When considering who to feature in the music section of the issue the week of the election, former Dead Kennedys man Jello Biafra seemed like an obvious choice. From the very start of his celebrated career, the man has never been short of a word about current affairs. Incisive and insightful, you might not always agree with every single thing he says, but he is at least always worth listening to.
He’s currently in the midst of dropping a string of singles/music videos which built up to the release of Tea Party Revenge Porn, the new album from his Guantanamo School of Medicine project. Typically incendiary, Biafra is understandably insistent that we study the lyrics in written form rather than just listen to the songs and soak them in that way. A Biafra song can be like a Monty Python movie — there are subtle but brilliant lines that you might not catch onto on first listen. This being an election year, he wants to make sure that everyone’s paying attention.
“We wipe out your jobs; Blame the immigrants too; Shot through the back; For breathing while black; Make racism great again,” he sings on the wonderfully titled “Satan’s Combover.” So despite the fact that the COVID lockdown has made it harder to produce physical copies right now, Biafra didn’t want to delay. We need to hear this now, so the album is being released in electronic format prior to the election.
“I felt with times being what they are, they’re staging a so-called election and what not, I really want to get a lot of this stuff out now,” Biafra tells us by phone. “I do think it came out pretty well overall too. I’m just not one of these people who tries to recapture my past or do formula old man punk, safe for older punk people my age. It’s designed to tear your head off and then out comes your mind and hopefully your body too.”
An interview with Biafra is different from any other. Yes, the guy can talk — anybody who has listened to his podcast or standup can tell you that. But the thing is, no words are wasted. He considers everything carefully, and asks questions while answering others. It’s maybe a little surprising that the album preceding this one, White People and the Damage Done, came out a full seven years ago given his desire to get word out.
“White People… was an anti-austerity concept album,” he says. “I don’t usually do concept albums — the Dead Kennedys’ Frankenchrist was an accidental concept album because when I saw HR Giger’s infamous painting which wound up inside it on the poster, great art makes your brain spin. I realized this was Reagan America on parade. I hadn’t done all the vocals yet so I could tweak a word here and there, and connect the songs. White People… was a little more planned out but also influenced by circumstances. You can guess what movement “Shockupy” was celebrating.”
Yeah, Biafra is unsurprisingly no fan of Trump — keen to point out that he stole the 2016 election, not just because of the electoral college but also because of the Interstate Crosscheck Project detailed by journalist Greg Palast.
“29 states opted in and gave their entire database of voters to one of the really powerful and scary Tea Party fascists behind the scenes — a guy named Kris Kobach from Kansas,” Biafra says. “He put all those 29 states’ voters together and set his program loose to flag any matching names which would mean they obviously voted twice. They claimed they flagged social security numbers and middle names, but he found a way in there and found they weren’t doing that at all. His program was skewed to eliminate people with names like Washington and many others, who were mainly African-American. If your name is Jose Martinez, all 5,000 of you didn’t vote.”
But don’t make the mistake of thinking that Biafra swears blind allegiance to Democratic politicians either. He’s very critical, for example, of Gavin Newsom’s record on the homeless, and he defines the likes of Dianne Feinstein, “Newscum,” Nancy Pelosi and Kamala Harris as a “heavy handed corporate machine.” Meanwhile, he says that Joe Biden is a very corporate animal and “not your friend.” When we ask him if he’s a lesser of two evils sort of guy regarding Biden, he says, “absolutely not.”
“Luckily, I’m not in one of the swing states,” he says. “If I was back in Colorado where I’m from, I might seriously find myself holding my nose and voting for Biden. In California, we continue to have the luxury of voting with our conscience. I would rather vote for something I want and not get it than vote for something I don’t want and get it. I might go Green Party again.”
So there’s obviously plenty of criticism on Tea Party Revenge Porn, notably on the title track, “Taliban USA” and “We Created Putin.” Elsewhere, Biafra tells us to hold a mirror up to ourselves. “No More Selfies,” for example, is self explanatory.
“People lose all sense of borders or how they would normally treat human beings,” Biafra says. “I’ve had people yank on me with both hands when I’m trying to go on stage when the band is already playing. There’s been several incidents including one in Pomona when somebody has jumped on stage right in the middle of the show and demand we stop so they can get their selfie with me. Several cases, including at the Hoedown in Long Beach, where somebody wanted to fight me because I wouldn’t drop what I was doing just to do a selfie. This is how bad this has gotten.”
And then there’s “People With Too Much Time on Their Hands,” about the bullshit that fills the internet and our propensity to believe it. “I died again today; Internet says; Rumors, they start to snowball; With gruesome details,” he sings.
Ultimately, Tea Party Revenge Porn is exactly the album one would expect Biafra to make in these turbulent times, and more. He bashes Trump, but also everyone else including us, the public, for putting up with this shit. It’s always been the Jello way to question everything and demand more from our elected officials, and that remains the case today.
Jello Biafra & the Guantanamo School of Medicine’s Tea Party Revenge Porn is out now.