Aural Sculptors - The Stranglers Live 1976 to the Present

Welcome to Aural Sculptors, a blog aimed at bringing the music of The Stranglers to as wide an audience as possible. Whilst all of the various members of the band that have passed through the ranks since 1974 are accomplished studio musicians, it is on stage where the band have for me had their biggest impact.

As a collector of their live recordings for many years I want to share some of the better quality material with other fans. By selecting the higher quality recordings I hope to present The Stranglers in the best possible light for the benefit of those less familiar with their material than the hardcore fan.

Needless to say, this site will steer well clear of any officially released material. As well as live gigs, I will post demos, radio interviews and anything else that I feel may be of interest.

In addition, occasionally I will post material by other bands, related or otherwise, that mean a lot to me.

Your comments and/or contributions are most welcome. Please email me at

Tuesday 31 March 2020

Cobra Lounge Chicago 7th and 8th June 2013

Here's something from the Stateside leg of the 'Giants' tour. The band played two nights at Chicago's Cobra Lounge and here we have the full gig from the first night (7th June) and a handful of tracks, including a couple omitted from the previous night's set from the second night (8th June).

MP3 (as recieved):

7th June:
8th June:


7th June 2013

01. Toiler On The Sea
02. Goodbye Toulouse
03. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
04. Norfolk Coast
05. Nuclear Device (The Wizard Of Aus)
06. Freedom Is Insane
07. Mercury Rising
08. Peaches
09. Relentless
10. Golden Brown
11. Skin Deep
12. Always The Sun
13. Walk On By
14. Burning Up Time
15. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
16. Hey! (Rise Of The Robots)
17. Who Wants The World?
18. Time Was Once On My Side
19. Duchess
20. No More Heroes (Intro)
21. No More Heroes
22. Hanging Around

8th June 2013

01. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
02. Golden Brown
03. A Soldier’s Diary
04. Unbroken
05. No More Heroes

Peter and the Test Tube Babies Butlins Skegness 10th October 2019

And here's another from the 'The Great British Alternative Music Festival', this time from Skegness. Peter and the Test Tube Babies, my local punk band. I was at the front for this with my daughter..... her choice! As the band came on I was hit on the back with a full pint (..... here I am certain that it was alcohol rather than piss because it was below room temperature!). It doesn't particularly bother me, but does make me wonder who in this day and age can afford to pay club prices for beer only to launch at the stage!

Good to see a couple more tracks from 'Soberphobia' in the set..... a great album from my teenage years!



01. Moped Lads
02. Run Like Hell
03. The Jinx
04. Never Made It
05. My Unlucky Day
06. Every Second Counts
07. In Yer Face
08. Up Yer Bum
09. Spirit of Keith Moon
10. None of Your Fucking Business
11. Keys To The City
12. Keep Britain Untidy
13. You Shake My World
14. I'm A Maniac
15. Banned From the Pubs
16. Blown Out Again

Angelic Upstarts Butlins Minehead 9th March 2019

Here's a great recording from last year's 'Great British Alternative Music Festival' in Minehead. The Upstarts never fail to deliver a set full of passion and commitment to their message. Mensi is his usual shy and retiring self as he and the band run through some of the band's greatest songs beefed up with a couple of tracks from their recent album 'Bullingdon Bastards'. Many thanks to the original uploader to Dime.



01. Intro
02. Two Million Voices
03. Never 'ad Nothin'
04. Student Power
05. Mr Politician
06. Tories, Tories, Tories (Out, Out, Out)
07. Give The Fox A Gun
08. You're Nicked
09. Solidarity
10.Woman in Disguise
11. Last Night Another Soldier
12. Leave Me Alone
13. Machine Gun Kelly
14. Police Oppression
15. I'm An Upstart
16. The Murder of Liddle Towers

Monday 30 March 2020

Hammersmith Odeon 30th March 1987

And here is the second night from the Odeon in what proved to be a great trio of London dates.



01. No More Heroes
02. Was it You?
03. Down In The Sewer
04. Nice In Nice
05. Punch And Judy
06. Souls
07. Always The Sun
08. Strange Little Girl
09. Golden Brown
10. Northwinds
11. Big In America

01. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
02. Who Wants The World?
03. Bring On The Nubile
04. Shakin’ Like A Leaf
05. Uptown
06. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
07. Tank
08. Toiler On The Sea
09. Hanging Around
10. Nuclear Device
11. Spain

Sunday 29 March 2020

Last Words on the Dead Kennedys (San Francisco Weekly 23rd - 29th June 1999)

Punks at War

Dead Kennedys, Alternative Tentacles, and the law suit that threatens punk's most enduring and provocative partnership

It was January 1978, and the Winterland was packed, and the Sex Pistols had just played their last show anywhere, and it had ended with lead singer Johnny Rotten cackling these choice parting words: "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" Cheated wasn't the half of it. The Sex Pistols were the most famous band to come out of a British punk scene that was just beginning to find its footing in the U.S. The band's breakup wasn't just a musical event; followers lost a cultural-political icon. Without the Sex Pistols - that sneering bunch of self proclaimed anarchists who lived to challenge conventional notions of what a rock band should be – American punks would have to figure things out for themselves.

At North Beach's Mabuhay Gardens, the figuring had already started. While radio stations were clogging themselves with ELO and the Eagles, the Mabuhay was showcasing bands and music that were not just alternative, but challenging. Many of the bands took stylistic cues from the Sex Pistols and Ramones, but others, including Flipper and the Residents, experimented wildly, bent on befuddling their audiences more than entertaining them.

It was a culture of self-determination, where "do it yourself' was the operating credo. Who said you had to suck up to some big label to get your records out? Who said that Rolling Stone was the only music magazine on Earth? Fanzines such as Search and Destroy and Punk Globe sprang up to document the scene, both within and outside the Bay Area. Mainstream media outlets started to take a peek at what these strangely dressed folks were up to. Record labels (like 415 Records) started putting out singles and compilations.

And by 1978, a transplant to San Francisco from Boulder, Colo., name of Jello Biafra, né Eric Boucher, had decided he wanted to do more than just watch his favorite bands; he wanted to be up there on the Mabuhay's stage too.

Biafra had saved some money, and so he gathered up three musicians – guitarist East Bay Ray, bassist Klaus Flouride, and drummer D.H. Peligro (who replaced early drummer Bruce Slesinger). Biafra, who wrote lyrics, wanted to put forth a band that was political; San Francisco was providing ample material. This was the time of the Jonestown massacre, and Dan White's murder of Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone (and that's not to mention White's infamous and absurd "Twinkie defense").

And so the Dead Kennedys - and, simultaneously, Alternative Tentacles Records -  were formed. The story of AT and DK is, to a remarkable extent, the story of punk rock in San Francisco.

"[Alternative Tentacles] was a dream more than a business plan," Biafra said in a telephone interview
in early June, speaking from a downtown San Francisco office. "It was something I felt we had to do to document all the great music that was going on that wasn't being recorded. I saw these amazing bands like the Avengers, Negative Trend, the Sleeperz, Dils, Offs, Mutants, UXA, Crime, Nuns - all of 'em breaking up before they put out what would’ve been some of the best albums any band's ever made.

"I knew that if I ever had any money, I wanted to do a record label to correct the situation, to help fix that"

Alternative Tentacles wasn't envisioned as the relatively wide-ranging label it is today. Back in 1979, it was just supposed to release a single, "California Uber Alles." But on the strength of that single and the Dead Kennedys' live shows, the group with one of the more politically sacrilegious names in
America got a reputation as one of the most interesting bands in San Francisco.

Even if the group didn't quite fit the clichéd definition of punk rock. And it didn't.

