We Interviewed Dwarf on the Cusp of Their 40th Anniversary
Before Dwarf had pubes, they had "Backstage Queen."
Dwarf was a group of Midwestern pre-teens who managed to somehow put out a couple of self-funded singles in the mid 70’s. I guess that information in itself would attract many a wedgie-pulling record nerd to their story. But the fact remains that their singles are holy grails of gooey goodness whether or not they had two or two thousand pubes whilst recording such primitive gemstones as "Gotta Get Louder" or "Backstage Queen."
Those dashing young dudes over at the Sing Sing label are on a campaign right now to release the first two Dwarf singles. Be sure to pick up a copy of the first one and stay poised for the release of the second. For now, park your caboose and listen to what Dwarf’s Pete Madary has to say about his rockin’ childhood band.
VICE: Start us off with the basic history of Dwarf.
Pete Madary (bass/vocals): The band originated from Riverview, a sleepy little town in Southern Michigan. Mike (Eff: lead guitar), Nick (Piunit: rhythm guitar/vocals), and I first played guitars together in the fourth grade. We went to the library to check out books on guitar chords. After the initial interest died down Mike and I continued to meet at his house and planned on playing an acoustic duo in our 6th grade talent show. After a few rehearsals Mike suggested we add a drummer. I said, “Well, if we’re going to get a drummer, we’ll have to have another guitar player. I’ll call Nick!” On May 22, 1972, we played "Ride Captain Ride" and "Be My Lover" before a LIVE audience for the first time.
I’m guessing your gigs were mainly school talent shows and Battle of the Bands type affairs?
Merle, a friend of Mike’s oldest sister, was a musician who had a flair for marketing. He always booked us to play audiences our own age. We had business cards, glossy black and white photos, promo packs and articles in local papers by the time we were 13! When we were in junior high we played for junior high schools, when we were in high school we played high schools. When we graduated we started gigging at colleges and clubs around Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Canada. Our fortunes really began to turn when drummer Mickey Patay joined the band in November of 1973. Remarkably, Mickey and Nick looked like the teen idols of the day—a combination of Davy Jones, Bobby Sherman, Donny Osmond, and David Cassidy.
He sounds hot. So how were you getting to gigs? Did your parents drive you there? Did you have a manager?
The first five years we were driven everywhere by our parents, or Merle and his friends. Lucky for us our folks were very supportive of our careers. Our mothers designed our first GLAM outfits complete with glitter, satin, lace, scarves, and platform shoes. Our theme colors were yellow and red. Our stage clothes all had versions of this scheme. Sam even painted our PA system yellow and red to match. Who does that nowadays?
Definetly not the Cro-Mags or Watery Love. When did you decide you needed to commit "Gotta Get Louder" to vinyl?
We all wanted to make a single for the longest time. Merle finally announced that we’d head to the studio by the summer of ’75. He also decided we should do quick cassette recordings of every DWARF song written up to that point (and I mean EVERY one). Mike wrote a song called "In the Dark" that was a contender for the final cut. Once we decided on the two songs we rehearsed them for months to save on studio time. Nick wrote all the lyrics to "I Won’t Be Back" without Merle’s assistance. I needed Merle’s help to polish off the "Gotta Get Louder" lyrics.
Who paid for the making of the single? Was the label it was released on—Merlyn—your own label?
As a band, we had been building up our savings account since early 1973. We were very self-sufficient. We seldom asked our parents for any money. We recorded the single in Randy Meyer’s basement. Randy was a terrific drummer, who among other things, toured with Bob Seger in 1972. We were 14-15 years old at the time of the recording. Mickey was a grade up on us.
You followed up "Gotta Get Louder" pretty quickly with the "Backstage Queen" single. I have to ask...did you guys really know what you were singing about when you wrote a song like "Backstage Queen"?
Nick would emulate music and lyrics of the day. We did have friends and in some cases girlfriends as a result of Dwarf but we were just kids. We would ride our bikes up to the bordering city to meet our fans.
Even though dorks like me concentrate on the Dwarf material of the 70's, you guys stuck it out for a while, right? Moved out to LA and the whole bit?
The dynamics of the band changed with every personnel move. Mickey relocated to California in May of ’80. Merle filled in on drums while we were to set up auditions. He knew all the material, all the cover-tunes, especially all the originals. It wasn’t long before we simply asked him to be our drummer. By the fall of ’83 the winds of change were in the air. Nick and I had graduated from college the year before and we were feeling the pressures of not having a major recording contract. We wanted to make one last attempt to make the band work. The plan was to head to New York or LA. Merle, who was older and more established, wished us the best. We added local drummer Mike Pientka. Mike or “Wally Brown,” as we dubbed him actually saw Dwarf perform at his middle school 10 years earlier! The next step was the toughest; we needed a fresh, new, identity. We changed our name to The Take. In October of ’84 we headed west almost nine years to the date after the release of "Gotta Get Louder."
How did LA treat Dwarf?
The Take gigged in Hollywood the next two plus years. We played Madame Wong’s East and West. The Central, now Johnny Depp’s Viper Room, The Club Lingerie and The Troubadour to name a few. These clubs and others like them were the showcase for our strongest material. Songs like, "Talking to the Walls," and "I’ll Get Over You" were audience favorites. Perhaps not having a manager or an
entertainment attorney to represent us led to the final break.
Where did you guys all go off to after Dwarf broke up?
Nick went back home to run Sibley Gardens, his family restaurant. He is a successful songwriter having songs published with The Respectables and his own solo career. Mickey Patay owns his own business in Visalia, CA. All this recent talk of a possible DWARF reunion has him dusting off his drum kit. Merle, living in the band’s hometown, not only managed DWARF for 10+ years but is still the biggest fan. He too would welcome a band reunion, either in Michigan or California. After the break-up in August of 1986 Mike and I remained in southern California. In 2009 we formed a Southern Rock group called SouthBound. This band has two Tributes acts, Lynyrd Skyrnd & Frynds and the Buddy Holly Review. Old Dwarf fans may be interested to know that Mike and Pete will be appearing with their Skynyrd Tribute at American Gardens next to Epcot Center from July 15 to July 22, 2012.
That about does it. You got anything you want to say?
May 22, 2012 marks our 40th anniversary! That’s like 120 dog years!