Eric Reed Boucher, more commonly known as Jello Biafra, is one of punk’s definitive figures. A singer and spoken word artist, his visceral take on the world as the frontman of San Francisco punks Dead Kennedys, as well as groups like Lard and as a solo artist, are some of the most intelligent out there.
He’s the man who famously told Nazi punks to “fuck off!” and for that, we salute him. Perhaps the most politically-charged punk to ever live, going way further than the likes of Joe Strummer, Biafra leads by example, and without his many contributions, punk as we know it would be a completely different beast from what it is today.
A brilliant lyricist, Biafra is celebrated for his sardonic lyrics and unrelenting social commentary, complete with his “unique quiver of a voice”. From ‘Kill the Poor’ to ‘Holiday in Cambodia’, and the earworm that is ‘California Über Alles’, since Dead Kennedys first broke through, Biafra has invariably shown himself to be a man of the people and a champion of progressive causes, and its something that he does with zest.
Perhaps the best reflection of Biafra and Dead Kennedys’ take on punk is their classic track ‘Pull My Strings’, which appears on the 1987 compilation Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death. Both criticising the music industry and sampling The Knack’s dad-rock anthem ‘My Sharona’, the song is famous for the part where Biafra delivers a cutting commentary on fame, he asks: “Is my cock big enough, / Is my brain small enough / For you to make me a star?”
Biafra left the band in 1986, and although now he is primarily focused on spoken word performances, he has worked with a string of respected musicians in both Lard, The Witch Trials and otherwise. A true creative, he’s also appeared in a host of films and TV shows, including a memorable cameo in the cult sketch show Portlandia.
A believer in freedom at all costs, Biafra is a member of the American Green Party, and he made headlines when he ran for the party’s President in 2000, finishing second to the much-respected thinker Ralph Nader. However, this was not the first time that Biafra had attempted to make a foray into politics. In 1979, he ran for mayor of San Francisco, something that confirmed his dedication to social issues. Employing absurdist media tactics, Biafra’s work is indebted to the countercultural offshoot of the Yippies, employing them to highlight civil rights and social justice issues.
Given that he is of the most uncompromising figures in music, today we’re listing Jello Biafra’s five best hot takes, and unsurprisingly, they’re pertinent and hilarious.
Jello Biafra’s best hot takes:
One of the most outspoken critics of the former President in the music industry, Biafra has delivered many stellar takes on the oversized tangerine in recent times. After hearing of Donald Trump’s election, he stated in dismay, “how can people be so fucking stupid”, before clarifying his thoughts in another interview with Rolling Stone.
The former Dead Kennedys frontman expressed: “The last person we want with their finger on the nuclear button is somebody connected to this extreme Christianist doomsday cult.”
Although Biafra is associated with the hard political left, he has refused to be tied down to any specific ideology, claiming in 2016: “I don’t label myself strictly an anarchist or a socialist or let alone a libertarian or something like that”. Whilst this may have shocked some of the left, who are longtime supporters of Biafra, his comments on tax in 2012 would have been more shocking to those who want to abolish it, as it defies the logic of some political movements he’s often associated with.
He explained: “I’m very pro-tax as long as it goes for the right things. I don’t mind paying more money as long as it’s going to provide shelter for people sleeping in the street or getting the schools fixed back up, getting the infrastructure up to the standards of other countries, including a high-speed rail system. I’m totally down with that.”
Calling out Evan McMullin
A longer take. When Biafra sat down with Variety in 2021 to discuss his fractured relationship with Dead Kennedys, he segued into a discussion of American politician Evan McMullin and shared some thoughts on the former Republican.
Biafra said: “I was the brains of the operation. So I don’t like when, in my name — since so many people do think I’m still in the band -— I get associated with right-wing foolery. What disturbed me the most about that post is that whatever right-wing dickhead did it also used Evan McMullin’s name as clickbait. You can’t polish that turd. His was a name bandied about as an alternative to Trump, as a write-in candidate, in 2016, by Bill Kristol. Kristol may be a Never-Trumper, and therefore one of their friends, but McMullin, Kristol and such are not our friends. Just because talking heads talk a good anti-Trump game, they’re still hardline conservatives.”
The interviewer then quoted a Tweet from McMullin aimed directly at Biafra, in response to comments he’d made about his old band: “The young Seattle punk in me would have been pleased. If Jello has an issue with the Dead Kennedys, Mitt Romney and I fighting fascists and Nazi punks, that’s his problem… The truth is Mitt Romney is more punk than Jello ever was.”
Biting back with the sarcasm that we love him for, Biafra replied: “‘The young Seattle punk in me.’ What is he, a Screwdriver fan? And Mitt being more punk than me? I can’t top that. Punk is a very high-energy, high-adrenaline, primal-scream form of music. It’s reactionary music that attracts reactionaries from all sides. Always has. So, this is what you have to endure.”
In 2009 Biafra provided a reading of 9/11 that will send conspiracy theorists into a rage, but you can’t help agreeing with him.
Asked about a previous point that labelled the catastrophe more Spinal Tap than conspiracy, the punk icon explained: “My point was a reply to people who are obsessed with the idea that Bush and Cheney, and the people around them, blew up the World Trade Center themselves, and it was all an inside job. You know, I love conspiracy theories, but I prefer that they be supported by logic and science. Bush and Cheney weren’t smart enough or competent enough to pull off something like that. They couldn’t even overthrow Hugo Chavez, for Christ’s sake, when they tried that coup over the weekend. He was back in office by Monday morning.”
He continued: “Well, as you might guess, I get some hardline 9/11 conspiracy theorists at my shows. And they are furious with me when I don’t devote the whole show to 9/11 conspiracies, and then even more furious when they find out I don’t even agree with them. It’s like trying to reason with an anti-abortion zealot or an uber-vegan. It’s just complete religious fanaticism. Besides, it makes no strategic sense from a military point of view to blow up your most valuable real estate and kill 3,000 of your own people just to launch a war you were going to start anyway. All they would have had to do was stage another attack on a ship like the USS Cole, or better yet, do it all at the special effects department at Fox News, and we would be stuck in Iraq anyway.”
Arguably the most significant take on the list, speaking to Spin in 1986, the ‘Jock-O-Rama’ mastermind discussed the constant battle for success in America and the negative effect it has on the populace.
“My main measure of success is that nobody owns me—I’m my own boss. One of the main sources of mental corruption in this country is the ghost of Vince Lombardi: don’t matter how you play the game, don’t matter if you enjoy the game, don’t matter if the game means anything, the important thing is TO WIN. I think that’s as good a definition of mental illness as you’re ever gonna get.”