In our conversation, Jello shows that even after more than 20 years, he is as radical and devoted to his causes as ever. We discussed his new projects, covers of DK songs, his label, Leftover Crack and also his disputes with his former band and the legacy of the Dead Kennedys.
What got you interested in doing a second Melvins album so quickly?
We recorded it all at the same time; we recorded everything for Never Breathe What You Can't See and Howdy at the same time and it was a little too much for one CD. We could have fit it all on a single CD but it would have felt long and dragged out and just not rocked people's craniums the way it's supposed to.
Not every body needs to put out long albums just because a CD length will allow it; not everybody should keep putting out albums that would be double vinyl if they came out on LP.
Even putting the "Voted Off The Island", on Never Breath would have dragged it down, even though that song was only about 45 seconds long. Buzz was also very much in favour of keeping things lean and mean, so we thought we'd do an album and an EP and then when people started coming out of the woodwork doing weird remixes, it flowed so well as its own album that we put it out that way.
Any plans for touring on this?
Probably not a lot. Here and there because we all have such disparate schedules. Buzz has been gone most of the year with Fantomas, for example but we've landed a date here and there
You've done quite a few of these types of projects; you had one with Lard and you had something with NoMeansNo. What gets you interested in working with a group that's already established on their own?
Oh I don't know, maybe the Walter Middy Factor, the fan factor. It's one thing to listen to somebody's stuff, but then if you have the privilege of actually being in the practice room banging out shit with NoMeansNo, or Mojo Nixon, why not do it?
Granted it may have undermined my putting together a proper Biafra band, maybe that will happen someday, maybe it won't
What keeps you going after this; you've been going for 20 years now?
Well, you know I like music, I like making albums that I myself - as a picky fan - would like to listen to, crank as loud as I can in my bedroom, therefore I like to go the extra mile in the production departmentI used to be disturbed when I kept wanting to remix and remix things until they sounded as good as they possible can, but I have no regrets about that Lo-fi is fine but what I'm really into is Mega-fi. Maybe it's the Ministry influence or the Lard influence, who knows. I like things that really whack you over the head, like the band is right there in the room with you.
The two records definitely sound really loud
That's the idea.
And with Spoken Word, its similar, its just that I'm really grateful that anyone will even give a shit about what I have to say after this long after I started performing and that also brings on the pressure to try to make it something interesting that I would want to go see. I'm really grateful that people would actually want to come and hear what I have to say so I'm not just a lonely drunk on the barstool in the corner ranting and raving about the world. In my case I have a gift and I have an audience, so there's sort of an obligation to use to try and do the best you can.
Have you planned to do anymore spoken word stuff?
There's been recordings all along, but I just never got the time to chop 'em all down, and I thought, if events are moving so quickly with Iraq and stolen elections and, hurricanes and all, then the question becomes - at what point do I cut it off and turn it into another spoken album?
What am I telling people that they don't already know?
Every once in a while, anybody who puts their feelings out there and gets listened to by other people have to step back from time to time and decide how much of their own bullshit they actually believe and where they want to take things from here. Right now I'm sort of in a "back to rock" mode, but there's a lot of Iraq stuff on tape and that goddamn Bush, as soon as I put out Machine Gun in a Clowns Hand about September 11 and Afghanistan, he goes and hijacks September 11 and the war on terrorism and goes into Iraq right as my Afghanistan album came out.
Life's too short to waste your time worrying about music you don't like, why not keep up with music you do like?
It was very unthoughtful of him
I mean its certainly one of the things that I would love to hear, I imagine you have a lot of things you've said about it, about this administration, because I listened to some of your spoken word from the Clinton-era and you weren't too thrilled with some of Clinton's decisions, but I imagine that by comparison things are a little worse now
They are a little worse, but I have to wonder how much better they'd really be if Gore or Kerry were president instead. After all Kerry is still largely supporting the war and had no plans to withdraw troops from Iraq, If he'd come out more strongly anti-war he would have kicked Bush's ass last year in the election and the reason he didn't is because like Bush he comes from an extremely wealthy family and his primary purpose and power is to protect other rich people and their investments
At this point we're a one party state masquerading as a two party state, you could call the party the Republicrats or the Corporate Party or whatever, but both sides cooperate with each other like crazy, once they get inside that Washington DC beltway. After all if you offend corporations and rich people you can't very well retire from congress or resign from the President's cabinet, and immediately land a six or seven figure lobbying job or get on any Boards of Directors, or get any Board of Directorships to make even more money.
