Moi? Interview a member of the Dead Kennedys? It won’t happen, never will…
On June 19, hardcore punk legends, the Dead Kennedys are set to hit the stage at New York’s famed venue, Irving Plaza. Sharing the bill with DK is none other than Reagan Youth! Being the disciple of punk that I am, I am more than just a little excited about this upcoming show. Last month, I decided, along with asking for two passes to review this show, that I would take things a step further and also request an interview. I didn’t actually think that the interview would happen. Moi? Interview a member of the Dead Kennedys? It won’t happen, never will. The fucking gall! Yet … I had to try. You know, what? Self doubt is a thing of the past. Legendary DK bassist, Mr. Klaus Flouride agreed to an interview! Join me, won’t you as we take a look through the Dead Kennedys past and still thriving fruitful future!
… “each of us had an idea of what we wanted the band to be” …
kS • How did the Dead Kennedys come to be?
kF • That could be at least a first chapter in a book about DK’s. The quick answer would be five guys all looking to start or get into a punk band because punk was exciting, theatre, funny, serious, and every “thing” that rock’n’roll had once been. (East Bay) Ray posted an ad in BAM magazine classified that I answered. He had already met (Jello) Biafra (I’m not sure if he saw Ray’s ad or Ray saw his.) There was also a notice posted on the notices board at Aquarius Records. Next the three of us met and sort of clicked.
We went looking for a drummer (went through a few of them) and finally I think Ted found us. By that time we had already made a demo with another drummer (a garage tape –straight to cassette), and to get a gig at the Mabuhay posed with an acquaintance of Biafra’s from various shows who posed as the “drummer”. He told us he played guitar and we tried him out and said “you’re in” and he became 6025. Still no drummer though, but a gig 2 weeks away thanks to the tape and glossy photo. Finally, we did make the connection with Ted and were happy that he tended to rush the songs, as opposed to others, who had dragged; and, he was good…very good. But that’s just the mechanics of how we found each other. More importantly, each of us had an idea of what we wanted the band to be and sound like. There was enough overlap that we thought we’d give it a go, and enough things that didn’t overlap to make it even more interesting.
“We wanted something that would slap you in the face more than The Sex Pistols but wasn’t just shock for shock’s sake.”
kS • How did the band name come about?
kF • A good friend of Biafra’s had already heard of a band using the name from the grapevine, (pre internet word got around via traveling, meeting people at shows and fanzines). They hadn’t played out of the garage and apparently weren’t going to, at least with that name. I believe we approached them and it was no big deal to them and we decided to use the name.
We wanted something that would slap you in the face more than The Sex Pistols but wasn’t just shock for shock’s sake. The image and memory of the Kennedy assassinations, plus, how it knocked the wind out of the idea that we were all being kept safe by a government that would never lie to us; and, that everything was getting bigger and better leading to a sort of apathetic me-isim is what we meant it to represent.
kS • The Dead Kennedys defined the hardcore genre. Was there a specific group or artist that influenced your sound?
kF • I’m not so sure that we defined it, but we did represent. There were artists from back in the 30’s to the time we started that we all drew inspiration from in many genre’s of music and art. Eraserhead, The Weirdos, The Avengers, Negative Trend, The Mutants, The Offs, Geza X and The Deadbeats, The Screamers (especially The Screamers!), The Stooges, The Ramones, The New York Dolls, Crime, DEVO and on and on. You get the picture.
… “there are still literally tons of bands that don’t fall under the corporate punk umbrella and even a few of those hold credentials and stick to what they started out to be.”
kS • What bands or artists were you listening to growing up?
kF • Well we were all exposed to stuff from our parents and siblings. Ray and I were exposed to a lot of jazz from the 30’s to The 60’s. Ellington, Artie Shaw, Louis Prima. I saw Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly on TV. My older brother and sister got me things like Little Richard, Fats Domino, etc. when I was small and very impressionable and they all had strong effect. By the 60’s with the U.K. Invasion bands and into the later 60’s with all the experimental mixed with The Mothers and The Fugs and Hendrix, etc. It all informed me. Biafra was listening to things like Hawkwind and anything he could find that was either weird because they wanted to be, or weird because they didn’t realize that they were so odd. So all our tastes were very divergent. But it was early on for me (9 or 10 years old) that I realized that that’s what I wanted to do.
kS • What made you want to make music your life’s work?
kF • (See above.)
kS • What’s your opinion on the punk movement today?
kF • I think that it’s still alive and thriving everywhere. It is sometimes not as varied as it was in the late 70’s and early 80’s when there was a vast range of styles that played at punk shows – art punk, raw stooges style, pop punk, punkabilly, but there are still literally tons of bands that don’t fall under the corporate punk umbrella and even a few of those hold credentials and stick to what they started out to be.
“They’re smart for the most part and hopefully understand what has come before them and what they might be able to do to make this planet last a bit longer.”
kS • Are there any groups from today that your a fan of? If so, which?
kF • Mostly locals. The Titan-Ups a rocksteady band with the singer being from Overwhelming Colorfast and Oranger Day (both bands which I really like.) The Dukes of Hamburg. Beachkreig for starters. I’m sure D.H.’s list would be huge.
kS • When you guys are playing shows nowadays, is there a major change that you can pinpoint between the crowds from when you first started when compared to the crowds today?
kF • Well to start with, at our shows they’re multi-generational is the main difference from say the 80’s. They’re smart for the most part and hopefully understand what has come before them and what they might be able to do to make this planet last a bit longer. I mean a show is one thing but going home and gaming the rest of the time sort of defeats the purpose.
…”The 10% on stage, performing. That is definitely what keeps the fire going.”
kS • DK’s last studio album, “Bedtime For Democracy”, was released in November 1986. DK disbanded in 1986, reforming again in 2001. Why haven’t you guys released a new album? Can we expect one in the near future?
kF • We have some new material that’s in the shows but truth be told anything we release is going to be compared directly to Fresh Fruit and we don’t want to put something out there just to put it out there, so we’ve set ourselves quite a high bar. As far as anything in the future, I’ve learned to never say never. Let’s wait and see.
kS • How do you guys keep that fire going after 38 years?
kF • Touring in and of itself is not much fun. It’s 90% traveling and then waiting and not getting to see much in the way of the towns and regions we play in. The 10% on stage, performing. That is definitely what keeps the fire going. The people we play for and meet after the shows and get to talk to and to hear their stories.
kS • Is there a relationship between the band and Jello Biafra, cordial or otherwise?
kF • If we could have it be cordial we would be glad to have it so. It differs from time to time but to be truthful, not so much. Hopefully sometime sooner than later that can change.
kS • If you had a bucket list for the band, what would be at the tippy top of said list?
kF • That would be telling.
So there you have it folks. I had the great pleasure of corresponding with a living legend. Does life get any better than this? Only time will tell, but thus far, I’ve been letting this feeling sink in and it has yet to do so. A very special thank you to Klaus for his time in answering my questions and giving me (albeit through e-mail) a trip down DK memory lane. I know where I’ll be come June 19 and I invite you all to join me because I foresee this being an experience of a lifetime. So what do you say, my fellow punkers? Shall we get the punk riot started at Irving in two weeks? Yeah, I say lets.
You can purchase your tickets for the Dead Kennedys Irving Plaza show right here! See you there!