Blag Dahlia - 2004

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Blag Dahlia is still the lead singer and songwriter of The Dwarves, one of the greatest hardcore punk bands of all time (For more specific info, please read my Dwarves reviews at - Perhaps you know the site!). Blag has also released a solo CD entitled Venus With Arms, a bluegrass album (Blackgrass) under the name Earl Lee Grace, and a neat little fiction book called Armed To The Teeth With Lipstick. I interviewed him in 2002, but now he's BACCKK! With a brand new album called The Dwarves Must Die. Let's join the interview, already in progress! I'm in bold print; he's as hilariously boastful as always.



Hey Mark.



Hey, how ya doin'?

I'm well. Yourself?

Good. Are you in San Francisco this fine evening?

No, I'm in Los Angeles actually.

Oh. Do you still live in San Francisco?

Sometimes. I'm bi-townal.

How many houses do you have?

Hey man. All over the globe.

So this new album. What are people saying about it?

They're sayin' "Masterpiece." And I'm agreein' with them.

Favorite songs? All of 'em?

You know, man, it's hard to pick a fave for me. I'm enjoying the thing sort of as a piece. It just gets all over the map. Every different style. It's crazy.

Do you really have all those different people playing on it that are listed?

Well, not.... Yeah, I mean there's a lot of people playing on it! Some people are just thanked on the record; some of them played on it and some of 'em didn't. There's quite a few people who wound up appearing on it in a pretty short period of time.

How do you think the punker fans are gonna react to the rap songs?

I don't really know! I guess we'll see. I mean, I sort of aim it to the general public always and just see what happens.

Some of these songs it seems like you won't be able to do live though. Or will ya?

It all depends, but I mean yeah, there's a lot that wouldn't necessarily lend themselves to live, but it's always been that way. There's always been some songs that go over better live than others, and some that are harder to adjust to.

Do you think there's any kind of music that wouldn't mesh well with the Dwarves?

I suppose so, yeah. I think that there's probably some that wouldn't, but the whole art of it is in how you mesh different kinds of music. That's what rock 'n' roll is - just people defining it in different ways. Usually though, people do it in very slight increments, so it sounds like what they call a style. But all a style is is just different ways of playing colliding. That's what makes a style. This one just has lots of different ways of playing colliding, and it creates this style.

Did this album cost more than the others to make? It sounds more professional. I mean like more well-produced.

No, I spent about as much time on this as on the last two. But I think we know what we're doing better now. It was definitely - it's not the kind of thing... Like the talent's priceless. Because you really couldn't get it unless you're me, you know. Heh heh. You know what I mean? It'd be pretty hard to assemble this group of people that recorded it and produced it and performed it. I don't know if you could really put a price tag on it because for most people, it probably wouldn't have even occurred to them to pull this group together.

How did "Christ On A Mic" happen?

It's just a combination of different things. Some of it's derived from old tracks sampled together and then replayed. And some of it is a chorus of different people male and female singing complex harmony parts. Some of it is a church organ; we actually went to a church and recorded it. And some of it is DJ-derived; that middle part is from a DJ - DJ Marz. And the end is sort of a big collection of weird sounds and Nazis - just crazy audio that sort of makes that horror at the end. It's all just different things combining. When I wrote it, I thought it was like a gospel song, but Eric kinda heard it in a different way. It's just strange. That's one of the stranger songs.

You think that there will come a point when you'll just get completely tired of punk?

No! Punk is my folk music. When I was 14, that's what you went and saw if you were a kid. I didn't even know what - you know what I mean? It's like punk rock is just what I am. There's no getting away from it. And I also like that kind of music. That's why there's a lot of it on my records; it's just that there's a lot of other kinds too. It's just usually people only do one or the other. They'll play punk and then nothing else because they feel like it dilutes it if you do anything else, or they would just totally avoid it. For me, it's just part of what we are - what I am. That's what I grew up on. That's my folk music.

Do you remember what you were like before punk rock came into your life?

Yeah, I was just a little delinquent.

Oh, you were a delinquent even before punk came in?

