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Great news — Pathmark is offering delicious, refreshing Savarin coffee for just $2.19 a pound. Offer only good if you currently live in July of 1984.
Turning to the literary world, my book A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever received a 10 out of 10 from DIS/MEMBER. Reviewer Justin Partridge called it “a triumph” and “a towering examination of Ghostbusters from soup to nuts.” Hey, that’s some serious critical acclaim. Thanks, Justin.
A Convenient Parallel Dimension is out now where ever fine books are sold. There are also ebook and audiobook versions. And here’s an incomplete list of libraries where you can read it for free: Denver Public, Indianapolis Public, Allen Country (Indiana) Public, Cleveland Public, Los Angeles Public, New York Public, Queens Public, Newport (Oregon) Public, the Firestone Library at Princeton University, the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University, and the Library of Congress.
The ghost heads are buzzing right now because the sequel to Ghostbusters: Afterlife began filming last week. There was also some casting news, which kicked off the usual round of “that guy’s not funny” and “that guy’s too woke” and “where the hell is Rick Moranis?” I don’t care who they put in Afterlife 2 (the working title is actually Firehouse). I’m just curious to see where they go with the story. I enjoy Afterlife but it has third act problems and I have trouble imagining how they can build from that. Well, I guess that’s why I’m in the nonfiction biz.
Another thing I’m curious about with this new Ghostbusters is how many people working on it will get COVID. The virus is still everywhere, continuing to debilitate and kill thousands of people every single day. Lately there’s been an uptick in famous actors complaining about COVID restrictions on film sets. Tilda Swinton made headlines a couple weeks ago when she announced she wouldn’t be wearing a mask on the set of her next movie (even though the filmmakers asked her to). Swinton’s already had COVID and she believes she has enough antibodies and faith for protection.
I hate to rain on your parade, Tilda, but it’s pretty common knowledge at this point that antibodies created during one infection aren’t proven to shield you from future infection. Also, why aren’t you worried about protecting the other people on this film set? Especially the crew members who aren’t worth $14 million? Crew members who can’t afford to miss any work and certainly don’t want to develop COVID-related disabilities? Now they’ll feel pressured not to mask up because a dumb rich actress made a big stink about preferring to see people’s faces.
By the way, Swinton’s 2021 bout with COVID left her bedridden for weeks and by her own account she’s still struggling with brain fog. Well, I guess a functioning memory isn’t that important when you have millions of dollars.
The team behind the new Ghostbusters has been posting behind-the-scenes shots since filming started; so far, I’ve only seen one mask, worn by director Gil Kenan. With so many younger actors involved in this production, I keep thinking about how the people who make “Wednesday” had their 20 year old star Jenna Ortega perform an intense dance routine while she was sick with COVID. She woke up with obvious COVID symptoms and they had her start filming while they were waiting on the test results. Stuff like that probably happens every day.
If I was king of the world, I’d force every actor who is worth more than $10 million to put a significant chunk of their money into a collective account for below the line film set employees. Then those employees could afford to take some time off and Hollywood could stop producing content until the virus is actually under control. In the absence of Doctor Strange 14: Spider-Man’s Cousin’s Uncle’s Revenge, we the home viewers could entertain ourselves by watching old movies. Think about all the old movies you’ve never seen. Think about all the foreign movies you’ve never seen. What better time to watch Berlin Alexanderplatz than right now?
Another cool thing you could do right now is read some of my recent writing. Here’s something I wrote about the movie where Bud Cort plays Hitler’s son (it’s a comedy!). Here’s a piece I wrote about UFOria, the movie where Cindy Williams is a UFO nut. Here’s some stuff I couldn’t fit into my Ghostbusters book. Here’s a story about how I tried to write a book about Dead Kennedys.
Did you know this blog has a paid tier? For just $2 a month (that’s less than a pound of Savarin!), you can join JG2LAND PREMIUM and unlock exclusive content like my examination of the infamous 1978 romantic drama Moment by Moment or my history of the Satanic Paul Shaffer sitcom “A Year at The Top” or my review of the cartoon Transformers movie.
