Dwarr Interview

When I first heard Dwarr a few years ago, it was like I had immediately been transported to another time, another dimension. The thought that such a band, a ONE MAN band, could exist somewhere in South Carolina in the early eighties just proved to me that the underground had always been around, and would aways be around. It confirmed to me that visionaries wouldn't always be recognized during their time, if at all... but that everyone's time would come sooner or later. So I began to search out Mister Duane Warr to get the story behind this incredible musical entity, and to shed some light on another mystery in the history of underground music.

So after much searching, it is an honor for me to present to you what may be the first Dwarr interview ever.

HAMMER SMASHED JAZZ: Okay, before I even get into the beginnings of Dwarr, tell me about growing up in South Carolina. Doesn't seem that there was too much of a musical scene there in the late 70's, early 80's.

DWARR: My parents divorced when I was a baby. My mothers second husband abused her. Her third husband was in the navy, so we were off to Virginia Beach. Looking back, I'd like to say that her 3rd husband Ernie was a good guy. We got transferred to Memphis in 1967 and ended up in Jacksonville Florida in 1969. I lived in Jacksonville for 3 years before coming back to South Carolina. Jacksonville was probably the most progressive city in the South at the time.

My first 3 albums were Black Sabbath "Master of Reality", Deep Purple "Machine Head", and Emerson Lake and Palmer "Tarkus". My first concert was Black Sabbath at the Jacksonville Coliseum in 1972. I remember this older guy sitting next to me and my girlfriend had incense stuck in all the seats around him and was hitting up. He asked us if we wanted some and we said no. I had a room full of black light posters and animals. I was the kid on the block that everyone came running to when they found a wild animal. I would just grab them and take them home. Anyway Jacksonville is where I think the Hard Rock took root in me.

HSJ: So you started writing Dwarr songs in 1980 correct? Was there a certain sound or vibe that you were shooting for? To me the atmosphere on your stuff is such a huge part of everything.

D: I remember getting a second cassette deck for my birthday in 1980. I was so excited about ping ponging. I had a fuzz box and a WaWa. I don't think that I was ever shooting for a certain sound. If I can ever get all the songs loaded up, you'll here how I was all over the place from song to song. I've probably got between 325 and 375 songs recorded that I wrote. I really don't know exactly. I was working on a website that would have had everything on it, but the people that were helping me hit me up for $279 before I ever saw anything that I liked. If anyone out there would like to help me get a website up for a reasonable price, I'd still like to do it. I was on about song 75 or 80 when I stopped.

It was all about atmosphere in those days. The lights, the volume, where my head was at, everything had to be there if I were going to play. I guess it all added up to the that eerie atmosphere. I've always just played whatever came out.

HSJ: So we get to 1984 and you release your first record, Starting Over...which is a strange name for a first record. I assume the title has to do with personal issues more than a change in sound.

D: The title came from that song. I think we're always starting over as we turn a new page in our lives, searching for our identity, taking that next step towards our future. It was definitely a new chapter in my life doing my first LP. And of course the mind set on the covers was life on our planet starting over after the nuclear holocaust. This evolved into man being the hunted instead of the hunter on Animals. The nuclear mutated animals were trying to destroy the humans before the humans destroyed the world. This evolved into the animals taking human wives and becoming a mixed breed on the Crying Souls LP. They had even developed their own religion. At the time, I thought it would have made a great movie.

HSJ: You've said before that you had 100 songs written before doing Starting Over. Was it tough to whittle it down? Were some of the songs used on later records?

D: Back in those days, everytime that I would finish up a new cassette, I would go out to my friends and we would listen to the new songs. It was pretty cool having 100 to choose from. At the time that I did Starting Over those were my 10 favorites. Some of those others did make it onto Animals and some others would have been on the Crying Souls LP. I recently listened to some of those tapes for the first time in years and I really like some of the other songs.

HSJ: Sounds as if you were very prolific early on. Are there any unreleased recordings of Dwarr, or was everything you recorded used for the albums? Also, what gear did you use?

D: I've got a ton of unreleased music, but most of the tracks are very poor quality. There are 6 or 7 completed songs that were going to be on Crying Souls. It was to be released in 1993. I've got a 70/71 Strat that I've had since 1977. I ground the frets off and I've painted it so many times I can't even remember. I bought an 8/10 50 watt Marshall in 1977 also. I've always played a little $80 Crestline bass that I bought in 1980. I got my Wurlitzer Piano in 1977 also. The first instrument that I owned was my Sax in 1972. I bought 2 cheap drum sets for $225 and put them together so that I could have double basses. I guess that was around 1988. I've got an alto recorder flute, an old Moog Rogue synthesizer. Those are my main instruments. There are only a few tracks on my recordings that use amps. I did most of my work using headphones, line only. I remember being in my music room recording with the headphones on and getting complaints that they couldn't enjoy the TV in the living room because the music was too loud.

