With a new album out and now with his own band, Ska Dude managed a few words with He-who-cannot-be-named who has been playing punk rock for 25 years mostly with The Dwarves. We put some questions to him about one of music’s controversial bands, a hoax death and his new album.
What’s the origin of the bands name?
I guess it’s because I couldn’t seem to keep a name for more than a year or two. First they just called me “Realgone”, probably because I wasn’t really all there most of the time, then it was “Vietnam”. I’m not sure exactly why, I remember hearing something about a hideous disfigurement on account of the war. Eventually I realised that this would most likely become an endless series of names that probably would have gone on and on, so I realised that my name could only be Hewhocannotbenamed.
Who were your major influences?
My first musical influence was my Dad. He played the piano for fun and, as a young child, I would watch him, fascinated by this. He was mostly into classical music, (loved Beethoven) and show tunes. He was kind of a showman too, he would make big dramatic movements with his arms and sway his body back and forth when he played. When I got older I took piano lessons. Later, around the time I started playing guitar, I discovered The Beatles. I bought the “Complete Beatles” book of sheet music and taught myself to play by learning their songs.
How long have you all known each other? How did you meet?
I’m not sure how to answer this one. Since Hewhocannotbenamed is pretty much a spinoff of The Dwarves, I’ll refer to the first time I met Blag. I was in my college dorm room when I got a knock on the door. It was this tall hippy looking kid. He had heard that I owned an old Farfisa organ (which I still have today). He had a psychedelic band (Suburban Nightmare) and they needed an organ player. They were trying to be real authentic so they used old gear. I think I passed the audition more because I had this cool old keyboard than anything I played on it.
Who writes your songs?
I write them all, although Saltpeter has one on the upcoming record. In The Dwarves its pretty much all the members, although Blag and I cowrote quite a few, especially in the early years.
What originally attracted you to punk?
I think punk means different things to different people. I always liked heavy sounding music with distorted guitars. I guess that’s part of it for me, but I really connected to punk as an art form that creates a feeling of true danger and criminality, the first time I saw The Cramps. It was in Chicago in the early 80s at a fairly small venue. When Lux Interior pulled his pants down and jumped into the crowd, I remember the adrenaline pumping and thinking things like “Can he do this?” “Isn’t this against the rules?” But I loved it.
In 1993 it was spread around that you had died but it was a hoax and you were dropped from label, is this true?
Well no, I didn’t die, and yes we were dropped from the label.
How much do you think punk has changed in the last 30 years?
It has almost completely lost the ability to express danger and criminality, thus becoming almost completely limp and ineffectual. Of course its much easier to market this way.
You often only ever wear a wrestling mask and a jock strap or nothing, how did this come about?
The first show I ever played was on Halloween night. So I wore a mask as a costume. I guess I liked it so I decided to keep wearing it. As for the naked guy or jock strap thing, its kind of similar. Back in the 80s The Dwarves had a show at this little club in New Jersey that was supposed to be on cable TV or something. Anyway there was a whole crew of camera people to shoot this program. The problem was that there was almost no audience. This wasn’t too unusual in those days. We all decided that the best way to salvage this TV appearance would be for the entire band to play the show naked. So we did that and I must have enjoyed it, because I kept playing naked after that for the next 20 years or so. Eventually I started putting on a jock strap and it evolved into more of a weird metal guy wrestler thing.
And does it cause many problems with venues?
Sometimes, I’ve had a few narrow escapes. Cops could never really Identify me very well because of the mask.
What’s the maddest thing you have done on stage or seen while you have been playing?
One time a naked guy who was completely covered in blood jumped up on the stage and started hugging me.
What’s your favourite band song to perform and why?
“Demonica” with The Dwarves and “Zombieland” with HWCBN.
What’s your coolest band story?
I don’t know exactly what counts as a cool story. There have been a lot of years and a lot of band members. One of the more memorable moments was visiting GG Allin in a Michigan State Prison. I remember as we walked out of the visiting room full of inmates, GG yelled “Rock and Roll is criminal!”
What do you think about downloading music online?
It’s really changed the business. Ultimately I think it’s better for smaller bands because they are much more able to get their stuff out there.
What’s your outlook on the record industry today?
It’s an interesting time. I’m not sure what’s going to happen. I’ve never relied on the industry as a major portion of my income, but if I did I’d probably be worried. I’m mostly interested.
Now you have your own band, what made you decide to do that?
I think it was because I had all these songs that I had written that didn’t really fit with The Dwarves. I like having the control over the album production also.
And is it permanent or will you be back with the Dwarves again?
I like doing my own band. I have especially enjoyed working with Saltpeter again. I have the greatest respect for all the members of The Dwarves and I wish them success. I enjoyed working with them on their latest release “Born Again” and I always get a few of those guys to come in the studio and play on my stuff. Wholly Smokes as well as Saltpeter play on every song of my upcoming release. It’s hard to say what the future will bring, but right now I have no plans to tour with the Dwarves.
You have a new album out in now, for those who don’t have it yet tell us about it?
Its called “Sunday School Massacre” and is a collection of songs that I wrote while I was working at a residential treatment facility for juvenile delinquents. Its got a bunch of Dwarves playing on it including: The Fresh Prince Of Darkness, Saltpeter, Rex Everything (Nick Oliveri), and Blag. I also was fortunate enough to get my friend Andy Selway from KMFDM and The Spittin Cobras to play all the drums.
I saw you at Rebellion Punk festival this year, did you enjoy it and do you hope to play next year?
I had a great time. People are very friendly and the sheer magnitude of the acts they book mean that there is never a dull moment. Yes I would love to play there next year. I know some great English musicians that I did a couple shows in the UK with last year. Its pretty much Spike T Smith and his band “Headfuct” backing me up. It works quite well. We want to do a few shows in the UK next August. I’m hoping to get up to Scotland this time as well.
What do you do to relax?
Read, write songs and hang out with my lovely wife Jennifer. I do lots of home recording for fun.
And if you weren’t a musician what would you be?
Thanks for your time. Ska Dude.