'Dead, But Still Not Down!'
The Dead Kennedys formed in June 1978, after guitarist East Bay Ray (real name Raymond Pepperell, Jr.) advertised for band mates after seeing a punk show at the Mabuhay Gardens. The original DK lineup consisted of Jello Biafra (real name Eric Boucher) on vocals, East Bay Ray on guitar, Klaus Flouride (real name Geoffrey Lyall) on bass, and 6025 (real name Carlos Cadona) on drums.
They recorded their first demos with this lineup. In early July the band wanted a more experienced drummer, so they hired Ted (real name Bruce Slesinger). 6025 left, but was invited back as second guitarist. Their first concert was on July 19, 1978, at the Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco.
6025 left the band in March of 1979. In June of 1979, the band released their first single, "California Über Alles", on Alternative Tentacles. They followed with a well received east-coast tour.
During the spring of 1980, they recorded and released "Holiday in Cambodia". In the fall they released their debut album, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. It reached #33 in the UK Albums Chart.
The band then released the single "Too Drunk To F**k". The song caused much controversy in the UK as BBC feared the single would reach the Top 30; this would require a performance of the song on Top of the Pops. However, this never came to be as the single peaked at #31. The EP In God We Trust, Inc. (1981) and album Plastic Surgery Disasters (1982) showed a development in musical style, and their music became a political force.
In January of 1986, the DKs decided to break up to pursue other interests. They played their last concert on February 21. During the summer they recorded Bedtime for Democracy, which was released in November. In December, the band announced their split.
No back on the road here in 2006, we caught up with Klaus Flouride himself - and I first wondered if it was true that if it hadn't been for East Bay Ray [real name Raymond Pepperell, Jr.] back in '78 that the Dead Kennedys would never have formed? "Well, Ray did put the ad in the paper and at the record store that we all responded to so, yup!"
After a brief rehearsal period, the Dead Kennedys played their first gig
at Mabuhay Gardens in July 1978. What are your memories of that gig? How did it go? Any funny stories?! "I remember that outside of the venue I got called a poser because I didn't have spiked hair and a leather jacket or some such nonsense. I wasn't wearing the right uniform. Also memorable is that we had prepared a 20 minute set and we were so wired
it went by in 12 minutes."
It still amazes me today that the song "Too Drunk to F**k" remarkably
became a British Top 40 single in 1981! Did it amaze you at the time and
perhaps still now in reflection? "Well, the funny thing is that it was bubbling in the low numbers in the top 100 and someone wrote a letter to some paper about how outraged they were about it even being there. This was the best free advert we could have possibly asked for. The next week it jumped considerably higher and finally into the top 40. Top of the pops wouldn't print the title or say it on the air. Even better!! It climbed to #31 on the strength of, if nothing else, the terrible crime of using a 4 letter word that everybody thinks about a lot of the time anyway!"
What memories do you have of the moment you were told that you might have to sing it live on Britain's TOTP - only to find out it sadly peaked at #31!? Was this final chat placement 'arranged' by the BBC do you think and what plans were afoot for live TV destruction?! "I don't remember thinking much about it at all insofar as what we would
do IF we got on because I think we knew we wouldn't!"
Please tell us more about the now infamous "Penis Landscape" poster art
by Swiss artist H. R. Giger and why it was commissioned knowing the
trouble that would follow! "Biafra found it in a Penthouse Magazine and wanted it as our cover. We (the band and the labels manager) said no and we reached the compromise of the insert of the poster. Even then the label manager was pissed off because he knew they would all come back and have to be pulled eventually. I myself didn't feel it particularly represented anything the other members of DK's felt. It was discussed and it went in the album."
"At that point the group was in the process of breaking up, and in fact did so before the "bust" over the poster went down. We had agreed to finish out our commitments, gigs booked and the Bedtime album and then call it quits for now. As far as the trial I offered to go to court to defend the poster, because even if it wasn't necessarily to my liking, that had nothing to do with its value as art."
You played your last show in March of 1986 in the San Francisco
Bay Area, but why at that time was it right for the band to break up ...? "Actually it was in February at U.C. Davis near Sacramento. We were just going in different directions, and had been doing the DK thing for 8 years."
... and why is the time right now for the band to have reformed?! "Because we wanted to. We didn't really set out to do anything more that a one-off show in L.A. but it went so well and we had a lot of fun as did the audience that we thought it might be nice to do a few more."
How does touring today differ from touring back in the day? "Well, phones make a big difference. Seriously though, the audience seems better informed nowadays, and therefore more likely to be willing to think when probed to do so."
Will there be any new music from the Dead Kennedys soon? "We are at this time and space working on some new tunes, with no set schedule and no promises."
As you all had fake stage names back in the day, where did you take them from and do people today still call you by them thinking they're
real ... ?! "Everybody just sort of made up a name because it was just fun to have a goofy name. My friends on the west coast almost all think of me as Klaus so it stuck, but Mr. Flouride??? I don't know....!"
... and just who really was '6025'?! "That would be telling!"
And as we're revealing things here, just where did the bands name
originate?! "There actually was a band with that name that never played out. We heard of it and it was better than the ones we were thinking of so we absconded with it. To us it represented the end of the Camelot self image in America and the beginning of the feeling that we were being lied to, very seriously, by our government."
What '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock/metal/punk song would you love to cover today if asked ... and why?! "We've been talking about that just recently but haven't come to any consensus. How about "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?!"
Lastly, I like Penguins ... do you?! "I say blast the little f**kers off the face of the planet. They are what's causing all the trouble and strife in this world today, greedy little buggers!!!!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
If you would like to win a Dead Kennedys CD, just answer this easy question: The release of the album Frankenchrist in 1985 caused a furor with the newly formed PMRC ... but what did those initials stand for?!
Send me your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win a Dead Kennedys CD! Just send us an e:mail here before October 15th with your answer and the subject title CONTEST: DEAD KENNEDYS SIGNED CDs' to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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