The chaos in the room was unlike anything in rock & roll," says Blag Dahlia (aka Paul Cafaro) as he excitedly recalls old-school punk shows. "You saw bodies being passed across the room, it was so brutal. I always tried to bring that back." Dahlia is the frontman of the Dwarves, one of the longest-running and most controversial punk bands still bloodying up international stages. With vulgar lyrics, pornographic promo materials and onstage nudity, the Dwarves quickly became a band that audiences loved with a grimace and record labels didn't know how to handle. Even now, after more than 20 years of punk pandemonium, the Dwarves still push the limits on their albums and especially onstage.
"Live, it all goes back to being a punk show," he says. "We just make it a blood bath. Young people have never seen anything like it."
While they're on the stage, each song is like a punch in the face, helped along by the yelling, fist-pumping and genital-swinging of the Dwarves' masked guitarist Hewhocannotbenamed. And with tracks like "The Ballad of Vadge Moore," "Free Cocaine" and "Fuck, Eat, and Fuck You Up," the content is far from PC. Spin magazine even declared their 1990 LP, Blood, Guts & Pussy, the most offensive album of all time.
Despite their nature, the catchy melodies and well-composed progressions are undeniable. On their most recent full-length, 2004's The Dwarves Must Die, the members get experimental by incorporating punk, hip-hop, hardcore and much more. Dahlia says the album is a statement against bands that "stick to one thing and call it integrity." Thanks to devoted cult followers and talent, the Dwarves have managed to survive many musical generations and stay true to their sound without becoming a revival act, while still flying under the mainstream radar.
"We always took stupidity to the utmost degree," says Dahlia matter-of-factly. "You either got that or you didn't."
Beneath Dahlia's sexhound front lies an intelligent, polite man who laughs about episodes of Seinfeld and shares stories about his saint of a mother. He is, however, defensive about the legitimacy of his and the Dwarves' collective persona.
"Rock & roll is a facade, and I'm glad to do it," he says. "Some people get that it's done with a wink. There are elements of truth to it, but there's bullshit to it, too. That's what rock is."
Dahlia admits that his idea of punk's message — sex, food and guitars — is disconnected from most other practitioners' take on the genre, but no matter the content within the Dwarves' music, it's always honest.
"I don't understand why I can't say that `message`. Rock & roll is a sexual thing. A lot of folks chicken out on that aspect."