Back in 2001, Blag Dahlia had all he could stand and he couldn't stands no more! You see, while the The Dwarves frontman and his band wrote a slew of hardcore, pop-punk, and garage bangers, the majority of the early hits were being kept in chains by the evil, the nefarious, the creepy â€œrecord industry.â€
If you ask Blag, one of the worst parts was that movies and TV shows wanted to use Dwarves tunes in their features, but they couldn't seem to wrestle the rights from the slimy clutch of the dreaded â€œmusic exec.â€ So, The Dwarves re-recorded their earlier hits as 2001's How to Win Friends and Influence People. The record served as a greatest hits comp and as a way for that sly fox to license his own songs to pictures for big bucksâ€¦ well, â€œbigâ€ bucks.
Now, the album is being reissued by Reptilian Records this Friday. So, Punknewsâ€™ John Gentile had Blag tell the stories behind the bandâ€™s early hits.
Why did you decide to re-record a bunch of your hits? Basically, some time around the mid 90â€™s, I finally figured out how the music industry works. I was like, â€œOh fuck! These idiots own my music and they donâ€™t like me and theyâ€™re never going to release my music or do anything with it.â€ Record labels are either actively hostile towards you or ignoring you. It was pointless. They werenâ€™t helping. Youâ€™d call a record label asking for something by the Dwarves and theyâ€™d be like, â€œwhy donâ€™t you use something by The Walkabouts?â€
A lot of bands have done this particularly move. Sometimes a band will do a live album instead, but the impetuous is always the same. You want versions of our own songs that you own. Instead of calling your label, â€œHey are you guys going to use any of my songs in this movie like this guy wanted? Are you going to give me any of my money?â€
It basically started when Jim Carreyâ€™s people wanted to use â€œMotherfuckerâ€ in â€œMe, Myself, and Irene.â€ So, we got a big lucrative usage from that because he was singing along with it.
So, it was like, â€œFuck it!â€ Itâ€™s easy enough for me to go record these songs. In a way, it sucks to look backwards. I kind of what those albums to be what they are. But, with Win Friends and Influence People, it kind of turned out to be a happy accident. We had a really cool version of the band at that time. A lot of people kind of liked them better because they were faster, harder, and in the newer style. So, I think, Win friends holds up pretty well.Itâ€™s better versions of songs that we didnâ€™t own.
So, you had the composition rights but not the rights to the sound recordings? We own all the composition rights, but we didnâ€™t have the master tapes to stuff like those Subpop records or other records. They own it forever. They can give it to their snotty grandchildren if they want.
Most bands donâ€™t do licensing deals even though they should. It took me until the mid 90â€™s to realize that. â€œIt canâ€™t possibly be that I spent the money to make these records and they get to keep them, can it?â€ Well, yeah, actually it can. Thatâ€™s how that shit works. The music industry is corrupt and you should own your own masters. Win Friends was an attempt to own those songs.
Is the title of the record, which also references that book, a nod to your relationship with Subpop? No, it was just an ironic thing to our relationship with everything. We made a lot of enemies and a lot of people ignored us. We didnâ€™t win friends and we didnâ€™t influence a lot of people. But, on the other hand, we actually did influence a lot of people and we have made a lot of great friends over the years that have stuck with us for decades. The Dwarves have left a trail of destruction in our wake. How to win friends and influence people was an old book written about how to be a nice person so it was kind of a joke on that.
Who is the cover model? The cover model is a girl named Selene Luna who is a little person and kind of interesting looking. She is on one of those reality shows. I canâ€™t remember it off hand. She was one of the featured characters in that, years later.
The thing that I thought was a missed opportunity. The photographer was really into his dog. He really wanted to put his dog in the shot. The dog is a little dog, so it kind of makes her look like she is normal sized. What they should have done was put her next to a really big dog.
The photographer was a guy called Carlos Batts who was a really cool guy. I think he just really liked to get his dog in the shots. He passed on, so there wonâ€™t be any more Carlos Batts shots.
What was it like to have Jim Carrey sing your song? We were thrilled! It is always nice to be acknowledged. â€œMe, myself, and Ireneâ€ was a pretty good movie. I never was one of those punk rock people that was philosophically opposed to mainstream success. Just the opposite, really. I always felt that people in the mainstream would be smarter if they knew about the underground shit. But, mainstream people tend to ignore anything that doesnâ€™t sell a ton. And visa-versa. A lot of people in the underground would do well to pay attention to the mainstream so they could get an idea about some decent songwriting, some decent production. But, they donâ€™t do that. They say, â€œWell, Iâ€™m opposed to that!â€ I think if both groups werenâ€™t so opposed to each other, there would be more cross pollination.
