RUSS ‘DWARF’ GRAHAM (KILLER DWARFS) INTERVIEW:
February 11, 2014
2013 has seen the successful and much welcome return of the Killer Dwarfs. Sleaze Roxx caught up with the band’s charismatic frontman and lead vocalist, Russ ‘Dwarf’ Graham, a few days after the Killer Dwarfs’ latest show in Toronto to discuss a number of things including the band’s future plans and the new ‘lost album’ ‘Start @ One’. What struck me the most while doing the interview, aside from the great sense of humor that Russ Dwarf possesses, is how humble and appreciative he is with the Killer Dwarfs’ continued success.
Sleaze Roxx: Great show the other night! It must be very special to play in Toronto for you guys.
Russ ‘Dwarf’ Graham: Yeah, it’s great. You know, it is basically our hometown. None of us are from Toronto but we are obviously from the area. I guess everybody that knows us knows we are from there. It is nice to see everybody come out and especially on a horrible Canadian winter night, which I predicted would happen! But you know, it is awesome — absolutely totally nice to get all the love from everybody like that.
Sleaze Roxx: The Killer Dwarfs mentioned on FaceBook that their best show of 2013 was actually at the Rockpile East in Toronto back on October 4th. Why was that?
Russ ‘Dwarf’ Graham: It was a club that we had started out at when we were like 21 years old. It was originally called the Knob Hill Tavern and it was a rock club in the ’70s. We were just kids when we played there. We have not played there in a long time and to come and get a sold out show — that was awesome. You know, we had just done a month and a bit in the States and that was a lot of fun because we have a lot of friends there. But to come back here to Toronto and have everybody come out and hang with us — amazing! You cannot ask for anything more. We have been together for over 30 years now, you would think they would be sick of us by now.
Sleaze Roxx: ‘Start @ One’ has been out for now almost five months. What has the feedback that you have received been like?
Russ ‘Dwarf’ Graham: I have seen nothing but positive responses to it. Basically, we recorded that 20 years ago. It is like a time capsule where we were at the time and everybody has been really positive about it. You know, at this point honestly, we have nothing to prove — you know what I mean? We are having fun with this. We always had fun with it but there is not a lot at stake at this point. It is just go and play the tunes that we love. We don’t have the cure to cancer here. We are just trying to make people happy. We are happy, so hopefully it shows when we bring the tunes to everybody.
Sleaze Roxx: For sure! You guys actually reunited back in around 2000 for about five years.
Russ ‘Dwarf’ Graham: We did in 2001 I think. I have talked about this before, but I think we were a bit ahead of the curve on that one. It went well and everything — we did the live DVD and the live album and we did a whole bunch of shows. But I just think we were just ahead of ourselves at that time. You know, now this genre is a lot more popular — you know what I mean? It is like classic rock now, right? Everything is in from the ’80s. There seems to be a lot of us out there.
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of a live album, I read somewhere that you guys have actually recorded all your shows since ‘Reunion Of Scribes’ and I saw that you recorded your last show in Toronto. When can we expect a live CD or DVD?
Russ ‘Dwarf’ Graham: It all depends on the time to get in and fool around with the stuff and see what we have. We have always recorded a lot of stuff and videotaped everything from like 1984 on so we have so much audio and video. Hopefully, we will do something with it. You know, to record a live show is hit and miss because we are really active on stage. It is not like we are just standing there trying to deliver the perfect technical part which is not what we are about anyways. We are more about the atmosphere. I think everybody can play in the band and everything but we will see what happens. We are talking about stuff, but we have got a whole bunch of things on the backburner right now. Basically, what we are trying to do right now is we are gearing up to start playing a bunch of shows — so trying to get in that mode. We will probably be recording those too.
Sleaze Roxx: Here is a hypothetical question for you. Had ‘Start @ One’ been released 20 years ago, how do you think that it would have fared at that time?
Russ ‘Dwarf’ Graham: I don’t think as well as it has been doing because you know, the music changed — the genre changed. Our type of rock and roll was basically on its way out and the Seattle thing was more prevalent. Everything changes — it is all in a cycle, right? So I do not think that it would have done that great to tell you the truth. It is hard to say — let’s get a time machine and try it.
Sleaze Roxx: (Laughs) There are a couple of new tracks recorded for ‘Start @ One’ which did not make it onto the CD. What where the names of the songs and will they be surfacing in the future?
Russ ‘Dwarf’ Graham: There are a couple of tunes but there is so much to pick from. I could not even tell you the names of them. We are working on some stuff right now — some older stuff from that era that we have around that we demoed and stuff. It was just in early stages and things, so we are probably going to get together and turn it into some stuff. We have a few things coming out that you should probably see in the next couple of months.
Sleaze Roxx: What about your autobiography ‘Tall Tales’. That is supposed to come out in book and movie formats?
Russ ‘Dwarf’ Graham: Yeah, we’re still working on that. Those are all works in progress. Since we started playing live again last August, everything has kind of taken a backseat — you know what I mean. It is the kind of thing that we are still doing but it all takes time.