Yeah, I first heard punk rock around 1980 maybe, although I saw stuff on TV. On Saturday Night Live and stuff, I would see like Devo or different things that you could call punk. I remember going to the movies and seeing Sid Vicious and Mr. Mike's Mondo Video and stuff. So you saw little patches of punk, but they were sort of in the culture in a different way. And then when hardcore came out, I went real '60s. And I liked that, but I still liked hardcore. So the '60s style wasn't very popular with the hardcore people, so then they thought we weren't a punk band. So it's like whoever's around kinda following the current trend has one approach to things, and then there's me and my friends who were just losing time. Before punk rock, I was obsessed with Frank Zappa records and musicals and Paul Simon - just everything. Whatever I heard. The Beatles. You know what I mean? To me, it's all just part of it.

Is there anything you're into as much as music on an artistic level or at a hobby level?

Probably not, no. There's a lot of stuff I'm into - everything from going to the movies, hangin' out, fuckin', gettin' high, runnin' around, goin' on vacation. You know, have a good time, hang out with your friends. But as far as things that I know about, probably music is the main one.

It always has been mine too, and I can't - maybe you have an answer for this - how is it that something that only takes care of one sense can become such a focus? I mean, it's the complete focus of my life!

Well, music doesn't only take one sense. Music is evocative. Music can make you smell something or see something just as much as hear something. People associate it with times in their life or things that they've done.

Do you have trouble listening to any of your old music because of times in your life that you don't want to remember? Or was it always pretty good?

Could be. I don't know. I never really thought about it that way. Could be.

Do you ever listen to the old records? Or do you just know them by heart?

I'm one of those people that listens to it a real lot when I'm making it and then a real lot between when it comes out and when it - you know what I mean? I'm listening to it the whole time. And then once it's out, I've really gotten sick of it because I've heard it a lot, and then I don't go back to it too much.

Are you coming to the east coast at all for this record?

Yeah, for sure. We were there last Halloween and we blew 'em out. It was great.

Are you playing live now? Have you started playing or are you gonna wait 'til the record's out?

I think we'll wait until the record's out. It's coming out in September on Sympathy for the Record Industry.

How'd you wind up on that label?

Long Gone John's an old friend of mine. He's somebody that believes in letting people make the record they want to make, and he's just real straight-up so we did it.

Have you ever had a record label try to force you to do something a certain way?

No, I've been pretty lucky that way. But I guess you could look at that both ways. If they're trying to force you to do something, then they think they can make some money off you; if they're NOT forcing you to do something, they've pretty much given up.

Ha! Sub Pop made money off you though.

Well, I think they've all made money one way or the other, but whether the accounting reflects that is hard to say. People in the music business are not very honest, so you have to have sort of a basis of it.

Was that a serious poke at the Queens of the Stone Age on your new album? Or were you just lightly poking at them? Because you played with that guy, didn't you? One of those guys?

Yeah, he's on the record.

Oh, he's on the new record? He quit the band though, didn't he? Queens of the Stone Age?

I don't know. You'd have to ask him about that. I'm doing my thing. It's not about shooting people; it's just making fun of people, you know? And I've made fun of lots of people, so....

Have you always been into rap or is that a relatively new thing?

Yeah. No, I've been into it for a long, long time. Sure. It's great. It's the sounds, you know? It's what people are playing and doing. People are basically now making rap tracks, putting a guitar on it and calling it a heavy metal song. You can look at it in different ways. To me, it's just another way to communicate. Some things can be communicated that way more effectively. The sentiment I was trying to get across in that song was more effectively communicated that way than in punk rock.

Are there any rappers or bands of any genre out now whose lyrics you find - I don't know, I just find your lyrics really entertaining. I'm just wondering - there's just so many bands who seem to put -

There are always good rappers, and there always have been. There were old ones and middle-era ones and a bunch from the '90s and a bunch from the '80s. I just listen to records, you know? At any given time, there's a bunch of shitty rock singers, a bunch of shitty rappers, a bunch of shitty swing guys, but then there's a few people that are really good at it. And then if you find their records and you hear what they do, that's where you get your inspiration from. And hip hop is cool because it's one of the only things left where you've got some people with some talent who can do something. You give 'em a track and they make something where there wasn't a tune before that. Most people in rock bands can't really create in that way. They can only create in like a "I'll have my manager call you and we'll have lunch" way. They're not big on music or making it happen. They're big on paying other people to make them appear like they know how to play music. And it works! All you're making is objects - you're just making records. That's what a lot of it is based on. With hip hop, when somebody throws down a beat and you grab a mic and you go to do something on it, it's either good or it's bad. There's plenty of guys who can't sing and they're tuning it and making it sound like they're a musician.

