"I'm Not an Ad Man": Jello Biafra Breaks Down the Current Dead Kennedys Swindle (con.)

Scott Thill

ST: I read that this all started with a Dockers commercial featuring "Holiday in Cambodia."
JB: Yeah, yeah. The ad agency contacted Ray who contacted me and I said no, so Ray threatened me, saying if I didn't do it there were going to be repercussions. And it turned out that Klaus Fluoride -- who normally tried to mediate any disputes among current or former band members to keep it from turning into something like this -- was hell-bent on selling out to Levi's. So after all these years of trying to keep the Ray that called and screamed at me in Texas from running amok, keep things cool, keep checks and balances going on the other end, he at that point fell in and hitched his wagon to the greed train. I mean, he went to two of my closest friends asking them to "persuade" me to sell out to Levi's. When I asked about this and reminded him of what would happen to our reputation if this went through -- reminding him that if it was money he was after to think about how much he was going to lose when people don't respect us anymore because everything we ever did would be a lie -- he said, "Why don't you just go to the press and tell them we did it for charity?" Five percent to charity and keep the rest of the money. That's what he wanted me to. I didn't and they sued. They claim it was the accounting error that sparked the lawsuit, but we were all trying to settle that together. Until I wouldn't do Levi's.


Show DK the money? "They knew full well there wasn't some fifteen-year conspiracy to hide their precious royalty money from them."

ST: What kind of crazy commercial did they have planned for "Holiday in Cambodia?"
JB: Oh, the commercial aired. But they used a Pretenders song instead. The commercial didn't last very long, for good reason. It wasn't just the obvious moral reasons that I didn't want my favorite Dead Kennedys song trashed by being in a coporate commercial; it was also personal or emotional because of the sheer nausea of being in a commercial, and this one was pretty damn bad. It saturated the screen for about two days and then it appeared to be yanked. It was two young yuppies in a loft -- which is a sensitive issue in San Francisco right there -- and then a mouse runs across the floor. The girl in Hollywood stereotype screams and the hunk guy jumps into his Dockers, turns into superhunk, and catches the mouse; she feels sorry for it so they put it in the cage by the bed. That's the end of it. No dialogue in it at all. That's what they wanted "Holiday in Cambodia" for.

ST: That's surprising because Levi's is a Bay Area business.
JB: Only in theory. I mean, ironically as Klaus was making the case to me that we should do it, that they're a good, responsible company, they laid of 6,400 workers in Texas while simultaneously giving out a $100 million bonus to a retiring executive. And then a few months later announced that they were opening up manufacturing plants in China. Levi's may be based here but their community roots don't seem to go very far anymore.


Ah, the poor old days. "Think of the floodgates they would have opened up for scamming on the respect of old punk bands."

ST: That's what I was trying to point out. You guys are punk icons in the Bay Area. It's hard to believe that they wouldn't understand that, of all songs, using "Holiday in Cambodia" for a commercial that inane wouldn't make any sense for them.
JB: Number one, they feel that anyone can be bought and that everyone has a price. And number two, they're thinking that, "Hey, all those skater dudes and snowboarders are wearing baggy clothes and some of them are getting older and have money in a ponch now so maybe we need to sell them some of our baggy pants. And we need a beloved punk rock song to do it". That might've been the logic, I have no idea. I'm not an ad man.

ST: Well, that's the only thing that seems to make any sense.
JB: So basically the understanding on these so-called reissues is that they were done behind my back, without my permission, and the band informed me that I would no longer be paid on them at all. So the people that give their money over for these things might not be the only ones who aren't getting what they're supposed to out of it. They should think twice before picking one of them up. No one likes the remastering, either. I've never heard it so I couldn't say.

ST: It doesn't sound any different to me.
JB: Not everybody says that. Some people say now it's way too slick. I don't know whether or not that's it, because they won't let me hear it. I'm sure as hell not going to go down to a chain store (which is the only place that stocks these things) and line the pockets of the people who are screwing me. Basically, I am being punished for sticking to the principles of the band.

ST: That's what so amazing: that they would throw away almost twenty years for a Dockers commercial.
JB: Not just the Dockers commercial. They're throwing it away now by trying to recast the whole band as a toothless, fun, poppy, punk thing that just wants your money.

ST: A karaoke band, as you've said on the site.
JB: Yeah. I mean, what really galls me is that not only would they put out such a god awful live album when we could have put out a good one, but they've taken the attitude into their fake reunion tour, as well, where Klaus was witnessed bragging onstage in San Francisco that they had only practiced twice in thirteen years. And they were asked by a radio interviewer in Denver about Brandon Cruz never really learning the words, blowing them, and they just thought it was funny.

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ST: It's punk, that's the way it happens, right?
JB: Well, not with everybody.

ST: I was being facetious.
JB: (Laughs). It's a shame that they didn't put some creative thought into this. They could have at least gotten Gary Coleman to be the singer. And if this works with Brandon Cruz, think of the floodgates they would have opened up for scamming on the respect of old punk bands. You could have . . .

ST: Danny Bonnaduce!
JB: Well, Danny Bonaduce and the Necros is too obvious. People used to tease Barry Henssler by calling him Danny Partridge because they look so much alike. No, get the kid from Malcolm in the Middle to be in the Misfits.

ST: Webster!
JB: You could get Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen to be in Black Flag. Hey, how about Emmanuel Lewis in the reunited lineup of the Germs?

ST: Or Bad Brains! I can't believe this is happening.
JB: I'm really shocked by how low it's gone, too. It's like watching a crazy uncle in the basement go through a second childhood.

PREVIOUS PAGE --> "Everything they've done since they seized control of the catalogue just reeks of sheer greed."


Scott Thill -- a media fanatic who finds the time to write on everything that does not include the words "boy band" -- is a gainfully employed dotcom editor currently finishing his first novel, The Dangerous Perhaps.


 

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