“So who is this Jello guy anyway?”
Jello Biafra is one of the country’s most outspoken supporters of free speech and freedom (constitutional or otherwise.) He has released four albums of material recorded during the spoken word tours that carry him across the country. Each of these contains a great deal of legal and social information that he has compiled from various sources over the years. The scope and quality of the information is sure to shock even those who thought they were well informed on subjects they’ve heard about.
Jello Biafra also ranks as the first musician ever to be put on trial because of the content of a record album. The Frankenchrist album he released with his old group the Dead Kennedys contained in its original release a reproduction of a painting by Swiss artist H.R. Giger (known best for winning the Academy Award for the 1979 film Alien.) It was because of this painting that the L.A. City Attorney filed a charge of “Distribution of Harmful Matter” against Biafra and several others. During the trial however, the DA spent a great deal of time analyzing the career and lyrics of Biafra in an attempt to incriminate him on subjects other than the painting in attempts to set legal precedence. Fortunately the jury was deadlocked 7:5 in favor of acquittal and the judge dismissed the case in lieu of granting a re-trial. The fact remains, however, that this trial took over a year out of Biafra’s life and ended up costing over $100K in legal bills despite the fact that the penalty was a $2000 fine and no more than a year served. The full story of this trial and he tactics used by the legal forces behind it may be heard on Biafra’s High Priest of harmful Matter album.
In order to avoid corporate censorship of Dead Kennedys’ music, he started the Alternative Tentacles record label. Every single Dead Kennedys album and 45 was released on this label, as well as all of his spoken word albums. Other groups released on this label include the Butthole Surfers, Lard (A. Jourgenson and P. Barker from Ministry plus J. Biafra,) D.O.A., Neurosis, and Alice Donut. They, along with SST and Dischord, represent some of the earliest and longest running indie labels in the US that have stayed true to their ideals and origins.
Legendary San Francisco promoter Dirk Dirksen during Biafra’s 1979 mayoral campaign.
Biafra has always been one to speak his mind and take risks. What started out as a practical joke became a very serious campaign for the position of Mayor of San Francisco in 1979. While he did not win, he became a magnet for the vote of those dissatisfied with the leading candidates and came in fourth with 3% of the total vote. He never lost his sense of humor during the campaign with a platform that consisted of requirements for all downtown businessmen to wear clown suits between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm, legalized panhandling at a 50% commission for all state workers laid off due to deficit caused staff reductions, and legalized squatting of the homeless in all buildings left vacant for tax write-off purposes. During his campaign, he wore T-shirts from an opponent’s (Quentin Cop) previous campaign and vacuumed leaves off of another’s (now US Senator from CA, Diane Feinstein) front lawn. His effect on the campaign upset the election so much that they later passed a resolution stating that no one would be able to run for office under anything but their christian name. Unfortunately Jello isn’t his real name… it’s Eric.
With an abrasive voice and a sarcastic and cynical mind, he speaks his opinions based on facts which are irrefutable. Like the late Frank Zappa, he is one of those distinct individuals who is willing to go to up against the government to fight for those rights that they seem to think of as out of date and disposable.