being introduced to the DEAD KENNEDYS and the ENIGMATIC, politically STRIDENT cultural FOLK HERO that is JELLO BIAFRA in high school was a complete revelation and game changer. it would be another few years before i got my head around 1980s HARDCORE after being introduced to such by a childhood friend, but to me the DEAD KENNEDYS were OUTLIERS in that movement. with the exception of maybe D.O.A. and BAD RELIGION, their ability to cut through the noise and deliver scathing RIGHTEOUS diatribes related to BRAZEN POLITICAL CORRUPTION, MINDLESS CAPITALISM and DISASTROUS FOREIGN POLICY decisions, both past and present, was second to none. what set them apart in my estimation was BIAFRA's bold penchant for CAUSTIC satire and EAST BAY RAY's adoration and clever reinterpretation of traditional SURF guitar motifs. the DEAD KENNEDYS sounded utterly UNIQUE and their SCATHING lyrical content was presented with a certain amount of HUMOR and performative glee and gusto that made it that much more MEMORABLE then that of their cohorts during the same period who sounded like an incoherent angry populist mob.
by the time i discovered the DEAD KENNEDYS in 1999 through other DJs at my high school school radio station, i had already lived in NIGERIA for three years and bore witness to the intersection of GLOBAL POLITICS and INTERNATIONAL COMMERCE. SANI ABACHA was the dictator during my time in LAGOS and he ruled at times with an iron fist, killing political opponents and prisoners (often in public) with no regard for human rights any semblance of a fig leaf for judicial due diligence. it was a hopelessly CORRUPT and DANGEROUS situation that was reinforced with funds from the petroleum industry, of which my family was a part of. i dont blame them for providing for us, but i came out of the experience with the notion that the world is very COMPLICATED, with many competing NATIONAL INTERESTS and AGENDAS. with a figure like BIAFRA, whose name interestingly is a reference to the former breakaway NIGERIAN republic, there is a certain unflinching gaze and distinct perspective on how to make sense of these COMPLEX issues. if anything he is shedding a light on said INTERNATIONAL CONFLICTS (KHMER ROUGE, BUSH OIL WARS I & II, SEPTEMBER 11th, AFGHANISTAN, JANUARY 6th, etc.) and foreign policy decisions in an INTELLIGENT, THOUGHTFUL and (yes) ENTERTAINING manner that tasks his audience to research and inform themselves and not become a thoughtless drone mouthing off stale copy provided by corporate media interests. in a sense BIAFRA is a secular prophet pointing the way to a better state of affairs where we are not isolated by our complicity with mobile digital platforms and political parties, instead advocating for a more INTIMATE, FORGIVING and ultimately EMPATHETIC relationship with our local community. such could serve as a point of reference for the world, rather than the threat of ECONOMIC and POLITICAL VIOLENCE via our military and long-held INSTITUTIONAL HEGEMONY through the likes of the UNITED NATIONS, WORLD BANK, INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND and so on.
do i agree with JELLO BIAFRA on everything. most of it yes, some probably not but that isnt really the point. his perspective is something i cherish and seek out to make sense of the UNITED STATES' position (both past and present) in the world, much like the wider chorus of NOTABLE voices that includes that likes of JON STEWART, N SCOTT MOMADAY, TIMOTHY SNYDER, HOWARD ZINN, ALEX HALEY, HEATHER MCGHEE, ROBERT MASSIE, JOE SACCO, NOAM CHOMSKY, GEORGE CARLIN, LEA YPI, HENRY ROLLINS, MISHA GLENNY, RACHEL MADDOW, RICHARD DAWKINS, MARK TWAIN, BARBARA DEMICK, RICHARD RHODES and so on. im glad he's still around and as VITAL as ever.
embedded below is a DEER GOD RADIO episode from the winter of 2021 on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC dedicated to the music of JELLO BIAFRA and the DEAD KENNEDYS, as well as most of his side projects and collaborations of the years. enjoy!
it seems every time i become completely jaded by music i reach for INDUSTRIAL bands like THROBBING GRISTLE, FRONT 242, EINSTURZENDE NEUBAUTEN, SISTER MACHINE GUN, CABARET VOLTAIRE, FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY or SKINNY PUPPY to essentially reset my expectations anew. there is just something so invigorating about music that discards convention and attempts to remove the HUMAN ELEMENT entirely, creating ideally something MECHANICAL and devoid of nuance and sensitivity. of course, even in that INTRIGUING pursuit those human embellishments still find their way into the composition, but the attempt in and of itself is LIBERATING.
i definitely got drawn into this genre via the INDUSTRIAL METAL variant that became popular in the 1990s thanks to bands like MINISTRY, FEAR FACTORY, KMFDM, RAMMSTEIN and of course NINE INCH NAILS. i think there is something about the booming DISSONANT NOISE of METAL guitars that blends seamlessly into the highly SYNCOPATED RHYTHMIC PATTERNS of INDUSTRIAL MUSIC that just makes the HYBRID SOUND an INTOXICATING and OVERWHELMING LISTENING EXPERIENCE. it can also be DANCEABLE which is awkward territory for METAL in general, but oddly it works.
like any genre, things do become STALE over time and GENRE CONVENTIONS calcify into GENRE ORTHODOXY, both on the part of the players and the audience, but one band that continues to take chances both in terms of TONE and PRESENTATION is MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL KULT. their whole DEBAUCHED, SEXUALLY-LIBERATED vibe definitely utilized the ROTE stability of the RHYTHMS into something else entirely: a FREAK, idealized future vision of a world devoid of government world orders and corporate overlords that allowed for individuals to effectively pursue pleasure unencumbered by OPPRESSIVE social structures and religious institutions. an EDEN in essence. the ROBOTIC nature of the music is somehow inverted to be something inarguably LIBERATING and REVOLUTIONARY. MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL KULT is easily on of my favorites of the genre.
embedded below is a DEER GOD RADIO episode from 2020 (just before the pandemic) on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC dedicated to various INDUSTRIAL bands. enjoy!
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO dedicated to the roots and enduring legacy of INDUSTRIAL MUSIC.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW and CLASSICAL-ISH WITH NUTMEG are available here at the DEER GOD website.
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