The Dead Kennedys didn't spike their hair, and while most punk bands of that era marched in a strict lock step - both in terms of sound (three-chord, Ramones-y blasts) and politics (sobersided anti-Reaganism) – the Dead Remiedys instead played rockabilly-on Benzedrine-fusillades and often spoofed pop songs of the day. Singing in nasal, piercing tones, taking lyrical shots at whomever struck his momentary fancy, Biafra gave punk something it thought it wasn't supposed to have: a sense of humor.

"California Uber Alles," for example, posited a "suede-denim secret police" state, controlled by then-California Gov. Jerry Brown, where people would "jog for the master race ." "Holiday in Cambodia"
Disemboweled snotty post-grads who pro-claimed their hipness and whined about their bosses, suggesting that the whiners would "work harder with a gun in your back/ For a bowl of rice a day."

Biafra was always the most visible and vocal member of the band, quick with a  snappy line and good for a prank, the most famous being his 1979 run for mayor of San Francisco. Though parts of his platform addressed what he considered legitimate, concerns - he lobbied for, and still supports, legalizing squatters' rights - much of his candidacy was decidedly goofball, calling for the public auction of city positions, the establishment of a legal board of bribery, and the requirement that Financial District workers wear clown suits. When Dianne Feinstein called for a cleaner city, Biafra was vacuuming leaves off her front lawn the next day. In a city that felt worn and cynical after the Jonestown and White incidents, Biafra's campaign proved a tonic; he finished fourth out of 10 candidates, getting approximately 4 percent of the vote.

Biafra, the Dead Kennedys, and Alternative thus earned reputations as the leading provocateurs of punk rock. To this day the Dead Kennedys account for more than half of Alternative Tentacles’ sales. Account. As Biafra puts it, “Alternative Tentacles remains one giant prank against the mainstream entertainment industry and the agendas of the corporations that own it."

But this irony-filled approach to life in and around the recording industry has led Biafra and his label into a series of legal troubles.

In 1986, San Francisco and Los Angeles police raided Biafra's home, and he was subsequently charged with distribution of harmful matter to minors - that is, a poster of a sexually explicit painting by Swiss artist H.R Giger titled Landscape #20: Where Are We Coming From, which was included in copies of the Dead Kennedys' 1985 album Frankenchrist. The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office prosecuted Biafra on obscenity charges, which could have led to a one-year jail term and $2,000 fine. But the trial of the criminal case, much of which focused on First Amendment arguments over whether the painting was indeed obscene, resulted in a hung jury. Biafra had won, but the emotional and financial stress of the case helped break up the band that year, after it released a final album, Bedtime for Democracy.

Biafra now; Klaus and Biafra in DK days; Ray now.

Then in 1996 the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police and Sgt. John Whalen sued Borders Books, Biafra, Alternative Tentacles, and one of the label's bands, the Crucifucks, for defamation and copyright Infringement. That band had used a photograph of a police officer lying dead next to a squad car on the back of its 1992 album Our Will Be Done, which included anti-police songs such as “Pigs in a Blanket” and “Cops for Fertilizer”. The photo was posed, with Whalen playing the dead officer; it had originally been used by the Philadelphia FOP as a part of a mid-‘80s promotional campaign for a police wage hike. In April 1997, a federal judge ordered the band to pay the Philadelphia FOP $2.2 million. Three months later, that judgment was overturned, and the case was eventually dismissed.

So Biafra's label prepares to celebrate its 20th anniversary this week as one of the luckier punk ventures in history. It has done what few punk rock labels ever do - survive - and has remained, by virtually all accounts, supportive of punk rock (as loosely defined) locally, nationally, and globally.

But Saturday's celebration might be a more inclusive and happier affair if not for yet another lawsuit, one that challenges the credibility and integrity of the Alternative Tentacles label, and that, regardless of the outcome, will leave noone who was once a Dead Kennedy unwounded.

On Sept. 30 of last year, former Dead Kennedys members East Bay Ray, Klaus Flouride, and D.H. Peligro (born Ray Pepperell, Geoffrey Lyall, and Darren Henley, respectively) sat down and voted to terminate their relationship with Alternative Te ntacles. Ray, who has acted as the official spokesperson for the three rebelling band members, says he discovered in 1996 that Alternative Tentacles had raised the wholesale price of its CDs without informing the band. Ray and the two other former Dead Kennedys argue that the increase in wholesale prices should have resulted in higher royalties on Dead Kennedys sales. In their suit, they claim Biafra took profits from the wholesale price increase for himself.

Greg Werckman, who was working as Alternative Tentacles' label manager at the time (and is now
Biafra's manager), says the label wasn't obliged to increase the band's royalty rate. Proceeds from the increase in the wholesale price were fed into overhead for the label, a financial move that, he contends, does not violate the Alternative Tentacles’ agreement with the Dead Kennedys. Werckman does acknowledge that in 1997 he and Ray sat down to go over the accounting of the band’s royalties (as well as those for the solo albums that Fluoride recorded for AT), and found that the royalties had been calculated from a formula that left the Dead Kennedys underpaid on record sales.

It was, in Werckman’s view, an honest mistake, and he informed Biafra of the discrepancy. “Ray does have a case, not for a higher royalty rate, but for back payment.” Werckman says. The royalty shortage amounted to about $75,000, which Biafra placed into a trust account, to be released to the band either with his permission or through a court order.

But the argument isn't entirely about royalties. It's also about loyalty.

Ray, Flouride, and Peligro say that Alternative Tentacles was originally formed, owned, and controlled by the entire Dead Kennedys band. When the group broke up in 1986, they say, the other members ceded
ownership of the label to Biafra alone in an oral agreement that required him to not only properly administer royalties to the Dead Kenneds, but also promote and grant "most favored nation” status to the group. That status required Biafra to ensure that the Dead Kennedys' royalty rate would be as highly paid as any other band on the label. (Werckman contends that no such royalty arrangement ever existed.)

The Dead Kennedys band was, itself, a partnership, formed in 1981 and known as Decay Music. The three dissenting former members of the band felt they could therefore vote to sever the Dead Kennedys' connection to Alternative Tentacles. And they did so at a meeting last September. (Biafra did not vote; in a court filing, he claims that he was out of town at the time, and that his offer to send a proxy to cast his vote was refused. Even if Biafra had been there, say Ray's lawyers, his vote would have been moot because, they say, he has a conflict of interest as a partner in Decay Music and owner of Alternative Tentacles.)

Ray says that he never wanted to get involved in a lawsuit In fact, he says, early in 1998, he, Flouride, and Peligro hired an attorney, Michael Ashburne, who told them that he didn't do litigation. "We said, 'Well, we won't need to go that far. We've known each other for 20 years, we're partners together,' “ says Ray.

But when Biafra continued to argue that the three former members were not owed anything, they sued Biafra both individually and as owner of Alternative Tentacles, as well as Mordam Records, which distributes Alternative Tentacles’ records. The suit, files on Oct. 29, 1998, seeks the right to control the Dead Kennedys’ catalog, as least $50,000 in damages, and an injunction preventing both Biafra and Mordam from selling or distributing Dead Kennedys recordings.

Biafra countersued in November and attempted to move the case to federal court, claiming that it was an issue of copyright law properly decided in a federal venue. Senior District Judge D. Lowell Jensen disagreed, ruling it was a simple contract dispute; he remanded the case to San Francisco Superior Court and ordered Biafra to pay $12,160.50 in legal fees for, essentially, wasting everyone's time trying to make a routine state contract suit into a federal case.

At first, Biafra doesn't want to discuss any of the legal problems. He's feeling harried, having spent most of the day talking to reporters about Alternative Tentacles, and sounds tired. "I don't know," he sighs. "It's all a pretty concocted attempt at fraud on their side. That's all I'm going to say right now."

