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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Drummer Greg Saenz is enjoying a fantastic music career. He’s currently the drummer for local band You Know Who; he plays in former Kyuss frontman John Garcia’s solo band; and he’s been involved with Excel, and My Head. However, he’s probably best known for his days as Gregory Pecker during a stint with The Dwarves. Greg was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

The Village People with opener Gloria Gaynor at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, June 1979. Just think about THAT one! It is, to this day, the greatest concert performance I have ever seen. (Well, Alice Cooper ...)

What was the first album you owned?

The Osmond Brothers, Crazy Horses. I was 5 years old, and after seeing them perform the title track “Crazy Horses” on TV, I was obsessed with Donny Osmond. On Christmas morning 1972, Nixon was POTUS, and I woke up to the first record I ever owned.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I’ve been enjoying Torche lately, and a band we recently played with called Vodun, from London. I’ve been listening to The Guess Who, and Grand Funk Railroad, knowing what an influence they were for Soundgarden. Same reason I’ve been listening to my Paul Butterfield Blues Band records, Swamp Dogg, and Etta James with the passing of Gregg Allman.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

The Mars Volta, Dillinger Escape Plan, and Korn. I “get” the bands, because I know they have a vision, and a purpose, and it serves ’em right. What I don’t “get” is “moved.” It doesn’t move me, not even to the point where I feel like I’m missing something. My reluctance to listen to those bands is always difficult to explain to my buddies who want to crank it all the way to L.A. and back.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

I was really believing that The James Gang was going to headline Desert Trip, and I am terribly disappointed about that not happening.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Besides doing air guitar in the mirror? Berlin, Oasis, Alter Bridge, The Cardigans, and XTC.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Wild at Heart in Berlin: GREAT food, beer, a tattoo parlor with world-renowned artists, and a cool stage/sound system. Plus, it’s in Berlin!

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“Baby I just need one good one to staaaaaaayy,” “Million Reasons,” Lady Gaga.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Tom Araya of Slayer. Los Angeles, 1987. I was drumming for Excel, my first “real” band, and although I was handling my own, I was still quite green and insecure about my abilities. Dave Lombardo and Slayer had just parted ways, and their LP Reign in Blood was still in our ears. One week after the Lombardo departure, I approached Tom Araya at a hardcore show in L.A. that his younger brother’s band, Bloodcum, was playing at. Tom was quite friendly, and knew of Excel, and he gave me their manager’s phone number. I was told to learn “Altar of Sacrifice,” “Jesus Saves,” “Reign in Blood” and “Necrophobic.” I pooped my pants, but I learned the tunes and auditioned. I was thrilled! I obviously didn’t get the gig, and I knew I wouldn’t; I only knew that a chance to conquer my biggest fears would land me in a spot where I would earn respect so I could hold my head up high amongst my colleagues, and be uber-confident in my abilities. I’m still not sure if it worked, but it definitely changed my life.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

I’d ask Rivers Cuomo from Weezer: “Did you really audition for Quiet Riot?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Why, it would be “Champagne Supernova” by Oasis, of course!

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Aerosmith, Rocks.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Combination” by Aerosmith, to help prove my point. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Published in The Lucky 13

At a time in world history when relations between the governments of Russia and the United States are strained, a strong alliance has developed between American gutter punks The Dwarves and Russian hard-core punksters the Svetlanas.

Blag Dahlia, the veteran punk-pop troubadour who has guided the Dwarves through three decades and a dozen albums (and whom we talked to recently for this space), may have met his match in Russian songstress Olga Svetlanas, who prefers flipping the bird to waving the peace sign, and spews profanities with one eye cocked like it’s nobody’s business.

At its best, punk rock challenges social norms, pisses on convention, steps on value systems and rebels against authority. Religious groups and government agencies that set standards and practices drop their jaws and point their fingers in contempt of the vile, low-brow art form, which throws the bird and asks, “Who’s watching the kids while mom’s at work, and dad’s off fucking his secretary?” When you think about a world in which millions of people are being bombed by planes sent by one government or another for reasons none of us understand, why shouldn’t music flip society a bird?

If you are firmly rooted in a certain belief system, a bunch of gutter punks aren’t gonna chip away at anything you value. However, it’s the extreme form of street poetry put to music that allows frustrated youth to vent and boldly expresses what is. I know a lot of punk-rock school teachers; they may listen to Rancid at home, but you can trust them with your fourth-graders. Can you necessarily say that about your Catholic priest?

