Jello Biafra

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Biafra Talks California Politics, 2006

Jello Biafra (real name Eric Reed Boucher ; born June 17, 1958 in Boulder , Colorado ) is an American hardcore and punk rock musician and political activist who became famous as the lead singer of the punk band Dead Kennedys .


After the Dead Kennedys disbanded in 1986, he became a solo artist, released several spoken word albums and entered into musical collaborations with bands such as Ministry (under the name Lard ), No Means No , Mojo Nixon, Eugene Chadbourne , DOA and the Melvins . Throughout his career, he released his albums on his own label Alternative Tentacles .

Biafra is an active member of the Green Party and has participated in political actions that correspond to its progressive political ideas. He sees himself as a democratic anarchist . He advocates civil disobedience to bring about political change, but also regularly calls on election-weary Americans to vote for opposition parties. Biafra became known for its controversial use of the media to illuminate serious issues such as civil rights , social injustice and the increasing power of large corporations, in the tradition of the anarchists .


His stage name is an ironic combination of the brand name Jell-O , a gelatin dish, and the Nigerian province of Biafra , which tried to break away from Nigeria in 1966. After four years of fighting and appalling famine , Nigeria finally regained control of the nascent state. He chose the name specifically to illustrate the connection between consumer-oriented capitalism and violence in third world countries .


Youth and band

Biafra live with the Dead Kennedys

His parents Stanley and Virginia Boucher encouraged Biafra to learn about foreign policy as a child, and so he developed an interest in the subject from childhood. He followed the current political news and one of his earliest childhood memories was the assassination attempt on John F. Kennedy . Biafra claims to have been a fan of rock music since 1965 when his parents accidentally tuned into a rock station on the radio. In the 1970s he participated in various political actions under the influence of events such as the Vietnam War , the Chicago Seven Trial and the Kent State Massacre .

He began his musical career in January 1977 as a roadie for the punk band The Ravers (which would later be renamed The Nails ). In the fall of the same year he began attending the University of California, Santa Cruz . There he spent three months studying acting and Paraguayan history before leaving university to join the San Francisco, California punk scene.

In June 1978, he responded to an ad from guitarist East Bay Ray , with whom he formed the Dead Kennedys. He initially performed with the band under the stage name "Occupant", but took on his current stage name a short time later. Biafra wrote the mostly political lyrics of the band, which despite their serious background are characterized by a malicious, sometimes absurd humor.

In June 1979, Biafra founded the label Alternative Tentacles , on which the Dead Kennedys released their first single California Uber Alles . Alternative Tentacles was founded in order to be able to publish the albums of the band independently of the pressure of the major labels; because they weren't ready to sign the band because their songs were considered too controversial. After Cherry Red in England and IRS Records released their first album " Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables " in the USA , all of the band's later albums (and subsequent reprints from Fresh Fruit ... ) were released on Alternative Tentacles (exceptions are live albums, which were put together after the split of the band from old recordings of the band, which happened without Biafras input).

Since his original version of the text to the song Man with the dogs , the B-side of the first Dead Kennedys single California über alles , not like right away, Jello Biafra applied the cut-up technique of the writer William S. Burroughs on : Jello Biafra cut up the individual lines of the song on paper, pushed them around and put them back together at random until an acceptable text came out. Burroughs' modern approach to language influenced Jello Biafra's style of writing songs. In the same way, Biafra wrote the lyrics to Volcanus 2000 (We Wipe The World) , a song of his side project Lard . Afterwards, Jello Biafra picks up the snippets and small pieces of paper in transparent sleeves .

Political candidacy

In the fall of 1979, he ran for Mayor of San Francisco. He borrowed his motto from the Jell-O advertising slogan “ There's always room for Jello ”. Biafra had entered the election campaign without an election platform; he later wrote it down on a napkin during a Pere Ubu concert. At election campaign events, Biafra wore T-shirts from the previous election campaign of his opponent Quentin Kopp and once blew leaves on the lawn of another competitor, the then US Senator Dianne Feinstein . Biafras supporters carried out similar bizarre actions: For example, two well-known signs held up by supporters read "If he doesn't win, I'll kill myself" and "What if he wins?"