But that's not really all. "Everything they've said is completely untrue," he claims. "It's an attempt to take something that doesn't belong to them, and try and shake somebody down for money, all because I wouldn't sell out 'Holiday in Cambodia' and Dead Kennedys and everything we represented to a Levi's commercial. The ad agency representing Levi's wanted to put 'Holiday in Cambodia' in a Dockers commercial, no less."

And this claim illustrates the central paradox of the Alternative Tentacles/Dead Kennedys lawsuit: Members of a band that poked holes in the craven, commercial, lying facade of modern life are accusing one another of being craven commercial liars.

For example, David M. Given, a San Francisco lawyer representing Ray, Peligro, and Flouride, uses this calm legal language to characterize Biafra's assertion about the Levi's ad: "A bunch of horseshit"

All sides agree that the band was approached with some sort of offer to use a song in a commercial. Given says Ray told other band members of the offer, as he would with any DK-related business offer, but they “weren’t down with it, and it never happened.”

Werckman holds a sort of middle ground in the Levi’s argument, saying that “Holiday in Cambodia” was just one of about 30 songs the ad agency was considering for the commercial, and in the end the agency decided to use a different song.

Still, Biafra argues that the Levi’s situation cuts to the heart of the issue in dispute: preserving the integrity of his old band and of his record label. “The reputation of Dead Kennedys and my own reputation are cemented and linked," he says. "If I screw up, it screws up the legacy of Dead Kennedys. If the other guys go and screw up, it screws up my personal reputation. If 'Holiday in Cambodia' wound up in a Levi's commercial, everybody would blame me. I might even get beat up again." (The beating Biafra references happened in 1994 at Berkeley's 924 Gilman club, where he was attacked by people shouting he was a "rock star" and "sellout.") '''That's not fair. To put it mildly, that's not fair."

As both sides claim the moral high ground, the ground gradually seems to transform itself into empty or unprovable rhetoric. Biafra says the consequence of this war of words is "a frivolous, mean-spirited lawsuit, where the only people who win in a situation like that are lawyers laughing all the way to the bank."

But don't his former bandmates have the right to separate themselves from Alternative Tentacles?

''Whether they have the right to do it or not, is it morally right to do it in the first place? That speaks volumes about where their heads are at, as far as I'm concerned. They don't give a damn about anything but quick free money. And that's not what Dead Kennedys or Alternative Tentacles has ever been about"

"Biafra was obviously the media person," Ray retorts, "but a media person is not the whole thing that makes a band .... I set up the label and ran it for the first three years, and I'm given no credit for it right now. Keeping the Dead Kennedys independent, and the fact that Biafra has a nice big mansion on Diamond Heights, is a direct result of my efforts."

"If Biafra weren't the label, he would be carrying the fucking flag up the hill," Given says, "screaming about corporate greed."

Werckman calls the dispute "pathetic on both sides."

There is plenty of time for additional recrimination and response. The case is scheduled to go to trial on Sept. 27.

In punk rock, as in most genres of pop music, scenes come and go. And if punk in San Francisco has never died off, it has never again approached the fertility that it enjoyed in the late '70s and the early ‘80’s.

In 1982, around the time that Alternative Tentacles stopped being the Dead Kennedys’ vanity label and began releasing other records in earnest, the late Tim Yohannon and a group of others founded the fanzine MaximumRockandRoll in San Francisco, one of the leading arbiters of punk ideology (even though many feel that its view of punk rock is strict, misguided, and, at this point, outdated) .

In 1994, the fanzine banned Alternative Tentacles from advertising in its pages, and refused to review its record releases, claiming that it was no longer punk. From its very beginning, the fanzine's letters page was rife with complaints about the "true" definition of punk. Every month, with each new issue, the complaints continue.

But there's another view: Ralph Spight, who sings and plays guitar in San Francisco's Hellworms and has been part of the local punk scene since the early '80s, credits Alternative Tentacles for being both loyal and daring. "Some of them sold pretty well," Spight says of his AT recording efforts with the bands Saturn's Flea Collar and Victim's Family. "Some of them didn't. But on any other label in the world, doing the things I've done, I'd be dropped."

And AT's openness to experimentation makes it more "punk" than new bands aping the old look and sound.

"Sometimes I get really excited about the bands going on around here, and then sometimes I get really bored," Spight says. He sees a punk scene that threatens to go stagnant and become just another musical style - which would leave it far, far away from its radical roots. "I'm pretty jaded about it all," he says.

Although it has released records from local groups such as Neurosis and Zen Guerrilla, Alternative Tentacles has increasingly focused on aggressive and noisy bands outside the confines of the Bay Area, and new labels have stepped in to cover local punk music. The most famous, Berkeley's Lookout, has functioned for 11 years, supporting bands like Green Day and.Operation Ivy (members of which would later form Rancid). Molly Neuman, Lookout's general manager, praises Alternative Tentacles for proving that the do-it- yourself ethic can work. "[Alternative Tentacles] demonstrated that independent music can survive without tons of media support and attention, without radio, without MTV, and can still survive outside of the mainstream music industry's standards," says Neuman.

Neuman says she hasn't kept up on details of the Alternative Tentacles/Dead Kennedys case. But when asked about it, she makes the same comment, three times.

"It's a shame."

Neuman is right in saying that Alternative Tentacles helped establish the model for how an independent rock and punk label might operate successfully. To perhaps oversimplify, that model is analogous to a shopping mall: If you have one or more successful and familiar "anchor" bands, people buy the smaller acts, too. The label's name and logo become a brand and a signifier of quality. That's part of what differentiates the independent record label from a major: Nobody buys a Ricky Martin album because he's on Sony, just like Miles Davis; but Alternative Tentacles record buyers, knowing the Dead Kennedys' history, might be more likely to buy a record by, say, the Causey Way.

The Causey Way, one of AT's recent signings, is an upstart, Devo-esque band from Gainesville, Fla. Says singer Causey, somewhat waggishly, "We were approached' courted,' as they say - by some of the majors, but no one understood the integrity of our mission like our brothers and sisters at AT. I have only wonderful things to say about Jello Biafra."

This "shopping mall" system of independent marketing has worked for Washington D.C.'s Dischord, home to Fugazi and Minor Threat; Chicago's Touch and Go, for which famed producer Steve Albini records and performs; Southern California's SST, which mainly sustains itself on '80s albums by Black Flag and Husker Du; and, of course, Alternative Tentacles, home to the Dead Kennedys - at least for now.

As the former members of the Dead Kennedys prepare for the trial that would resolve their dispute (at least in a legal sense), Jello Biafra continues to oversee new Alternative Tentacles releases, which have recently included spoken-word albums by leftist cause célebrès such as the late environmental activist Judi Bari, A People's History of the United States author Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, and alleged cop murderer Mumia Abu-Jamal, as well as musical offerings from bands at various positions on the punk spectrum.

Though he rarely publicly performs music - partially because of knee damage he sustained in the 1994 beating - Biafra occasionally sings or writes for musical projects, including Lard, a collaboration with members of the Chicago industrial band Ministry. The bulk of his post-Dead Kennedys recordings, however, are his own politically themed spoken-word albums, and he continues to speak around the country, mainly on college campuses.

Ray and Flouride have been playing together locally in Jumbo Shrimp, a surf rock trio. Peligro now lives in Los Angeles, where he continues to play music. Ray also has his hand in a number of recording projects, an says he's started getting involved in the rave scene, which attracts him because "you don't have to deal with lead singers."

Ray catches himself and laughs. '''That's a joke. Kind of." .

Alternative Tentacles Records' 20th Anniversary Party, featuring the Causey Way, Wesley Willis, Hellworms, Creeps on Candy, Crucifucks, DJ Whats His Fuck, and host Jello Biafra, happens Saturday, June 26, at 9 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell (at Polk), S.F. Tickets are $10: call 885-0750.

