JELLO BIAFRA - THE ROC INTERVIEW

By: John Woods & Randy Lee Payton


JELLO BIAFRA is a major figure in the forefront of the Anti-Censorship Movement. His place in musical history is likewise assured by his work in the DEAD KENNEDYS, a seminal band in American Punk Rock. The newsletter of the No More Censorship Defense Fund (started to fight the prosecution of the "FRANKENCHRIST" album back in 1986), edited by Jello, was an original inspiration for THE ROC. On the day we interviewed him, Jello had, as you'll see, a lot on his mind...

"Needless to say, the Clinton selection of Al Gore as a running mate has been a constant disruption in my life. I spent the whole day pacing the floor fuming, and of course fielding phone calls. Needless to say I ain't gonna vote for Clinton. I'm not sure I'm gonna cast a vote for President at all."

"By picking Gore, Clinton is giving the finger and basically saying "fuck you" to American youth, anybody who likes decent music, people of color, women, and any other minority or underclass group in this country. Gore is the Dan Quayle of the Democratic Party as far as I'm concerned. Sure he says some good things about the environment, but look at his voting record when it comes to funding military projects that trash the environment more than factories do. I made an analogy to Dan Quayle because they both come from "old money" families and are married to women with connections to extreme religious right extremists groups."

"My biggest fear is that people who are sort of dipping their toe in the water as far as participating in elections and change goes, who have maybe been reached by Rock The Vote or the Pro-Choice movement or whatever are going to sit this election out because of Clinton. So many people have called me in panic saying, 'Oh no, now there's no one to vote for.' Granted there's no one to vote for for President, but that makes it all the more important to carefully scrutinize you vote for Congressmen, Senators, State Legislators, City Councilpeople, Sheriffs, DA's, School Boards, and above all, local and State ballot initiatives. I guess it's too late for the deadline this year, but people in the state of Washington are talking about getting an initiative on the next elections ballot to overturn the law banning so-called 'Erotic Music.' And it would work too if they were out there at every single music show of any kind getting people to get off their butts to register and vote. I told people at my shows in Florida, hey, if all 700 of you in this room all registered to vote and got three of your friends to get off their butts and show up at the polls, the Sheriff who busted 2 Live Crew and crucified Pee Wee Herman for being lonely wouldn't have a job anymore. So basically thinking locally as well as globally is a way of building up a buffer zone against banana-republicans like Bush, Clinton and Tipper Gore."

At this point we asked Jello if he thought a win for the Clinton/Gore ticket would create an upsurge in PMRC activity since they have been relatively quiet for awhile?

"Well they've been relatively quiet publicly but they've gained far more power privately. They are going the same clandestine route as the anti-abortion movement, working with some of the same people such as Focus On The Family, which I'm sure you've reported Susan Baker sits on the Board of. Meanwhile, Tipper Gore lied to my face on Oprah Winfrey saying the PMRC had no religious-right connections whatsoever, while Pat Robertson's lieutenant was answering their mail etc., etc. If Tipper Gore was picked to balance the family values symbolism that Dan Quayle supposedly stands for, I mean what kind of family values is it if Quayle shows that daddy is a complete moron while Tipper Gore lies on national TV. What kind of example are you setting for kids when you lie on national TV again and again and again?"

"You wouldn't have seen all these bills in State Legislators to ban certain kinds of music if it wasn't the PMRC and their religious-right friends working very carefully and tenaciously behind the scenes. You will see far more of that especially if Hillary Clinton plunges in too. She said children's issues are going to be her pet project and Bill Clinton has already come out trashing heavy metal in addition to rap. I mean I would have no problem with Tipper Gore and that crowd whatsoever if they would stick to what they claim they are trying to do. If they would live up to their claim that they are not after legislation and just publish a magazine available to conservative parents who sympathize with them, reviewing and rating these different records just like Consumer Reports rates refrigerators and cars. That would be fine. People who didn't agree with them would not have to subscribe to the magazine, but the reason they don't go that route is because they do want to control what the rest of us are exposed to, not just music wise, but information wise."

We asked Jello what he thought about those who are saying we should vote for Bush because we at least know what we're getting.

"That is totally crazy! My attitude is don't cast a vote or write-in for President, but for Christ sake don't endorse somebody with as little conscience and who's prone to violence and militarism as Bush. Don't cast a vote for a push-button serial killer. Bush is the most evil of the three, Perot may have been the most dangerous, but Bush has the most ice in his veins. I think that if there was an honest to God "NONE OF THE ABOVE" option that would help inspire all the disenfranchised who slowly but surely have given up on their own power to help change things ever since the Kennedy/King assassinations and Watergate and all, I bet you anything you might see upwards of a 60% majority of all those people who didn't register before voting for none of the above as a way of registering their feeling in the matter. That's just off the top of my head. Keep in mind that voter interest is so low in this election that only 7% of the registered voters turned out for the primary in Al Gore's home state of Tennessee. What does that tell you? Where's the other 93%? They're the ones who you might see some rekindling of interest if they felt they had a real option that mattered. Perhaps they'd all come back too if any Presidential candidate had the guts to come out for them abolishing the CIA."

We commented to Jello that those of us who had the main objective of getting Bush out of office now found ourselves in a real dilemma.

"Not just out of office, but in prison next to Noriega where he belongs," Jello closed.

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