Punk rock is a big tent.
What other genre manages to link seemingly disparate entities like British rude boy skinheads with screamo-haircuit mall goth in Nebraska?
And the best part: All these highly segregated factions bicker, sometimes to the point of physical violence, over whose interpretation of punk ethos is less poser.
The Dwarves are no strangers to heated arguments. In the perennial disagreement over political correctness and no-holds-barred freedom of expression, vocalist Blag Dahlia and his merry troupe of hard-partyin' freaks heartily choose the latter.
In anticipation of The Dwarves' upcoming performance at Churchill's Pub, we here at Crossfade gave Dahlia a call to chat about the inner workings of one of the most deliberately belligerent rock acts ever.
Crossfade: Tell us about The Dwarves and South Florida.
Blag Dahlia: We've been going there since the '90s. I remember a real melee breaking out around then, but I can't remember the place. It all just sort of runs together in that fountain of shows. It was wild. It shut down the show. Maybe we'll get that again.
Of course, you've played Churchill's.
It's a fabulous joint.
Seems like a fitting setting for The Dwarves.
Miami itself is a pretty decadent town. Works for me.
That's interesting you would identify your music as decadent. I see your point. But, to me, decadence implies something fancy. With The Dwarves wouldn't it be more about degeneracy?
There you go. Well, Miami is a pretty degenerative town, too.
Has the live show decreased in intensity over time?
It's more intense than ever. If you come, you will catch the nuclear fallout of our intensity.
Is there as much self-destruction as involved in what you do these days?
We prefer destruction of others. That's the maturity of old age.
When the band first started, who were some acts that inspired you to be lewd?
G.G. [Allin] was an influence for sure. We visited him in maximum security prison in Michigan. We were influenced by his music: funny, poppy jams. He hasn't gotten a lot of credit for how clever his music was. We draw the line at not showering. We never had that kind of punk rock attitude. Whereas G.G. stunk to high heaven. That's where we parted ways with him.
At the time we knew of the bands doing things somewhat like us. None of those bands were quite as brilliant as we were. Back in the day, people didn't realize it was just a rock band. People would take the things we would say super seriously, and thought we were going to their town to incite them.
Is there any part of you that misses a more antagonistic relationship with the audience?
That's still there. With The Dwarves you never know when things are going to break out and everything is going to go crazy. Now you assume the audience knows what's up. That's part of the fun of playing these festivals. You've still got a pocket of people who don't know what's coming.
Is the ideal Dwarves show in a room full of people who have no idea what's coming?
The ideal Dwarves show would be at a home for attractive unwed mothers.
Tell us more about visiting G.G. Did you have to call ahead? How do you visit G.G. Allin in jail?
We just pulled up. It was pretty neat.
Had he seen The Dwarves? Did you guys have a rapport before you showed up?
No. He was just happy someone was coming to see him. We were on tour and heard that he was in prison in Michigan. We showed up and he'd shaved his hair, [and had] tufts [of hair] on top of his head. And he goes, "Some black guys think I have AIDs."
Throughout punk history you've got a lot of visits like that. Burroughs hanging out with Patti Smith, Harley Flannagan and Ginsberg. G.G. visited John Wayne Gacy didn't he?
That was why he got arrested. He was arrested by the secret service. He was writing letters to serial killers in prison telling them he admired them and that he was going to kill people on stage. The secret service got ahold of those letters and trumped up a charge against him in Michigan. He was railroaded into prison based on some letters he had written. In case any of you are interested in due process: there was no much extended to ol' G.G.
The Dwarves appear to be an art statement or even some kind of nihilist statement. But do you have a political ideology?
You hit it on the head. We're an artistic thing. We're a nihilistic thing. We're not a political thing.The band is never really accused of anything politically. We've never really shown any political inclination. But we know a fascist when we see one. Florida's full of 'em. Including the guy that put our last bonafide fascist in office. I don't support anything conservative or Libertarian in any way.
Rick Scott is pretty shitty too. So you say you subscribe to a degree of Leftism. But over the years, your lyrics and album art been accused of sexism and misogyny. As an impartial observer, I understand what you're saying about the band being a joke, or that you don't really mean what you're saying...
Wait, I didn't say that. Some things belong in different camps. A band like The Dwarves is not driven by ideology, but that doesn't mean the people in the band don't have one. There's about to be an election and I hope that the fascists don't win that. But in terms of The Dwarves, its not a political entity because it doesn't give a political solution.
We run afoul of left-wing people who think we're misogynist. And it's too bad. Because it's when left-wing people don't really understand what left-wing discourse is. And they [produce] a fascistic form of left-wing propaganda.
There can be a reactionary strain in a lot of leftist discourse that just ends up being senseless censorship.
We've reached the point unfortunately where you can't even bring things up anymore. Its one thing to be against racism, but it's another to not be able to mention race. Political correctness ruined a lot of good Leftist ideology because it was too dogmatic. I would leave that to the Right.
Is the present era the most polished The Dwarves have ever been?
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We know more about how to make records than ever before. But in terms of the live show, we suck just as badly as ever.
The Dwarves. With The Ruins, Pool Party, Flees, Enough!, and Severe Disappointments. Presented by Idle Hands. Saturday, October 27. Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami. The show starts at 8 p.m. and admission costs $15. Call 305-757-1807 or visit churchillspub.com.