Jello Biafra on Politics, Brooklyn, and Wesley Willis
This year marks the 20th Anniversary of your Prairie Home Invasion country album with Mojo Nixon...
It is? Time flies when you're overworked.
Do you have fond memories of that release? I recall it being received as perhaps your most polarizing project.
In what way?
The reception from "punk" magazines taking issue with the fact that it's a country record.
It was kind of the least likely thing I could have done, which is part of the reason I did it. Grunge-mania was in full swing, Green Day-mania was about to take off. It definitely wasn't what people expected or what I expected, when the opportunity arose I said "why not?" I wanted to make something like that at some point, so there it is.
With this being the 35th anniversary of your label Alternative Tentacles, I wanted to ask you about a few different artists in the catalog. As a big Wesley Willis fan myself, I'm curious if in the ten years since his passing you've noticed a change in his legacy being more accepted or understood?
I think it's mainly among the people who were already into him. There haven't been that many new people on board, but that can change, you never know. If more people saw the Wesley Willis Joyrides documentary, I'm sure they would be very curious indeed. We might even pull out a little tribute to him on Friday.
Are there any plans for another Wesley Willis compilation.
All I need is the time. Ha. Ha. Ha. I'd like to get Volume 4 happening some time, but now is not quite the time even though it feels like less years than it has been since I put out the last one. New unreleased albums turn up every day. I even found a CD sitting in my bedroom that I put in and realized I never played it. I can't remember the name of the album, but I was just so happy that I put it on because it was a whole bunch of songs he showed me the notebook for earlier that I thought were lost that he never recorded. Songs like "Look Out For the Turd Burglar," "Get Your Brains Splattered" and a hilarious song about Michael Jackson, and he told me he was afraid to record that song because he was afraid Jackson would sue him. Even though all he does is say "You are a pedophile to the max / why don't you keep your hands off those little kids," if Jackson tried to sue Wesley over that he wouldn't get very far I have a feeling. Who would he bring as an expert witness, Jerry Sandusky?
With how prolific your career has been, do you have any projects that you're particularly proud of that you wish were more known and discussed amongst your fanbase?
I'd say my most criminally overlooked album was Tumor Circus. That total noise-grog-semi-grunge-amphetamine-reptile kinda-sounding thing I made with Charley Tolnay of Grong Grong and the guys of Steel Pole Bath Tub. We went in thinking we were making a single and then Mike Morasky was laying down so much stuff we thought we had a full album. If we had put a midwestern address on it, it would have been huge. It also would have helped if I had been a little more patient and not released it three months after my album with Nomeansno. I still think it's my most demented project, except maybe The Witch Trials.
The second single had a Clive Barker etching and I believe he did the art. It was a gut-level scream against these people who claim "right to life" but don't give a damn about the person when the baby is born. I might go after them again now that the Supreme Court has put it in that there's law-after-law and state-after-state that's totally beating up on women and their right to do what they need to do to make their own decisions. Reproductive rights are under a quiet but really nasty assault nationwide right now. We're probably going to do "Shock-u-ppy" as a salute to the Occupy Movement. Sure, the tents are gone but the spirit lives on. One of the ways it has is people breaking off smaller winnable chunks of the big picture and winning smaller winnable battles like the battle to keep fracking illegal in New York and, for that matter, our beloved President Barack-Star owes his fucking ass to Occupy. It was Occupy that put the horrific 3rd-world-ization of this country on the front page. Without Occupy, we wouldn't have people walking out of McDonald's demanding a living wage. That's where the spirit of Occupy and the spirit of Seattle lives on. The anti-Corporate movement has only begun to grow.
Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine, Highline Ballroom. 6:30 p.m. $20.