And just wait until you get to Hillary Clinton
I think she's already been chosen by the powers that be as a fake alternative to Reagan, Bush, Clintonism, or the Reagan Bushism and the damage done by her husband. But people are going to expect a lot of change if and when she gets in and in all reality they're going to get very little. Cindy Sheehan, that courageous mother of a soldier who died in Iraq whose done so much to get the peace movement back on national television, she was granted a one hour audience with Queen Hilary in new York and the very next day Hilary came out and publicly stabbed her in the back, saying that she was in favour of the war, that she didn't want to withdraw, and that anybody that protested the war was just emboldening our - encouraging our enemies.
I found this kind of thing really confusing because the majority of Americans are starting to turn on this war and yet the party leaders are still afraid to oppose it.
It's the corporate line and that's why they cling to it. But you also have to understand, living in Canada is that even right across the border our corporate mass media is much more tightly controlled and an censored than yours is. You can even find more information about what's really going on in the Middle East and how our policies affect people in the National Post than you can in the Washington Post, and the National Post is not exactly a liberal paper.
I never understand why that is. We share a lot of the culture, the same music, same movies the same books, the same everything, yet we have gay marriage here and in the States people aren't so clear they even want to have gay people around.
They're frightened about seeing a man kiss another man on television. That's what it is, and of course I would say 99.99% of Americans have no idea that gay marriage is going on in Canada. I'd be surprised if over half of Americans today could even find Canada on map, or even their home state.
It's a deliberate dumbing down that goes on from the corporate media all the way down to the school system. Granted, part of the reason the schools are so crappy is because people are too greedy to pay the taxes necessary to maintain them properly and then they're the first to bitch and moan when their kids turn out so stupid and violent when their kids graduate out the other end. But its also, the purpose of our public school system has evolved, and now its primary purpose is to make sure people are just smart enough to have a place as a drone in the workforce, in the digital age, but aren't smart enough to ask questions or see through the whole thing.
After all, look at your rewards: a bigger SUV, more DVDs to watch all night when you could be out causing trouble. More and more magic psychiatric drugs that you see advertised on TV.
Coming specifically from a very outspoken, punk generation, and looking at it now, do you feel that it's lost a lot of that counterculture quality?
Only someone tied up in too much academic bullshit would believe a thing like that, no, I think its, as volatile as it ever was, it just depends on where you lurk, look - lurk, Freudian slip - sure, there's corporate sponsored commercial pop-punk and Ramones songs are in TV commercials all over the place now but below ground, a little bit further below, there are activist bands, one of the more mainstream is Anti-Flag, but there's hundreds if not thousands of others who are shit-stirring on a local level.
And plenty of other people who do that who are not into punk at all, who are into hip hop or folk music, you just never know. One of the things that I learned early on when I started to spread my wings and started to do spoken word shows outside of punk venues, was that a lot of the people who are the most hard core activists didn't like punk at all
Anti-Flag is great, but there has been some criticism over the fact that they signed to RCA.
Well in a way, I haven't met them personally, but from my observation, I'm not surprised, in that case. But at the same time they are having an impact that smaller people like me aren't having
They set up an entire website to help counter the military recruiters in people's schools.
The Bush mob is so out of control; things are getting so fucked up, we need all the allies we can get and kissing someone goodbye just because they signed to a major label is stupid. I mean just because they signed with a major label doesn't mean I have to listen to their major label album
Life's too short to waste your time worrying about music you don't like, why not keep up with music you do like?
Support that instead, and the same goes with artists and activism, there's huge pressure from corporate labels and film studios and the ones who own the TV networks - artists must not be political. Artists must not have opinions, unless of course they're Toby Keith or Arnold Schwarzenegger, then its ok. So anybody standing up against that at all is cool, especially if it's someone you wouldn't expect it from like the Dixie Chicks.