The Dwarves have actually been in a lot of movies. But, itâ€™s not because we are the Dwarves. If you want something aggressive sounding, our shit tends to be really well produced and sound good. So, if a music supervisor, if heâ€™s not being fed hype by record labels, hears ten things and then hears the Dwarves, heâ€™ll go, â€œI want that one!â€ because it sounds good. Dwarves have done quite well with music licensing. It used to be ten and fifteen grand per movie usage and two and three grand for TV usage, but those numbers have gone down wildly since streaming and downloading.
What are some of your favorite movie or TV placements? In Hostel they used one of my instrumentals in the brothels scene, which I thought was great because no one would have thought that it was the Dwarves. It was the Hip Hop track for â€œMassacre.â€
Were you in Observe and Report? You know, supposedly, â€œFree Cocaineâ€ is in that movie. Itâ€™s on the soundtrack but I never heard it in the movie itself. I went and looked at it to see. But, I never really got a satisfactory answer.
We were in Ghostworld when they go into the zine shop shop, they are playing an instrumental of mine. The director just asked me to make the messed up sound I could so I made a bunch of nasty noises.
In Spongebob Squarepants Saltpeter wrote the song â€œDo the spongeâ€ and I sang on it.
What was it like having the infamous Blag dahlia in the Spongebob movie. Thatâ€™s the thing! People just respond to image a lot. they donâ€™t respond to other sides of things. Iâ€™m not opposed to comedy, or singing on something. But, most people who know me are aware of me from the band and they want me to do that. So, it was great to do Spongebob
Weâ€™re all over Nash bridges. They were in a strip club and did â€œYou gotta Burn.â€ We actually performed in a Playboy porno called Rocksuckers. that was really fun.
What was it like playing on the set of a porno? Was it really weird? For me, sex is like a private thing. I donâ€™t want to sit in a room with a bunch of guys and a crew and watch people fuck. Itâ€™s the same reason I donâ€™t go to strip clubs. I donâ€™t want to smell a bunch of men. Itâ€™s not really my turn on, you know? [laughs]
James Brown is a huge influence on me and I think people have kind of missed that. Hip Hop in general and even before that had a tradition of calling attention to oneself. James Brown said â€œIâ€™ve got soul!â€ and â€œIâ€™m super bad!â€ Bo Diddley was a gunslinger. Saying your name. Saying who you are. They do it in Hip Hop but they donâ€™t do it in rock and roll.
People think weâ€™re being egotistical but itâ€™s a particular style of music as opposed to writing lyrics in a notebook about how you are sad or something. We were not about that. After a while, I started not even saying â€œIâ€ but saying my name as a reaction to that. Youâ€™re not supposed to do that but I did.
â€œDominatorâ€ came about because I used to produce a lot in the mid-90â€™s because it was lucrative. People hired me because my records sounded good. Epitaph, Fat, they knew I could make a good record. A record would have a twenty grand budget and I make a little off of that. After downloading and streaming everything deteriorated. Now people are like, â€œWant to produce my whole record for a grand?â€ Well, no, I donâ€™t.
I had a friend, I think it was HeWho, he was making a solo record. He came to me and he was in a band with a girl and she said â€œI donâ€™t want Blag to produce it because he would just dominate it.â€ And I thought, wow, you kind of need someone to dominate your record. They never made that record.
She meant it negatively but I took it as a compliment. Yeah, Iâ€™m the dominator.
Hewho wrote the music. He brought it to me finished. I just put in lyrics and vocal melodies. Itâ€™s about crazy girls. Sheâ€™s coming in from way out. Itâ€™s pretty self-explanatory. Itâ€™s about outer space in some part, â€œAmbient Domain in a galaxy of pain,â€œ But, it gets back to way out. Sheâ€™s just a weird chick, you now?
I remember writing â€œLetâ€™s Fuck.â€ Itâ€™s a complete rip off of the Misfits â€œGreen Hellâ€ musically. It has a slight variation. I used to have a ob delivering business cards. I was going around delivering these business cards and I was talking a business card to a restaurant called â€œLetâ€™s Dineâ€ so I thought I should get a business card that just says â€œLetâ€™s fuck!â€
Is there anybody out there?