Punk rock in its truest form shines a flood light on what is: promiscuity, violence, social unrest, inequality, addiction, fascism, corruption and crime. Punk rock doesn’t need to lie, because it doesn’t give a shit what you think. Something honest and refreshing lies with in that ideology. Punk rock just is—and these two groups of punk-rock extremists don’t shy away from these topics; they revel in them.

Svetlanas is a Russian hard-core punk rock band fronted by the tightly wound, foul-mouthed songstress Olga Svetlanas. The group recently joined forces with desert-rock icon and former Queens of the Stone Age bassist Nick Oliveri of the Dwarves before winding up a U.S. tour in Texas. The band is a well-oiled music machine, cranking out tight and riveting compositions that rile up audiences around the world. Punk-rock ideology is alive and well within the framework of the group’s music. Olga’s lyrical themes are chock-full of violence and vulgarity, and she brings them to life with confrontational live performances filled with plenty of punk-rock aggression. Perhaps even more shocking because of her gender are videos like “I Must Break You,” depicting a man bound and gagged while suffering a Russian Mafia debriefing. It’s Olga’s hand holding the gun to his head.

Olga has earned the respect of peers in a predominately male music genre. Perhaps the most outspoken and controversial female purveyor of punk, she is backed by a powerhouse of a band that lays out retro-hardcore. One notable difference between a Svetlanas record and a hard-core punk album from the ’80s is the refined guitar tones—something producer Blag Dahlia gets right in the studio every time. It’s abrasive music with refined guitar tones allowing for nuances and tightly packaged finished pieces.

The band has attracted the support of some of punk rock’s most notorious characters, including Blag Dahlia and Nick Oliveri. The band has released two full lengths onAltercation Records, with several singles and splits all available on the website. A Svetlanas/Dwarves split is wrapped in a cover with a fully nude woman bound and gagged.

Blag Dahlia produced the Svetlanas latest full length, Naked Horse Rider,which features a vocal collaboration by Olga and Blag titled “Revenge.” They released the song as a single on colored vinyl—a sexy slab of white of melted wax, dripping in red, honoring Record Store Day. While in Southern California, the Svetlanas went into the studio with Dahlia to record a forthcoming album (not yet named) and enlisted the help of Oliveri.

Check out the website and the music of this outspoken, kick-ass hard core punk band. The Svetlanas will blow you away.

Read more from Robin Linn, including an expanded version of this story, at www.desertrockchronicles.com.

Blag Dahlia is more than just the frontman of the notorious punk rock band the Dwarves. He is an author, actor, music producer and aspiring film producer.

He has two novels under his belt, Armed to the Teeth With Lipstick and Nina, and a follow-up to Nina is in the works. He has scored films—and once did a song for an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants. He hosts an online radio program, Radio Like You Want, and has expanded beyond punk to make both bluegrass and pop records. He has produced 15 full-length albums with the Dwarves over a 25 year span—and he has no intention of stopping.

In 2004, the band released The Dwarves Must Die, marking the first time former Queens of the Stone Age bassist Nick Oliveri made an appearance with the band. Since then, Oliveri and Dahlia have been musically intimate: Besides recording five Dwarves records together, Dahlia produced several Mondo Generator records, Oliveri’s project that often includes Josh Homme.

Today, Oliveri’s Uncontrollable picks up where Mondo Generator left off. Uncontrollable’s latest release on Schnitzel Records, Leave Me Alone, was recorded at Thunder Underground Recording Studio in Palm Springs.

The Dwarves, with Oliveri in tow, will be playing at The Hood Bar and Pizza on Friday, March 18; tickets are $15. In advance of the show, an email chat with Blag Dahlia seemed to be in order.

Who does the majority of the songwriting?

For the last few records, it’s really been a group effort. That’s been the really fun part of it for me. It’s actually been that way since the beginning of the band, with various guys contributing songs or co-writing stuff. I usually like a band better if it has a more three-dimensional songwriting process like that, but sometimes, you get a really unified vision for a batch of songs, and that can work, too.

What do you think about the music industry today, as opposed to when you started?

The more decentralized it is, the better it works. That’s what allows something new to develop. When the music-making is all concentrated in one place, they make the same thing over and over again. There used to be more money spent making records both big and small. On the other hand, even in today’s dismal musical climate, how can guys pushing 50 get their cocks sucked if not by playing rock ’n’ roll music?

I read that you would like to do a musical someday.

I have always loved musicals; I can’t help it. The older and cornier, the better, but I watched Glee all the time, too. Yeah, it’s pretty fucking gay—but someday, I’ll do it!

