The Hard Rock Café opened the first of its international operations on June 23rd, 1978 in Toronto, Canada. On May 21st, 2017 at 5pm it will be closing its doors forever. The Hard Rock has long been a gathering place for rock enthusiasts to see firsthand treasured memorabilia from their favorite rock stars, have a drink and pick up a shot glass or pin for their collection. Still popular around the world, Canada will have one remaining venue in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
Sunday May 7th saw fans gather from near and far to celebrate Killer Dwarfs’ Darrell “Dunk” Millar’s birthday and to say goodbye to the venue with its last live rock show.
We talked to Killer Dwarfs founding members, drummer Millar and frontman Russell Graham, ahead of the gig.
Interview and Photos by DeadFly Media
ANTIHERO: The Hard Rock has been here in Toronto since 1978 and is closing its doors in a couple of weeks. What are your thoughts, your memories over the years here?
Russ: Before I was born! I think Dunk owns part shares in this place. Did you see as you walk in, if you look at the picture on the wall, it says, “Our founder…”?
Dunk: Yeah, I have made it sort of my office since I moved back from Los Angeles in 2000, and I started coming here because I lived downtown. I remember we had a history with the Skydome one and the management there, and I loved the manager from that place who came here, but who’s not here any more. So, it just became kind of my home bar to go to, but it’s a venue too, so the Killer Dwarfs have played here a couple of times and…
Russ: Yeah, at the Skydome one, he had some birthday party for me back when Christ was a cowboy and we inducted one of the original tricycles to there. It was up beside Jimi Hendrix’s guitars.
Dunk: They used to fly it from the ceiling there.
Russ: …and it disappeared to Orlando or something.
Dunk: Yeah, every time the Hard Rock goes through this kind of thing they crate everything up, its like “Night at The Museum”, they crate all this stuff up and they put it in a warehouse in Orlando. There is one of them here too, we inducted it, but you know what happened? It never got the plaque, and it never got set up. They were in the process of setting it up to hang it somewhere and then this (the closure announcement) happened. The trike never did see the light of day, really, by the public. I used to come here and ask them for it and it sat in the office.
Russ: But, we did do a show here for the induction.
Dunk: Yeah, we literally did induct it with a live show, but they wanted to send it out to make a plaque for it and then they decided they were going to do a casing and whatever, so they were in the process of doing it. I used to come in here and bug them all the time like ‘When’s the trike going up?’ ‘We’re working on it man’, but unfortunately, it’s closing so they are going to steal the trike and put it in Orlando again.
ANTIHERO: You’re playing acoustic tonight. Is that reflective of the sort of bittersweet mood of closing the Hard Rock?
Dunk: No, not really at all.
Russ: No, not necessarily, no. There were different configurations of what was going to happen tonight. Basically, it’s around his birthday, right. His 29th birthday, finally. First originally, I was going to do my acoustic solo thing and he was going to do his solo thing. And we got fighting and shit over it.
Dunk: It wasn’t really a fight…
Russ: 37 years of fighting…
Dunk: I looked at it like, the Dwarfs should be involved, the band the Dwarfs, because we have the history here, and Automan ended up playing a lot here too. About 5 times actually, and it became our home club for my side gig. And so, Gerry (Finn, guitarist) was like “I want to play!” That’s basically all that happened. We’ve done the acoustic thing on the Monsters of Rock Cruise (MORC), and it really works well and it brings the volume down, Russ gets to relax and sing, and he’s not running around out of breath. I think it’s just a relaxed gig.
ANTIHERO: You have a very passionate fan base; some folks have even flown in from the U.S. for this gig. To what do you attribute this devotion?
Russ: Drinking! With everyone!
Dunk: I think there is a bit of a brotherhood of fans that stemmed off MORC, and M3 too.
Russ: It’s 37 years of playing North America and everything and we’ve got to know everybody. We’re not like, ‘Oh no, don’t look at me’. We are right in the trenches with everyone.
Dunk: Yeah, and these people have become a little bit more friends than fans, most of them that are here tonight, and they wanted to celebrate my birthday and I feel good about their coming here for me too.
Russ: Colorado, Buffalo, New York City…
Dunk: Grand Rapids, Michigan…
Russ: Roy’s going to be here…
Dunk: David from Florida, my buddy Roger from Manhattan is here. Lots of people.
Russ: I’ve come from Orillia!
ANTIHERO: You’ve just finished some dates in the U.S. Are there further touring plans or projects that you’d like to tell us about?
Russ: There’s always dates and everything. We just came back from Baltimore.