I really got the idea to reference other songs and even your own songs from Frank Zappa. I think of it as a continuing saga. I like to reference my own stuff. Some people say itâ€™s being lazy. I think of it as a continuum in referencing different songs. Iâ€™m just a songwriter that is referenced by what people say. Like â€œLet me show you how itâ€™s doneâ€ or â€œIs there anybody out there.â€ I get influenced by things that are out there and people just say. Iâ€™ll watch a soap opera or a TV commercial- things that arenâ€™t even very inspiring, but itâ€™s an interesting collection of words.
That was basically another one of those Earth AD sounding songs. I was always into superheroes and wanted to create my own. Astroboy was in Japan so most people in America didnâ€™t know about it at the time. So I would just sing about superheroes or make up my own or make up mythical songs.
I always want to go into â€œLetâ€™s Fuckâ€ with this song. A lot of Dwarves song are very similar. The band will start playing and Iâ€™ll sing a different song because they are so similar. I think itâ€™s funny. Some people are not as into that.
It goes â€œDeath is like a womanâ€ which was the name of a pulp novel, and then it goes â€œdrunks rocket fuel,â€ so itâ€™s like thatâ€™s the space aspect. â€The fuel that blew the bomb that detonated on my schoolâ€ like the kids blowing up the school in Rock n roll high school. â€œThis galaxy is a gamble, this galaxy is a trip, I found the meaning of life inside a Martianâ€™s slit.â€ Itâ€™s a combination of outer space and sex. I am the guy that goes around the universe looking for sexâ€¦ [laughs]
Fuck you up and get high
There are a lot of songs where people assume that I wrote them because they seem to be related to my personality. that song was written by our first drummer Sigh Moan. He wrote this song. He called it â€œGonna get high.â€ It wasnâ€™t written by me even though everyone assumes it was. A lot of the time, the other members of the Dwarves have not gotten credit for the great songs that they wrote, including lyrics. Sometimes another guy writes the music and I write the lyrics, but often itâ€™s both. There are a lot of strong songwriter sin the band. In the How to Win Friends version you get Nick Oliveri singing it, which gives it another variation.
â€œFollow Meâ€ is the only song that doesnâ€™t appear on any other record. I had to throw one song on if you were a completeist you had to still get the record. I was very proud of the lyrics. Thereâ€™s an old fifties garage song called â€œHey Youâ€ which goes â€œHey you, what ya gonna do?â€ So, I start out with those lyrics.
â€œI donâ€™t care where youâ€™re going as long as you follow me.â€ Most people are just sheep and thatâ€™s the message. Most people are kind of going just going along for the ride.
That was from the Sugarfix record and it was kind of Ramones-y. Catchy chorus. We redid it on Friends and I like that version better. It has more drums. Itâ€™s also done on Earl Lee Grace in a more bluegrass thing.
A fair amount of people have stolen from me. Itâ€™s done in different forms. Itâ€™s not always musical. The Seattle grunge scene was very PC. There was very little sexuality to it. The Dwarves came to town, with HeWho playing naked and Salt Peer playing in womenâ€™s panties and his bustier and then thereâ€™s Kurt Cobain in his bustier on his record sitting in his drum kid. Okay, Iâ€™m not the first guy to ever jump into a drum kid, but I think in the modern era up in Seattle, itâ€™s not exactly something that they got from the Melvins or all the people they claim as their influences. They didnâ€™t get it from the Pixies.
The Dwarves played Seattle. The Dwarves were on Subpop. The Dwarves played similar shows. The Dwarves wore womenâ€™s clothes. The Dwarves jumped into their drum kit. Youâ€™d see it in other peopleâ€™s shit. You canâ€™t get a copyright of wearing womenâ€™s clothing or jumping into drums. But it was just sort of an example of people biting on things. I bite on things too, but I admit where they come from. That seems to be very hard for people to do.
I saw this British bandâ€™s thing where they had a girl wearing a Balaclava holding a skateboard. Thatâ€™s clearly a take off of Young and Good Looking. I wrote them an e-mail and enclosed our picture saying â€œThanks for the tribute! It would have been nice for a mention.â€ Then, the manager writes me back saying â€œThe band knows nothing of your band, has no connection, never saw it, and has no similarity!â€ Dude, Iâ€™m not from Hollywood. Iâ€™m not going to sue you. Just acknowledge that you stole my thing. In this case it was obvious. I canâ€™t remember the stupid bandâ€™s name. It was some side project or something.
I take it as a tribute. It would just be nice if people acknowledged our name. I thought Pig Destroyer was great. They covered a Helmet song and a Henry Rollins song and a dwarves song. But, they credited Helmet and Henry Rollins, but they didnâ€™t credit the Dwarves. It was like, dude! It would be one thing if they didnâ€™t credit anybody, but I spoke to him, but it was an oversight. But, it happens a lot for the dwarves.