Why do you keep threatening to end the Dwarves?

Well, because it's mine!

I know, so why end it? Knowing that you can do anything on a Dwarves album, as shown by the new one....

The end is the only thing that gives it any significance. We've been breaking up since we started. If there wasn't an end, then it would not be important.

You seemed to be gone for a pretty long time after that fiasco with Sub Pop. I was afraid you wouldn't come back after that.

Yeah, it's been 20 years more or less of making Dwarves records, so it's also kind of about proving who is real in the true sense. Not in a bullshit "this week, we're the coolest street punk guys." You show me who else can do it and innovate for this length of time. There just isn't anyone else. That's it. Game over!


There are a few bands who made some good records 20 years ago and continue to make a decent show, but you can't show me one punk band that actually evolved and got cooler. You're talking to him, you know? That's it.

You obviously aren't familiar with Everclear.

Ha ha ha!

Are there any old punk bands that are still putting out good albums.... Hmm. I don't think so! The ones I liked broke up already. Or like Bad Religion, just did the same thing over and over.

It's hard. It isn't easy to make a good record ever, and then as the years go on, it gets harder and harder unless you're conscious of it. Most musicians are just stuck in a groove. And if they get paid enough, then they're getting paid to stick in that groove. And if they're not getting paid anything, then they kinda stick in that groove like "I'll show them!" But we just keep jumping forward. I keep hearing stuff I want to do.

When the time has come to make an album, have you ever had to deal with any writer's block? Or do ideas come to you pretty quickly?

I don't have a lot of writer's block. Sometimes I go down the wrong path with a song or just can't ever get it right and have to put it away or whatever, but I don't really believe in writer's block in a sense, because essentially what you're saying is not "I can't come up with anything" -- it's "I can't come up with anything as brilliant as what I've already done." And if that is the case, then you're no longer making music so just sit back and relax. If you're actively making music, then you can make it. If you're any good at it, then you can make it. Writer's block to me is like for somebody who's having an emotional issue. It's like if you said that you couldn't cut your lawn because you have "cutter's block," you know?

Ha! Do you write a lot more songs that end up not going on the records?

Sure, I've got tons of songs.

Are you ever gonna put 'em out? Or are they ones you don't feel are quite as good as the others?

I don't think I'm the right person to perform all my songs. There's a lot of them that are not appropriate for me, or especially for my band or for particular things that I do. There's a lot of songs sitting around that would be good for other people, and some that other people have done, and some that hopefully down the road more people will be doing.

What songs have other people done that you've written?

Uhhh, you know man. Like what ones have there been... little indie rock bands will throw something out, fuckin' Nashville Pussy, fuckin'who else... Right now there's a pop artist at Capitol called Skye Sweetnam, who is like a young chick singer, and just all kinds of things. I did a song for Smashmouth.


Yeah, to me it's just all about making lyrics, and I can pretty much put lyrics on anything pretty much. Again, if you're good at it then you can do it in different varying ways. Again, something like writer's block is for the kind of person that says, "Is this me? Is this thing I'm making really me? Who am I?" But that's not a question that I'm asking. I'm just writing songs, and then I try and figure out who could do them well. I already know who I am and what I'm supposed to sing.

Are you constantly writing songs? Or just during certain months of the year when you feel like you're -

No, I'm not really constantly doing it. They just sort of come. A lot of times, just a musical or lyrical idea will come to me and then a song comes out of that. Like the first thing that occurs to me is just a phrase, like "Let me show ya how it's done." And then from there, I kinda know how the song goes.

Do you write 'em in your head? Or do you have to have a guitar in your hands?

No, I write 'em in my head.

That's impressive. I can't do that.

Part of why I write them in my head is because I don't play instruments very well, so if I had an instrument out there, I'd be limited by my ability to play it. If I write it in my head, then there's no limitations. I know what I can do there. Some people play real good piano so they sit down at a piano, they play for a while and then a song occurs to them. There's all different ways of doing it. For me, a song occurs to me if I'm out somewhere and I hear a phrase that I like in conversation, or if I'm just walking and I hear something in my head - a melody.

All these little girls calling you on your answering machine that you're putting on your records all the time -

'Cuz I'm a rock legend!

Why do the Dwarves have so many female fans?

Because we're young and good looking, man. That's the deal.

Are they all like uhh... goth punk girls?

