Better Dead

Ever get the feeling you've been cheated... by the Dead Kennedys?

After the breakup, Biafra -- raised in Boulder, just six blocks from Jon Benet Ramsey's home -- continued exporting his "double-barreled info-tainment," touring, and recording while overseeing Alternative Tentacles.

Flouride released experimental oddities, among them an evil remake of "Shortnin' Bread." Ray wound up working with Skrapyard, Cell Block 5, Candy Ass, and rai singer Cheika Rimitti. At the end of the 1980s, Peligro briefly joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers. "I'll take complete fault for failing to go along with the program," remembers Peligro. "They just politely let me go."

The Dead Kennedys remained a fading memory until 1998, when the two sides began accusing each other of becoming traitors to democracy and decency. The subsequent slab of legalese that buried the band threatened to inter its legacy too. Biafra probably lost the case because his whiny voice -- which made the band's songs so bilious -- caused the jury to hate him. Additionally, his basic premise (the rest of the group became unfriendly, he says, after he refused to allow "Holiday in Cambodia" to be licensed for a Levi's commercial) was capably refuted by all three members.

East Bay Ray, D.H. Peligro, Klaus Flouride, and Brandon Cruz: "In my opinion, the real great rock 'n' roll swindle," says Jello Biafra
East Bay Ray, D.H. Peligro, Klaus Flouride, and Brandon Cruz: "In my opinion, the real great rock 'n' roll swindle," says Jello Biafra

"That's bullshit. It's just a bald-faced lie," sneers Peligro. "I assumed Biafra said that just to have the kids on his side." Though painfully acknowledging that the feuding was "hateful and hurtful," he says, "I'm not taking it so seriously anymore." But Biafra is: He recently issued a screed on the Alternative Tentacles Website that raises worthy points about the motives and integrity of the "rogue members." He's also hitting up fans to contribute to his legal defense fund, which riles his ex-bandmates, whose own propaganda takes Biafra to task for living in a $1.1 million home in San Francisco.

"I don't know exactly how much his house cost," testifies Peligro. "But I live in a studio apartment. I don't even have a bedroom. So somebody's doing better than me, and it ain't me!"

A good reason, Peligro figures, to cash in on the cachet of the Dead Kennedys' songs. And it excuses him for bringing aboard a scab singer to rehash old hits.

Ultimately, the opportunism permeating the Dead Kennedys' return stinks like a sewer. At least the Sex Pistols never claimed to be operating on principle, making their unwelcome comeback far more forgivable: Everyone knew it was about the cash. What Peligro, Ray, and Flouride have done is sell the soul of the band and drain its sweat equity, which leaves a rancid flavor on the taste buds of everyone involved, "myself included," Peligro concurs. "It's a real shame it came to that. We started the band so we could work and grow without all the big business influences. It does take away from the music."

Do fans realize this? Are they paying as much as $20 a ticket to show up just to heckle the band? Who can blame them? At the start of this tour, the Dead Kennedys' booking agent sent promoters an old photo of the original quartet -- lending heft to the bait-and-switch charges. Following that flap, the members almost apologetically offered to appear as the DK Kennedys. But the damage was already done, and sealed with shellac.

"I'm kind of pissed about that," mutters Peligro.

He's not the only one.

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