Hammersmith Odeon 29th March 1987

A great recording, great set etc etc from the second leg of the 'Dreamtour' in this day in 1987. So successful was the tour that the original two nights at the Hammersmith Odeon were extended to three.



01. Intro
02. No More Heroes
03. Was It You?
04. Down In The Sewer
05. Nice In Nice
06. Punch & Judy
07. Souls
08. Always The Sun
09. Strange Little Girl
10. Golden Brown
11. North Winds
12. Big In America

01. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
02. Who Wants The World?
03. Bring On The Nubiles
04. Shakin’ Like A Leaf
05. Uptown
06. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
07. Tank
08. Toiler On The Sea
09. Spain
10. Nuclear Device
11. 5 Minutes
12. Duchess
13. London Lady

Friday 27 March 2020

Jello Biafra Interview Sounds 19th July 1986


As JELLO BIAFRA becomes engulfed by a wave of allegations that threatens to swamp his liberty, he chats to JACK BARRON about censorship, apocalyspe and the day he ran for mayor. Holiday snap: EYE AND EYE.

"WHY DO I think I am right!?!" echoes Jello Biafra, surprise momentarily road-blocking his busy freeway of words.

The Walter Mitty of politi-punk casts his anthracite eyes around the spartan warehouse which serves as the headquarters of Alternative Tentacles, a downbeat building that the police department of San Francisco recently raided in search of subversive material.

Yes, I continue, resuming my line of questioning. The Dead Kennedys have always used their music as a vehicle for social commentary and political criticism. So why do you think your perspective on life is any more valid than the perspective of those you criticise?

" I think, because of my deep sense of being threatened by those in authority," laughs Jello uneasily, his chest recoiling with an almost paranoid tautness beneath a T-shirt which bears the motto Ugly American. Maybe this man, who seems to have had his handsome features stretched to cracking point on the rack of desperation, is still rattled by the events of the past few days.

See, what had been brought to the police department's notice was the posters of H R Geiger's Penis Landscape, given with the Kennedys' album 'Frankenchrist'. Biafra now faces up to a year in prison and a $2,000 fine to go with the allegations that he and the rest of the band are guilty of "distributing harmful material to minors"

So, if Jello's rattled, who could blame him?

"As I said to you a bit earlier on when we were talking about censorship," explains Biafra, a lyricist never starved of polemic, "if the authorities had their way I - or anybody like me --would probably be dead. The American government want a Christian-style Islamic republic and I don't think executions would bother them a bit.

"The right-wing Christians who run this country go on about how the life of an unborn foetus is sacred, how we shouldn't allow abortions. But once the foetuses are 18, who are the first people who want to
execute them in gas chambers or want to send them to die in Nicaragua and EI Salvador? It's the right-wing Christians.

"So what makes me feel that I am right and other people are wrong is when I feel that my dignity and survival, and the dignity and survival of other people, is being threatened by a few greedy Nazis."

This might sound extreme but it rings true in the context of the moral waywardness of the USA. In the kingdom of the insane, the paranoid becomes sane because he has every reason to worry, his fears are real. How can they be otherwise when he watches the police raid his office?

Dissent, artistic or otherwise, is not in fashion in America in the late '80s. Everybody - from individuals to nations – is expected to toe the line of conformity, and that line says you are either a God fearing capitalist, or you're a stinking pinko communist atheist pervert who does it in the streets with dogs and Lord help you if you're in a band with the name of The Dead Kennedys.

OK, I know that's a little simplified, but the whole point about the upsurge of patriotism which Reagan symbolises is that it does present the public with clear cut black and white' choices which save people from making the effort to think or question.
Anything which doesn't fit into this monocular vision - an example being the Vietnam veterans poisoned by Agent Orange who've subsequently had deformed children and yet don't qualify for war injury benefits - is quietly swept under the carpet.

THE DEAD Kennedys - Jello, bassist Klaus Flouride, guitarist East Bay Ray and drummer D H Peligro – are interested in lifting up that carpet of self imposed ignorance and spotlighting the dirt. But it's getting more difficult day by day.

"Let's just say that the ghost of Joe McCarthy is back in action now," comments Biafra. "So far as music is concerned the PMRC, the Parents Music Resource Centre, which is staffed by wives of right-wing senators and a member or two of Reagan's cabinet, acts as a kind of thought police.

"As you know, they're making moves to get records graded according to their content, but that is only the tip. Their attempt to decide what people hear, see, taste and think goes deeper than that.

"For instance, they're now working with local Parent Teacher Associations and police departments to snuff out rock music which they deem not wholesome. We've had several gigs cancelled under mysterious circumstances and then, of course, there was the raid here."

I tell him the offending Geiger poster - Geiger was a set designer on Alien, by the way - which depicts a field of erect penises entering vaginas is so abstract it reminds me of a vegetable stall specialising in leeks and onions.

"Uh-haw, I've heard lots of interpretations of it but nothing like that," grins Biafra . "It has been called sexist by some people but I don't think it is. My reason for using it was that as soon as I saw the thing I thought, 'Yeah! That's what's inside the heads of Americans: this is a nation out to screw each other in every way. That painting is consumer culture on parade. "

Penis Landscape has, in fact, been seen by a lot of Americans. Long before it became a Kennedys poster it was featured in a Geiger showcase in Penthouse. Still , the poster gave the police an excuse to search
Alternative Tentacles thoroughly.

In a country which is headed by a staunch Chri stian ex-actor President who presents and presides over the political process as if he were still in some Hollywood film, it seems somehow apt that the Kennedys' last album was called 'Frankenchri st'.

Run to the hills, a monster cometh!

" If you want to understand something about the nature of Americans it's that we're taught in school that this country is in the frontline with regards to free speech and the rights of the individual," says Biafra. "What is conveniently forgotten is that the founding fathers of America were slave owners.
Thomas Jefferson had seven kids by one of his."

J ELLO BIAFRA, eight years on from the inception of The Dead Kennedys, speaks like some bizarre hybrid of musician, politician and Mr Memory Man. It is easy to see why he garnered 6,OOO-odd votes and came sixth when he stood for the post of Mayor of San Francisco a while back on an absurdist platform.

Ask him a question and out will pop some ghoulish story or three, many of which have been sent in by outsiders to the Kennedys or the hardcore politi-punk fanzine Maximum Rock And Roll which shares the warehouse with Alternative Tentacles.

"No, we haven't split the band! Who told you that? We've never been a group of people who eat, work and play together from the beginning. We don't even agree with each other on every issue, that has
always been the w ay in this band. We often argue but hopefully that friction gets channelled into the music.

"The po int is, though, that we get together to record and tour only if everyone agrees to what is involved . At the moment we're doing another album called 'Bedtime For Democracy' which will hopefully be out in the autumn.

'" I know that, because of the gap between 'Plastic Surgery Disasters' (the DKs' last album) and 'Frankenchrist', people have thought that we've sat on our backsides for three years and retracted our claws, but it's not true!

"We've also been savouring some of the weird information from around the world which we got in response to our request for miscellaneous data on the inner sleeve of 'Frankenchrist'. We'd like Alternative Tentacles to act as a conduit for this info because some of it is mindblasting.

"The scariest story was in fact mailed to me from somebody in San Francisco. It was a little report out of a science magazine that said the next scheduled space shuttle, in other words the one after the one that blew up, was going to be loaded with 46 pounds of plutonium!

"If that shuttle had blown up instead, imagine what would have happened! There would have been enough plutonium in the air to give cancer to as many as five billion people. That's virtually the whole of the world! So that would have been it – all because of a few military assholes manipulating to get the Star Wars Defence System off the ground without telling anybody. This is the most reckless act I've heard of yet!"