Who inspires you musically?

Initially, it was Frank Zappa. He was always so eclectic and funny. Also, (I’m inspired by) great frontmen like Iggy, Lux and Stiv Bators. I like people like Lady Gaga who go from dance-floor queen to the new Barbra Streisand in a couple years. Also, it would be nice to fuck Ariana Grande.

Who have you worked with that really blew you away?

I’ve been really lucky with my band members. Some bands are totally dominated by one guy who writes everything and calls all the shots. We’ve never been like that. Since the earliest days, all the Dwarves write songs, and that makes for a way more interesting body of work. … We even play songs that our drummers write!

How do you like doing the acoustic set live? Did you co-write the Uncontrollable material with Nick?

I like to play acoustic, because it gives me a chance to sing some funny songs I’ve written. The downside is my guitar-playing, which kinda sucks. For Uncontrollable, that was Nick’s name and his thing, but sometimes I get invited along, and he’ll play my songs on guitar, and we’ll sing together. Nick is so incredibly talented. No one sings like him; no one writes lyrics like him; and he’s the best rock bass-player there is, period.

Do you have any musical aspirations apart from what you do with the Dwarves?

I want to write a big hit song just to make my dad happy. He collects sheet music and hasn’t heard a new record in 50 years, but I think he’d love to see my name as a songwriter “on top of the hit parade.”

I know you did that pop album with Angelina Moysov (Candy Now) and a bluegrass record. Are there any other styles or genres you wish to visit as a recording artist?

I love punk rock, and I always will. It’s the most fun thing to play, and I’ve been doing it steadily since the mid-’80s. But I never listen to it—I just play it. When I’m not playing punk, it’s the last thing I want to hear. Candy Now was an international retro pop kind of a thing; the blackgrass record was a dark modern country kind of a thing. I love to get out of my comfort zone and into all kinds of weird music.

What is the live show like today compared to the early shows?

I’m fatter now, but I can actually sing, so that makes up for it. Also, we get paid now!

Read more from Robin Linn, including an expanded version of this story, at www.desertrockchronicles.com.

Published in Previews

Here in the desert, we take our punk rock and stoner rock pretty seriously. We take pride in the cutting-edge musicians who carved a place out for themselves in the international music marketplace—and put our area on the international music map.

Bands like Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson, Unida and others boldly explored new territory with their musical instruments and gave birth to their own brand of original rock. Back in the ’80s and early ’90s, these then-underground bands were drawing influences from punk, grunge and metal—yet in each instance, they created a sound that was all their own.

Palm Desert's Nick Oliveri—multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter—made a name for himself playing bass-guitar in Kyuss (which just so happened to be Oliveri’s very first band). The group caught the ears of A&R people quickly, and it wasn’t long before the members were cutting a record and heading off to Europe on tour.

Oliveri departed from the fledgling band after the first studio record to explore his punk roots—and became the on-again, off-again bass player for the Dwarves, one of the most notorious hard-core punk bands on the West Coast. However, in 1998, he reunited with Kyuss band mate Josh Homme to help form what would become the next international super group born in our desert: Queens of the Stone Age. He toured and recorded with the group until 2004, when his lifestyle got away from him, and Homme asked him to leave. (The two have written, recorded and toured together since the split.)

Despite the firing from QOTSA, Nick continued to create music in a multitude of situations that helped shape him into the player and songwriter he is today. That growth can be experienced on both his latest solo records and at his live performances. He has recorded multiple full-length albums and several splits with his band Mondo Generator, and has continued to garner new fans across the globe. Besides being one of the most sought-after hard-rock bassists in stoner rock, he is revered by European fans as an American rock icon. Oliveri possesses a world-class vocal style that borders on a scream—though it comes quite naturally. His vocal style sets him apart and adds heat to his already-fiery compositions. His charismatic stage presence and full-throttle performances are backed by a prolific catalog of records in numerous cross-projects.

Oliveri has recently been working with Santa Cruz punk band Bl’ast, which recently recorded an EP featuring Dave Grohl (Nirvana/Foo Fighters) and Black Flag guitarist Chuck Dukowski. He just finished up a record with Russian punk rock band Svetlanas. He has appeared on more than 60 records with artists including as Slash, Brant Bjork, Winnebago, Masters of Reality, Mark Lanegan, Moistboyz and the Uncontrollable (an acoustic duo with Dwarves bandmate Blag Dahlia). In 2014, he recorded with Teenage Time Killers, a side project featuring Dave Grohl and Pat Smear.