And then they put the Dixie Chicks on Diane Sawyer and everybody thought they were going to apologize for saying that they were embarrassed for Texas that Bush was President, and instead, the leader, the one who was catching the most shit said no, as a mother, she was opposed to the invasion of Iraq.
And how could that not have resonated across some parts of Middle America that our little self-important punk underground is never going to touch.
Even Sheryl Crow having a peace sign on her guitar strap at the Grammy Awards two years ago made waves.
It shouldn't have been so shocking to people but at least it made waves. I'd much rather have her making waves that way, than having to listen to her horrible music. I mean Kanye West too; granted he's done some really stupid things, like selling name-drops in his songs to people like McDonalds. Did you know that, some rappers will now take money from corporations to plug their products in their tracks?
But at the same time, he turned around on national television and said that George Bush doesn't care about black people, which pissed off all the right people, it shouldn't have shocked anybody, it was such a mild vanilla statement compared to the real thing, but I'm glad he threw that wrench in machine, even though he only got it half-right - George Bush doesn't care about anybody.
The main reason I ask about what you think about the punk scene, is that, you're listening to one of your songs like "Pull My Strings," it seems like, I couldn't imagine, that to me seems crazy to me that a band would take a showcase, and turn it around like that, it just, nowadays everyone's just concerned with their careers, and y'know, their jobs
Careers weren't an option at that point, we were having so much fun fucking shit up, how could we not do that? I mean, we were there in front of the hard-core music establishment that was the music scenes equivalent of cigar-chomping Republican gentlemen in smoke-filled rooms deciding how to fuck up the world. They were all there, it was a Bill Graham venue and there were Grateful Dead people there, Boss Skaggs was there, Carlos Santana was there, Ronnie Montrose was there, Francis Ford Coppola was there, why not annoy them and everything they stand for.
Granted the rest of the band fought me on that and didn't want to go through with it but I think they were all glad we did after it happened
Boss Skaggs was seen clawing at his chair in anger and Coppola shoved Ted our original drummer into a wall as he went by him backstage in the basement
The funny part was that if there was any particular subject to "Pull My Strings," it was local MOR rocker Eddie Money, and Eddie Money came up to me and told me how much he liked the song. Journey's drummer liked it too.
Can you imagine how sad it makes me that if anybody epitomizes "Pull My Strings" today it's probably the members of my old band?
Do you think you addressed that with "Those Dumb Punk Kids (Will Buy Anything)"
It's a composite; they're certainly not the first people who decided to scam on the name of an old band because, to see if they could run off with a bunch of quick money.
I have nothing against old bands re-forming if they're doing it for fun and because they like their music and want to play and may make some new music too, y'know I was very pleasantly surprised at South by Southwest when I saw the Rizillos. I had no idea what to expect but they were really good. But on the other hand, I don't go to a whole lot of reunion shows because some of it just kind of smells bad.
It's also spawned a whole sector of the punk audience, who are so enamored by old bands, they won't give new bands a chance unless they sound exactly like their favourite old bands, which to me is the exact opposite of what punk was supposed to be. When I got into it, punk was about something new. It meant everything from the Avengers, to Devo, to Survival Research Labs.
Wide open, anything against the 70s was automatically punk rock. And boy was it a breath of fresh air. But at the time we all thought, look at these stupid people all nostalgic for the 60s, cause they burned themselves out smoking too much weed or whatever, and got set in their ways. And look at all these clowns watching Happy Days week after week wishing it was the 1950s. That's never going to happen to us, we're too smart. So it's kind of broken my heart that in some ways, some areas with some people, punk is one of the most conservative kinds of music that's going on right now.
Y'know there's one way to sound, one way to look, and you shouldn't try anything new.
And I have no interest in playing nothing but old songs for a bunch of punk rock Fonzies. That's what made it so cool that when we played in Europe, we toured with Fantomas.
Y'know, people knew going in that they were in for an evening of new music and possibly very difficult music. And sure there were people with studded jackets and mohawks too, but they all got off on it. They weren't there to be spoon fed something they already knew, just like they were going to see Crosby, Stills and Nash in Las Vegas
Do you think there's no room for those bands? Like listening to music from the Ramones appeals to me still because it's simpler, almost untainted music.
