JELLO BIAFRA: “I’m not a drug addict, I’m not religious, music is my higher power, and I never know what’s coming next”

Mörat, Ralph Arvesen, Matthew Kadi – KERRANG!, January 14, 2021

We sit down for an audience with former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra to talk punk, politics, the PMRC and Portlandia…

As the former frontman of legendary punk band Dead Kennedys, and a hugely influential artist in his own right, Jello Biafra has been a thorn in the side of authority since he was old enough to tie his own shoelaces. An advocate of freedom of speech, he ran for mayor of San Francisco in 1979 (finishing third out of 10), faced trial for obscenity in 1986 (finally acquitted but facing financial ruin) and penned such classics as Nazi Punks Fuck Off and Let’s Lynch The Landlord, many of which remain all too relevant to this day.

Since the demise of the Dead Kennedys in ’86, Jello has worked with everyone from Al JourgensenPitchshifter and The Offspring to the MelvinsSepultura and Reverend Horton Heat, along with releasing numerous spoken word albums. He’s also put out three albums with his band Jello Biafra And The Guantanamo School Of Medicine, the latest of which – the brilliant Tea Party Revenge Porn – was recently released online. COVID be damned, Jello is a busy man, and he shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Tell us a little about your upbringing. Apparently, your parents let you watch TV uncensored. Is that true?

“The funny part is, they did get really weird about stuff they considered too violent, which included Star Trek! And I was never given a toy gun or anything, but I just realised, in adulthood, how rare it was that they didn’t change the channel the minute something unpleasant came on the news. I’d watch cartoon shows and then watch the news with equal fascination. I’m told my favourite cartoon characters were Bullwinkle and senator Everett Dirksen. So I saw Lee Harvey Oswald get shot, I saw the Berlin Wall go up… It was also back in the day when there were only three competing TV networks and they took pride in their news coverage, so things like Vietnam and starving children in Biafra – which is were I took my name – were right there on the evening news, completely uncensored. Instead of changing the channel, it was discussed, even if I was six years old. I wasn’t just informed, I was obsessed. I was a newshound even before the JFK assassination.” [+]