The Dead Kennedys in their original form began in San Francisco in 1978, with Jello Biafra (Eric Reed Boucher) on vocals, East Bay Ray (Raymond Pepperell) on guitar, Klaus Fluoride (Geoffrey Lyall) on bass, and 6025 (Carlos Cadona) on drums.
The current lineup is the the result of a reformation of the band that occurred in 2001 after a prolonged and less than amicable legal battle between Biafra and his band mates.
Current Lineup of the Dead Kennedys:
Ron "Skip" Greer – lead vocals (2008 - present)
East Bay Ray – guitar (1978 - 1986, 2001 - present)
Dave Scheff – drums (2008 - present)
Former Dead Kennedys:
Jello Biafra – lead vocals (1978 - 1986)
Brandon Cruz – lead vocals (2001 - 2003)
Jeff Penalty – lead vocals (2003 - 2008)
6025 – drums (1978), guitar (1978 - 1979)
Ted – drums (1978 - 1981)
D.H. Peligro – drums, percussion (1981 - 1986, 2001 - 2008)
Klaus Flouride – bass (1978 - 1986, 2001 - 2008)
Political From Day One:
From their inception, the Dead Kennedys were a political force in the underground movement, harshly critical of the U.S. in the Reagan era and of commercialism, especially as it applied to the repackaging of punk music.
Even though they were heavily political, they also maintained a sense of humor. Songs like "Holiday in Cambodia," "MTV Get Off The Air" and "Nazi Punks F**k Off" were blatant in their statements and call for social awareness, yet sarcastic and entertaining as well without becoming overly preachy.
Seeking a place to release their self-produced single for "California Uber Alles," Ray and Biafra founded the Alternative Tentacles label. Eventually, the label would become one of the most well-known and respected independent record labels in the U.S.
After the breakup of the band, Biafra assumed sole ownership, and continues to release albums from a wide range of independent artists.
The Obscenity Trial:
1985 saw the release of the band's fourth studio album, Frankenchrist. This album showcased the band as they broke away from formulaic punk rock and explored other musical innovations.
Unfortunately, the inclusion of a poster in the album ended up causing more problems than their lyrics or themes ever had. The poster, a reproduction of the H.R. Giger work Work 219: Landscape XX, was a surreal, sexually explicit landscape.
Based on the poster, the band was brought up on obscenity charges. Although the charges eventually were dropped after a hung jury, the length and cost of the trial all but ended the band.
The Dead Kennedys vs. Jello Biafra:
In the late '90s, disputes over licensing and royalties saw Jello Biafra back in court, this time against his former band mates. The former Dead Kennedys maintain that the lawsuit was because Biafra was deliberately withholding royalty payments from the band, while Biafra maintains that the royalty payments were withheld in error, and that the band was motivated by a desire to cash in on Dead Kennedys licensing wherever they could.
Regardless of the true motives, Biafra was found guilty and ordered to pay the band nearly $200,000.
In 2001, celebrating their court victory, the newly reformed Dead Kennedys began touring with a handful of singers (including, at one time, former child star Brandon Cruz) and re-released the albums they acquired the rights for. The only original member at this time is East Bay Ray.
Selected Discography :
In God We Trust, Inc. (1981) Compare Prices
Plastic Surgery Disasters (1982) Compare Prices
Frankenchrist (1985) Compare Prices
Bedtime for Democracy (1986) Compare Prices
Give Me Convenience Or Give Me Death (1987) Compare Prices
Jello Biafra After the Dead Kennedys:
In addition to running Alternative Tentacles, Jello Biafra records and performs with many of the bands on his label and does political spoken work tours.
He and Ministry's Al Jourgensen joined up for the band Lard, and he has also played with such legendary acts as D.O.A., The Melvins and Nomeansno.
Biafra has also explored the field of politics, first running for Mayor of San Francisco in 1979 9 prank), and recent campaign to be the presidential candidate for the Green Party in 2000.