ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JULY 8, 1988
By Steve Newton
Long-time Toronto bar-rockers the Killer Dwarfs have finally signed to a major label and released a new album, Big Deal. And now they’ve got a slick new tour bus, which was parked out back of the Metro last Thursday (June 30), waiting to take them on a western U.S. tour.
So what? I couldn’t use the fancy vehicle to interview lead singer Russ Dwarf because its exhausted driver was fast asleep in there. And it was way too loud back at the club to hear any of his answers. What’s a guy gonna do? Get the story right there on the sidewalk, looking like a goofy cub reporter doing a man-in-the-street scoop while club-goers saunter by thinking, “What a nerd!”?
Slipping my tape deck onto the hood of a Honda, I asked the diminutive screamer with the Geddy Lee-ish voice how his band happened to latch on to that deal with CBS/Epic, the same label that a certain moon-walking mega-star has been sounding Bad on lately.
“We washed Michael Jackson’s car a couple of times,” says Russ, ever the wiseacre. “Actually, we’d been attracting a lot of attention down in the States with Stand Tall, an independent release that sold about 800,000 units. So CBS got interested in the band, and since they had the fastest chequebook in the West, we decided to go with them.”
Like a lot of bands, the Killer Dwarfs have taken advantage of today’s rock video craze to skillfully promote their look and sound. But unlike a lot of bands–who take themselves too seriously–the Dwarfs have come up with some hilarious little clips that cleverly indulge the group’s motto: “Better laugh or you’re gonna cry.”
“Keep the Spirit Alive” depicted Russ [actually the only short guy in the band] as a freaked-out singing dwarf who’s transported from gig to gig in a wooden box, while “Stand Tall” showed the Dwarfs as a basement band, ingeniously creating their own homemade records. Their latest video is for the single “We Stand Alone”, and it laughingly illustrates what happens when a band hits the big time. Russ Dwarf recognizes the success their videos have had in getting the group’s good-time message to the masses.
“They’ve worked really well for us, ’cause everybody seems to get into them. They’ve got a sense of humour, and it usually breaks the ice. People get a kick out of it. And that’s what we like to see–people laughing.”
Russ Dwarf certainly had them giggling at the Metro last week. From the introductory cartoon music to the set-closing power chords of Kiss’s “Strutter”, the little fella was a whirling dervish of hard-brained rock ‘n’ roll antics. A nonstop loony in the Angus Young tradition, Dwarf pulled off a steady stream of rolls and flips, spinning wildly around the stage and singing while standing on is head. And the hard-rockin’ music that accompanied the show was also a winner with the raunch-hungry Metro crowd. Guitarist Mike Dwarf, bassist “Bad Ronbo” Dwarf, and drummer Darrell Dwarf are a tight unit, and nifty new tunes like “Tell Me Please”, “Startin’ to Shine”, and “Union of Pride” went over just as well as such older faves as “Keep the Spirit Alive” and “Heavy Metal Breakdown”.
After years of plugging it out on the Canadian bar circuit, things appear to be on coming together just fine for the KiIler Dwarfs. As well as the major label deal and upcoming tour, Russ Dwarf had something else to celebrate at the Met last Thursday.
“I’m having my birthday here tonight in Vancouver,” he grinned, holding back till yours truly asked the obvious question. “I’m 16!,” he blurted out. “It’s like Menudo–I get kicked out after tonight, so I better have a good time.”