Ha ha! They come in all shapes and sizes!

I went through the web site again today. It always looks good. I saw the pictures of the goth girls. Oh, that's a guestion! You still have a woman in your band, right?


Does she get groupies?

Yeah, sure! She's a fake lesbian.

Really!? Where did she come from? Have you known her a long time?

She's very mysterious. I think she's from Paris or something. She's good. Tazzie Bushweed. She's happenin'. The group is great. Of course Hewhocannotbenamed, a rock legend icon. We've got -

Why did he first start covering his face?


Why did he first start covering his face? Back in the old -

I don't know. I think he's a wanted man.

That's dramatic!

Yeah, yeah.

Who else is in the band?

There's the Fresh Prince of Darkness; he's playing guitar. You got Clint Torres; he's been playing some bass guitar. Tazzie Bushweed aka Buttons Galore; she's been playing bass. Drummer you may know - Dutch Oven from KMFDM. He's been playing some drums. Other people appearing - Wreck Tom is on the record, Josh Freese did a lot of the record, all sorts of people around it. Black Josh Freese. It's his black altar ego.

How does he play? Does he play the hip hop beats?

No. Josh is just so white that Black Josh Freese is still white.

Do you ever talk to Vadge Moore anymore.

Sure! I just talked to him the other day.

What is he doing now?

I think he has become Satan.

Are you into the Satanism thing like he is? The Church of Satan?

No. I am the anti-Christ.

So you don't have to! Well, it's okay to be the anti-Christ. It's something else completely to be into, I don't know, Anton La-


I mean, you know!

That's Vadge's bag, man. I can't stick up for him. You know, he's, he's, he's dirty. He's the dirty heart of the Dwarves, you know? There's nothing right about him! And then there's Sgt. Salt Peter, the master of scatology.

But you're not touring with all these people.

No, not touring. Although a lot of the ones I mentioned at the beginning are gonna be touring.

Do you still enjoy hitting people with microphones?

Yeah, I like to hit folks here and there.

Do you still enjoy playing as much as you did when you were younger? Does it ever get tiresome or is it still fun?

In a lot of ways, it's more fun now. I don't take it as seriously as I used to.

What do you mean? Were you like nervous before? Or you just felt like you always had to be great? Or -

No, it was more like angry. We were really angry so we were striking out mindlessly all the time. But being angry takes a lot of work.

Was it real anger? Were you really pissed off?

You tell me. It seemed real to me.

What were you so angry at?

I don't know. It's hard to say. I've been handed a really great deck of cards in my life.


So by all rights, I have no right to be upset. But hey, what can you do?

But you're happy now?

Well you know, I'm a rock legend, Mark.

Yeah! So you should be happy!

It's not easy, but somebody's gotta do it.

There's no way an angry man could write "Let Me Show Ya How It's Done."

Yeah, that's right. It's more a question of, you know, there'll be new worlds to conquer.

There's always gonna be breakups, there's always gonna be new albums - I hope!

Yeah, absolutely. The Dwarves will live forever. It seems to be uncontrollable.

I interviewed the guy from Gwar earlier. You missed it.

Oh? What did he say?

He said that he's not fond of their fourth through seventh albums.

Right. Well, him and me both!


I always dug Dave Brockie though; he's great. And Gwar was a great, great band.

He was a funny interview, because he lapsed into Dave Brockie for a minute and then went, "Oh! Sorry! I sound too much like Dave Brockie!" He's a nice guy? He seemed funny.

I always dug him.

Why don't you lash out now? Is there anyone in the music world you just don't like at all after having met 'em?

I got a lot of my hatred out on the album. I name some names; we talk some shit. Let's see what kind of responses we get. My question is "Is anybody ready play? Or does rock 'n' roll become a place where you have your agent or your manager make a pissy phone call?" That's the question.

Have you heard any rock albums in say the last year that have impressed you?


Aw man.


What's the last one you remember hearing that you liked?

I like Peaches! Heh heh.

Really? Ha!

I don't know if that counts as rock. She's great. You know, I hear rock that I like all the time really; there's always good bands, you know. But when you're in the Dwarves, the question is "How much better could it get?" and the answer is "It couldn't." This new album, The Dwarves Must Die, is a classic and you have to buy it. In fact, you have to buy two copies and give one to your mom.

Is this an album you could have made ten years ago?