Who knows what amazing stuff I’ll put behind this paywall in the future? The two bucks also helps to support all the free to read content I post on here. To join, click one of those premium links; it’ll bring up the prompt. Wow, easy.
In sports news, I can’t believe the Academy Awards left Gaylord Perry out of the “in memoriam” this year.
What else can I tell ya? My stepdaughter’s really been getting into System of a Down lately. Toxicity is a great album. Their material stands the test of time, which is more than I can say for most of those goddamn Screeching Weasel records I was listening to around the turn of the century.
Bloody Disgusting has published a very flattering review of my new book A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever. Ike Oden writes that ACPD is “the definitive, unexpurgated story of the beloved film franchise and its central players. Finally, ghostheads have their own gospel, a Tobin’s Spirit Guide of thoroughly researched and thoughtfully disseminated Ghostbusters history.”
Oden sums up the book as “an addictively written, utterly engrossing read, and an absolute must-have stocking stuffer for fans this holiday season.” Thanks! Although I don’t think the book will fit in a stocking. Maybe you should wrap it up with a nice ribbon.
Remember, if you buy A Convenient Parallel Dimension directly from the publisher right now you can save 35% off with the code 22JOYSALE. This is a cool deal. It saves you some money and ensures that absolutely no money goes to Jeff Bezos. Sale ends on January 6th, 2023.
Speaking of odious billionaire scum, Elon Musk was making it feel extremely gross to remain on Twitter so I deactivated my account. It’s a bummer. For all its pre-Elon problems, Twitter was tough to beat as a news aggregate. There were tons of people on there who clued me in on social issues that never got amplification anywhere else. It was an awesome comedy aggregate too. The hardest laughs in the past decade came from anonymous weirdos tweeting like they had nothing to lose. Most importantly, I met my wife on Twitter.
So Twitter was a valuable resource in those respects and it sucks that the world’s richest edgelord is tanking it because all his kids hate him and his all his ex-wives hate him and everyone sensible person in the world hates him because he’s perpetually full of shit and his cars keep murdering people. Just another reason this country needs a maximum wage. No one should be able to spend $44 billion on a utility just so they can treat it like a pile of Legos. Billionaires should not exist!
Meanwhile, the rest of us are just trying to afford groceries. That reminds me — if you enjoy my writing, please consider becoming a paid subscriber to this blog. For the nominal fee of $2 a month, JG2LAND PREMIUM unlocks a tier of exclusive content that’s continuously growing. Here are the pieces subscribers have enjoyed thus far:
Ass My Kiss (history behind KISS tribute album Kiss My Ass)
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The Individual Will Be Destroyed (review of The Parallax View)
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Enjoy your holiday season and remember, the pandemic is not over. Please keep masking and avoiding large crowds. Let’s make 2023 the safest year yet. I mean, as safe as we can be in a country with no gun control.
I got into Dead Kennedys when I was a teenager in the late ’90s. They had a couple songs on Burning Ambitions, these awesome punk rock compilations recommended to me by Dave, my local record store guru. Around the same time my pal Joe dubbed a bunch of their stuff onto a cassette for me. Even for punk, Dead Kennedys were warped. They played this dark, inward style of surf music where the guitar sounded like it was dripping with acid. The singer’s insane helium voice had to be a put on. Who sounds like that? Tiny Tim? Mickey Mouse on crack? It was demented, but I loved it. And the songs were these caustic, astute, invigorating, and often very funny diatribes railing against everything wrong with society — wealth disparity, suburban sprawl, nationalism, the military industrial complex, pollution, corporations, religion.
Thank god someone is saying all this shit out loud!
Cut to 2001. I was struggling to finish college. The struggle got even harder when I was struck by the calling to write a book about Dead Kennedys. Part of it came from reading Our Band Could Be Your Life, which was published that year. Each chapter in Our Band is devoted to a different underground group of the ’80s. Dead Kennedys are referenced often throughout the text but they didn’t receive their own chapter. That seemed insane. Man, when are these guys gonna get their due? A scrapbook was floating around back then called Dead Kennedys: The Unauthorized Version; it has a lot of cool pictures and quotes but that’s it. Someone’s gotta write a real book about these guys, one that really gets into how important they are. Why not me?