Is it nostalgia, or is it because the Ramones are as timeless as Johnny Cash or Robert Johnson or the Stooges… I think it kind of steps outside of nostalgia completely.
But then again we have things like the "Holidays and The Sun Festival" where the promoter was keeping track of how many bands he could get to reform and it was just like he was mounting them as trophies on a wall somewhere in the back of his mind,
When I got to England I was told that the band calling themselves One Way System who was at best a minor British street punk band and here they were touring around and there wasn't a single original member of the band left
That's the kind of show I as a fan have no interest in seeing. Sure, live and let live, it's fine if it exists, it just doesn't mean I have to support it
When somebody comes out with something fresh and new like the Phantom Limbs or the rock side of Hank Williams III then I'm there, I'm into it. And with hardcore, I'm into it when it's really extreme and really intense. It doesn't necessarily mean that its faster for faster sake, but just that they've got that deadly angle down like Logical Nonsense or Post Regiment have had.
Right, like you did something with Napalm Death recently
Well I mean they're old fans of my shit and I've known about them since their very first album, which at the time reminded me of a death metal half Japanese (laughs), therefore it was cool
And so, we've kind of known of each other and they did Nazi Punks Fuck Off on Virus 100 so we always kind of knew we were down with each other, we'd just never met before.
Right. And as far as looking for new sounds and things and like that, how much does that inform the bands you sign on your own label?
I think that's 90% of it.
The mission of Alternative Tentacles remains the same and that is to help out artists who want to do their thing completely outside of the mainstream entertainment industry and nowadays there's a mainstream punk industry too and not everybody who wants to rock or do punk shit wants to be part of that.
And so that's why we've provided an outlet over the years for people who to me had punk energy but were doing very different things with it, but everyone from NoMeansNo and Victims Family to now people like the Phantom Limbs and Turn Me On Deadman.
How did you end up working with Leftover Crack? Because that was a little unexpected.
It was unexpected for us to but Alec - their bassist - got in touch with the label saying they wanted to go in another direction and get a little more outside the mainstream punk industry where both Hellcat and Epitaph I guess had been y'know, arguing with them over artwork and they felt they had been censored.
Right. And do you feel like you meshed with them?
So I warned them, "look I'll put out the Fuck World Trade album with that cover, but you'll have to realize that a lot of the chain stores have that sold a lot of the Hellcat albums aren't going to touch this with a 10 foot pole and so you're not going to sell as much as you did on Hellcat in all likelihood. They were fine with that.
Do you feel like the politics and things like that on the album matter to you in the same way as the music did?
I'm not in 100% agreement with everything personally, even trading underground 7 inches with somebody in Japan is world trade
So not all world trade is bad, but the way it gets hijacked with corporate capitalism to try and plunder as many poor countries as we can, and ignore possible backlashes in the form of terrorism or mass genocide, in that area I'm completely down with what they're saying on the album.
And if it takes an image or a title that shocking to whack people on the head with it and get them to think, fine, that's what I've been doing since I was a kid.
On the If Evolution is Outlawed... spoken word CD, you're very critical of globalization and things like that, but it has kind of had a measurable effect on lifting people out of poverty, which is something else you've been quite supportive of.
I don't believe a word of that.
The impression I get is that it's putting more and more people in the so called third world countries into worse poverty, while a few people with connections steal all on the money both on the corporate-end and the dictator-end, when they support despots in these countries.
I think you have to look a little deeper there. I mean NAFTA for example has been a bigger disaster for Mexico than any other country. Its forced so many indigenous farmers off their land because they can't compete with the truckloads of genetically mutilated corn rolling in from the States, and so there's a huge new population in the big Mexican cities of homeless refugees who have nowhere to go and nothing they can off the NAFTA-ized Mexican economy.
in many cases they don't even speak the language; they're indigenous people who speak their own language and never learned Spanish which marginalizes them all the more.
Do you think this is something fundamentally unattainable or something that could be made to work?
I think it could be made to work if the NAFTA treaty, things like the NAFTA treaty and the GATT treaties were either completely rewritten or abolished and you start out from scratch, y'know with environmental safeguards, labour safeguards, union rights
It's the sort of thing Hugo Chavez is trying to do on a local scale in Venezuela, and a lot of the leaders in other Central and South American countries are watching it very closely.