His election manifesto contained unconventional demands. For example, all business people were to be forced to wear clown costumes and driving would be banned throughout the city (although this was not considered unusual by many voters as the city was suffering from significant air pollution at the time). Biafra, who would have preferred to be remembered for serious proposals - such as legalizing the occupation of vacant, tax-overdue buildings and the ability to vote for the police officers to patrol the neighborhood - has expressed anger that those very demands are being made his election manifesto achieved such fame.

Biafra achieved the fourth best result with 3.5% (6591 votes). The election was decided in a runoff that took place without Biafra (Feinstein eventually became mayor). In response to his election campaign (and that of Sister Boom Boom, a transvestite who was also running), the city of San Francisco passed law prohibiting running under any name other than his real name.

The Dead Kennedys toured frequently throughout their careers. In the beginning they played in small clubs in Southern California (especially Whiskey A Go-Go), but then also in larger clubs across the country, including the legendary CBGB in New York. They later also performed in front of large audiences, such as the 1980 Bay Area Music Awards (where they played the infamous "Pull My Strings" for the first and only time) or the 1983 Rock Against Reagan Festival.

Marriage, trial, dissolution

On October 31, 1981, Biafra married Therese Soder aka Ninotchka, lead singer of the punk band The Situations (she is the background singer of the songs "Forest Fire" and "Winnebago Warrior" on the Dead Kennedy's album Plastic Surgery Disasters and on "Drug Me" by the Dead Kennedys) Album Fresh Fruit For rotting Vegetables , where she also plays synthesizers). The wedding was performed by Bruce Loose , singer and bassist for the band Flipper ; Loose had entered Universal Life Church specifically for this purpose - that is, he had paid the required amount. The wedding took place in a cemetery; the wedding reception, attended by members of Black Flag , DOA and Flipper, at the Target Video studios of director Joe Reis .

The marriage was divorced in 1986 during the Frankenchrist trial when Soder ran away with ex- Feederz lead singer Frank Discussion, who was going in and out of them at the time.

Biafra began his spoken word career in January 1986 with an appearance at the University of California, Los Angeles. He combined his kind of humor with his political beliefs, just as he had done in the Dead Kennedys' lyrics. Biafra pursued this career on the side, but only recorded a spoken word album after the Dead Kennedys broke up.

In April of the same year, police officers ransacked Biafra's house in response to a complaint from the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC). In June 1986, Biafra was charged in a Los Angeles court with "malicious content" on the Dead Kennedys album Frankenchrist . There were neither music nor lyrics of the band object of the process, but an included the album Poster: Landscape (also known as "Penis Landscape" known) of HR Giger , the surrealist Swiss artist who for his contribution to the film Alien 1980 an Oscar received would have. The poster showed the artistically alienated close-up of a sexual act and was therefore viewed as harmful to young people.

Biafra believes this trial was politically motivated; it has often been reported that the PMRC took Biafra to court to send a signal to all artists using "objectionable" material in their music. Music writer Rebbe Garofalo argued that Biafra and Alternative Tentacles may have been targeted by the PMRC because Alternative Tentacles is "a small, self-managed, self-financing company that could hardly afford a lengthy process". A family allegedly claimed that the poster put their children at risk.

At risk of a year in prison and a $ 2,000 fine, Biafra set up the No More Censorship Fund, a foundation supported by several punk rock bands to help Biafra pay its fines. The jury eventually acquitted him by seven votes to five, and although a district attorney moved to reopen the case, the judge ordered all charges against Biafra to be dropped. The Dead Kennedys broke up in December 1986 due to rising legal costs and Biafra focused on a career as a spoken word artist. His first spoken word albums, which were heavily trial-related (especially High Priest Of Harmful Matter ), made him famous for his anti-censorship stance.

