In Jello Biafra we trust
Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra has spent his career railing against the religious right and the idle rich. In the run up to the US election Tony Naylor hears his manifesto for change
Saturday November 3, 2007
Scan the potential US presidential candidates, both Republican and Democrat, and what do you see? Idiots, automatons, religious nutters, corporate lackeys, war mongers and, worst of all, career politicians.
But there is an alternative: Jello Biafra, lead ranter of hardcore punks, the Dead Kennedys. The 49-year-old Biafra once stood for election as mayor of San Francisco - he came fourth out of 10 candidates, winning 3.5% of the vote, with a platform including a proposal to force all businessmen to wear clown suits to the office. Then, in 2000, he briefly ran for the US Green Party's presidential nomination.
Since Dead Kennedys split in 1986, Biafra has kept up a hectic schedule of spoken-word albums and gigs (he tours Britain this month), political activism and music projects. He's not always right. Hell, he's not always on the right planet. But this one-man war against complacency asks awkward questions, and isn't afraid of radical solutions. Last year, he even offered to tour with Britney Spears if it would "stop the war and bring down the Bush dictatorship".
As for the current crop of "coin-operated" candidates jockeying for the top job? "Fuck them all," says Jello, and that includes Barack Obama. "All the energy we're putting into this we could be putting into getting the troops out of Iraq and preventing escalation of the war into Iran."
Which begs the question: what would Jello do differently? When America finally sees sense and makes him president, what can the world expect?
Troops out of Iraq
"It's very colonial of us to assume that Iraq can't get its shit together unless there's a bunch of white people occupying the country. That's obscene. The closest thing to a workable proposal was put forward by the 57-country Islamic Conference Organisation. Six of them offered to pony up enough soldiers so that all the Americans and British, the coalition of the killing, could go home. Colin Powell, that noted pacifist, dismissed it because the ICO wanted their troops under UN command, not American."
"I like some things about [Venezuela president, Hugo] Chavez, but the more he cracks down on freedom of speech, the more he scares me. I'd try and be engage him rather than getting hostile. His UN speech about Bush leaving the stench of sulphur on the podium was hilarious. But that plays into the hands of the media who love to portray him as the modern Idi Amin."
Law and disorder
"Much as we hate hard drugs, a percentage of our population is going to be addicted. It's nature, it happens in the animal kingdom: even elephants get wasted and rampage from time-to-time. If people must do drugs they should be able to obtain them free from a government centre. They don't have to rob and kill to pay the mob's prices, so crime goes down. It's a very law and order position. I learned the hard way to be careful with [drugs], only do them a few times, learn what you can and move on. I figure if I'm going to speak on drugs, I should try them all but I've never been eager to smoke crack, and I hated heroin."
Make US cops stand for election
"US cops are like a biker gang. They don't obey the law and their main interest is in protecting their own power. Make all officers stand for election. That way they'd have to live in the neighbourhoods they patrol and meet people, rather than hiding in their cars and only jumping out when they want to beat the crap out of somebody."
Pay celebs maximum wage
"Maybe $200,000, then we get payback. Finally America would have the money to build a proper rail system, free healthcare, free education. People who get obsessed with making more and more money are like crack heads. Wealth addiction dwarfs the damage done by drug addiction. But if people like Tiger Woods, David Beckham and Paris Hilton were put through rehab, through a maximum wage, I bet even they could someday do good."
State subsidaries for bands
"People say, 'get government off our backs'. Do you want corporations instead? You shouldn't have to sign with Sony in order to make music. We've had terrible trouble at [Biafra's label] Alternative Tentacles with bands breaking up because they have classes to attend or student loans to pay back or jobs they hate but can't leave because it's the only way to pay skyrocketing rents. A case in point: the Phantom Limbs, one of the most unique bands to come out of the hardcore scene in years, like a punk Gilbert & Sullivan gone drastically wrong. The punk crowd went wild for them, but they pulled the plug after two albums."
Vote for the Pope
"If you don't like any candidates you vote None Of The Above and if NOTA wins, the election is rerun with new candidates. Think of all the megalomaniacs we could get rid of. Although, another way is to follow the example of a world leader I truly admire, Pope John Paul I. He reached the pinnacle and died 30 days later. Maybe that's what we should do with the office of president. 'OK, you can be president, but 30 days later you croak'."
"In Maine, some people made counterfeit traffic tickets and ran around writing-up SUV owners as 'Earth criminals'. Then, in Santa Cruz, someone spray-painted dozens of SUVs in one night. The corporate media presented this as some terrible affront to civilisation, which was hilarious. We need a new law that owners of SUVs are automatically in the military reserve. Then they can go get their own goddamn oil."