HSJ: You record Starting Over and then it was released on vinyl. Who did you get to release the record, and how long did it take? Also, any idea how many were pressed? I know it demands a very steep price whenever it pops up.

D: I recorded Starting Over in 10 days. I'd lay down my tracks during the day and Ron would come over and do the drum tracks at night. It was pressed at QCA in Cincinatti. I believe I pressed 1000 copies. There was no official release. I pretty much gave away most of them. I did get picked up by a few small distributors in the early 90's who bought several copies for $5 a peice. They did buy all of the Animals albums for $5 a piece. I printed the covers here in Columbia SC to save a little money. QCA said we didn't use the right paper so I had 50 or so albums with no covers. I printed B/W copies, and bought some glue and a roller. I signed the edges and glued on the prints in the grinding room at Southern Plastics one weekend while I was at work. I guess that takes a little bit of the mystique away, but that's the truth.

HSJ: The next album, Animals, is considered by many to be your best album, and really marks a turn into heavier sounds. Was this a conscious decision? Also, it seems that the "doom" crowd are the people most interested in your music nowadays. Obviously everyone knows Sabbath, but were you even aware of Pentagram or any other bands playing that style back then? Honestly I hear much more to your music than that style.

D: When I released Starting Over in 1984, for the first time in my life I was wide open for some hard core criticism. It was like putting my heart on a plate in front of people and handing them the knife. I ended up going into a 6 month depression. In 1985, I released a country music single to redeem myself and of course everyone loved it. I realize now that they just didn't like that kind of music, but at the time I took it very personal. When it came time to record Animals, I was full of vengeance. I didn't care what anybody thought about it. I did Animals for me. It was my revenge. In reference to othe bands, I wasn't really aware of the music that was going on. I remember some friends being at my house and asking, "hey man, you got any music from this decade?"

HSJ: After Animals, that was it for Dwarr. What caused you to stop? Was there going to be a follow-up album to Animals back then? I've heard there are actually five Dwarr records but I only know of four. Also, is it true you destroyed the masters and all the leftover LPs?

D: I was working on the Crying Souls album. I had just rented a studio downtown to work on videos, and I was working on a movie script. I edited down the Are You Real video for my birthday in 1993. I left home when I was 14 and my grandfather POP was my best buddy. I remember after his sister's death we went out for lunch. I looked at POP and new he was getting ready to die. The power in the music studio was at extreme levels. I remember people running out of there screaming. But God began working on me when I was outside of the house, and through that video. We buried POP on June 17th 1993. Two week later one of our best friends died on his birthday. We'd played volleyball that day. The movie that I was working on was coming to me so fast that I couldn't believe it. It was an extremely evil movie covering the path of a demon down through the ages. It was my time. I was at the crossroad. On July 17th 1993, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. The demon left my body at the moment of salvation. He was still in the house the following week when I was piling the DWARR stuff in the living room to burn it. We were scared. I went into the bathroom and prayed. About 30 minutes later the demon left my house and there was peace in my home for the first time. I've still got the masters. I did burn the LP's that were left and some other items.

HSJ: You came back in 2000 with Holy One. Were these old songs at the time? I have honestly never heard this release or Times of Terror, as they seem impossible to find. Did you release them yourself?

D: Everything that I've ever released, I released myself. I remember telling people that I'd work hard to get the projects completed and then there really wasn't any promotion. When they were done, they were done. I tried mailing some out, but with very little results. I used to joke with people that I'd rather go to the dentist than sell anything. All of the songs on Holy One were written after 1993. Times of Terror is the only project that I composed all of the songs as I went. It was a very different experience.

HSJ: I have heard of at least one label who would love to release your back catalogue. How do you feel about Dwarr coming above ground a bit? Would it lessen the mystique of the music?

D: I was close to making a deal to do a reissue, but it seemed that ever time I talked with the gentleman the deal changed. The closer that I came to making the deal, the less attractive his offer would be. As far as mystique, in reality maybe some things have been exaggerated, but overall people don't really know what went on with the music. There was definitely power working in the music. Maybe one day I'll write about some of my experiences.
HSJ: Do you still create music? Will we ever hear new music from you?

D: Since I got married 4 years ago, there's been no music. Seasons change, and recently I've been feeling the urge to do something. I'm trying to get the studio in the backyard finished enough that I can do some recording. I did record a few love songs in Spanish while I was courting my wife. I am a Realtor in the Midlands of South Carolina now. I'm hoping that I can generate enough income to fulfill my ultimate desire. I want to produce a movie. It'll be low budget for sure. I plan to write the script, the music, oversee the production, and do the editing. If I'm the only person that likes it, that's fine with me.


R said...

Never heard of before, could you upload an mp3 for people to check out?

AK said...


a search engine is your friend.

JJ said...

I really love Dwarr's music, I wish he would respond to my message through myspace where I asked him about purchasing any of his newer CDs....bummer because the tracks on the myspace sound killer.

Anonymous said...

Can't believe there's actually an interview from him. Thanks a lot, mate ! This guy is a genius.