A good answer would have been, “Because you have zero experience.” I’d never written anything professionally. My career consisted of a Geocities website where I posted pea-brained opinions on records and movies. Hey, everybody has to start somewhere, and I liked to dream big. So suddenly I was pushing everything aside to figure out a Dead Kennedys book. I sat in my classes furiously scribbling in notebooks, working under the assumption that I could just bribe my professors into giving me passing grades.
I didn’t want to write this book without the help of every Dead Kennedy, so I wrote them all letters asking if they’d like to participate. This is probably the craziest part of the story — since I couldn’t find exact addresses for most of the band members, I just wrote their names and “San Francisco, CA” on the envelopes. Like I was writing to Santa Claus. One small caveat: I had to fax my letter to singer Jello Biafra. An associate explained that he preferred to receive correspondence that way. Okay, sure, you got it.
By this point, it was no secret that Dead Kennedys had fractured into two very embittered camps. A lawsuit over royalties and catalog control shattered any illusions about brotherhood. Let’s see how succinctly I can explain this fight. Dead Kennedys started their own record label in 1979 called Alternative Tentacles. After the band broke up in 1986, Jello was granted sole ownership of Alternative Tentacles. Ten years after that, the label’s GM discovered that the other Dead Kennedys — guitarist East Bay Ray, bassist Klaus Flouride, and drummer D.H. Peligro — had been stiffed on royalties to the tune of six figures. The instrumentalists claimed the GM blew the whistle on a coverup where Jello was going to disguise the missing royalties as brand new profit. Jello said he and the other Dead Kennedys were trying to solve everything amicably until they got mad that he wouldn’t agree to license their song “Holiday in Cambodia” to a Levi’s commercial.
Ray, Klaus, and D.H. sued Jello for fraud. The case went to trial in 2000; Jello was found guilty. As a fan, I didn’t know what to think. Who was telling the truth? All I knew is it would make a compelling portion of my book. So I sent my letters off, assuming they’d come right back or get lost in the mail. This was in August of 2001, I think. Then I caught some news that made me wish I’d never sent Dead Kennedys any letters in the first place. Ray, Klaus, and D.H. were reforming the band with a new singer for a national tour. What a crass, capitalistic thing to do — exactly the type of thing this band was always against. Who could replace Jello? No one. I was so pissed off I peeled the Dead Kennedys stickers off my car.
I was trying to forget about all this when an e-mail from Klaus Flouride hit my inbox in February 2002. It said something like, “Hi James, we got your letters. We’re playing in Jacksonville soon. Isn’t that close to where you are? Let’s meet up.” I spent a few minutes staring at this e-mail, trying to find any sign that it might be a prank. Eventually I realized it wasn’t. Hmmm. Well, I guess I’ll write a Dead Kennedys book after all. Honestly, I was shitting my pants. I still loved every Dead Kennedys record and this felt like an incredible break. Not that I was in any way prepared for it, or deserving of it.
A week later, there I was, face to face with Klaus Flouride in a Jacksonville parking lot. He had a kindly, measured demeanor, like that of a trusted uncle or neighbor. “Another writer recently contacted us about doing a book,” Klaus told me. “But you sent us actual letters, and that impressed us.” I still couldn’t believe the letters didn’t wind up in the trash. Klaus took me into the club to meet Ray, whose light blue button down shirt tucked into khakis was a more conservative look than I was expecting. We engaged in some polite, friendly small talk. Then, suddenly, Ray took a firm tone. “Could you go back outside? As I’m sure you know, anything I say can and will be used against me.” Okay, so this guy’s a little paranoid. Back in the parking lot, D.H. Peligro was doing pull ups on a portable workout rig. He did more pull ups in two minutes than I’d ever done in my life. “So, you’re the author?” he inquired with a sly grin.
