Jello’s New War

Ex-Dead Kennedy rants on

JELLO BIAFRA at the Opera House (735 Queen East), Friday (February 1), 6 pm. $15. 416-466-0313.

Rating: NNNNN

in person, you’d never peg jello Biafra as a consciousness-raiser. With his leather jacket and widow’s peak, he looks more like a drunken heckler at a bad biker-metal show. But then he opens his mouth, and there’s no mistaking that uniquely whiny voice for anyone’s but Biafra’s, ex-frontman of pioneering polemical punks the Dead Kennedys and the hardcore activist who joined up with grunge notable Chris Novoselic and Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil in the No WTO Combo that played the Battle of Seattle.

Biafra’s newest spoken-word effort, Big Ka-Boom, Part One, is one big rant on the subject of the the 9/11 disaster. It was recorded on the fly during a November date of his Spitfire spoken- word tour across the U.S.

We’re driving along the Gardiner after I meet his late-night flight from Saskatchewan, and he launches into his proposed alternatives to the militaristic war on terrorism.

“SUVs are a greater threat to national security than Osama bin Laden could ever be. They eat up gallons of oil, and we should be reducing our dependence not just on foreign oil, but oil altogether.

“Plus SUVs poke so many holes in the sky. All the police-state fortresses you can build to guard against terrorism won’t do a damn thing if you can’t go outside any more.

“Besides, the war on terrorism is piss-poor military strategy. All we’re doing is planting the seeds for more suicide bombers and more bin Ladens.”

Biafra calls what he does infotainment, art as subversive political protest. He agrees that in the wake of Seattle and Quebec City, art is actually the most effective strategy for activists.

“I used to joke about how much USA Today and Time and Newspeak — excuse me, Newsweek — were turning into the American equivalent of Pravda, the old Soviet Union propaganda rag. Now I’m convinced we’re already there. I’ve also noticed a dramatic decline in the Globe and Mail since I’ve been up in Canada. There’s vastly less actual news in it, even compared to the National Pustule.”

He may be het up about global politics, but he reserves an equal amount of hostility for his former bandmates. The rogue ex-Dead Kennedys, as he refers to them, took him to court in 1998 and sued for control of the band’s back catalogue, which was then held by Biafra’s own Alternative Tentacles label.

The reissued tracks were set to drop this fall on — get this — September 11. Now, having replaced Biafra with former TV child star Brandon Cruz, the band’s on a fake reunion tour.

Biafra is bitter, claiming he’s not seeing a cent of the profits from the reissues, but he’s also furious that the DKs are misleading the public and promoters by failing to mention the new lineup, sending out old promo photos that include him in the band.

“They have every right to go out and play the songs if they want to. But this is a deliberate misrepresentation designed to take people’s money and run. So go if you want to, but know that you’ll be seeing the world’s greediest karaoke band. They’ve pissed all over everything the band used to stand for.

“Now they’re about as punk as the Eagles.”

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