The Killer Dwarfs were aptly dubbed as a marketing gimmick, playing on the members’ relative diminutive stature. The original line-up consisted of Oshawa, Ont natives Russell Graham on vocals, guitarist Bryce Trewin, Angelo Fodero on bass, and drummer Darrell Millar.
Initially a Black Sabbath/Ozzy tribute band, they toured the Ontario bar circuit until mid ’83, when they were signed to Attic Records. They cut their self-titled debut thatt fall, produced by Doug Hill and backed by the single “Heavy Metal Breakdown.” The group instantly made a name for themselves for their unbridled energy and faster than lightning sound. The lead-off track “Are You Ready” and “Outlaw Of A Modern Man” further put on an exclamation mark on the ‘gospel according to the dwarfs’ – faster is better – – HARDER AND FASTER IS BEST!
The band hit the road to promote the record for the better part of a year. When they returned to the studios, they were quickly introduced to the politics of the biz. A falling out with management over doing covers for the next album left them without a contract. With the band’s future already up in the air, Trewin and Fodero left and were replaced by Mike Hall and Ronald Mayer. Using Graham’s own money, they cut STAND TALL in ’86 on Maze Records here in Canada, and Grudge Records Stateside.
For the better part of a year they backed the likes of Accept, Saxon, and Iron Maiden on the road, and the popularity of the single and video for “Keep The Spirit Alive,” and heavy hitters like the title track, “Do Or Die,” and “Bite The Hand That Feeds” soon had The Dwarfs headlining major venues across the continent, eventually selling 80,000 copies of the record.
Still searching for a major label deal, the band signed with Epic in ’88, after an unprecedented lengthy negotiation. Over 180 changes were reportedly made to the contract – the end result in the studio was that year’s BIG DEAL. Recorded again in Toronto and produced by Simon Halhart, whose previous credits included the likes of Saxon and Marillion, it continued on the road the band had paved for itself. “Starting To Shine”, “Power” and the anthemic “Desperados” assisted the single “We Stand Alone” in showing the world The Killer Dwarfs were a world-class metal outfit, backing up Iron Maiden and appearing at several outdoor rock festivals here and overseas, including Donnington and Wembley.
The band switched locales for the recording of DIRTY WEAPONS in 1990. The recluse of the American desert and new producer Andy Johns made for an interesting mix. Though still of the ‘grab you by the balls’ variety, the album showed a definite maturity in writing with an off the wall approach, exemplified by the singles “Coming Through” and the title-track. They resumed their life on the road in support of the record, touring with the likes of Yngwie (I can play the scales faster than anyone!) Malmsteen and Dio.
They were nominated for a Juno in ’91 for Best Hard Rock Group, but lost that year to Rush. The following year saw the release of METHOD TO THE MADNESS, with new guitarist Gerry Finn, who’d replaced Hall earlier that year. Though yet another killer metal record, it failed to live up to the expectations laid out for the band, due in part to squabbles with management. Still, the album is considered by most who actually know anything about hard rock to be one of the best this country’s ever produced, including the title track, “Hard Luck Town” and “Cowboys and Conmen”. Also featured was the inclusion of “It Doesn’t Matter”, which previously appeared on the DIRTY WEAPONS lp, earning them their first Juno the next year for ‘best hard rock single’. … a feat all its own when considering Epic wouldn’t finance a video.
Although their name was thrown in the Juno hat again in ’93, losing to Slik Toxic, the label wound up pulling all support for the Dwarfs the next year. Without a major contract, the band continued doing the hard rock circuit until disbanding in 1995. Graham now fronts his own band, Penny Black, while the other members have kept themselves busy in the industry, including Hall and Finn touring together for the first time playing with Helix for a few years.
With the new millennium came the band’s back catalogue re-issued on CD, each with additional material. In 2001 Graham went back to the name of Russell Dwarf, and reformed the band with Hall, Millar, and Mayer. A deal was signed with Canadian indie label Bullseye Records a year later, and a live concert shot at The Docks in Toronto found its way to DVD and CD called REUNION OF SCRIBES. They then made appearances on “The Mike Bullard Show” and also on TSN performing “The Hockey Song” in ’03.
The band continued with new bassist Stan Miczek (ex of Sass Jordan), but soon after, the members went their separate ways. Graham joined Moxy in 2008, while Hall and Miczek joined Balls Deep with former Harem Scarem drummer Darren Smith, who also spent time with Hall and Finn in Helix. Millar meanwhile formed his own record label, Unkledunk Records, and then the band Automan.