Later on I re-entered the club to watch soundcheck. For the first couple of minutes, Ray, Klaus, and D.H. didn’t really have it together. They sounded like high schoolers picking their instruments up for the first time. Then they went into “Life Sentence” and it was like bam, that classic Dead Kennedys sound. Just like the record. Afterwards, Ray’s guitar tech invited me and my traveling companion Chris (also a massive Dead Kennedys fan) to dinner. It was fascinating watching the guys who recorded Plastic Surgery Disasters wander around downtown Jacksonville on a Sunday night, tying to figure out where to eat. We ended up at a Firehouse Subs. They had “Futurama” on a television inside the Firehouse. I will never forget laughing like a hyena at something Bender the Robot said and Klaus Flouride whipping his head around like he’d heard a car crash.
Brandon Cruz, the singer substituting for Jello, was pleasant but we didn’t talk very much. It was definitely strange watching him onstage with the rest of the band. As I recall, the original plan for this iteration of Dead Kennedys was to play one surprise concert to celebrate their legal victory against Jello. They started rehearsing with different singers but word got out. It didn’t take long for crowds to start forming outside their rehearsal space. So they decided to book a tour. And they hired Cruz, a former child actor who more recently sang for Dr. Know.
I had this idea that after they played I’d spend a little time interviewing each Dead Kennedy but I only got to speak at length with Klaus that night. We sat down at the bar and he immediately opened up about all this strife he’d had with his father. Not in an intense way. He was just telling it like it was. That conversation wrapped up and the evening ended with a semi-circle in the parking lot. The Dead Kennedys and I agreed we were gonna do this book. They gave me their phone numbers. I apologized to them if I had been too intrusive at all during our visit.
“Well, you followed us to dinner,” Ray said. “That was weird.”
“Your guitar tech invited me.”
Insecurity started to get the better of me so I offered another apology. This one was kind of rambling. Ray and Klaus looked uncomfortable. Suddenly D.H. let out a huge cackle. “Oh my god, James! Don’t worry! It’s all good!” He stepped forward to give me the hand clasp half hug that men give each other to emphasize that it is, in fact, all good.
So I went home. And I spent the next five or six months interviewing Dead Kennedys for my book.
I had standing dates every week (every other week?) to call Ray and Klaus and chat for an hour or so. Communication with D.H. was more sporadic. I’m not sure if he was just busy or if he changed his mind about getting involved with the book. Klaus also put me in touch with a handful of shadowy figures from the band’s history, like their first drummer Bruce Slesinger (a.k.a. Ted). Bruce was fired after the first album because his relentless teasing drove Jello nuts, leading to “either he goes or I go.” It was kind of refreshing how divorced Bruce was from this chapter of his life. He seemed to view Dead Kennedys like a high school science project.
“Well, I guess I can help you,” he finally sighed into the phone. “I just don’t know who would really care at this point.”
Winston Smith, the artist who created all the imagey for Dead Kennedys’ albums, was much more enthusiastic. He wrote me novel length e-mails about what life was like way back when, detailing all sorts of funny stories. I was still living with my parents when all this was going on and I remember Winston calling my house once when I wasn’t home. My mom answered and they apparently had a long, lovely conversation about god knows what. My mother raved about it. “What a charming man!”
As I was working on my book about Dead Kennedys I spent almost no time wondering why this legendary punk band agreed to get on board with me, a no name writer. Maybe they figured I was going to write the book regardless so they might as well have their say. Maybe they thought an amateur drip like me could easily be swayed to only tell their side of the story. In all the hours I spent interviewing these guys, I never felt like they were trying to manipulate me. That said, I was 23 years old, this all took place two decades ago, and I haven’t listened to the interviews since I taped them. Ray had a persistent hacking cough for a while when we were talking, and it crossed my mind that he might be dying. Oh god, what if that’s the reason all this is happening? Is that why he’s weird and cranky about certain stuff?
