A long time ago, back before bands could mix entire albums with a secondhand Macbook and a pirated copy of Pro Tools, a guitar-toting loner from South Carolina named Duane Warr set out to make the heaviest heavy metal album ever, more or less by himself. The fruit of his labor was a 1985 (or maybe 1984?) album called Starting Over that didn’t really sound all that much like metal, but definitely sounded like nothing else before it and not much since. Part Sabbath and (probably by accident) part Residents, Starting Over and an even more amazing 1986 album called Animals were pretty much ignored at the time of their release but have since become cult classics among fans of weirdo, lo-fi stoner rock.
Warr dropped off the face of the earth for about 15 years—supposedly after becoming a Born Again Christian and renouncing all his old music. But he surprised everyone by resurfacing in 2000 with a third album, Holy One, and even followed that up with a fourth LP, Times of Terror, in 2003. Seems like he’s still a bit of a recluse though: The guy who posted the only original Dwarr video we could find (seen below), added a comment on YouTube noting that “I used to run the Dwarr MySpace page, but unfortunately I’ve been out of touch with Duane for a long time now. There are even more Dwarr videos, but I only had permission to post this one.” And the write-up for the 2010 reissue of Animals on Drag City Records gives no biographical background at all, only this awesome quote from Duane himself:
“I was working 12 hour shifts down at the sweat factory. One day, I was having a bad day and had a problem with one of the older guys. All of a sudden he pulled his packing knife out on me. I felt a rage running up through me and went running at him. He put the knife away very quickly. That night I had the dream for the title song ANIMALS. In the dream, I ate the human flesh, I crushed the human bone, I was an animal.”
It’s possible that is all just an elaborate put-on and Duane Warr’s mysterious backstory is all just part of his shtick. Or it’s possible that he just doesn’t want the world to know that he’s actually this guy. [Update: We weren’t sure when we wrote that, but we have since confirmed that yes, that really is the man behind Dwarr, all cleaned up and selling real estate. Read this interview/article for the proof.] But we’re pretty sure he’s just a bonafide wackjob. And even though he’s kind of a terrible musician, he totally fucking rules. (P.S. The video has a weird, sorta pointless intro…give it about 30 seconds, it gets good, trust us.)
- Dwarr on MySpace
- Dwarr on Drag City Records
- Dwarr entry on Encyclopaedia Metallum (with links to hear all of Starting Over and Animals)