Jello Biafra, is a musician who first gained attention as the lead singer and songwriter for San Francisco punk rock band Dead Kennedys. After his time with the band concluded, he became more directly involved with political activism and took over the influential independent record label Alternative Tentacles [www.alternativetentacles.com], founded in 1979 by him and East Bay Ray. Although now primarily focused on spoken word art, he has continued as a musician in numerous collaborations.
Politically, he is a member of the Green Party and actively supports leftist political causes. Biafra ran for the party’s Presidential nomination in 2000, finishing second to Ralph Nader. He is a self-identified anarchist who advocates civil disobedience, direct action, culture jamming and pranksterism in the name of political change. Biafra is known to use absurdist media tactics in the tradition of the Yippies to highlight issues of civil rights, social justice, economic populism, anti-corporatism, peace movements, anti-consumerism, environmentalism, anti-globalization, universal health care, LGBT rights, anti-capitalism, reproductive rights, feminism, and the separation of church and state.
Currently Jello has a spoken word album “In the Grip of Official Treason” [www.amazon.com] as well as a new band (currently called Jello Biafra and His Axis of Merry Evil Doers) and a 7″ EP, Jezebel [www.alternativetentacles.com].
1. What’s your favorite political movie?
There’s so many, where do I begin – “Boat People”? “Dr. Strangelove”?,
“The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. t”?
2. What role do you feel art plays in politics?
People respect and listen to artists far more than politicians. In an
age of dumbed-down, censored, Soviet-style mass media it is up to
artists to be what Chuck D once called “The real CNN”. If we don’t wake people up to what’s going on, who will?
3. What do you think is the biggest issue for the next generation of Americans?
Preserving human rights and our Constitution. We can’t fight global
warming without this. Who would have thought that we would have to
struggle to have our vote counted – and stop wholesale torture and
prison camps – in the alleged land of the free?
4. Who was the first political candidate you were excited to vote for and why?
Can’t remember a person, but it sure has been fun voting down new
sports stadiums. Local ballot questions and initiatives may well be the
most important reason to vote and vote smart.
5. What factors are important to you in choosing a president?
They must be on the right side of the issues I care most about. I will
not vote for anyone who supports the Patriot Act, the Drug War, the
death penalty, NAFTA, corporate bailouts, etc. One Strike You’re Out.
Or to put it less politely, FUCK YOU. I’d rather work or vote for
something I want and not get it than work or vote for something I don’t want and get it.
6. What issues would you like to see politicians focus more on?
Standing up and saying no to the Military Industrial Complex, the
Prison-Industrial Complex, the Homeland (In)security-Industrial
Complex, and now the Election-Industrial Complex. Use the money we
waste on the war machine for the homeless, the poor, our underfunded
schools and to repair and upgrade our crumbling infrastructure for the
21st Century. It’s so much easier to get around when there are proper
train systems. Imagine how much easier travel would be if our
high-speed rail technology caught up with Europe or Japan!
7. Which issues would you like to see politicians focus less on?
Handouts and socialism for the wealthy while the world burns.
8. Which candidate’s initiatives do you feel better address environmental concerns?
Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney, Dennis Kucinich. Did Al gore ever get
rid of all his stock in Occidental Petroleum?
9. This is your soapbox – shout it out! What do you need to get off your chest?
There are two things about an Obama regime that worry me the most.
1. I remember someone else who had the audacity to misuse peoples’ Hope when they were desperate for a change, and his name is Bill Clinton. Let’s not forget it was not Bush but Clinton who gave us
NAFTA, the WTO, the Telecom Act of 1996 that opened the floodgates for Clear Channel and Fox News, and laugh out loud Abstinence-only sex “education.” Clinton signed Newt Gingrich’s cruel welfare reform bill at the urging of Al Gore. And, yes, it was Clinton who planted the seeds of the economic meltdown when he gleefully deregulated the banks.
If Obama turns out to be another Clinton – and surrounding himself with Biden, Lawrence Summers, Robert Rubin and Zbigniew Bzrzinsky is not a good sign – I fear he will break the hearts of whole energized
generation of voters who won’t feel it’s worth it to participate again.
2. When Clinton got in, people rejoined “Ding Dong, Bush is gone. Now
we can finally sleep at night” – and went to sleep for the next 8
years! We can’t rest easy and sleep this time. There will be no change
from Obama or a congress of corporate-owned Democrats unless we
increase the pressure and keep a blowtorch up their ass the whole time
they’re in power. We need leaders, not more deal makers, Nancy Pelosi
and Harry Reid (remember him?) need to be replaced with people who actually give a shit.
We stopped Vietnam. We torpedoed the Gulf War. Our civil rights and
environmental awareness as we know them today didn’t happen because our corporate lords granted the peasants new rights out of the goodness of their corporate hearts. They don’t have any. We got where we are because we got together and fought for it. Same for the New Deal. It was us.
And the only thing standing in the way of more wars, more Abu Ghraibs and more Guantanamo Bays coming soon behind a Wal-Mart near you is us.
So don’t give up, OK? Besides, causing trouble is so much fun.
10. Do you have any recommended links, books or movies so people can learn more about the issues you care about?
Don’t hate the media, become the media. Don’t just question authority,
question bloggers. Question this site. Help people develop better
I don’t think people should be able to graduate from high school
without passing a class on media literacy. But for some reason they
don’t have those classes, so we need to spread our knowledge instead.
Extra Credit: Fill in the blank. _________ for change.
THINK, for a change.
Photo by Chris Saunders