Even though Ray and Klaus won their lawsuit the wounds had yet to heal. They would only refer to Jello by his last name, and it seemed to physically hurt them every time they said it. Clearly some of that went back to the glory days. Jello was never the chummiest guy, they explained, and he completely walled himself off emotionally after his wife left him in the mid-’80s. I’m not sure when that happened in relation to the obscenity trial they went through with 1985’s Frankenchrist but those are the events that exacted the final toll. I was interested to learn Ray was the first to announce he was quitting Dead Kennedys. That was right before they recorded their swan song, Bedtime For Democracy. “When we were making that album, Biafra would only address me as ‘the bass player,'” Klaus said.
I should force myself to listen to the interviews because I’ve forgotten more than I remember. Still, there are a handful of anecdotes from this project that remain indelible. If you have Give Me Convenience or Give Me Deat you’ve heard the recording of Dead Kennedys at the 1980 Bay Area Music Awards playing their anti-industry screed “Pull My Strings.” I asked Klaus why they didn’t get the plug pulled during all that; he said nobody in charge of sound that night was paying attention to content. ‘They were just getting high and watching the the levels, like, [imitates hitting a joint] ‘The kick drum sounds a little hot!'” The story with their rhythm guitarist Carlos (alias 6025) wasn’t as funny. Carlos did brilliant work for the band but he was also struggling with mental illness. He’d try to describe concepts the rest of the group couldn’t understand, and the disconnect set off his frightening temper. Carlos left Dead Kennedys around the same time as Bruce.
In July 2002, I finally heard back from Jello Biafra. He sent me a handwritten reply. “Dear James, Thank you for your offer, but as far as I am concerned, the last thing the world needs is a book about Dead Kennedys. Why not let the music speak for itself? Plus I have no interest in rehashing all the ugly gossip surrounding the other 3 ex-DKs’ vicious ugly lawsuit. I am sorry I can’t be more helpful, but I don’t really have the time for this anyway, let along the interest. Sincerely, Jello Biafra.”
I called Ray after receiving Jello’s letter. “Are you still gonna write the book?” he asked. “Of course,” I lied.
A year later, Jello Biafra showed up to do a spoken word event at my college. I went to it because part of me felt like I had to show myself or “confront” him or something ridiculous like that, but when he made himself available before the show to meet fans I just stood there. I couldn’t approach him. What do I think I’m gonna say here? The whole thing’s over. The most memorable part of Jello’s lecture happened when someone’s cell phone went off. Immediately his body recoiled like he’d stepped barefoot in dog shit. Then he started shouting, “OKAY, who’s the CELL PHONY?”
I fell out of touch with Ray, Klaus, and everyone else, and I don’t remember hearing from any of them after I wrote an abbreviated version of this story for Crawdaddy! that was published near the end of 2008. I bet they were on tour. Improbably, Dead Kennedys remained a fixture on the reunion circuit. They were also on their fourth singer. Brandon Cruz quit in 2003. Then they hired Jeff Penalty, who did it for six years before things went sour. Jeff published a memorable resignation letter citing “arguments about splitting money equally, arguments about how the band should be run, arguments about the wisdom of hiring a band manager whose other star client was a Christian folk artist, arguments about whether we should or shouldn’t go on MTV, and arguments about many other wretched things.” Dead Kennedys hired Skip Greer from the Winona Ryders to replace Jeff. He’s been with them ever since.
In 2019 I interviewed Jeff Penalty for Hard Noise. I thought maybe enough time had passed and he’d be willing to get into the details about his exit from Dead Kennedys. I was wrong. Jeff didn’t want to go on record about any of that stuff, but he did tell some interesting stories about how he wound up in the band in the first place and how he approached this endeavor artistically.
There still hasn’t been a book dedicated to telling the entire story of Dead Kennedys. Maybe one day, right?
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I considered myself a pretty serious student of Ghostbusters before I started work on this book and now I can’t believe how much I’m learning. There’s still a year of labor to be done but I think the end result will really be something special. My fingers are crossed that all the ghost heads will agree.