Dunk: We did an offshoot of M3. We did a little festival thing in a big club down there. It was called “Sleazy Slimy Sunday”. It’s not far from M3 and it’s on the Sunday so there was a bit of an overflow of fans that love us from M3. They don’t understand why we’re not on M3. We did a cool show in New Jersey too at a nostalgic club there called the Stanhope House. Johnny Winters played there and Muddy Waters. It’s got history. It’s been around a hundred years or something.
Russ: Supposedly Babe Ruth used to drink there.
Dunk: He used to drink in the basement of the place. They used to do moonshine and the whole deal in this place.
Russ: We love the States. We’ve worked there our whole lives. Although Canada’s so big, 2 weeks and you’re done. And you can’t keep coming back every month you know. It just doesn’t work that way, especially not for us. You know us, we play once a year in Canada. That’s it.
Dunk: It’s pretty limited to play here. We’re doing a big festival in Burlington though that we’re very lucky to be on; The Sound of Music Festival with some bands that are out of our element even, which is cool, like Mariana’s Trench and Smashmouth.
ANTIHERO: What do you think about the resurgence of vinyl?
Dunk: It’s kind of cool to see vinyl come back a little bit, you know? I mean its not back in droves like it was.
Russ: It’s back and it’s expensive.
Dunk: Oh, yeah, I know, now it’s a novelty. But we’re still signing our old vinyl, people bring it out like crazy. Every show there’s at least 10 guys who bring all their original vinyl out.
Russ: Me too, I’ve got some, I’ve got a lot of Elvis stuff.
Dunk: I got a little bit. I’ve got my Dad’s collection, and I gave Russ a big box of Nat King Cole…
Russ: I got a record player for Christmas.
Dunk: So, I gave him this big box out of my Dad’s collection. He’s got stacks of old Brubeck and all that. My Dad is 92 so he’s got all this shit from the 40’s and 50’s. So, I’ve inherited all of his vinyl, but I don’t play it, I mean, I don’t have a record player anymore.
Russ: You’ve got to come to my house for that!
Dunk: I’ve got an old wind up one! A Victrola.
ANTIHERO: Are there any new bands or new music that you are listening to?
Dunk: Kickin’ Valentina! That’s our new band. New Jack Russell, but that’s not ‘new new’.
Russ: Rival Sons. I like that band. They’re like ‘Zeppelin, or The Doors. Go see them if you haven’t seen them they’re awesome.
Dunk: They’re good. They have a real ‘70s feel. I’m not listening to a whole lot of new stuff to tell you the truth. I’m kind of stuck back in the day. Like, when we get together drinking or whatever, we end up listening to Foghat, Aerosmith, all these bands we used to listen to.
Russ: The stuff from our youth.
Dunk: I think everybody does that, don’t they? We revert back to that.
Russ: Well, they were mainstream too. The songs were solid.
Dunk: I listen to Bad Company and all kinds of 70s rock.
Russ: The kids like that shit too.
Dunk: Yeah, they do, they do.
ANTIHERO: If you could form your own Supergroup, who would be in it?
Russ: Bon Scott on vocals…
Dunk: Cozy Powell on drums, John Paul Jones on bass, he’s solid as fuck, and guitar players is the key here, umm…
Russ: …Gary Moore…
Dunk: Ronnie Montrose, yeah Gary Moore, lets have two guitar players. Those guys together would be crazy to hear.
ANTIHERO: Are there any artists you’d like to play with now or to collaborate with?
Russ: We’ve been on a bunch of compilations.
Dunk: I’m not going to speak for Russ, but I don’t have any interest in it. I’ve been offered to play with lots though.
Russ: I like it. I like to play with Crabby (John Corabi) and stuff like that, tour with them and stuff. That’s cool.
Dunk: Well, that’s different. Touring with a band is great. Russ has written with a bunch of people.
Russ: In this day and age you can collaborate with somebody and you don’t even meet them. You do it by friggin’ email, you don’t even meet the guy.
Dunk: Most of it’s done that way. That’s the way it’s done, online.
Russ: I did a song with Mark Slaughter. I talked to him for about 10 seconds. We were in the same studio. He says, ‘Here’s a solo…’
Dunk: Crazy. I’m too busy, like, with this. For me to go play with another band? That takes me out of the element of playing with these guys and even my Automan thing too. I just don’t want to be overwhelmed with being in too many bands. I don’t like that. If I got offered something that was maybe two weeks long, and it was something big, I might do it. But other than that…
Russ: You’ve got your own band, and I’ve got my own band too…
Dunk: How busy do we want to be right? How busy do we want to be?
Sound of Music Festival https://soundofmusic.ca/
Monsters of Rock Cruise http://monstersofrockcruise.com/
See the Killer Dwarfs in Toronto on Oct 7 at http://www.therockpile.ca/