I think he's also been taking some inspiration from all the displaced Argentine factory workers who seized the factories themselves after the IMF-managed economy collapsed, and just started cranking out the product without the bosses, and putting the money back into the factory and the workers.
That's why the Bush administration is constantly rattling war sabers against Hugo Chavez and trying to make him look like the new Osama bin Laden in the American media. The last South American leader who began nationalizing the mines was Salvador Allende, and Kissinger took the lead in having him assassinated and putting in the Nazis of the Pinochet regime instead.
We tried that earlier, we tried to overthrow Chavez, in a coup, but the Bush Administration is so incompetent that they couldn't even do a coup properly.
You've always been really critical of the religious right in America, and they seem to be taking an even stronger stranglehold over pretty much everything.
They're trying, and in the short-run they're succeeding, but its going to be interesting how this plays out, of course the corporate media is very much on their side, they either applaud what they're doing or they forget to report the smelly aspects of it to America at large at all, therefore a lot of people don't even realize how petty this has becoming and how there's lawsuits going on over banning evolution in public school systems, and people, tourists who go to the Grand Canyon are getting handed flyers by our government saying, forget those signs that say the canyon was created over many thousands of years by the Colorado River carving this channel, no, it was all by so called "intelligent design".
And the Natural History Museum in Cobb County Georgia outside of Atlanta where Newt Gingrich comes from, they put footprints in the cement beside their Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton.
Y'know just to make sure people knew "Oh yeah, the world is 6000 years old and men walked with dinosaurs and the reason they died off was because Noah's ark was too full.
People in Europe are just aghast when I tell them these things, they can't believe that anyone is trying to kick evolution out of the public schools let alone our own president doesn't believe in evolution.
Well you can count Canada in that too, cause I think whenever we hear about stories like that we're pretty confused too.
Then again Stockwell Day was quite the cartoon character in that department. If you go to Alberta it's not just a mini right wing, its huge and even as far back as the mid-80s when I did a spoken word show in Winnipeg, I'd find these articles talking about a family in rural Manitoba who didn't want their child to be forced to pray in school and the next thing you know somebody went out and poisoned their well. You've got one hell of an underbelly of ignorance out there among the less educated just like we do.
In some ways it's even more backwards, such as some areas of countries' relations with aboriginals.
You've also spoken at length about the death penalty which at least we don't have here right now.
I've been against it since I was a kid for one simple reason - what if they've got the wrong person?
It does seem pretty horrific though..
Yeah and again most Americans don't have the faintest clue that other countries don't have the death penalty, let alone are so strongly opposed to it. Americans have no idea how barbaric we come across to other people. Then there's Bush saying "Oh I don't understand why other countries hate us. They hate us because they hate our freedom." Wrong, King George, they hate us because we won't let them have any freedom.
One other thing that somebody mentioned to me was that you're not a supporter of the internet or at least you don't use email or any of those things.
Oh I support its existence, I realize it's important, I just don't indulge.
Maybe someday I'll get around to it, but I'm always running around like a chicken with my head cut off and I've never had time to properly learn how to use the computer.
I've just never gotten along with machines very well. Besides, what would I use it for? Porn primarily I guess, but =so many people email me so much stuff at the label it's like I don't really need to go looking for even more of it on my own when I can't even keep up with reading all the stuff I have.
I guess I was also put off early on by the number of people who'd email me expecting me to be their own little chatroom and got all pissy if I didn't reply within the next 6 hours.
I only have so much room for people who have too much time on their hands.
Though I was thinking that it would be interesting if you set up like a blog or a journal of some kind just so you could write some of this stuff down.
Why do I want to do that though? I don't even keep a diary, I hate writing.
I guess also I'm not of the opinion that not every single thought that comes into my head is so godamn important that the whole world has to know about it.
In some ways I've regretted not keeping a journal, but in other ways it gets back to the whole punk retro thing. How much time do I really want to spend going over my own past? I'm tired of me.
And I also kind of agree with Frank Zappa when he said that he wanted people to remember his work after he died but he didn't really want them to remember him.