New beginning

In 1988 Biafra formed the band Lard with Al Jourgensen from Ministry . The band became a side project of the members of Ministry, in which Biafra took over the vocals. While working on the 1989 film Terminal City Ricochet , Biafra recorded a song with DOA for the film's soundtrack. This resulted in their joint album Last Scream Of The Missing Neighbors . Biafra had also collaborated with No Means No on the soundtrack, which the following year led to their collaboration on The Sky Is Falling And I Want My Mommy album .

On May 7, 1994, Biafra was attacked at the 924 Gilman Street Club in Berkeley , California by people accusing him of selling out. Biafra says he was attacked by a man called Creton, who crashed into him while he was pogging . Biafra's leg broke from the clash, resulting in an argument between the two. As the argument progressed, Creton knocked Biafra to the ground and five or six friends of Creton's kicked Biafra while yelling, "Sell-out rock star, kick him!" Biafra was hospitalized with serious injuries. A spoken word tour through Canada had to be canceled as a result and plans to record a spoken word album during this tour had to be discarded.

legal action

In October 1998, Biafra was sued by the remaining band members of the Dead Kennedys because he had not paid the income due to them from the sales of the Dead Kennedys albums. According to Biafra, the lawsuit resulted from his refusal to release the band's biggest hit, the single Holiday in Cambodia , for a Levi’s commercial. Biafra was leaning in his opinion, unfair methods of competition and sweatshops of Levi Strauss & Co. from. The three former members alleged that their lawsuit had nothing to do with advertising, but rather with Biafra's non-payment of royalties and non-promotion of the albums. Biafra disagreed, again claiming not to participate in the proceeds of the reissued studio albums and posthumously released live albums that were sold to other labels through the partnership with Decay Music. He also complained about changed credits to studio and live albums, in which songs for which Biafra was solely responsible are passed off as arranged by the whole band. The rest of the band re-founded as DK Kennedys and replaced Biafra first with Brandon Cruz , later by Jeff Penalty . However, the band found themselves exposed to criticism from Dead Kennedys fans due to Biafras lack. Biafra openly criticized the lawsuits and reunion tours of his former bandmates, especially in his song Those Dumb Punkkids (Will Buy Anything) recorded with the Melvins .

Political activity

In 1999, as part of the anti-globalization movement , Biafra took part in the protests during the WTO ministerial conference in Seattle . With other famous musicians from the west coast ( Krist Novoselic , Kim Thayil and Gina Mainwal ) he founded the short-term No WTO Combo to promote the cause of the movement. Her appearance during the protests was released on CD Live From The Battle In Seattle . In 2000, Biafra was nominated as the Green Party's presidential candidate and a few of his supporters were elected to attend the nomination convention in Denver , Colorado . Although Biafra's speech was well received at the party conference, Ralph Nader was ultimately chosen as the presidential candidate by an overwhelming majority. Biafra then went with a camera team for the Independent Media Center to cover the Democratic and Conservative party conventions. Biafra elaborated on these events on his spoken word album Become The Media and coined the phrase "Don't hate the media, become the media" "which Indymedia and other alternative media use today (or the more appropriate" Don't hate the media, be the media ").

At the same time, Biafra was also a speaker at the H2K hacker conference. Although he had never used a computer in his life, viewers saw how he could create insightful lines of thought between hacking and political activism. He also spoke at the conferences in 2002 and 2004. In April 2001, Biafra took part in the protests against the "Free Trade Agreement of The Americas" summit in Quebec.

In 2005 he appeared in episode 285 of the US series This American Life , Know Your Enemy . As a result, there was a telephone conversation between Biafra and Michael Guarino, the prosecutor of the 1986 censorship process. It was about Guarino's change of heart and the reconciliation between Guarino and Biafra. Also in 2005, Biafra also appeared with the Melvins under the name Jello Biafra & The Melvins or - as the fans also call the cooperation - The Jelvins . Together they have the two albums Never Breathe What You Can't See and Sieg Howdy! recorded.

Before Donald Trump was elected President of the United States in 2016, he wrote a piece called Satan's Combover ("The Comb-Over of Satan"), alluding to the signature hairstyle of Trump.



