EB: Let's talk about the spoken word album.
This is going to be a three CD set...
JB: That wasn't what I hoped for, but I couldn't get it chopped down.
Weirdly enough, I was worried whether I'd ever have enough material for even a
single vinyl album, then Clinton and his minions just began handing me more and
more and more material. There's a long talk on censorship, which I hope people
pay attention to, because it's a lot easier to fight an obvious enemy like
pre-makeover Tipper Gore or George Bush, or somebody like that. But when you've
got fuzzy supposed liberals doing the same thing people were doing before, it's
harder to keep people interested and awake. Sure the Clintonoids are gonna pat
gays and pro-choice people on the head, but otherwise it's business as usual.
The NAFTA treaty was Bush's idea, the GATT treaty was the Bush people's idea as
a way of putting it in writing that national laws, borders, environmental
regulations, labor rights, no longer matter, and we all really are now a
worldwide feudalistic state where corporations call the shots. And if you want
to protest cassettes made by Chinese prison labor coming in, the Chinese can
just say, "Nope, that's a barrier to free trade," and under GATT, they get their
stuff in. Mexico already gutted America's ban on gill nets for catching tuna,
they cried "barrier to free trade" under the old GATT, and the GATT commission
ruled in their favor, but then they decided not to implement the ruling until
after NAFTA went through. Same with America banning asbestos in products and the
workplace, and Canadian asbestos makers protested, saying it was a barrier to
free trade. Now we get asbestos again. This is what this was designed to do, and
Clinton was all for it. There's also been a trial balloon floated by the
interior department about privatizing national parks, starting with the
Presidio, thanks to Diane Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi. But what they're thinking
of at the national level... remember when James Watt got all these calls for him
to resign when he proposed leasing parts of national parks out for drilling and
coal mining and shit like that, saying it could be better run by private
enterprise anyway? People howled, they were furious. But when a fuzzy, supposed
liberal administration does it, it doesn't even hit the papers. They're saying,
"Oh, it'll be just like adopt-a-highway at first, just a few signs showing that
the corporation's responsible for keeping this part of the park clean, but the
idea of "Burger King presents Yosemite" and "Blockbuster Video presents
Yellowstone" terrifies me. "Oh yeah, duh, I guess if it's a yogurt stand at the
top of El Capitan it must be OK, besides, otherwise we might have to pay more
taxes, so we might as well give it to the corporations."
EB: OK, so you're going to put this spoken word thing out on three CD's. Do
you worry about whether or not that's going to be marketable?
JB: Oh, I've already concluded that it probably isn't, but I'm gonna put
it out anyway. I don't worry about whether something's marketable when I put it
out, I just do what I think I should do, and put out what I deem necessary. Why
else would I put out Prairie Home Invasion? (laughter) And expose the uptight
Orthodox punk fundamentalists for what they were, that's for damn sure. But no,
my spoken word stuff is something that people don't listen to in one sitting
anyway. I think in a way it's better heard on cassette than on vinyl or CD,
because that way you can listen to a little bit on the bus, or when you're stuck
in traffic, or on the train, or whatever, and then put it away for a while, and
then get some more out. You know, it's very information oriented, it's not so
much me and my penis and my anxiety type stuff, it's meant to be infotainment.
EB: What are some of the other themes that are covered on this?
JB: Let's see, you heard the piece on stage, that's one, that's called
"Eric Meets the Moose Diarrhea Salesman." That's the title from a
cartoon drawn in sixth grade by my friend John Greenway. We used to draw
cartoons about each other, insulting the fuck out of each other, and then give
them to the other person. In that one, I meet a moose diarrhea salesman, and of
course drink a bottle and die, like I did at the end of every cartoon. There's
another piece called "Message to Our Sponsor," which started out as a National
Public Radio broadcast right before the '92 election. They had Ed Koch, the
former mayor of New York, and some high-powered Ivy League professors give a
three minute address to the next president of the United States, whoever that
might be, and to throw a wrench in the whole thing they invited me. My
suggestions were a little different from the others, and so far they haven't
been heeded, so I guess they bear repeating. (At this point, a guy hands Jello a
poster through the car window and they talk briefly.) He lived next door to me
in those early punk days, '78 - '79.
EB: So with this thing with Koch, what kind of forum was that?
