There was one local fly-by-nighter who offered $100,000 for ten days but I didn’t dignify that call with a reply. The most ridiculous offer of all was from Gene Simmons of KISS calling me up wanting movie rights to Frankenchrist trial (where Biafra defended an H.R. Giger poster included with the record deemed “harmful matter,” on the grounds of free speech, as detailed on his spoken-word album High Priest of Harmful Matter -AT ed.). Meeting Frank Zappa was one of the few silver linings to come out of the trial. He got a hold of me and the helpers of the No More Censorship Defense Fund rather than us having to find him. He gave me some very valuable advice very early on; something that anybody subjected to that kind of harassment should remember: You are the victim. You have to constantly frame yourself that way in the mass media so you don’t get branded some kind of outlaw simply because of your beliefs and the way you express your art. The outlaws are the police. I got to visit Frank two or three more times at his house in Los Angeles and those were very special times. He showed me a hilarious Christian aerobics video. The women were in their skintight leotards doing jumping jacks. “One-two, two-two, three-two, praise the Lord!” And of course the bustiest one was in a striped spandex suit dead front center of the screen!
I’m drying out from recording and mixing a track, of all things, a Willie Nelson “tribute album”. For anybody who knows the song,” Still is Still Moving to Me,” it’s the closest thing to a, oh, a Dead Kennedys “Holiday in Cambodia” sounding song that he ever came up with, and the lyrics are cool too.
Working with Al Jourgensen was never a dull moment. He’s the Jerry Lee Lewis of the 90’s……. what can we do? He was even supposed to produce Jerry Lee but I guess Jerry Lee backed out at the last minute.
Ice-T is one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met. I don’t agree with all of his views-especially in the area of women! – but overall he’s a fascinating person to be around. The intelligence and energy just kind of rubs off and sparkles. “Cop Killer” is the “Born to Be Wild” of the 90’s. Everything that people find shocking now will routine in ten years. It always works out that way. Remember when Elvis Presley’s legs were banned from television? I envision that someday an ad will come on television,” Remember the good old 90’s? Well relive the nostalgia with Cop-Killers-Hating Whitey in the 90’s, starring Body Count, Ice Cube, Ice-T, NWA, Snoop Doggy Dog…” you name it.
We played shows together with Black Flag, we networked together, tipped each other to promoters in different cities when one of us would run across somebody new. There was much more of a cohesive bond between the bands that were then called punk and hardcore because there were so few of us and it was against everything we hated about the 70’s and the music establishment. We had to crack open places for us and other people to playin’ town. The very idea of an all-ages show horrified New York. But once we got in and were able to do that, it exploded and all these bands came out. That happened in a lot of places, and leaders in cracking open those towns were Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys, and D.O.A..
I’m one of the few people in this town who has articulate danger towards the outbreak of punk fundamentalism, especially when the dictator of the biggest local so-called punk magazine (Maximum Rock’n’roll) is now advocating violence against people he doesn’t like. What I’ve had to do is to point out that not everybody who has a long and deep involvement with punk wants to turn it into something bitter, fundamentalist, isolationist church, and go around playing “cop” on other people. If that was the attitude I’d found when I first got into punk, I would have gotten right back out again. I think that circling the wagons and putting up fences right at a time when millions of new people could potentially turn onto the politics and spirit of punk is sad and irresponsible.
I don’t think either the Offspring or Green Day started their bands with the intention of becoming so enormously popular; that sort of fell in their laps-especially the Offspring. My attitude is if somebody blunders into the level of popularity, at least remember the human factor. These guys are still human beings and hopefully still have hearts and if you keep in touch with them rather than vilify them you may be able to encourage them to go in the right direction. What I’m hoping will eventually happen is that they will grasp the amount of power and financial clout that is now at their fingertips and use those as tools to help real people with real things the way punk politics was always designed to do before, but nobody had any money.
The Grateful Dead, of all people, had been doing this for years with a grant foundation. They would donate about a million dollars a year from concert receipts or benefit concerts, and that money would then be doled out to people that applied for the grant for everything from soup kitchens, battered women’s shelters, rural school districts who don’t have any money for instruments for a music program or an aspiring composer. It was a way of putting the politics behind the music into something other than your own pocket.
I still think, quality of the bands aside, the only reason this later batch of bands (grunge, Green Day, the Offspring) got signed and pushed was to help steer white suburban kids away from political black rap music. Reggae they could buy-at least there the revolution was aimed at Jamaica – but some of these people were talking about revolution in the United States. “We can’t have these future middle-class model citizens finding out what America is really like!! No, no, no! Come on kids! Shoe gaze, shoe gaze! Remember, you’re slackers! You’re Generation X! You’re not supposed to care!” The whole slacker myth was imposed from above after these very alleged slackers helped throw George Bush out of the White House.
There isn’t one magical solution. I do think that more people listen to artists-especially rappers-and musicians than they do to politicians, and if there’re going to look at us for leadership and brain food, we ought to provide some ideas for improvement over the current collapse of the Roman Empire that we’re witnessing in this country. I have tossed out some ideas on Beyond the Valley of the Gift Police (Biafra’s fourth spoken word album -AT ed.), some of them sarcastic but some of them also very practical. There’s a lot of allegations about the [government and AIDS] that have even made the London Times, and I haven’t really made up my mind. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit, though, the way we play around with germ bombs in the country. There was one group of military scientists who immediately went into the heart of Zaire when they first heard about the Ebola virus, and there reaction instead of wanting to exterminate it, was “Wow! Wouldn’t this make a great toy? Let’s take some back to Fort Detrick, Maryland.” And they did. And sure enough, some of the monkeys escaped., but they were recaptured. But it makes me wonder how many other things like that have happened where the germs did get out. There’s lots of evidence that that outbreak of hantavirus in New Mexico the Summer before last that killed large numbers of Native Americans had actually been leaked out of germ warfare lab right next to an Indian reservation in the Southwest.
This is my home. Home is where the disease is. As long as I stay in America, I’ll never run out of subjects for songs.
– Jello Biafra
1 comment on "Punk Politics by Jello Biafra"
July 5, 2020 (14:30)
I hope you are still active doing writings and waiting for the pandemic to end so you can resume spoken word shows again! Thanx for some great memories… waiting for more to come. Frankie Clinton!