was always about being true to our identity. If you need a three-minute song, make a three-minute song. If you need a 40-second song, write a 40-second song. When you specifically set out to write a short song, it's like saying 'I want to make a painting that's blue' -- well, who the fuck cares. You want a good painting. If it has got blue in it, well great.
Your songs have a lot of nods to popular music in them. Where do these come from?
I was exposed to just a huge number of different styles of music very early. There was what was on the radio. There was bubblegum, pop, and rock. You could hear black and white bands on the radio at the same time and that never happens anymore. There was a great array of influences there. My dad collected sheet music and my brother was into free jazz. I was into musical theater and did plays and all kinds of shit, so I had a huge amount of influences. Most guys in punk bands tend to be into other punk bands and they think they are being real clever if they know a Beatles song, too, but I was into all kinds of songs. Live, the Dwarves is just basically a punk band, but if you listen to our records you'll hear different influences, and we skip around genres and people are surprised. Punk lyrics just weren't enough for me. I needed to talk about some other things.
You guys are one of those bands that people either really like or they simply just don't know about you.
Most people didn't know us because we were never marketed correctly by any label, never had any management, and never really had any help from the musical establishment. In fact, we were actively fucked over by the first label that we were on that anyone really knew about, which was Sub Pop [Seattle's quintessential grunge label]. We recorded for them in 1989. They got really popular because of Nirvana, and when people started to talk about their bands, we were in a very public dispute with them so they pulled our records and people didn't know about us. We just call it Dwarves luck. You get fucked over by the powers that be. Most people that have given up on punk because it is really boring probably don't realize that we're more than that. A lot people that would appreciate us will probably never know about us.
What about the Internet? Hasn't it allowed people to find you?
The Internet has probably saved us, which is ironic because I hate the Internet and all of that stuff -- technology. The internet has allowed a lot of stuff that is cool to be discovered. We have gotten resurrected, in some ways, by people from other countries finding our stuff online.
You guys have done some pretty prolific videos. Is that a medium you enjoy?
We have worked with Robert Sexton who makes these really misogynistic sort of movies, which I'm not a fan of, but he's awesome to work with and he does it for free. He really seems to enjoy watching women be disemboweled, which I'm not a fan of, but our videos turn out cool. I was thinking for the next video that we could go on a picnic or something.
Maybe switch it up and have you guys picnicking and being eaten by huge ants or something. Maybe ants with huge tits...
(Laughs) Those are the best kind....kind of like your Aunt Betty.
You guys have had tons of band members. Are there rules or a ten commandments of being a member of the Dwarves that potential members have to follow?
Uh, you know. You have to be a little bizarre, but there really aren't any rules to it. We started in Illinois then moved to California. There have been a lot of people in it, but we've done a lot of shows. This band has probably played 1,300, 1,400 shows, so that's a lot of shows. If you look at the guys now, the guys who will be showing up ... Chip Fracture is a great player and has played in John Cougar Concentration Camp and other cool bands. The Fresh Prince of Darkness, Gregory Pecker, Dutch Ovens. All these guys have been playing in bands with me for 12, 15 years.
People do stick in the band, but it's the kind of band that can really drive you crazy. The kinds of responses we get. ... It's the kind of band that really sets off emotional reactions. Sometimes people do it for a few years and go crazy, then they come back and say, "I love this," then they go crazy again.
We have always been fascinated by the stories of 10-minute shows ending in fights.
Part of the whole 10-minute show thing was that back in the day we weren't getting paid anything so we didn't really care. I like to get paid now so we don't do that very often. It is more just that intensity of going up on stage and throwing everything out there. With early punk rock, that is what I would see, so that's what we do. It's all about tonight and that's what we had, so we just threw it all out there. Violence is always great when you win, but when you lose it's not that fun.
Is it awkward fist fighting someone when you are completely naked?
Well, I only did the naked thing for a little while. HeWhoCannotBeNamed did the naked thing way more than I did, but it definitely gives you some sort of strange advantage. Not many dudes want to get too close to a naked man.
When you are not doing the Dwarves, what do you do?
You know, Precious little. I like to read, I like to write. I've written a few books and I'm working on one now. Mainly it revolves around writing, doing interviews with people, and today, if you have a band you have to do merchandise. Before you know it, the day is over.
What else? This has been a lot of fun....
Blag Dahlia: All I can say is to the people of Phoenix, the Dwarves are rock legends and you better get your happy asses out to the Yucca Tap Room and check us out. We are going to set shit on fire, destroy everything, and in general, just be the geniuses that we are. Check out thedwarves.com and see our videos, lots of dirty pictures, and you know, get your freaky deaky on. The Dwarves are still the best band ever, my friend, enjoy. We'll see you at the show.
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