After returning from a European tour with the Uncontrollable, Oliveri is preparing to perform a handful of California shows with the Dwarves—including a show at The Hood Bar and Pizza in Palm Desert, on March 18.

Watch this space for more on this exciting show next month.

Read more from Robin Linn at www.desertrockchronicles.com.

Hide the kids! Hide the wife, and take cover! The Dwarves are coming to The Hood on Friday, Aug. 16.

Formed in 1982 in the suburbs of Chicago, the Dwarves came together playing garage rock. As they crafted their early hardcore-punk sound, they became one of the first bands to use samples and drum loops.

Their live performances later became notorious for onstage acts that included violence, drug use and GG Allin-style self-mutilation. The band’s frontman, Blag Dahlia, had an infamous violent altercation backstage at Los Angeles’ Dragonfly club with Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme in 2004. It earned Homme a court-ordered trip to rehab and anger management classes.

When asked whether the violence might be taken too far someday, Blag says the day has already come.

“I’ve been stabbed. I’ve been beaten over the head, and I’ve had my throat slit,” said Blag, during a recent phone interview from Los Angeles. “All the guys in the band have suffered various violent altercations. We’ve given in to the goodness of God sometimes. It’s all part of what rock n roll is: You don’t exactly know what’s going to happen, and it just goes. The music is very energetic, and it kind of inspires those kinds of responses. Shit happens.”

Blag added that people who say “Blag got his ass kicked at the show” have it all wrong. “Anyone who ever tried to kick my ass got it back just as bad as they thought they were giving it out,” said Blag.

In another controversial episode, the band issued a press release in 1993 that stated their guitar-player, HeWhoCannotBeNamed, was stabbed to death. Turns out that was a hoax, and the incident led to the band being dropped from Sub-Pop Records.

However, Blag has a different point of view on the events.

“(HeWhoCannotBeNamed) is the creature who transcends life and death,” said Blag. “At times, there are those who believed he was no longer among us. He’s like a very material sort of entity, and he’s an icon of rock and roll. So these concepts of life and death sort of have a different meaning for him.”

Through all of the controversy, the band has had a successful recording career. Blag has also produced albums for the Swingin’ Utters, The God Awfuls, and former Queens of the Stone Age bassist Nick Oliveri’s group Mondo Generator. (Oliveri is also a member of the Dwarves, playing under the alias of Rex Everything.) He’s written two novels: Armed to the Teeth With Lipstick and Nina.

In what some would call an unexpected move, Blag also recorded “Doing the Sponge” for an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants.

“One of our former members, Salt Peter, has written a lot of material for SpongeBob,” said Blag. “He wrote a bunch of novelty songs that they do in there. So early on in the first season, he had written a song for them. They wanted somebody who sounded like Lux Interior of The Cramps, and he’s one of my favorite singers; I said, ‘I can go in there and sound like Lux,’ and so I did. It was a lot of fun, and it makes me popular with those in the 8-years-old crowd.”

Blag said he looks back on the band’s musical accomplishments with unapologetic pride.

“We’re undoubtedly more known for the controversy, but that’s not because we haven’t left a bunch of great music behind,” said Blag. “We’re the only punk band that gets better with time, and the only one anyone can conceive of … (that) continues to be great. This is a band that makes classic record after classic record. We just keep pushing the boundaries of genres. We’ve had outstanding musicianship, outstanding production with Top 10 producers, and great studio players. The Dwarves are one of the best-recorded bands in history. The fact that people don’t know that has a lot more to do with marketing (than) the quality of the music.”

What does the future hold for the Dwarves? They’ve been in the studio recording and are hoping to release a new album within the next year. (Their most recent studio album was 2011's The Dwarves Are Born Again.) In the meantime, they’ve booked some shows (including the one at The Hood) to keep them busy. Blag also does a podcast called Radio Like You Want.

They’re also no strangers to the Coachella Valley.

“We played there with Kyuss when they didn’t have a club there, and there was a nudist colony that people used to do shows at,” said Blag. “We just got done doing some recording in Joshua Tree. I’m looking forward to going out there and seeing some of our friends in the desert. We’ve always loved the desert.”

The Dwarves will play with the Hellions, the Atom Age and Hot Beat Acoustic at 8 p.m., Friday, Aug. 16, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111 in Palm Desert. Admission is $10, and there are no presales. For more information, call 760-636-5220, or visit thehoodbar.com.

Published in Previews