THE SON of a librarian mother and a psychiatric social worker father who quit his job to write poetry and books around the same time Jello ran for Mayor of 'Frisco, the 27-year-old singer was brought up in Boulder, Colorado.

Nestling against the Rockies, the "sleepy" university town became a "counter-culture Mecca" in the late '60s and early '70s when it was invaded by hippies.

"At one point there were 15,000 of them . Naturally the other 40,000 citizens of Boulder freaked out, but for me that made it a great place to grow up.

"A lot of thought was provoked in me and the anti-war movement was strong.

"But the hippy people would use a lot of drug-dealing lingo to justfy ripping people off, saying, like, Hey man, that candle costs 50 dollars because it's all natural ingredients! You know the sort of thing: hand made by an authentic crook."

While the music world turned from Dayglo to the mouldy mellow feathers of The Eagles, Biafra took advantage of the transition by hoarding forgotten gems of garage psychedelia, such as The Thirteenth
Floor Elevators.

" Really though there wasn't much happening musically and I was more interested in the news on TV."

A fleeting visit to pogoing England in 1977changed his life.

"All that energy and hate of smug apathy really excited me. When I got back I went off to university in Santa Cruz to take classes in drama and the history of Paraguay but I didn't last long.

"I noticed the punk thing was happening in San Francisco although on a much smaller scale, and, against the wishes of myfather, I dropped out ... "

And The Dead Kennedys were given a breech birth .

"Once The Kennedys were going I soon realised it was possible to concoct something beyond being this week's Sex Pistols. I wanted to fuse the political anger of a virtually unknown British band called Third World War with the gut-rage of Iggy Pop and, say, the fascination with horror and gore of Alice Cooper.

"The thing was I knew that the atrocities of real life were far more frightening than fiction . That has always been the motivating force in this band."

CALIFORNIA UBER Alles', 'Too Drunk To F***' , 'Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables' - the DKs' record titles
alone made the burghers choke, never mind the gallows humour of the band's name. And, allied to the group's violent live velocity and Biafra's cracked actor presentation, come 1983 the Kennedys were on the cusp of greatness. They were the premier hardcore corps poised to take a flamethrower to the charts.

It never happened, and I don't think it ever will. The Kennedys' belief in the punk ethic of independence from the straight music biz scams ensured they'd never become pop stars like The Clash. Their ideals wouldn't allow the necessary compromises and, when Faulty Products (the American distributor) folded, the moment was gone forever.

This isn't to put down their achievements. The Kennedys still make fierce records and Biafra is in demand as a spoken word artist. His mixture of poetry, lyrics and news is, I'm told, inflammatory .

But don't you ever feel that you' re just hitting your head against a brick wall?

Biafra's anthracite eyes glow with amusement as he finishes his beer.

“ Oh sure, I get frustrated most of every day. But I figure that I’d much rather do this than put a little leash round my neck in the form of a necktie and knuckle under . At least I feel alive.

After all, things are never dull when the police are trying to tear your house apart.”

Dead Kennedys - Tales from the Trial (as reported in the UK music press)

As mentioned in the article above, to raise money for the legal costs of defending the case, the Alternative Tentacles manager in the UK booked a tour by the Canadian hardcore band, Toxic Reasons. I was fortunate to see them twice on this tour, at the 100 Club (I watched the gig standing side by side to the late, great John Peel) and a little later in The Ship in Brighton. On this occasion at the end some scruffy bloke got on stage with Toxic Reasons when they played 'New Rose'. 'Hey', I said to my mate, 'That bloke looks a bit like Captain Sensible in a wig'. It was of course, the Sensible one! 

Thursday 26 March 2020

Circus Royal Brussels Belgium 26th March 1985

35 years ago in Brussels!



01. Something Better Change
02. Nuclear Device
03. Uptown
04. Dead Ringer
05. No Mercy
06. Souls
07. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
08. Midnight Summer Dream/European Female
09. Golden Brown
10. Strange Little Girl
11. Peaches
12. Death & Night & Blood
13. Threatened
14. Punch & Judy
15. Down In The Sewer
16. Nubiles (Cocktail Version)/The Raven

Wednesday 25 March 2020

Rough Justice at the Hands of the PMRC

As mentioned in the previous post, the DK's fourth album 'Frankenchrist' was a gloomy take on American society as viewed through lyricist-in-chief, Jello Biafra. As an artistic accompaniment, the album was packaged with a fold-out poster featuring a painting by noted Swiss artist H.R. Giger. Entitled 'Work 219: Landscape XX', otherwise known as 'Penis Landscape'. Depicting a series of penises and vaginas doing what penises and vaginas do, the piece was intended to depict (perhaps in a rather obvious manner) the idea of members of Jello's broken society screwing each other in the non-sexual manner.

Unfortunately, for the fortunes of Dead Kennedy's and those with close associations to them, one day a 13 year old girl purchased the record in the Wherehouse Records in Los Angeles County. The poster came to the attention of the girl's mother and after calls to the California Attorney General and the Los Angeles Prosecutors, band members and distributors found themselves on a criminal charge of 'distribution of harmful matter to minors', a charge which if successfully prosecuted carried a maximum custodial sentence of one year and a $2,000 fine. Pretty heavy stuff.

 'Work 219: Landscape XX' by H.R. Giger

The recently formed Parents Music Resource Centre (PMRC), a lobbying group of influential 'Washington Wives' (most notable of which were Tipper Gore, wife of Clinton Vice-President Al Gore and Susan Baker, wife of James baker, Treasury Secretary under George Bush Snr). The PMRC raison d'etre was to clamp down on what they saw as the degenerate elements in rock music and in this pursuit they had the ear of their power broking husbands in the capital. Incidently, it is was the PMRC who were responsible for that record shop phenomena of the 1980's, the 'Parental Advisory Explicit Content' stickers, otherwise known as 'Tipper Stickers'. I find it highly amusing that these days you are more likely to see that particular logo on T-shirts sported by the same breed of 'degenerate' musicians that the PMRC were attempting to censor! Or even more bizarrely sold to the parents of young children. Didn't see that one coming did ya Tipper!

Anyway, back to Dead Kennedy's plight. The PMRC were not slow to get in on the act. Whether or not the Dead Kennedys were on the 'Wives' radar prior to the 'Frankenchrist' furore I do not know. Primarily, the PMRC targeted their 'Filthy 15' which featured candidates that you could conceive would be in there (Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, WASP) and a couple that you wouldn't (Cyndi Lauper and Sheena Easton..... '9 to 5'?..... pure smut!). However, these were high targets, big guns in the industry with accordingly large legal teams.... but hey what about a DIY punk band on their own independent label? 

Jello Biafra's attic apartment was raided by representatives of both the Los Angeles and San Francisco Police Departments in the early hours of 15th April 1986. They were in search of 'harmful material' in the form of the Giger album poster insert.

The raid lead to the pressing of the charge of 'distribution of harmful matter to minors'. It was brought by Los Angeles City Attorney, Michale Guarino against five defendants, Jello Biafra and Michael Bonanno (former Alternative Tentacles label manager), Ruth Schwartz (owner of Mordam Records), Steve Boudreau (a distributor involved in supplying Frankenchrist to the Los Angeles Wherehouse store), and Salvatore Alberti (owner of the factory where the record was pressed).

In the initial hearing, Judge Susan Isacoff, overruled the prosecutions demands that the poster be considered in isolation of the album as a piece of pornographic obscenity. She determined that the poster must be considered in the context of the album and its material and as such it was possible to defend inclusion of the poster as art reflecting the themes expressed in the album. The case against Schwartz, Boudreau and Alberti was dropped due to a lack of evidence but Biafra and Bonanno were not off the hook.