  • 1989: Last Scream of the Missing Neighbors (album with DOA )
  • 1990: 1000 Homo Djs - Supernaut (Album)
  • 1991: The Sky Is Falling and I Want my Mommy (album with No Means No )
  • 1991: Tumor Circus (album with Steel Pole Bathtub )
  • 1993: Will the Fetus Be Aborted? (Single with Mojo Nixon & The Toadliquors)
  • 1994: Prairie Home Invasion (album with Mojo Nixon & The Toadliquors)
  • 1995: Jello Biafra with Plainfield (EP)
  • 1999: No WTO Combo - Live from the Battle in Seattle (Album)
  • 2004: Never Breathe What You Can't See (album with The Melvins )
  • 2005: Howdy wins! (Album with The Melvins )
  • 2008: Jezebel (single with Ex- Zen Guerillas )
  • 2009: Average Men (single with Pansy Division )
  • 2009: Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine - The Audacity of Hype (Album)
  • 2011: Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine - Enhanced Methods of Questioning
  • 2013: Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine - White People and the Damage Done
  • 2015: Jello Biafra and the New Orleans Raunch and Soul All-Stars: Walk on Jindal's Splinters (Album)
  • 2017: Die Toten Hosen - Laune der Natur Spezial Edition (remake of the song California über alles )

Spoken Word

Biafra started a spoken word career after the fall of the Dead Kennedys . Mostly he addresses political and social issues.

  • 1987: No More Cocoons (album)
  • 1989: High Priest of Harmful Matter: Tales from the Trial (Album)
  • 1991: I Blow Minds for a Living (Album)
  • 1991: Die for Oil, Sucker (7 '')
  • 1994: Beyond the Valley of the Gift Police (album)
  • 1998: If Evolution Is Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Evolve (Album)
  • 2000: Become the Media (album)
  • 2000: Emergency Election Special / The Green Wedge (7``)
  • 2002: The Big Ka-Boom, Part One (Album)
  • 2002: Machine Gun in the Clown's Hand (album)
  • 2006: In the Grip of Official Treason (Album)

As a producer

  • 1985: Dead Kennedys - Frankenchrist (Album)
  • 1986: Dead Kennedys - Bedtime for Democracy (Album)
  • 1987: Dead Kennedys - Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death (Compilation)
  • 1990: Christian Lunch - Unreliable Sources (EP)
  • 1995: Life After Life - Harrahya / Doors (Single)
  • 2001: Iowaska - Vine of Souls (album)
  • 2006: Métal Urbain - J'irai chier dans ton vomi (album)

Web links

Commons : Jello Biafra  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Biography of Jello Biafra ( Memento of the original from March 12, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. "(2001). . queried on February 19, 2005 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. a b Huey, Steve. " Jello Biafra " All Music Guide . queried on February 20, 2005
  3. ^ William S. Burroughs, A Man Within . Documentary by Yony ​​Leyser , 2010, 87 min. - Produced by Yonilizer Productions and Bulletproof Film
  4. Biafra, Jello. Running for Mayor . I Blow Minds for a Living . San Francisco: Alternative Tentacles. 1991
  5. Drozdowski, Ted. " Bullshit detector ( Memento of the original from March 4, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. ". Providence Phoenix . queried on January 24, 2006 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  6. This was the first time a musician had been sued for "indecency." Many sources cite the 2 Live Crew as the first musicians, but their trial didn't take place until 3 years later
  7. Biafra, Jello. The Far Right and the Censorship of Music: An Attack on Freedom of Expression . April 17, 1987
  8. Garofalo, Reebee. Rockin 'Out: Popular Music in the USA . 1997. Pages 433-434 ISBN 0-205-13703-2
  9. ^ Goldberg, Michael. "Jello Biafra Attacked". Rolling Stone . July 14, 1994 & July 28, 1994
  10. According to the All Music Guide , Biafra had both legs broken [1]
  11. Chun, Kimberly. " Everything's Better With Jello ". . May 11, 2001
  12. (see contradicting information in the BMI online database )
  13. Biafra, Jello. "H2K Keynote Speech". New York City. July 15, 2000
  14. Interview - "Trump is not punk". Retrieved July 3, 2020 .