JB: It was a pre-recorded radio broadcast. "My name is Ed Koch, you may
remember me as the former mayor of New York, and I'd like to talk about health
care." Everybody picked a special issue, and they told me to try censorship or
whatever, but the more I thought about it, no, I'll just give them about 20 or
30 of them, just... blahhh! Things like lowering the voting age to five, to end
youth apathy. I mean, if kids could vote on their school boards for their
teachers, they'd take an immediate interest in civic affairs. I also thought the
proposal dating clear back to my mayor campaign, to not only require police to
live in the cities they patrol, but run for election in the neighborhoods they
patrol. It would end a lot of the Rodney King brutality right then and there,
instead of hiding in the black and white cars and treating all the citizens as
the enemy. I thought these were all very practical proposals. Completely
abolishing the military was another one, decriminalizing all hard drugs,
including heroin and crack, and doing what they call harm reduction, which is
done in Holland and parts of England and parts of Europe. If you're hooked, if
you're a junkie, you can get it on prescription from the government, which
bypasses the mob's high drug prices, plus when you want to quit, they have
services available, instead of this skewered thing we have here where the drug
war gets billions a year, but it's a six month wait in San Francisco to get into
rehab if you want to stop smoking crack. Perfectly reasonable proposals, in my
opinion. Another one is line-item taxation, I'm really into that now. You know,
both Reagan and Clinton have called for line-item vetoes, where they can just
cross out individual sentences and bills passed by congress, basically keeping
congress from getting any word in edgewise. But I think instead, why not
line-item taxation where you can choose what percentage of your tax money goes
where. I'm not anti-tax; I think what's happened to California with the school
system, with cities falling apart and people not having a place to live, that's
all because of greedy republican property owners who didn't want to pay their
taxes. Polly Klaas died because of Proposition 13, basically. If they hadn't cut
all those police departments' budgets they would have had all their radios in
sync by then, so the cop that stopped the car of the guy who kidnapped her would
have found her. They never think about that when they call for spending more
money on prisons than on schools in this state. What does it say about what this
country's turning into when the only growth industry in some parts of California
is in building jails? All of this stuff is part of the album, in varying
EB: How many pieces are on there?
JB: The censorship talk, as usual, is the long one. Moose Diarrhea, that
makes two, Message to Our Sponsor is three, Experts is four, Ban Everything,
which I've had kicking around for years but never sot to put out, is five, and
one tentatively titled I Have a Dream, with some more solutions to our world
problems, that would be six. So it's six long ones. And yeah, people keep
saying, "Oh Biafra, you're too negative, you never say anything nice, you never
offer any solutions," well this album's full of 'em. I mean, the message in a
lot of my songs over the years from the beginning, satire songs like "Terminal
Preppie" or whatever, was this doesn't have to be you. Spot it in the mirror now
and you can deal with it. So I don't think a lot of my songs are negative
anyway, I don't think having a sense of humor is negative at all.
EB: Getting back to your drug legalization thing, Eugene (Chadbourne) and I
were talking about that the other day during his interview, that things seem to
moving a little bit in that direction, at least for marijuana.
JB: Not really, there's a little bit of call for it in the straight press,
about legalizing hemp for commercial use, that's hopeful. But then again, we're
in San Francisco. I want to see these stories run in Florida, or someplace like
that. The drug war budget of Clinton's is just like Bush's, there's not a shift
toward rehabilitation there. They're spending huge amounts of money infiltrating
Grateful Dead shows to bust people for selling acid, and some of these people
who never harmed a fly in their life are getting much longer sentences than gang
bangers who blow people's heads off. I mean, there's one woman serving a 76 year
sentence in Texas for acid, and another guy's serving 20 years, and that was
clearly an entrapment bust, and this is still going on. Tipper and Al may be
cozying up to Jerry Garcia as part of the makeover effort for Tipper Gore, but
otherwise it's just as vicious and fascistic as when Bush was running the drug
war. The fact that it's still called "the drug war" shows me that nothing except
talk is being done. You're shoving hundreds of millions of dollars at the
Columbian army for their death squads and shit, under the guise of the drug war.
That's fucking wrong, and that is not changing. We now have 2500 advisory
military troops in Peru. That's how Vietnam started too, a few thousand
so-called "advisors," and it escalated from there.
EB: So after this album, what else do you have going on?
JB: Well, I've been writing a lot of songs, and I want to write a lot more.
It's sort of been one frustrating delay after another for damn near six years. I
mean, if I can get left alone long enough, I can write tons of songs, but it's
been a real struggle to carve out the time. Plus, I kept getting involved in
other ventures and things, like the Terminal City Ricochet film, spoken word,
and the music fan side of me, it's sort of a Walter Mitty fantasy come true, I
actually get to make a record with D.O.A., or the Ministry guys, NoMeansNo, Mojo
or Steel Pole Bathtub, or the Tumor Circus album. When something like that comes
up I have a hard time resisting. The trouble is, then I have to get all the
words to work and get the damn thing finished, and I've never been efficient in
the studio. You know, I'm both inefficient and not that great a singer, so I've
gotta cover it up, and as Morris the Cat once said, it pays to be finicky.
EB: Do you have anybody in particular in mind when you're writing these
JB: The beauty is that I can write any kind of song and not have to worry
about whether a certain group of people are going to play it. That was kind of a
bit of a yoke around me in the Dead Kennedys days, 'cause I knew I was writing
for Ray, Klaus and Peligro, and there's certain kinds of stuff, some of which
has turned up on the later albums, that I knew that they either could not or
would not play.
EB: So you've just been writing stuff and putting it aside?
JB: Yeah, I want to have a lot of stuff to pull off the shelf, because it's
been bottlenecked up for years, and part of the reason it's taking so long is
that some of these topics and ideas that I've been wrestling with since way back
before Plastic Surgery Disasters, now that a lot of the other songs are out and
recorded, I'm down to the hard stuff. Pieces of music I've been trying to make
work for a long time, words, and of course, you know, every month or two
something new pops into my head that's really cool, too. So I'm playing a ten
year game of catchup. And when I'm doing fun physical therapy on my leg for
three to five hours a day, it throws me that much further behind.
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