In terms of the backlash against the internet, there seems to be an unhealthy obsession with sex in technology.
Well I think Alan Ginsberg was right when he said that the reason they were so interested in pawing and prying into everybody else's sex life and trying to control it, is the gateway into controlling the way people think, and the way people behave and giving people one mass lobotomy through fear so they're a more obedient workforce in the anthill society.
It's the same old game and Bush's new Attorney General just launched a new anti-porn crusade that even the FBI is laughing about. He's expecting them to go forward with it and one agent even said publicly "I guess that means we've won the war on terrorism." So it will be interesting to see how far this one goes, after all, hardcore religious-right Republicans are no stranger to bedroom debauchery.
Just ask Jimmy Swaggart or Newt Gingrich for that matter, who got Clinton impeached over Monica and yet he was fucking his secretary behind his wife's back the whole time.
PBS the television network, they ran an anti-porn pseudo-documentary a couple of years ago, and they said that John Ashcroft had a huge anti-porn crusade ready to go and coordinated midnight raids all over the country, and then September 11 happened so the whole thing had to be shelved. My guess is that Gonzales just felt that the time was right to dust off John Ashcroft's crusade and go forward with it.
Its really, I mean Gonsales is typical of these kind of white collar sadists, he's the one who told Bush it was okay to violate the Geneva convention and torture people in Abu Gharib and Guantanamo Bay. In Texas, when Bush was Governor, Gonzales reveiewed all the death penalty appeals and rejected every single one of them as far as I know, You know it's okay to kill people but it's not okay to see a picture of somebody fucking.
It's a big contrast to places in Europe where there's no real problem with nudity, but violence is closely regulated. It's one of the more stark cultural divides.
And lo and behold, they have a civil society, and in some places like Germany and Scandinavia people have a higher standard of living than we in the United States do. They haven't pissed away so much of their money on the military that they've forgotten about their infrastructure and keeping people healthy and educated.
When you ran for mayor you had a lot of serious goals that you ran alongside some more satiric ones. Was that something you'd ever dust off and look at again?
It all depends, people urged me to run for Governor of California in the recall election, and definitely, it sure would have made a splash, but then I didn't want to be responsible for draining votes away from Larry Flynt and Gary Coleman. Or more to the point I didn't want to take votes away from Peter Camejo, the green party candidate. He is smart as a whip and unlike most Greens and Radicals, he knows his economics and could actually balance a budget the size of the state of California.
He'd make a much better Governor than Schwarzenegger or any of the clowns the Democrats are offering up.
Right, and I noticed you did participate in Rock Against Bush in some ways, was that, I mean, you were still kind of leaning towards Green for that entire time thought.
What do you mean "kind of?", I'm totally leaning towards Green! I'm a registered member of the Party and I have no regrets.
Its just because most people felt Rock Against Bush was largely focused on supporting the Democrats.
That's why I felt it was important to have a Green presence at punk voter and Rock Against Bush.
Are you still involved with them?
Yeah. To some degree, I mean its mainly a website being maintained out of the Fat office right now, but I think it will get more active in the local election cycle in 2006.
It's a case where again, I listen to some different kinds of music, and I don't have 100% the same political views and goals than Fat Mike or any of the others do, but I thought it was better that we band together and work together in 2004 and that punk voter, led by the Fat people than punk voter led by Jello Biafra and Alternative Tentacles.
We have our eye on the same prize.
And I think we've all learned stuff from each other.
Do you think the left is too divided? Do you think that's part of the reason that it was so easy for the Republicans to win every level of government?
I think its also because people are conditioned to buy into this myth that everything needs to be so divided. Left, right, left, right, black, white, red state, blue state. No, the real conflict going on is the top waging active war against the bottom.
And Michael Moore is convinced that most of us on the bottom are actually the majority and we will mostly want the same things, and I think some research has backed him up on that.
Different studies by Stanford University and then one of the Pew Foundations showed that the red state/blue state cartoon conflict was just a total myth and that the majority of the people in both states were in favour of a woman's right to choose what to do with her body, they wanted a cleaner environment, they wanted rich people to be properly taxed. They wanted health insurance. Things that Canadians take for granted, that we're not allowed to have down here.