By the way, I’m still trying to get to Manhattan to complete a leg of research. If you’d like to help, check out my GoFundMe. Donate enough scratch and you’ll receive a signed copy of this yet-to-be-titled volume when it’s complete. Thanks for even considering; there are more worthy causes for sure.
My zine Idiot Time is on hiatus for the moment while I focus on the book. If you’re thirsty for new writings, I’ve started penning the occasional article for Hard Noise. It’s a nonfiction offshoot of The Hard Times. Here’s one I wrote about the Reagan Youth song in Airheads. Here’s an interview I did with a former Dead Kennedy. And this one’s about Wendy O. Williams and Kiss.
I’m getting married in December. My heart is full of love and I can’t wait to be a wife guy. For my bachelor party I will go to a deli and eat a sandwich.
Until the next update, stay fresh, stay funky.
This Music Leaves Stains is the first book I’ve had published but it is far from the first book I’ve tried to get published, or thought about trying to get published. Here now, an annotated history of never realized JG2 works.
Untitled Dead Kennedys Biography (2002) – Stalled during the research period thanks to several factors (college course load, punk rock politics, my debilitating lack of experience). I covered the nuts and bolts of this failure for Crawdaddy! in a feature called “Give Me Convenience, Give Me Death, Just Tell Me Your Real Damn Name.” The most interesting aspect may be that I put a letter in the mail addressed “East Bay Ray, San Francisco” and it actually reached the correct guy. Your tax dollars at work.
Star Wars Ruined My Life (2005) – Ten chapter essay collection covering the weirder aspects of Star Wars fandom, including my own struggles with George Lucas’s intergalactic money printing machine (#firstworldproblems). Hired a literary agent but no publisher on Earth was interested. I didn’t have a “built-in audience,” which meant my blog statistics were not impressive enough to warrant anything. This era was the beginning of “co-opt every popular thing from the Internet to stave print’s death!” I’m sure my medium talent was also an issue (I know the manuscript lacked punch / direction). I absolutely cannot remember why but for some reason I e-mailed Jay Mohr about this book; he sent a very encouraging reply peppered with some of his theories on Boba Fett, which justified my struggle.
Untitled Oral History Of My Middle School Experience (2005) – An interesting twist on the adolescent memoir (I think): interview a bunch of people I grew up with to see how their worldview around that time differed from mine, turning the whole thing into an oral history with several narrative tracks. My lit agent loved this idea and really ramped me up about it, but then Star Wars Ruined My Life didn’t go anywhere. Representation cut me loose and without a cheerleader I cooled on the concept. Compiled about a chapter and a half, though, and several people I hadn’t spoken to since 1994 taught me a lot about where we grew up and life in general.
Untitled Field Guide To Discontinued Soft Drinks (2007-08) – New Coke, Pepsi AM, OK, DnL…I thought the world needed a comprehensive encyclopedia of every soda that’s ever fallen off the figurative / literal map. Unfortunately, the stories behind these drinks are all more or less the same (they failed because they were bad and nobody bought them), and when it came down to pitching this book few people understood what exactly what I was talking about. “Oh, like a coffee table book with pictures of the sodas?” No, a field guide. Like for birds. Maybe this idea is terminally flawed.
Untitled “Gong Show” Episode Guide (2006) – An excuse to track down average weirdos and hear about their experiences on the greatest televised competition of all-time. I think I concluded too many former “Gong Show” contestants / employees would be dead, and I also worried about the book’s marketability. Chuck Barris was hot in ’06, but how long would that last?
Untitled “Simpsons” History (2009) – At the time a lot of rumors were swirling about “The Simpsons” finally coming to an end. That didn’t happen, but I abandoned this idea mainly because I heard Morgan Spurlock was making a “Simpsons” documentary. Had I known his end product would be some gimmicky forty-five minute nonsense instead of the in-depth feature length “Simpsons” doc we deserve maybe I wouldn’t have jumped ship.