The trial became very high profile and sparked deep debate on the subject of censorship in music championed by big guns such as Frank Zappa and .... John Denver! The band's label Alternative Tentacles established the 'No More Censorship Fund' that saw donations rolling in from across the globe, funds that would go towards the rising legal costs involved in fighting the case, an estimated $20,000.... a huge sum for the band and label in 1986!

In August 1987, the case against Jello Biafra and Michael Bonanno came before a jury who returned a verdict split 7 to 5 in favor of acquittal. Guarino efforts to force a retrial were denied by Judge Isacoff.

Here's Jello's take in his own words as he challenges Tipper Gore on the Oprah Winfrey Show:

It was a pyrrhic victory if ever there was one. The strains over the legal action that dragged on for nearly two years contributed to the band splitting..... but the censorship debate continued apace for several years afterwards.

There May Be Trouble Ahead - Frankenchrist and the PMRC Monster

In October 1985, Dead Kennedys released their fourth studio album, the provocatively titled 'Frankenchrist'. The album represents a significant departure from the trademark DKs sound. True, East Bay Ray's surf guitar remains prominent but the material is much darker than what preceded it. With 'Frankenchrist' the band deliberately slowed the tempo down, producing a dark and sinister soundscape that encroaches on progressive rock. The album offers the listener a stifling, claustrophobic vision of the 'American Dream' in the ultraconservative mid-'80's.

The America of 'Frankenchrist' is peopled with desperate souls in soup kitchen queue and dead souls trapped in dead jobs, whilst on the other side of the street, redneck vigilantes cleanse the neighbourhood of 'undesireables' free from repercussions whilst sporting jocks uphold the honour of their high schools. Over this dystopian nightmare, a corporate rock soundtrack comes courtesy of MTV!

Within weeks of the album's release the band were to clash with the Moral Majority that they had railed against for the past seven years! Initial copies of the album were issued with the inclusion of a poster featuring a sexually graphic work by renowned Swiss artist, H.R. Giger. But more of that later.

Things were about to get interesting.

The lawsuits came in thick and fast, including one from the unwilling (and clearly disgruntled) cover stars of the album.

These are The Shriners, or Shriners International.... previously, the 'Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine'. Yep, you guessed it, The Shriners are a fraternity organised on Masonic principles. In the US they are perhaps best known for their patronage and funding of The Shriners Hospitals for Children. Shriner Temples have associated parade units charged with the responsibility of presenting a positive image of the Shriner organisation to the public at large. This they do by participating in parades, driving characteristic lawnmower engine powered miniature vehicles whilst sporting the red fezzes for which they are also known.

'Wacky' Nashville Shiners on parade
(in no way sinister....)

I know, I know, I don't get it either, Freemasons, Water Buffalos and now Shriners. I thought the Scouts were bad enough!

Anyway, here's what 'Sounds' in the UK had to say about it in early 1986:

'The Dead Kennedys, currently facing three separate lawsuits in California, are now reportedly being sued by an American organisation called The Shriners over the cover of their "Frankenchrist" album last year.

The Kennedys spokesman here said that no notification of any charge has been received by Jello Biafra, Alternative Tentacles, or their lawyer, although reports in the American press have suggested that The Shriners, from Detroit, plan to sue for $45 million dollars over a photograph on the album sleeve, which shows some of their members on parade.

The offending photo, and the rights to use it were, The Kennedys state purchased from Newsweek magazine.

"According to newspapers in the US, we were accused of holding The Shriners in a bad light," comments Biafra. "This stinks of petty harassment. America is the only country in the entire Western world where the laws are rigged in such a way that anyone would even THINK of filing a lawsuit as ridiculous as this."'

Shriners International logo

Dead Kennedys Pine Street Theatre Portland Oregon 16th October 1984

So now we arrive at 1984, the year forever associated with Big Brother, the systematic destruction of free will all of that uplifting Orwellian stuff.... right up the Dead Kennedys street!Long-standing art collaborator, Winston Smith, even took his name from the book's anti-hero.

Quite some time had passed since the band's last album, 'Plastic Surgery Disaters' so throughout 1984 they were in a position to showcase new, as yet unrecorded, material at their gigs. In the gig that follows, they are playing six songs from the album that would be 'Frankenchrist' a full year before the album was released.

I note that this gig I have posted before, some years ago, but this could be an upgrade, I dunno. But it is of excellent quality and well worth a listen. For me this is the epitome of a Kennedys gig, with Jello in full-flow between numbers. The man can talk, it's no wonder that after the bands demise he found a welcoming home on the spoken word circuit.


01. Intro
02. Soup Is Good Food
03. Hellnation
04. Chat
05. This Could Be Anywhere (This Could Be Everywhere)
06. Chat
07. When You Get Drafted
08. Terminal Preppie
09. MTV Get Off the Air
10. A Child and His Lawnmower
11. Chat
12. Jock-o-Rama
13. Moral Majority
14. Chat
15. Kill the Poor
16. Chat
17. Macho Insecurity
18. Chat
19. Police Truck
20. Chat
21. Goons of Hazard
22. California Uber Alles
23. Break

01. Chat
02. Government Flu
03. Bleed for Me
04. Chat
05. Short Songs
06. Nazi Punks Fuck Off

Tuesday 24 March 2020

Dead Kennedys/Peter And The Test Tube Babies/Millions of Dead Cops The Warehouse Liverpool 17th November 1982 Live Review (Melody Maker)

Here's a live review of the bands gig in Liverpool, two weeks or so before the Brixton finale, with the Test Tubes and MDC. Sorry for the state of the cutting. It spent many years on my wall..... many years ago!

Dead Kennedys The Ace Brixton London 2nd December 1982

Something of a classic this one. In 1983 Channel 4 (the new kid on the block as far as TV channels in the UK were concerned) aired a programme entitled 'Whatever You Didn't Get', a youth magazine programme that featured live music from the Ace in Brixton. The name was a reference to the previous year's series 'Whatever You Want'. Makes sense really.

One of the bands to appear on the series were Dead Kennedys. As I recall four songs from the gig were aired although the full film of the show is in circulation (and can also be found on YouTube).

Here's a better quality clip from the broadcast.

'Bleed For Me'/'Holiday In Cambodia'
The Ace, Brixton 2nd December 1982

Footnote: The video notes suggest that this was actually broadcast as part of the earlier 'Whatever You Want' series on 6th December 1982.

The audio is something rather special. The second album 'Plastic Surgery Disasters' was in the can and due for imminent release at the time of The Ace gig. As such the set is heavy on the new material, but given the quality of that album, who's to moan about that.



01. Saturday Night Holocaust
02. Kepone Factory
03. Insight
04. Life Sentence
05. Trust Your Mechanic
06. Moral Majority
07. I Am the Owl
08. Halloween
09. Police Truck
10. Riot
11. Bleed for Me
12.Holiday in Cambodia
13. Nazi Punks Fuck Off
14. Chemical Warfare
15. Stealing People's Mail
16. We've Got a Bigger Problem Now
17. Let's Lynch the Landlord
18. Kill the Poor

Dead Kennedys - New Musical Express Interview 17th October 1981

Here's an NME interview with the band who were over on their second UK tour shortly prior to the release of the 'In God We Trust, Inc.' EP. Here the band talk of their game plan of cultural terrorism, the Moral majority and the influence of the New Right on successive US Governments.

'Films like Swedish Virgins and Diary Of A Nymphomaniac take a backseat tonight as Birmingham's Imperial cinema plays host to what the gutter press, city fathers and the Mecca Organisation would have you believe is a whole lot more harmful and perverted than fifth rate skin flicks.

Laydeez and Gentlemen, your attention please - they've been scorned in San Francisco, treated like lepers in LA, dreaded in Dundee. Let me hear it for the loudest, the brashest, the cleverest and the funniest punk band in captivity. I give you The Dead Kennedys! ! An onslaught of potent cackles, ripfire threats and pure horror dedicated to the fading memory of the American dream, the sound of a hollow culture crashing to the ground.

