A Night of Engaging Anarchist's Wit
- August 31, 2000
Get ready for a night of engaging anarchist's wit
Jello Biafra still true to punk-rock ethos
Jello Biafra is never short of words or opinions, but the past
few months have been unduly generous in providing him with verbal
Last November's World Trade Organization protests in Seattle. The
controversy over genetically modified foods. The fatalistic U.S.
presidential race (Biafra was briefly a potential Green Party
candidate). Survivor. An ongoing legal battle with his former
Dead Kennedys bandmates.
Fine material for a good tirade or two. And rest assured all of
it will surface, filtered through Biafra's engaging anarchist's wit,
when the punk rocker-turned-public-speaker takes the stage at Lee's
Palace (529 Bloor St. W.) tomorrow night.
``It's just sort of `the year of ranting dangerously,' if you will,''
says Biafra, on the line from his San Franciso home.
Half activist, half humourist, Biafra's been taking his subversive
verbiage to concert stages around the globe for nearly 15 years now.
His political streak has been evident since the days of the Kennedys -
the band's first single, ``California Uber Alles'' was a shot at then
Governor Jerry Brown, and Biafra actually ran for mayor of San
Francisco in 1979 - but Biafra's reputation as an articulate rabble-
rouser has come to eclipse his punk-rock past since that seminal
hardcore quartet disbanded in 1987.
He honed his oratorical skills under fire and in public during a
lengthy court battle over a 1996 criminal charge, ultimately dismissed,
of ``distribution of harmful material to minors'' stemming from a
genitalia-bedecked H.R. Giger poster included in the Dead Kennedys'
And around that time, too, Biafra says, he started playing up the
``buried information'' in his spoken-word performances, ``using my
art to become a form of `info-tainment' - to do the job that mass
media should be doing but no longer does.''
The message at the heart of Biafra's anti-corporate, anti-government
screeds has always remained consistent with the punk-rock ethos of
``question what you're told.''
Biafra views the Seattle anti-WTO uprising, in particular, as a
watershed, since it united everyone from ``tree-hugging'' hippies
to hard-hat unionists to anarchists to street kids in protest against
the increasing influence of corporate agendas on government.
``But now, it's just reached the boiling point where, helpless or not,
people are starting to pour into the streets and, in the process,
running headlong into likeminded folks who actually have some
solutions in mind.''
The WTO protests also provided the backdrop for Biafra's most recent
musical endeavour, a one-off performance with Nirvana/Sweet 75 bassist
Krist Novoselic, ex-Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil and Sweet 75
drummer Gina Mainwal as The No WTO Combo.
A live recording of the band's scrappy protest anthems taped amid the
WTO chaos, Live From The Battle In Seattle, has just been released on
Biafra's Alternative Tentacles label.
``The bigger names like Rage Against the Machine and Pearl Jam proved
unavailable, so finally Krist just called me up and said `Why don't we
be the band?' And I said, `Hell, why not?' '' recalls Biafra.
``I was in a band again for four days. It was a wild time: Rant, rave,
march and protest by day and then, just when you're ready to drop
dead - or just when I was ready to drop dead - it was time for rehearsal
at night. And in three days we actually got something presentable. I
didn't even know it was being recorded.''
A new spoken-word album from Biafra, Become The Media, is due in
but don't expect him to make much racket outside of a courtroom for the
An ugly legal dispute with his former bandmates over money they claim
they're owed has escalated to the point where, Biafra says, they're
attempting to exclude him from the Kennedys' ex-band-member contract
``so they can not only pimp my songs, my name, my voice and Dead
any way they want, but also never have to pay me again ...
``It'll go on for years. I don't have the money to appeal, but I have no
choice. You know, I'm fighting to keep Dead Kennedys from becoming the
most painful memory of my entire life. It's already very difficult to
separate my love for the music and what we accomplished from what
dishonest, backstabbing, corporate greedheads the other former members
have become. I wish I'd never met them.''
The Website of Lord Weÿrdgliffe:
The Dan Clore Necronomicon Page:
"Tho-ag in Zhi-gyu slept seven Khorlo. Zodmanas
zhiba. All Nyug bosom. Konch-hog not; Thyan-Kam
not; Lha-Chohan not; Tenbrel Chugnyi not;
Dharmakaya ceased; Tgenchang not become; Barnang
and Ssa in Ngovonyidj; alone Tho-og Yinsin in
night of Sun-chan and Yong-grub (Parinishpanna),
-- The Book of Dzyan.