My Life Is A Screenplay! (2010) – The high school teacher who semi-successfully sued 20th Century Fox for plagiarizing his Christmas comedy script read my post about Jingle All The Way being a cursed property and e-mailed me with an offer to co-write a book about his life. I had just started work on This Music Leaves Stains so I had to turn him down. There also didn’t seem to be much else in his life aside from “I sued a movie studio and won but then they took the money back.” Also, that title. Woof.
Naturally I reserve the right to resurrect any of these properties at a future juncture. You never know when Chuck Barris might be hot again.
The music world is mourning the loss of Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman, who died yesterday from liver failure
brought on by apparently not related to the rare skin disease called necrotizing fasciitis that Hanneman developed following a 2011 spider bite. He was 49.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to call Jeff Hanneman the heart of Slayer, as much as any member of that band can have an individual persona outside their collective window-battering sonic monsoon. Jeff was a guy who seemed to love what he loved unabashedly. Case in point: he plastered Oakland Raiders stickers on his guitars next to emblems from punk bands who wouldn’t be caught dead outside a football stadium. Of course, that’s the kind of move Slayer is famous for, blending the raw fury of punk with even angrier outposts (Jack Tatum was colder than anyone in D.R.I. and you know it).
More importantly, Jeff Hanneman played with such heat and ferocity you just knew he was putting in his all. I’m not trying to make this about me but when I look back at some of the ways I’ve described the basic sound of Slayer in the past—“turgid cascade of sadism,” “[sounds like someone] being ripped apart by a pack of wild dogs”—who else could evoke such responses but Slayer? Jeff Hanneman was obviously a huge part of that. He helped define speed/thrash metal, he did it with a tremendous amount of passion, and for that we’ll always miss him.
EDIT: After checking out various obits for Jeff online I think this open letter from Slayer, posted a year and some change after the initial spider bite, is the best item to read to get a sense of what his illness was like.
The following quotes are taken from recent Punknews.org interviews with singer Jello Biafra (second from right) and bassist Klaus Flouride (far left) concerning the band they used to share and are presented “oral history” style, because additional commentary is sort of unnecessary (or maybe because I just can’t bring myself to dwell on this acrimony anymore).
KLAUS: We’d recently been invited by a premiere festival that has in past years reunited bands ranging from Sex Pistols to Portishead to perform with the original [Dead Kennedys] line-up. We put forth the offer (through our manager to Jello’s lawyer—the only route), the proposition to which we were flatly refused…we have to think, he plays Dead Kennedys songs, we play Dead Kennedys songs as we both have the right and desire to, so why the hell can’t we figure out how to let our agendas go and perhaps play them together again?
JELLO: I’m still as proud as I’ve ever been of Dead Kennedys’ music and our legacy and all the cool shit we did together but I’m just embarrassed to know those guys now.
KLAUS: The reason Biafra will only talk to us through lawyers could be that he’s too embarrassed to admit he skimmed $76,000 from his fellow band mates and then lied to us about it. That’s what he did to [guitarist East Bay] Ray, [drummer] D.H. [Peligro], and myself, and that’s what he was found guilty of in the trial.
JELLO: They sued the shit out of me to walk away with everything and abuse it anyway they want. Sure, there was an accounting error on [our record label] Alternative Tentacles’ part, for which I am very sorry and for which we paid them in full dating back to something like 15 years before they sued.
KLAUS: In the early days after the trial, when we found ourselves offered tours and dates to play, I personally contacted Jello and invited him to put the past in the past and to come along with us to which he flatly refused in the form of a fax letter. Since then we’ve again offered an olive branch and invited him to sing on subsequent tours only to be told by his lawyers to not contact him directly, but to make all communications through his lawyer.
JELLO: I’m not a big fan of reunion[s] but when I saw the Stooges it was not lost on me how much it would mean to people to see the real Dead Kennedys line-up back together…but for that everybody has to be willing to get along and treat the other people with respect and they have no intention of doing that…in their hearts [the other Dead Kennedys have] become Republicans and I just wouldn’t do something like that unless we can bring back the real thing.
KLAUS: That’s kinda a crazy inflammatory comment and he knows it. What do you think? And so you can’t claim that as a non-answer answer I’ll be serious for you and state flatly, no we aren’t [Republicans], and it is sort of sad that one would even ask that question in response to yet another flagrant “Big Lie” kind of statement.