In the dressing room, polite fun loving drummer Darren is sharing urinal intimacy with small studious bass player Klaus. As they hover precariously over a gradually filling paint pot the group's main madman Jello Biafra paces the dressing room in a doctor's coat and tie-dye T shirt. There's a marked exasperation about Biafra, who's determined the Kennedys should be cranked up to full malevolent intensity and slam straight through five new songs so that the audience has no time to let their attention stray or to start barking for old favourites. But he seems a little peeved, unsure if his urgency is getting through to his four partners.

For the first few songs any such fears are dispelled, Biafra's mighty voice carries the group and their absurdly knucklebound sound - mesmeric gutsy guitar, punched bass rivets and crude slamming drums - right into the heart of the crowd. Then, just when it seemed like nothing could stop The Dead Kennedys' crazy pyscho-drama from reaching its high pressure peak they hit overload and, bang, East Bay Ray's guitar amp gives up for the fifth and last time on their whist le stop British tour.

The next fifteen minutes see the stage filled with squatters rather than invaders, mostly drunken berks and publicity seekers with nothing to offer except apathy, indolence and ignorance. Biafra handles the hecklers with tact and a brave cutting edge.

" Look at this lazy sod," he says, indicating a rotund idiot who's deposited himself at his feet, " he sits on the middle of the stage and passes out as if he was at a Pink Floyd concert."

There's a lot of idiots trying to grab his microphone. One guy wants everyone to remember his friend, allegedly killed by 'the pigs' in Birmingham recently, but mostly they just want to sing a chorus of 'Anarchy' or shout obscenities at anyone who cares to listen.  Jello gives as good as he gets : "It's
funny how everybody wants anarchy but they also want to rule at the same time," he smirks
meaningfully. " Well it's good to see the intelligentsia have come along tonight.”

Eventually the amp is replaced and the stage cleared as the group has treated the audience to a minimalist (bass, drums and vovals) version of the epileptically named narcotic satire ‘Drug Me’. The songs are half old and half new, not the sort of thing that I’d want to listen to every but ‘Landlord’, ‘Too Drunk To Fuck' and 'Holiday In Cambodia' are classics of their kind, and new songs like the commendably straightforward 'Nazi Punks Fuck Off' and 'I Am The Owl' are right up there with them.

What sets the Kennedys apart from other punk bands is the intelligence of their songs which, while never losing sight of a basic punk motto - think fast, react - are crafted to go beyond the obvious, gobbling up facts and attitudes to see things through to their logical, often macabre conclusion. Onstage this can take the form of an improvised pre-amble before the songs, the brushed denim secret police of 'California Uber Alles' and Governor Jerry 'Linda' Brown are forgotten as the group's debut single is
preceded by an imaginary dialogue between Margaret Thatcher, Alexander Haig and Ronald Reagan. The song itself now goes: "I am emperor Ronald Reagan born again with fascist cravings ... "

"In the States there's a lot more of what is called slam, dance and crash from stage invaders. They get up on stage and quickly dive off, rather than just sitting there like a bunch of bozos. You do get a bunch who try to jump on other people when they aren't looking, but generally it's a lot of fun."

Biafra is togged out in his winter wear happily exchanging news and views with it collection of fans, some of who have been following the group for the past three evenings, sleeping in the bus stations and eating very little to keep expenses low. Everyone is on their way to the second gig of the evening, across to the city centre Cedar Club where Discharge are playing. Biafra is an avid record collector and right now he's overawed by the outpourings of numerous US and British third wave punk bands. On the one hand he's just released 'Let them Eat Jellybeans', a compilation of groups that would otherwise never be heard of outside their home town, on The Dead Kennedys own Alternative Tentacles label, and on the other ... well, there he is right at the front of the stage for the Discharge performance, pushing, pogoing and grappling with the best of them as the angry cleansing spirit of Discharge fires through their mini meisterwerk 'Does The System Work'.

Jello Biafra - no one could ever pronounce his real name so he changed it - moved to San Francisco from Colorado about five years ago. Before forming The Dead Kennedys he'd been an insurance salesman, an actor and a journalist. The latter he did for enjoyment, and I imagine he was very good at it. He gave it up because "it became a bit too much like school, I ended up doing all my copy the night before the deadline." Since joining The Dead Kennedys he has made a marked impression in an election for the mayor of San Francisco, part of his manifesto being that all businessmen would be made to wear clown
suits. He's also had his group banned from all the predictable places. That's undoubtedly because in the great big world of American rock 'n' youth culture (not so much of the great) the crazy jabbering mad eyed anger of Jello Biafra is something to be thankful for amid the witless bluster of The Ramones, Springsteen, Blondie et al. The Dead Kennedys are one of the few American groups that give any clue towards the mass disaffection which the young people of the country must be feeling in the wake of Reagan's war-mongering.

In-Sight: D.H., Klaus, Jello and Ray (Birmingham 1981)

The group aren't afraid to attack idiocy in their own ranks either;  with the superb, subtle as a flying mallet rant 'Nazi Punks'  they shame many of their English counterparts. In view of recent events aren't they wary about playing the song in Britain?

"No, not at all if something needs to be said we're not going to shirk from it."

Do you get Nazi rabble in your gigs in the USA?

"Many of them don't know what it means. They just think swastikas shock their parents. They're not even shocking their parents because they've been brought up by a bunch of right wing assholes who've told them that it’s cool to be a racist. We figure that if they're going to be punks and listen to punk music
Then they might as well really listen to it and understand it and realise that it's not just a bunch of racist crap."

"What about Oi though? That's racist isn't it?" asks a fan from London.

"Some of it is and some of it isn't. I haven't seen an Oi gig over here and I haven’t met any of the bands. On the Oi album I liked Peter And The Test Tube Babies and Garry Johnson because they seemed to be bringing other influences into play besides HM punk.

"I think we're probably closer in our thinking and where we're coming from to Crass, and maybe even Discharge, than we are to the so-called Oi bands. We are not afraid nor are we ashamed of being political. Even 'Too Drunk To' Fuck' turns into a political song because of all the self proclaimed moralists and church groups who tried to get the song banned over here. Incidentally they gave us free publicity and our first hit single, which I thought was funnier than hell."

'Too Drunk To Fuck' is The Dead Kennedys' only single release this year, along with 'Bleed For Me' on 'Urghh - A Music War' and 'Nazi Punks' their contribution to the 'Jellybeans' compilation, the only new music from them this year. It's perhaps the most powerful record they've made, a special mix of molotov guitar cocktail and sterling production which certainly sees off the most celebrated moments of the Stooges. It is also a very funny record.

Biafra smiles slyly from behind the brim of his pint glass.

"Far from being offensive I think it was an educational song. It's exactly the sort of thing that your mammy or Sunday School won't tell you about. I think the people banning the record are the people that it's happened to.

"What I find really funny is how we can distress people who haven't even met us. One of the things that keeps us going is that we're really anti-social people, and though we do have big audiences here and we’re considered mainstream we do enjoy annoying people, getting under their skin and forcing them to think."

The next Dead Kennedys release is an eight track 'anti-church' EP (as yet untitled) which will provide the link between their rushed and misproduced first album and their second album which will continue the psycho-delic strain of 'Holidays In Cambodia'.

" America has all these right wing church groups at the minute that put Reagan in office. They're called the Moral Majority and they're run by Gerry Falwell who's a television evangelist who rakes in 50 million dollars a year. He's going political at the same time and he's got his hooks into Reagan and all these conservative money organizations who run ads against liberal politicians all over the country. When George McGovern was running against Nixon they put posters saying George McGovern is a babykiller because he was for legalised abortion.

