Thread for Jello if he is around


my hips don't lie

Interviews: Jello Biafra
Posted by rich on Tuesday, February 2, 2010 at 8:00 PM (EST)

As one of the key upstarts to the California punk/hardcore scene, Jello Biafra emerged as the singer of the Dead Kennedys in the late 70s and hasnt gone away since. Whether hes singing, writing, acting, doing spoken word, or churning out records on his label, Alternative Tentacles, Jello has remained one of punk rocks true pioneers for the last thirty years. Fresh off the heals of Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicines newest album, Audacity of Hype, Mr. Biafra took the time to chat with Michael Dauphin.

Youre now touring now with your newest project, which is Jello Biafra & the Guantanamo School of Medicine. And you guys just released The Audacity of Hype. What were some of your more prominent inspirations going into this album?

Boy, thats a hard one to analyze. I just make the stuff. All the musical things I do are just riffs I like with topics that concern me or things I think would make a cool song. You know, even if its a dark subject I dont really feel like I have succeeded when Im working on the lyrics until Im laughing. Or theres something diabolical about them.

I think thats what has kept you successful through the years. People grasp onto that humor and the sickness inside it, which gets to the point where it shouldnt be that funny but it is anyway.

Well, its more than just that too. I usually am pretty picky about lyricsjust like with the musicin that I dont use the first thing that rhymes. Sometimes, Ill be thinking about a subject for years and if anything pops into my head I just write it down and file it away and then if something else comes, then Ill write that down and file it way. And then when I finally want to turn it into a song its a great big mess because all the different things I wrote down are in different meters and time signatures and none of them may actually fit the song. So with me, its not struggling to come up with enough words, its trying to figure out how to cut the words out to fit the length of the song.

Is it a complete patchwork operation or do you kind of file them into separate files?

It all depends. Sometimes I cant figure out where to put something so I put it in a bunch of different places. Some of them keep migrating around from song to song for years but they never quite get in.

How much writing did you do, musically, for this record?

Practically everything. I teach the parts with my voice. I pretty much always compose with my voice. Its the same way I did with The Dead Kennedys, and um The very early days of Dead Kennedys, I would try to show Ray the riff by playing a single string on guitar. I was never much of a guitar player so, eventually, Krause said, Look, you sing well enough on key so why dont you sing us the part. And then I was a free man because I could come up with more intricate and complicated parts.

Thats interesting.

You know Chemical Warfare," as opposed to California Uber Alles or something like that. And, weirdly, because I do this with my voice and havent had any formal music training, it took the original Dead Kennedys a month to figure out the chords to California Uber Alles. Made perfect sense to me.

You need to create some sort of Jello Biafra voice tablature.

Well, I mean, I dont have much other choice. Also, what took me years to figure out, that there are a couple of other key things going on. If I was isolating myself trying to get some song written, or partially written, and bringing in some practice room riffs or something to add something the other guys came up with, I was listening to little or no punk music at all, subconsciously. Just sort of, I guess, a curiosity search for other ideas to blend in to make the songs a little more different.

Another thing that dawned on me years later, sometimes when I mix this stuff Im so mood consciouse that Im almost approaching it more like somebody would direct a film than somebody would produce music. If every instrument isnt perfect or audible but you get a chill down your spine, thats what I like to use. That also feeds into the lyrics too. Youll notice I dont usually do the standard sloganeering but a lot of people do with political music. I like to paint pictures. I like the scenario where you can practically see the stuff going on in the room.

I guess that came from all the method acting experience I had doing plays and theater as a teenager where youre supposed to build the character from within rather that just walk five steps turn thirty seven in a half degrees and then spit out your line. You know most of the great actors of the past several decades have been method actors, and Iggy Pop contributed that being a good crucial building block in his performances as well.

Sure. I think thats what some of the best writers around know how to do. They tell the other persons story and make it seem sincere. And they dont just bullshit it. I think thats what makes any type of writer worth a damn, right?

Well some people, even friends over the years, have complained that I dont write enough personal stuff. But, hey, this is whats personal to me. Its my way of singing the blues. Plus, a lot of other peoples personal lyrics just bore me to tears. I hated love songs from the moment I found out what they were as a seven year old, when I first discovered rock and roll. Then, by the time I was in high school, I realized all these teen romance songs were one big lie designed to sell people a product and make them obedient, insecure consumers. So I didnt get into that. In some cases too, some of what is stereotyped as emo now is, Oh my god, my poor life. I have so many issues, I have so much anxiety. My parents just bought the band new equipment and we are about to sign to Interscope. Oh god, life is so hard!

Are you saying that you really dont get into any love songs or anything of that nature?

Very few. They dont speak to me, they just push romance as a cure-all carrot on a stick to get people to buy or at least buy into something.


Very effective tool, too! Its really hard to write a punk love song. And I'm not talking about all the dippy-ass pop punk girly-poof songs. Those are just plain stupid. Might as well be Donnie Osmond with loud guitar. But, I mean, one example of a good one would be Trust by 7 Seconds. I mean, that was honest and straight from the heart but it was real.

But when you think about some of the older Replacements, I think they had a very sincere angle running through them.

Depending on how much alcohol and drugs were working. Maybe thats not fair to say. I dont know. I dont know their work that well at all. I only have their first couple of albums and I dont have any of the others

One tid bit out that might enhance peoples appreciation and understanding of our fine work and new album [Audacity of Hype], The Terror of Tiny Town, that opens the album, is based off a movie with the same name from the 1930s. Its an old western and the cast is all midgets.

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Leave everything to me!
Where are you jello? I just had someone asking me about you via PM at SBR as well.


I love you, Chord!
Hey Jello, I haven't noticed you posting much anywhere lately. Any particular reason, or just a random posting lull?


Not Funny
Hey Jello, I haven't noticed you posting much anywhere lately. Any particular reason, or just a random posting lull?

Just a lull, Scholar. I haven't been gambling at all lately either, so that's contributed. Just finding other things to occupy my time recently. I'm still out here though... lurking. You never know when I might pop in.


I love you, Chord!
Fair enough, I'm in the same boat when it comes to having other things besides posting keeping me busy lately. Still gambling my balls off, though.

Just wanted you to know that your quasi-absense was noticed because you add so much to the conversations you participate in.


Current Corpse
Jello come back to us. You are us. We are you. Vacations are allowed, but never lose track of what is.



Not Funny
I thought I sensed some doubt in your subtext. Glad to know that we are still on the same page.



Not Funny
Bread's a lucky man. No wonder he slaps you around so much. You are quite clearly into that kinda shit.