Dead Kennedys say: “Nuclear Power Bad”

That startling observation was just one of the controversial beliefs expounded by the Dead Kennedys in an interview backstage at Ruthie’s Inn at 3 in the morning sometime in 1983.’                


 TWISTED IMAGE: What kind of bands do you like?









RAY: (sarcastically) One that has bass, drums, guitar, and singers, and sometimes keyboards.

TI: You guys are very specific.

KLAUS: Well, you give us specific questions, we’ll give you specific answers.

T.I.: Ahh, I’m a bike messenger during the day and I’ve been working REAL hard all day (various moans- no sympathy)… I’m not exactly in the sharpest form.

RAY: What’s the political reason you’re a bike messenger?

T.I.: ‘Cuz I’m broke and it’s probably the only job I could get.

RAY: You’d give up your political principles just because you’re broke?

T.I.: I don’t have any political beliefs.

RAY: Gee-ziz!

T.I.: I deliver packages to Bechtel, to Bank of America. What the hell; I’m just a good Nazi.

RAY: What do you feel about nuclear war? (Hey, who’s supposed to be doing the interviewing, huh?)

T.I.: Well, if we all blew up it’d get me outta my own pain.

RAY: You could do that yourself without blowing the rest of us up.

T.I.: I’m too lazy. It’s too lonely to do it yourself. Nuclear power is basically planetary suicide, ‘cuz we’re all afraid to kill ourselves by ourselves, so we’ll do it together.

RAY: Last resort of a coward.

T.I.: What do you think of nuclear power?

KLAUS: I think it’s real powerful.

RAY: I think it’s bad.

T.I.: Can I quote you on that?

KLAUS: Dead Kennedys say: “Nuclear power is bad.”

T.I.: You guys are RADICAL! (Laughter)

KLAUS: Baby seals are good. Nuclear power is bad.

T.I.: Go with that thought… Is Jello against nuclear power?

KLAUS: Geez I dunno, I never asked him.

JELLO: (making scene) I’m not gonna do an interview tonight. I can’t talk.T.I.: That’s O.K. These guys are giving me good stuff. They actually went out on a limb and said the Dead Kennedys come out against nuclear power.

JELLO: I grew up right near a nuclear warhead plant, so maybe I’m bionic.

T.I.: Whaddaya’ think of fan-zines?

JELLO: I like fan-zines that are off-beat, twisted and fun, but can still put an intelligent point of view across. Meaning, certain people are lying through their teeth when they call themselves a “fan-zine” when all they do is put down other people through the whole fucking issue. Nya! Nya! Nya! Nya! “So-and-so is a commie!” “Boycott this band!” etc. That’s totally juvenile. Then turn around and say: “Unite the scene under my fat boot!” Some of us have to laugh.

T.I.: TWISTED IMAGE isn’t a fan-zine, ‘cuz I’m not a fan-boy. This is the first time I’ve seen you guys.

JELLO: Yea, I noticed that.

RAY: I got some gossip for you. Jello came over to my house for rehearsal, he gets into my kitchen and eats all my cookies!

T.I.: Oh my God!

KLAUS: A cookie fiend! (Shrieks!)

T.I.: Circumstantial evidence.

JELLO: (defending himself) Years later, after we can’t rehearse in Ray’s garage anymore ‘cuz of the Oakland police, he comes over to my house and wonders if we have any cookies!

T.I.: Now we gotta’ fued going.

JELLO: O.K. get ready. Dead Kennedys have started a new trend to make up your scoop: “Cookie Edge.” (Laughter)

KLAUS: This is getting too hot and heavy for me. (Leaving) You can write half of it yourself and attribute it to us.JELLO: Cookie edge rules!

T.I.: So how’d you guys get started? I guess I first saw you when you were running for mayor of San Francisco.

JELLO: Yea. We’d been around a year by that time. I just moved here, wanted to do a band, met them through an ad at Aquarius Records, and started rehearsing. Made our debut after practicing for a week, at the Mabuhay opening for the Offs & Negative Trend, July ’78. So we are first generation San Francisco punks.

T.I.: You must have seen the scene go through a lot of changes.

JELLO: YEP! (Laughs)

T.I.: On a political level do you think you can have a positive impact? Is that what you’re trying to do?

JELLO: We’re cracking open the heads of closed minds. They may not like what we say, but they’re forced to decide how it applies to them. And if it doesn’t – what does?

T.I.: This 17-year-old friend of mine says for a while there was a real anti-Dead Kennedys feeling at school – like when you jump into the crowd it was, “Let’s beat the shit outta’ him!” Do you feel any of that?

JELLO: We still get that from time to time.

T.I.: “Cuz it seemed real gentle out there tonight.

JELLO: Depends on the show. Like the Elite Club will sometimes bring out the people who want our asses. And a lot of it had to do with the “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” song. Some people, it touched exactly the raw nerve we hoped it would. (Ironic laugh) And the results being they wanted our ass. I have been threatened in the past couple of months by the singers in two different prominent bands to beat the fuck out of me if they ever see me again. Again, mainly for the stands we take.

T.I.: Well, it’s pretty courageous- it’s easy to tell Reagan of fuck off ‘cuz he’s not listening, but to —

GUARD: Let’s go. Getting ready to lock up.

JELLO: O.K. We’ll be out in a minute. Part of the original reason I got into punk was because it was confrontational. It questioned things. It was people who weren’t afraid to look you in the eye and say, “Why do you do the things you do?” And we’ve continued that, even if it means confronting the punk audience themselves when they start to take on the very traits that the whole thing was formed to fight. We’re caught in a bind on that. Like, places like this are the most fun. But we can’t leave shit-loads of people outside the Tool & Die every time we play, even though that’s a fun place to play. And thus you get the Elite Club, which can take on a real ugly Colosium rock atmosphere unless you put a stop to it. Sometimes we’ve succeeded at that, sometimes we haven’t.

T.I.: So you don’t feel you have a lotta’ control over the audience?

JELLO: Well, it’s not our place to go around controlling people or telling them what to do – which we get accused of at least once a day. What we do is say what we think, and if people don’t like it they should have something better to say to back it up. And maybe we, Dead Kennedys, can learn something from them.


(Originally printed in TWISTED IMAGE #4,  the “Special Punk Fan-Zine Issue,” sometime in early 1983 . . .  Which also featured interviews with the editors of MaximumRocknRoll, Flipside, Punk Globe, Ripper, Sick Teen, Baboon Dooley and John Holmstrom.  A bit of a classic issue, boy.)

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