Especially when one side controls are the corporate mass media. I've never seen the corporate media so openly electioneering for one candidate in a national election as they did with Bush. As if Kerry was one big threat to their agenda.
Then again a lot of the blame has to go with Kerry himself for such a spineless platform, refusing to truly take Bush on, on anything. You didn't hear him nailing Bush for the Abu Gharib torture at all now did you?
Then when it becomes clear that Bush stole not just the 2000 but the 2004 election, through electronic vote fraud and not letting poor people and African Americans vote, where was John Kerry? He conceded the next day without a fight. Why? Because that's what his corporate sponsors wanted him to do. He knows who pulls his puppet strings.
What do you see that can be done about this, this seems like a self-perpetuating problem.
I never thought that in this day and age one of the biggest struggles in the next 5 to 10 years the fight to regain our right to vote. But a lot of people are pissed about this. I think it does a world of good for someone who doesn't come from our kind of background like Cindy Sheehan, who was probably supporting the war until her son, who was a Marine, no less, got killed and it woke her up and she did what any patriotic American would do, she rose up and took action
Its going to be a long hard slog as Donald Rumsfeld puts it, but hey, I remember this happening before, in spite of the military industrial complex and the hierarchies of both political parties aiming at the people with both barrels, the American people rose up and we stopped the Vietnam war, we got the civil right act through, we got through all those environmental laws that is Bush is now trying to destroy. We've done it once, we can do it again.
So you see it as a matter of time?
That's where I'm going to put all of my energy, rain or shine.
So what's next for the coming year?
More live shows for the Melvins guys, and putting out fires at the label on a daily basis. ButI'm sure other things are going to pop up in the next year or so, but I have no idea what they are; I don't like to plan too far in advance. It's also cost me tour dates but it also means that there's a little more time for the unexpected adventure.
I got offered a part being voices in a cartoon a while back and if that comes through it's going to be interesting.
Can you tell us anything about that?
They have to get it off the ground first but there's a pretty good chance that they will.
So no chance at a like a Dead Kennedys musical, I know the Ramones are doing one.
I hope not (laughter). I mean the other three guys have done quite a job of dumbing down and pissing on everything the Dead Kennedys ever stood for. There's even a feel-good DVD in the cash-in 25th Anniversary version of Fresh Fruit.
All in order to get people to buy the same album yet again. And it's all just mellow nostalgia like VH1 talking about the Eagles or something. It's something I wanted no part of for good reason.
That's not what Dead Kennedys means to me.
Was the lyrical content, the image and the radical parts of the band - that was your design mostly?
I wrote most of the music too.
You haven't been happy with the credits on the new pressings.
Of course not, I mean they made that up to win a lawsuit and then woke up the next day in their delusional state thinking it was all true I guess, although Ray has alluded to in interviews that the main reason they do it is to deprive me of any legal right to get my songs back.
I mean if they really wrote all those tunes, why haven't they come up with any more? They've been doing the fake Dead Kennedys nostalgia scam thing for four years now and they haven't come up with a single new song
Do you still get royalties for anything?
They cut me cheques now, but that took a long battle too; they refused to pay me at all for two or three years. But I have no idea if I'm getting what I'm supposed to get or not, I'm not allowed to see all the books.
Their website actually also has Ray as starting the label, which I wasn't clear about.
There's a lot of things he thinks he did all by himself that he had very little if anything to do with. He thinks he designed the DK logo as well but that was news to Winston Smith.
In my opinion if there's any justice in this world, Ray would be in jail.
The important part of it is the bigger picture. I come from a time when part of the purpose of at least the bands in California and in Vancouver was to annoy the hell out of audiences, not necessarily to be liked or get famous. I've never been afraid to challenge my own audience, make fun of them when they're asking for it, thus "Nazi Punks Fuck Off," thus "Chicken Shit Conformists," thus "Nostalgia for an Age That Never Existed," and now "Those Dumb Punk Kids Will Buy Anything." which is actually a direct quote of one of my former band members, but the song - they're not the only ones doing this kind of things, they're just the smelliest, so its sort of a composite.