Sleaze Roxx: What about Johnny Fenton? How is working out on bass and in the band?
Russ ‘Dwarf’ Graham: He’s fired (laughs)! No, he is awesome, man! I totally love Johnny. He is a total team player and he brings a lot to the band. He is a very passionate player and he is a great guy to hang out with. We love him to death — awesome!
Sleaze Roxx: Now unlike some of your peers, I find that your voice has really held up over time. What are your secrets in that regard?
Russ ‘Dwarf’ Graham: All good clean living (laughs). I don’t know. I just keep singing — it is a muscle. You got to keep working it I guess. I don’t know. I am Scottish and there was a lot of screaming in my childhood (laughs). It is hard to say. I get asked that question a lot and I guess all you do is pray that things kind of work. I have been lucky.
Sleaze Roxx: You guys have a lot of festival concerts scheduled ahead for 2014. You have the Monsters of Rock Cruise in March and the ’80s In The Park in Australia in September. Do you guys like to do the festivals more than regular gigs or is it vice versa?
Russ ‘Dwarf’ Graham: You know, we just like to play. We play so many different sized places that it really does not matter. But they are fun for sure — you know what I mean? It is a different atmosphere and everything. Usually when we do a club, we are doing our own show kind of thing so when you do the festival it is more of a 40-45 minute thing so it is a get in and get out kind of situation. But they are fun — everything is fun. At this point, like I said, we are just enjoying each other’s company and loving that everybody still remembers us.
Sleaze Roxx: Obviously the music industry has changed a lot since you guys have been around. What are the biggest differences that you have noticed since the band’s beginning and since the time that you reunited back in 2001?
Russ ‘Dwarf’ Graham: The haircuts (laughs)! It is all the haircuts — nothing changes but the haircuts (laughs). I don’t know, it is probably because the internet is the biggest thing. Obviously, it is the new wheel of fire, right? It has just changed the whole situation. Big record companies are gone and big record deals are gone unless you are like in a pop kind of genre or situation. You can instantly get to people with the internet — it just makes everything more accessible. There are positives and negatives in it for sure because then you have everything there is too much out there. There is too much to go through, so you just have to make your own little world. You can definitely promote yourself a million percent better with the internet — you are not mailing things to people anymore (laughs).
You know, if we did this interview and you had a magazine — three months from now, we might see it, right? And you are probably going to have it up in the next couple of days or whatever, right? So, it is the immediacy of the whole situation that makes it a smaller world. But it makes it harder I think too. There are pros and cons to it. I probably would not want to be starting all over and starting as a young band today because there is so much competition. How do you get seen or heard?
Sleaze Roxx: I went to both of your Toronto shows but you only played one song off ‘Start @ One’ each time. How come?
Russ ‘Dwarf’ Graham: I just think people want to hear the rest of the catalogue. I do not want to torture people with songs they do not know — you know what I mean? I have been to shows where bands have played their whole new album and it is like, you want to hear the classic tunes from that band. We might add something else as we go, as people get to know ‘Start @ One’. That is the great thing about the internet. You can ask them, “hey what do you want to hear off this record,” and then we will play it kind of thing. But we have a lot of material to pick from so we play little snippets of something.
Sleaze Roxx: What are your favorite tracks off ‘Start @ One’ and why?
Russ ‘Dwarf’ Graham: I love “Start @ One” — I always thought that was a great tune. I just love the feel of it and everything. It is odd for me to listen to that record after all this time. I think we did a good job and it is a great — like I said, a time capsule where we were and where we would have gone after ‘Method To The Madness’. I am proud of it. I am proud of all the stuff we do. I am lucky enough to play with top musicians and guys that totally are into their thing and are so passionate about rock and roll. I am lucky — I am a lucky dwarf.
Sleaze Roxx: What about the album title ‘Start @ One’? Did you guys come up with it just before releasing the album?
Russ ‘Dwarf’ Graham: No, that song was written over 20 years ago. That song was around the time of ‘Method To The Madness’ in like ’91. It has been around a long time but it is appropriate now, right? It all comes full circle.
Sleaze Roxx: Last question for you. What are your three favorite albums of all time and why?
Russ ‘Dwarf’ Graham: Oh my God! Nana Mouskouri’s Greatest Hits, Backstreet Boys and The Carpenters (laughs). It is so hard man. I love so much music, you know? Well, I guess let’s give it a try. ‘If You Want Blood’ by AC/DC and ‘Love It To Death’ by Alice Cooper. Let’s pick another one. There are so many. ‘Get Your Wings’ by Aerosmith. Man, that was a loaded question. What are your three favorite albums of all time?
Sleaze Roxx: No one has ever asked me that. I am supposed to be the one asking the questions (laughs).
Russ ‘Dwarf’ Graham: (Laughs) I will be calling you for my interview of you.
Sleaze Roxx: I will give you one. Definitely ‘Appetite For Destruction’ by Guns N’ Roses.
Russ ‘Dwarf’ Graham: Awesome, that is a great album too. There are so many, you know what I mean? It is hard to pick, right? We all love rock and roll and there are so many great records.