Interview with Jello Biafra
Born Eric Boucher in Boulder, Colorado, the outspoken cultural anti-icon Jello Biafra has explosively mastered just about every venue possible to get his personal and political messages across, from being frontman to the seminal Dead Kennedys (which disbanded in 1986 in the wake of a highly-publicized obscenity trial) to being a Green Party write-in presidential candidate in the last election, to collaborating with artists such as Mojo Nixon, NoMeansNo, and Al Jourgensen. Biafraís own solo records, all spoken-word affairs drawn from his "lecture" tours, include 1987ís No More Cocoons, 1989ís High Priest of Harmful Matter -- Tales from the Trial, a detailed, humorous account of the Dead Kennedys' obscenity trial, 1994's three-CD set Beyond the Valley of the Gift Police, and, most recently, Become the Media, released last fall. I spoke to The Man prior to his performance here in Minneapolis (where I am).
[Holly] Do you own property in SF, or do you have to worry about losing your space due to rent hikes?
Jello Well, even if you do own property in the city, itís totally irrelevant. They can still chase you out of your house if youíve got a particularly desirable plot of land. All the musicians and artists and people doing interesting things have all moved out of here because they canít afford it anymore, and the dot-coms and the yuppies have all taken over. Even with all the dot-coms going bankrupt, though, itís not going to save San Francisco. I donít believe there will ever be a vibrant culture here again. The music here is so dried up, and thereís not much fresh or inspiring art to speak of coming out of the area anymore.
[Holly] So do you plan on sticking it out in the area?
Jello I donít know. It depends on the day. Iíd like to stay here, butÖ. I grew up in Colorado, and I just have to have relief in the landscape around me. I canít live in flat places. I have to have mountains nearby, or the ocean. I canít live somewhere flat.
[Holly] What do you consider yourself to be, a political satirist, lecturer, stand-up comic?
Jello I hate to call myself a lecturer, because nobody wants to go to a lecture. Thatís whatís so great about "spoken word," because you can just lump everything under that title: poetry, music, lecturing. Anything.
[Holly] Do you have any Minnesota-specific topics youíre going to cover while here in the state?
Jello I havenít heard any new stories about [Gov. Jesse] Ventura, and least nothing too amazingly stupid since the last time I passed through.
[Holly] Well, thereís this thing theyíre going to do where people can order license plates with a Pro-Life message, complete with smiling waving children.
Jello Thatís such an advertising scam. Thereís some sleazy advertising agency behind the whole thing that doesnít give a crap about abortion, or children, or anybodyís life but their own. And then Pro-Life, right-wing factions who are buying these plates are, for the most part, really pro-death: they donít care about bringing healthy children into a loving world, how these kids in poverty-stricken households grow up, or that most of them end up on the street, become criminals, and have to be thrown in prison and eventually killed anyway. All these fundamentalist Christian Right groups care about is that these babies are actually bornóafter that, they donít give a shit about them. In my opinion, the only good fundamentalist is an aborted fundamentalist.
[Holly] I sent your friend Winston Smith some writing for his magazine Fallout about 11 years ago, and he wrote back and said his cat had the same name as my PO Box. Now, did he really have a cat named 284, or was he making that up?
Jello I remember he had a cat named 355 and those dogs, 991 and 853. I donít remember there being a 284.
[Holly] How about Swine Flu?
Jello Oh my God, there really was a Swine Flu. That was the most unpleasant cat I have ever met. I mean, I like cats, but that cat had the most unpleasant disposition. He was an awful cat.
[Holly] What do you think of the mad cow epidemic in Europe right now?
Jello I think mad cow disease has already made its way to the United States. I think in a couple of months or a year, weíre going to feel some real repercussions here. And God knows whatís going to happen because of those God-awful chicken farms. Theyíve got all those chickens cooped up in there, eating ground-up bits of each other, and itís only a matter of time before some horrible disease starts killing themóand usóoff because of it.