Well, I've noticed that some of the other, the Misfites have hired that Republican guy to sing for them, and I mean I know that everyone's kind of getting into that game now, but there's a whole bunch of bands playing in Las Angeles in a couple of weeks, all with The Germs, I think Fear and the Misfits, a bunch of other bands are all going to be playing together, none of which with the original singers
You've been very critical of the many things the band has done since the lawsuits; does it affect your feelings about the band in its original form?
No, I'm very proud of what we did, or I wouldn't keep fighting to regain its dignity. That music, the Dead Kennedys the music and the impact and the albums mean the world to me. That meant nothing to those guys for ten years, they just hid in suburbia and cashed cheques and in at least two cases seemed downright embarrassed to have been associated with Dead Kennedys, because now they played real music or whatever. So don't get me wrong, it probably means more to me than it ever did to them. But to me, the best way I can show respect to Dead Kennedys is to keep doing new things and keep pushing the envelope even if not everybody who thinks they're punk rock fans is able to go along with it
Yeah I heard about your extensive vinyl collection, how many records do you have?
I don't even know, that's not the point, I never intended to have a large record collection, I just wanted to have the songs I liked available to me so I could play them when I wanted to hear them, and not have to turn on the radio and listen to 45 minutes of crap hoping I'll get one good song.
That's what I do it for, I'm searching for songs that will really blow me away. And I've never stopped being curious and I've never stopped being a fan, which may be why my so-called punk rock songs keep sounding different from other peoples'. One thing I've been proud of is y'know, there's been plenty of Ramones clones and Minor Threat clones and hardcore clones, but there has never been a Dead Kennedys clone.
Yeah I think it's hard to put your finger on what it was though about the Dead Kennedys.
Yeah we weren't afraid to go in several different directions at once, and I kind of scoped it out to some degree early on, which songs would go on Fresh Fruit, and which songs would be on In God We Trust versus which should be on Plastic Surgery Disasters. I wanted every release to be different.
I'm kind of proud of that, that no two of my music albums have ever sounded alike. It's not Lard, it's not the Jelvins either.
So a lot of that material was written at the same time?
We had songs like "Bleed for Me" and "Moon Over Marin" and "Keytone Factory" before we wrote Fresh Fruit.
I know some bands who waited for so long for someone to give them some money to put an album out, that the album that came out was their second batch of songs, the first were lost to history, the GoGos being one of the most tragic examples, but, so I felt, lets gamble here, let's gamble that we're going to be able to make a second album after the first album and document all our original shit first and keep Holiday in Cambodia on as a hint of what's to come.
Which means I wound up liking Plastic Surgery Disasters a lot better. I think it's more unusual, its darker, it's more "us."
All the albums came out pretty well. And I feel kind of cool that so many different people are passionate about which Dead Kennedys album is their favorite and it's not always the same album. There's Fresh Fruit people, there's In God We Trust people, there's Frankenchrist people, and there's even Bedtime for Democracy people.
Yeah, well I know Kid Dynamite covered some songs from that, so.
Gee guys, don't bother to send me a copy.
(laughs) Okay, well I definitely will make sure I mention that to them.
I'm honoured when people cover my songs, the more they mutilate them the better, but I'd at least like to be able to get copies of this stuff. I even have a cassette of a woman doing a folk version of, a solo acoustic folk version of Holiday in Cambodia, and it actually works.
Yeah I think I remember hearing a hip hop version of "California Uber Alles" - was that on Virus 100?
It turned out so well they put it on their own album, which was a great relief to me because they were planning on having me as a guest MC, but the thing I recorded, was something that I thought was a scratch vocal, and not the final track and I wasn't feeling very well that day and it came out really shitty, and it was glaringly weak compared to the rest of the album so I'm glad they kicked me off and put their own California Uber Alles on it.
I will definitely ask them to send you a copy. I think it's on Jade Tree, so I don't know if you talk to them at all…
All the more sinful, here we have the same distributor run into each other at the Mordam Convention and no Kid Dynamite with the Dead Kennedys single comes my way. I'm stewing, I'm steaming about this so much now, I feel like cornering everybody in Kid Dynamite and forcing them to listen to this horrible 70s band called Kid Dynamite. I'll tie them down to the bed and put the speakers by their ears.