People talk about the grunge scene and weâ€™re never included. People talk about the Gilman scene and weâ€™re never included. Anybody who was there knows Goddamn well that we were there. Thatâ€™s just how it is. Iâ€™ve had to get used to that being in the Dwarves.
Act like you know
Itâ€™s absolutely a Hip Hop reference. I think I first heard it from Snoop Dogg. Just â€œAct like you know!â€ I wanted to write a hardcore song that had that. I had a bunch of fragments and I wanted to write a bunch of fragments put together.
Moving to California really influenced this. Meth was really unknown outside of California for a long time. No one in Illinois was doing meth. We were all doing coke. I lived in Boston, I lived in New York. I never saw anyone doing meth anywhere and I was always a drug person. Now we can conceive of a time when the whole country wasnâ€™t awash in meth. At the time, it was a very California thing and we were surprised by people doing that weird meth behavior. This song was really a Hewho song. He came up with the that solo part and the fats part. The little tie togethers are Saltpeterâ€™s bass riffs. It was a group effort. It was about the weird meth behavior.
I wink at everything. Itâ€™s pretty â€œwinking.â€ It doesnâ€™t signal that Iâ€™ve crossed over to worshipping Satan. It just comments on how most songs by heavy metal bands at the time were like â€œOoooooh! Isnâ€™t this scary!â€ So, I was like, â€œOh, Satan? Yeah, heâ€™s a pal of mine.â€ It came from one of those Gospel songs, like â€œJeeeesus is my friendâ€ so I was like â€œSatan is my friend.â€
Fuck â€˜em All
â€œFuck â€˜em Allâ€ was written lyrics and music by Salt Peter and again, everyone just assumes that I wrote it because itâ€™s so much my personality as seen through the band. Again, itâ€™s an exampeof the great songwriting in the band. But, to be fair, I had a little side project called Penetration Moon. I had long hair and I would fuck girls and no one cared about punk rock at the time. So, I was like, â€œwell, I like glammy shit, too. But, not this kind of glammy shit.â€ I was more into the New York Dolls or Dead Boys. So, I wrote a song about â€œLAâ€ and it was that riff that Salt Peter bit and wrote â€œFuck â€˜em Allâ€ and that was a much better song than my song. That really was a Salt Peter song, and he really does deserve credit for that song.
Will the unreleased Penetration Moon record be released? Yes! I finally mixed it last year and Burger Records is going to release it this year. There is a bootleg of rough mix circulating. So, people are really salivating and gotta say, we did. There are a bunch of unknown pictures. The remixes sound great. So, Iâ€™m really proud of that.
For one summer, for 1991, we played a lot in san Francisco. But, San Francisco is a weird place. But to me, it was all just like California. But, there were all these bands in San Francisco that were more successful than us, getting four and five hundred people, but they just wouldnâ€™t go to LA, because San Francisco people donâ€™t like LA. So one of the guys in Penetration was in a band called the Jackson Saints, who were popular in San Francisco. So, I said why donâ€™t you do come do a record of covers with me? So we did and Sympathy for the Record Industry put out a 7-inch. His band was like, â€œHey, you canâ€™t make a record, weâ€™re gonna make a record!â€ So, they made him stop.
The rock scene was a lot more like that then- petty fiefdoms. Before the Internet, it was more city orientated. Bands would rule their city and then be unknown anywhere else. But, the dwarves were always like national act because we werenâ€™t popular anywhere.
I was like, letâ€™s tour. We only get fifty people in San Francisco, so letâ€™s get fifty people in Toledo, letâ€™s get fifty people in Portland, wherever.
Itâ€™s probably been played live more than any other song just because it has been around for a long time. It as the most mid-tempo listener song from Blood Guts and Pussy. I always liked it a lot. Youâ€™ll notice it rips off â€œHalloween.â€ It has a Misfits rip off for one small part. Itâ€™s about the hopelessness of being in a rock band. â€œIâ€™m going on my world tour walking down to the drug store.â€ Weâ€™re basically just out here fro drugs and were not getting anything else.
