(This is a continuation of this post.)
In the first part of this inaugural edition of Musician Biography, I have been reviewing the Dead Kennedys career, from their humble beginning in the Bay Area punk scene to their rise to underground stardom and finally, the lawsuit which effectively ended their run of excellence.
The story of the Dead Kennedys does not end with their breakup though. I wish it had, but it wasn’t to be.
After the split, the Kennedys went their own separate ways. Drummer D.H. Peligro joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1988. He helped write some songs for their Mother’s Milk album before his drug and alcohol issues led to his firing. Bassist Klaus Fluoride focused on his solo career, releasing three albums on Alternative Tentacles. East Bay Ray participated in several obscure musical projects, while Jello Biafra formed an industrial band called Lard.
Biafra also did an excellent collaboration album with Canadian punk legends D.O.A. entitled Last Scream of the Missing Neighbours. In 1991, he released an album with another Canadian punk band, NoMeansNo, called The Sky Is Falling and I Want My Mommy. He also released several spoken word albums.
However, this fairly amicable breakup did not last. In the late 90’s, the band members discovered that they were not receiving their allotted share of royalties from Alternative Tentacles. Despite the fact that everyone agreed that it was an accounting mistake, Ray, Fluoride and Peligro decided to blame Jello for not informing them of this. Biafra claims that their lawyers had told him only to correspond through lawyers and not directly with the band, as the conflict over payment had apparently arisen before the accounting mistake was discovered. This little spat eventually led to a lawsuit, where he was found liable for the royalties and was ordered to pay damages of nearly $200 000, inculding $20 ooo in punitive damages to Ray, Peligro and Fluoride.
All this was bad enough, but then it just got plain ugly. During the trial, claimed that the band wanted to license the song “Holiday in Cambodia” for use in a Levi’s Dockers commercial. The other band members deny this, though Biafra was able to give specifics about said advertisement, including the advertising agency. Interesting…
I also mentioned in the previous entry that East Bay Ray had pushed for the band to sign with a major label. Is it really so much of a stretch to imagine that he might be unopposed to using a hit song in a corporate advertisement. Talk about forgetting your roots.
The jury, however, did not give one flying fuck, seeing as how Levi’s wasn’t the enemy.
And, completing their devolution into traitorous scumbags, Ray, Fluoride and Peligro also got their grimy hands on the DK’s entire discography (With the sole exception of the “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” single), which they swiped from Alternative Tentacles, and gave to the independent Manifesto label, who reissued the albums without giving a dime to Biafra.
In one of the most retarded ways to bury the hatchet after swindling somebody out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, Ray, Fluoride and Peligro invited Biafra to reform the band with them. Biafra, who has long expressed his disdain for nostalgia, essentially told them to go fuck themselves. Incorrectly assuming that it’s still the Dead Kennedys without Jello Biafra, the band was reformed with a new lead singer, Brandon Cruz. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Mr. Cruz played Bill Bixby’s son in The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.
Now, to be completely fair, I can’t rag on Brandon Cruz too much. He wasn’t one of the people who betrayed Jello. Also, it’s not like he had no punk credentials. He was the singer of the Nardcore punk band Dr. Know. However, that’s not truly effective consolation for someone who just got his ass replaced by a goddamn ex-child actor.
The DK Kennedys (As they called themselves before reverting back to Dead Kennedys.) proceeded to destroy everything that the old DK stood for, appearing at corporate-sponsored music events, distributing advertising posters falsely portraying Biafra as still being in the band, and not recording any new music whatsoever. NOT. A. SINGLE. GODDAMN. SONG. The only vague whiff of new music from the retooled lineup was when they altered the lyrics to “MTV Get Off the Air” to make the shitty, terrible “MP3 Get Off the Air.” I guess that’s what happens when you kick out the only person in your band who could actually write a half-decent song.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
The Faux Kennedys (As I decree that they be called) are still touring and have no plans to release new material. They dumped Brandon Cruz in 2003 and replaced him with 25 year old Jeff Penalty, who was almost half the age of his new bandmates. He described this as “the realization of a dream [he] never even dared to have.” However, he parted ways with the group in 2008 in what has been described as a non-amicable split. This presumably occurred after he discovered that his former heroes were now huge dickbags. They replaced him with some dude named “Skip”, whom even their website’s members page does not give one shit about.
Jello Biafra is still operating Alternative Tentacles, which has since moved to Emeryville, California. AT has distributed albums by Alice Donut, the Dicks, D.O.A., NoMeansNo, Subhumans, Pansy Division and Star Fucking Hipsters, as well as spoken word albums by Noam Chomsky, Mumia Abu-Jamal and Jello himself. Since being stabbed in the back, Jello has released a ton of spoken word albums, and occasionally does a show on YouTube entitled “What Would Jello Do?” He also released two albums with the Melvins, Never Breathe What You Can’t See in 2004, and Sieg Howdy! in 2005. He is also a Green Party politician, and was a potential presidential candidate in 200, though he lost to Ralph Nader.
In 2008, he formed a new band, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine. They have since released two very solid albums, 2009’s The Audacity of Hype and 2013’s White People and the Damage Done. The latter of which I have just received in the mail, and cannot wait to listen t- wait, what the…