What changed over the past few years that made you feel -

I just got better at making records. It's getting better at making records. Oh alright. Well, you're always producing for other people too, right?

I do a certain amount of that, yeah. I like doing other peoples' shit; I like doing my own shit.

Which pays better?

It really depends. If you're into getting in and out quickly, then the production can be a lot more lucrative. If you have to spend time on things, it varies. Songwriting's really the most lucrative, because you can just get in and out with that.

Are there any Dwarves songs - not albums, but songs - that you look back at and go, "Man, I'm usually great but that one wasn't that good!"

Sure! Some of it's filler to me.

Really? Like what?

Well, that's the thing. These last few albums were an attempt to eradicate filler from rock albums. Most rock albums have the one song you like and then the other ten blow. So the idea was "Can you make a record with no filler that hits every genre?" And the answer was, "Yes, you can. If you're US!"

Heh heh.

If you're anyone else, then you can scratch your head and wonder about it.

Filler? What's filler on a Dwarves album? Can you name one song?

I can't do it for you. I know there's some filler in there, but it's all good. I mean, our filler is better than most people's main event.

Well, I don't hear any filler. If you're talking about the songs that only have two chords, those are still great songs.

Ha! Well, that's the thing.

Like "Evil Primeval." Only two chords, but they're great chords!

Yeah, that's true! I barely ever listen to that record.

How come?

I don't know. I didn't really like it that much. That might be one of those "moments in your life" things. I don't really care for that record, although it's got a bunch of great songs on there that I like a lot.

Wow. "Anybody Out There?" Oh, that remake you did of "Anybody Out There" is classic. With the live sound?

Oh right right. Yeah.

How'd you get that Gary guy on the first song? I didn't even know he was still alive.

Gary Owens! He's from Laugh-In, and he was the original voice of Space Ghost. He's a great TV legend. We hunted him up in Hollywood and he was great.

He is great on that song. Had he heard of the Dwarves before?

No. But he had a lot of great stories and he was a really funny guy, and he did a great job.

Who else did you dig up for this record?

Dexter Holland from the Offspring. Sam Quinn, gangsta rapper from San Francisco. DJ Marz from the Bulletproof Space Travelers in the Bay Area.

Sam Quinn - I think he's on the new Bad Religion album.

Ah ha!

Possibly. I think so. (note: I was wrong. Sage Francis is on the new Bad Religion album.)

There's Nash Kato from Urge Overkill. He's great. Spike from Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. So all kinds of bullshit. Rex, as you know, is Nick Oliveri from Mondo Generator.

What does Nash play on?

He sings on the song "The Dwarves Must Die."

Oh okay. So what's up tonight? It's Friday, I gotta let you go because it's Friday! You've got big plans. So what're you doing?

Time to eat some chow and start some shit.

What are you getting tonight for dinner?

I don't know. I haven't made up my mind yet. We'll make it work though. It's California - it'll be something light and fruity.


Heh heh.

Hey, this is interesting. I re-read our old interview today, and I noticed that I mentioned that I had just become a vegetarian in that interview. About two weeks ago, I became no longer a vegetarian.

Well, good. Welcome back to the world of meat.

The end of an era.

All food is good food. Unless it's, you know, Carl's Jr. So yeah man. Dwarves are rock legends. So send us a copy of your interview and shit, and keep spreading the word.

Okay. Anything else you wanna say -

Put our web site address in there.

Oh yeah, I will.

Okay. It hasn't been updated since like April. That's too long.

Yeah, we'll update it. It's gonna get a big fat update before that record comes out.

Okay. And did the single already come out?

The single's out - "Salt Lake City," "Fuck The Bitch And Go" and a special bonus beat track that can't be found anywhere, so that's good.

Okay. Oh! One more question. That song about the "Metrosexual." What is that from? Was that a single you put out?

Yeah, it was just a little single. A one-off joke kinda song, but people really liked it. It was just a song about metrosexuals, and it turned out to be a minor buzz thing. Some smart video guy needs to make a video for it and take over the world.

Did that have a b-side?

Not really, but it had a rejected theme for The Simple Life on it, which was funny. That's on there; I guess that's kind of a b-side. It's a CD though, so it doesn't have a b-side.

Who put that out? I need to get a copy of that.

You know, it's Greedy. But it came out through High Voltage in Australia.

Okay. Alright, well have a good Friday. Thank you for calling.

No problem, man! Take it easy.

You too. Bye.

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