It was about a naughty girl I knew from school. Hewho wrote the chords. I wrote the slow, moshy part. I was like, â€œall the California punk bands have apart where it slows down and then speeds up again. Can we do that?â€ Then, that turned out to be one of our more popular bits. â€œIt hurts so bad and Iâ€™m so glad.â€ Itâ€™s about a crazy girlfriend of mine when I was in high school. I had just moved to Las Vegas. She came down and kind of wanted to be my shotgun wife. She was the kind of girl that would fuck my friends and say â€œwell, if we got married this wouldnâ€™t happen anymore!â€
I have a suspicion that youâ€™re actually a really emotional guy that would get bummed out if someone cheated on you- more than say, the average person. I donâ€™t know if it comes from being emotional or being egotistical. It certainly happened to me where I got jealous of women sleeping with someone. Generally, it was only because I was a friend. It was the anger that you cheated on me, and you didnâ€™t even go outside my world to do it and you knew this would fuck things up for me with me and my friend and you did it intentionally. But, of course, the girl would probably turn around and say â€œwhatâ€™s good for the goose is good for the gander. You fucked my friend or did somebody else.â€
Thereâ€™s a real double standard in sexual relations. Iâ€™ve never been the kind of guy that was just like, â€œoh, you go fuck who you want and Iâ€™ll go fuck who I want.â€ Iâ€™ve always was like, â€œno, you gotta be cool while I go do this!â€ It was never explicitly stated like that, but thatâ€™s sort of what I was pushing for, which was completely unfair. Itâ€™s not fair. But, that gets back to that thing of being the dominator. You want everything. An equivalent would be rich people. They want everything and they donâ€™t want people to be jealous or angry and they donâ€™t want to have to do anything and when they donâ€™t get absolutely everything they also go and make some kind of political action committee that is lobbying on their behalf. Thatâ€™s how rich people think.
So, when youâ€™re in a position like me, to sexually run the table, you get to be sort of a megalomaniac. Iâ€™m out there doing it, but you canâ€™t do it. Itâ€™s not logical. Itâ€™s just gross human behavior.
But, I wouldnâ€™t say Iâ€™m more emotional. Iâ€™ve seen a lot of guys get like suicidal over that shit. For me, Iâ€™d get really for a week or two and then Iâ€™d be like â€œcâ€™mon man, stop being an asshole! You know you fucked another chick or did some other shit.â€ It never bothered me that much. Whereas, I had friends were the shoe was on the other foot and they didnâ€™t talk to em for twenty years. Itâ€™s like â€œcâ€™mon man, you can give it up now, canâ€™t you?â€ Then itâ€™s like â€œNo! Iâ€™m still mad!â€
So, I donâ€™t think Iâ€™m more emotional. Iâ€™m a hot-blooded Italian. I get real mad and then itâ€™s over. But see, Iâ€™m Italian. We paisans hold grudges, for sure. I agree with the idea that holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting it to kill the other guy. All it does is make you more angry. Iâ€™m capable of forgiving, just not forgetting. I donâ€™t pretend like things never happened. Iâ€™m like â€œokay, it happened. I was angry. Now, Iâ€™m over it.â€ Iâ€™m not like â€œoh, that guy was okay!â€ No he did some shit, but I got over it. I do hold some grudges. Iâ€™m not so evolved that I donâ€™t hold some grudges.
But, for the most part, Iâ€™m pretty good about it. I donâ€™t want to be upset for twenty years. Thatâ€™s just a waste of my time. People have some done mean things to me- mentally, physically, sexual, whatever. For the most, Iâ€™ve been pretty forgiving. I think a part of it is that Iâ€™ve sort of given as good as Iâ€™ve got. Iâ€™ve hurt some people at shows and Iâ€™ve hurt some people emotionally.
But, then again, thatâ€™s the 50 year old me, talking. The 20 year old me had a much different M.O.
Yeah, Iâ€™d say it was sort of the Dwarves do grunge. Unfortunately, Dairy Queen wasnâ€™t on the vinyl of Thank Heaven because that was the days when not everything came out on CD. So, it was like youâ€™d save a good song for the single. So everyone would by the album and the single. When the CD came out, you kind of had to put everything on the CD.
Once again, that was about a crazy girl that slept with everybody. Dairy Queen is a Midwestern tradition. So, I like that dairy Queen was where youâ€™d go after a ball game. Itâ€™s kind of combining two of my favorite things, Ice Cream and sex.
Surfing the Intercourse Barn
This is a spoken word chapter from a book I wrote called Armed to the teeth with lipstick. This was about a fast food brothel. Armed to the Teeth was a surreal detective novel, though maybe a little hard to read. Mad Mark rude did some great pictures for that.
The original cover of this single had me tied to a chair and being hurt by dominatrixes, which was really uncomfortable for me. The last thing I want is anything like that! People who hate me would probably like to see me be hurt like that!