JELLO: In a way getting me back into the band would be their worst nightmare, [because I’d] make them rehearse.
When I originally posted this video last night, I tried making a few cute jokes about the jarring oddity of seeing a counterculture icon like Jello Biafra using a flat screen TV in what looks like someone’s man cave, but I deleted all that after I realized it’s 2011, this guy’s the one Dead Kennedy who resisted the urge to reunite, and he makes too many great points in this rant for me to distract with teasing about free weights or vegging out in a rec room. So go on with yo’ bad self, Count Ringworm. This Bud’s for you.
Flop – Whenever You’re Ready
Did the world need a more tuneful version of the Buzzcocks? Doesn’t matter, ’cause we got one anyway in Flop. Whenever You’re Ready, the long-deceased band’s meandering sophomore effort from 1993, packs an embarrassment of heartsick crescendo/decrescendo that lead Flopper Rusty Willoughby tries to downplay with Cobain-style lyrical subterfuge (“You’ll survive a vegetable, the meat’s diseased and she said so!”). Silly choruses aside, you can’t shake the majority of Flop’s unapologetically saccharine earworms, and Whenever’s only real detractor is the generally paper-thin production.
Hog – Nothing Sacred
Chris Farley fans might remember Hog from the soundtrack of Black Sheep. As far as I know, Nothing Sacred stands as this meat n’ potato “rawk” collective’s only full release, a record that gets by more on raunchy attitude than craftsmanship. You won’t hear anything here you haven’t heard from the bar band down the street: Stadium-ready testosterock, lazy mid-tempo balladry, and even lazier Alice in Chains theme hijacking. Still, you could do much worse when it comes to generic crap, and the big hit—“Get a Job”—retains its crushing riff and semi-sarcastic charm all these years removed from Penelope Spheeris’s third or fourth worst film. Raise your beer and/or Axe body spray canister to this one.
Jello Biafra w/ D.O.A. – Last Scream of the Missing Neighbors
I think Mark Prindle once opined that Last Scream is the best record Jello Biafra made outside the Dead Kennedys, and he’s unequivocally correct. In fact, I’ll go one further and say this record is streets ahead of the final DK entry, Bedtime For Democracy. It’s louder, it’s shorter, but most importantly, it’s angrier. D.O.A.’s no frills punk plodding spurns Biafra to bleat his sardonic bile like ’82 never ended and also creates the perfect throbbing soundtrack for Last Scream’s crown jewel—the ominous fourteen minute drug war conspiracy manifesto “Full Metal Jackoff.” Jello pours so much passion into what ends up being a human rights screed you’ll be surprised how often you find yourself listening to the entire chilling composition.
Gay Cowboys in Bondage – Owen Marshmallow Strikes Again
Playfully lo-fi punk n’ roll from the 1980s Texas underground. It’s never explained who the titular character is, but we do learn the singer of Gay Cowboys is addicted to Kool-Aid and favors bologna to other lunch meats. If you’re expecting anything as vicious (or as viciously played) as the song these guys had on that Flipside comp so many years ago, you’ll be let down, but Owen Marshmallow Strikes Again remains a fine meeting point between the Dead Boys and “Weird Al.”
Deez Nuts – Stay True
Aussie rapcore outfit that’s taken Andrew WK’s party-all-the-time agenda and applied more R-rated urban anger. “I make music ’cause it’s what I fuckin’ do!” vocalist JJ Peters grunts on the opening track. Meatheaded stuff, but also possibly some kind of purposeful goof. The ducat-chasing anthem “I Hustle Everyday” justifies Stay True’s entire existence, if only for the following LULZy verse: “When you get a bitch knocked up, who’s gonna cough up? The hospital bils, and every other fucking thing…be my guest, put your head in the sand, but if I was you, man, I’d formulate a plan!” Sure, Deez Nuts promote a lot of stupid things, but at least they’re looking out for baby mamas.