"This is the way the MM thinks. They aren't nearly a majority nor are they in any way moral but they are a force that must be crushed.

 "They're as scary in our country as the NF is in yours, probably more so because it is all older people who have put their money behind it. Insurance companies have put money into it because if women don't get equal rights then they don't have to pay them full premiums. This is what has helped create what is known as The New Right.

" The Moral Majority want to force Christian prayer in school, bring a police state into play, with unlimited surveillance by the FBI and the re-introduction of the treason laws, meaning guess who'd be the first to go? They want to make abortions illegal so that you'd have to go to Mexico with rusty knives in the basement to get rid of unwanted children.

"We have a song on our EP called 'Moral Majority' but we played in Glasgow and no-one understood it. It's something that people have to watch because I've never seen a 'Christian' bible toting religious cult turn so blatantly fascist in America. They don't use swastikas, they use crosses and bibles so that a lot of people haven't caught on to them yet."

Just like the 'Reverend' Ian Paisley, Jello and guitar player East Bay Ray were recently ordained at a college in America where they more or less sell the certificates over a counter. The good thing about this is that as men of the cloth they can't be considered for drafting. While Biafra's interest in politics far outweighs his interest in religion, the former stretching to back to when he was about 5 years old and began passing up on the cartoons so he could watch the news, he has flirted with certain spiritual phenomena.

"When I was in drama school I had some really good instructors' and directors who thought nothing of giving kids parts that were difficult for Broadway adults. I had mostly 'method' directors, where you build the character from within and find out what makes them tick, rather than a 'technique' director who makes you take so many steps breath, step back and speak etc. I don't relate to that 'at all.

"Method acting comes into play with our performance and sometimes it really sinks in and we're totally demonic and possessed, like our Liverpool show this time. In the ha ha to Adam Ant department I went to a-Sioux  wardance where there are definite forces going on that are not scientifically explained. I couldn't put my finger on what it was exactly, but it was definitely a very uplifting experience for me.

" I also do relaxations that I learned in theatre classes and try to apply them to medicine and to get rid of colds. I got rid of a knee injury that way which I got diving offstage and going kneecap first into a monitor. It's something I've barely touched on but I'm keen to explore when time permits."

Being on the road with The Dead Kennedys is an amicable enough proposition. The other members might not say much but they are accomodating and keen-eyed observers. Three of the group wear Clarke Kent glasses offstage - guitar players East Bay Ray and Micro Wave along with Klaus Floride, who looks like a younger, healthier Elvis Costello. The band's latestrecruit is drummer Darren who comes from Chicago and previously played with The Aliens, backing band to famous acid casualty Roky Erikson, and Darren still keeps his 'arm in' playing with The Speedboys, a local San Francisco group, when The Dead Kennedys aren't in action. The group emphasise the fact that they are all reclusive and separate
characters and it's a fusion of all their outside interests which brings about The Dead Kennedys' ravaged vision of America.

In addition to Darren's drumming outside the band, East Bay Ray produces a couple of local bands and experiments with synthesisers. He's a big fan of various German electronic musicians and is on the look-out for a suitable synth player for the Kennedys. Biafra runs the American end of Alternative Tentacles' operations and a local radio show, while coy Klaus (he won't tell his age) keeps a travelogue of tapes from each town the group visit for an as yet unrevealed purpose. He has his own very strong views on The Dead Kennedys as I found out when I asked if they were out to shock their listeners.

Klaus: "We don't want to shock people for the sake of shocking people. We're not like The Plasmatics; we want to shock people into thinking. The Dead Kennedys are not here to ' cash in on the Kennedys' name or to cause them more grief - they've had enough grief already. What the name represents is the
downfall of the idea that everything is getting bigger and better. You just have to look at the difference between people like Eisenhower and Haig; Eisenhower was genuinely elected president and his last statement to the public was 'beware, of the military industrial complex', Haig will ask people to embrace it."

The last time an American musician was asked for a reaction to the shooting of President Reagan in these pages he claims to I have been in tears upon hearing the news. So was Jello Biafra, though for different reasons.

"I was staying with friends in Orange County and I'd just fallen asleep when there was a banging on the door and someone was shouting 'Biafra, Biafra get up, Reagan has just got shot.' My initial reaction was 'Let me sleep', but eventually I got up and we sat in front of the TV and laughed like it was a Marx Brothers movie!'

Do you support terrorism?

"People who don't want to obey an army sergeant and just want to have fun with guns are no better than anyone else, much worse probably. But I'm all for cultural terrorism, trying to create change through art rather than physical violence."

This 'art' you talk of, is it misunderstood?

"People who don't want to use art as a weapon aren't artists at all. You've got to want to inflict somethiing on someone, be it positive or negative. Rather than just trying to entertain, to please and to sell. In no way is that art."

Biafra eschews all forms of drugs, mainly because he's seen so many musicians throw away their talent on stimulants.

"As a music fan that bugs me a lot. Coincidentally or not, one thing I've noticed since Reagan came to power is that there's a lot more speed and a lot more heroin and a lot more of everything dangerous available and being fed to the punks. In the suburbs there's suddenly all these people, taking acid. I think it is totally planned in order to torpedo another youth cult before it starts, just like acid and pot torpedoed the hippies before they could overthrow Nixon."

Of course there are far more subtle and widespread ways of controlling and influencing youth so that they become fodder for the state's insatiable cravings.

"It only dawned on me about a year ago that everyone I know had a real bitch for a second grade teacher. I think that's the year they try and break your spirit and make you conform and learn the rules to obey rather than ways to create. I think the fact that they emphasise planning and de-emphasise creativity explains not only why idiots who go through art school adding crudeness to childishness get labeled as geniuses, but also why they've managed to produce a race of idiots. The American school system is a very vicious instrument of corporate control."

Jello Biafra may sound like one of life's great paranoids - maybe he just sees things as they are and ploughs on regardless. There can be no doubting the validity and good sense of The Dead Kennedys as a subversive thorn in the flesh to both American society and its behemoth-fuelled rock industry. They aren't strangled by guilt complexes, but their accomplished comic stripped razor edged dynamics make no secret of past crimes.


" ‘I Am The Owl' is about Watergate criminals who come out of retirement. It's sort of a composite of several dirty tricks that have gone on over the years by the FBI and the CIA. There's a line about LSD, it's about this guy who was the leader of a gang of semi-thugs. They fed him full of acid and let him loose on a freeway where he just wandered around ‘til he was knocked down. They tried to hush up and pretend it was a great mystery, but a friend of mine has a father in the police and we got to hear about how they sat around drinking after hours congratulating each other on getting rid of this local annoyance."

'Keypone Factory' is about-this chemical factory owned by Allied Chemicals in Virginia and how they've manufactured toxic chemical spray and dumped the waste in Chesapeake Bay which is now closed to fishing. The people who worked there were given no masks so they breathed all this shit into their lungs and started to get double vision, become impotent and get all gnarled and spastic. The company  offered them all spectacular Hot Rod cars if they didn't say anything but by that time everyone was too gnarled and spastic to even drive. "

Aren't there lobbies and outrages about this sort of thing?

"There are lobbies against it, but the lobbies of the chemical industries are much stronger because they have much more money. The US government is pushed around by lobbying groups on the far right."

In the Weimar Republic a lot of big companies financed Hitler's rise to power and a lot of them are still very successful today.

"Something that's very scary is that General Motors sued the American government after World War 2 for bombing some of their factories in Nazi Germany which had been kept open during the war. And they won."

Don't you think it's ultimately futile straining against the power and cut throat tactics of these bodies?

"It takes time. I just hope, unlike the '60’s where people made a definite dent and then gave up, turning out to be almost as conservative as their parents - that everyone keeps pushing this time."'