On the same day as the release of his long awaited new spoken word album "Become The Media", Jello Biafra, the acknowledged leader, visionary and main song writer of the now defunct punk pioneers, Dead Kennedys, takes issue with the highly misleading press release and actions of the other former band members, and opposes the release of a subpar live album and rest of the DK back catalog behind his back and without his permission:
I have now had to ask them to please remove my name and likeness from all their releases and promotional material. Don't get me wrong, I'm as proud as ever of Dead Kennedys and grateful for how much we mean to people. But I'm totally embarrassed by what they're trying to do.
I will not support anyone who condones greed and vicious lawsuits to scam on someone else's art against the wishes of all the artists involved. Alternative Tentacles will not endorse or carry unauthorized Dead Kennedys albums in our mail order. I will not sign them. I don't even want them in my collection.
What the ex-Kennedy's are neglecting to tell you is that the jury's verdict is outrageous and both legally and factually incorrect. I have filed a motion for a new trial and will file an appeal. The court also found that East Bay Ray had committed fraud and had breached his fiduciary duty to his partners (including Biafra) in the handling of Dead Kennedys' royalties, and the jury assessed damages against him.
The Court has found that the underlying intellectual property, including the compositions and recordings were in fact owned by the individual members of the band, a point continuously asserted by Biafra and denied by the rest of the band.
Most importantly, however, the court ordered the Decay Music partnership wound up and dissolved. While Ray continues to attempt to market the band's music, any license will be subject to legal challenge as control in reality rests with the individual members.
END OF MAIN PRESS RELEASE
For further details on "Become The Media", "The No WTO Combo" album, and all recent Jello and Alternative Tentacles projects, please contact Michelle at Alternative Tentacles.
Following are further facts and replies regarding the three ex-DKs lawsuit and their recent press release:
So what is this really about? For over two years we have bent over backwards to compromise and settle this case. They reneged and refused.
The plaintiffs' press release also fails to mention that their legal action came right after Biafra opposed using Dead Kennedys' song, "Holiday in Cambodia," in a Levi's Dockers TV commercial. "I was shocked they would even consider the idea, let alone pressure me to do it. Talk about being on the wrong side of an issue. So many people are upset with growing corporate branding and intrusion into our daily lives, from the WTO to the Buzzcocks' song in an SUV commercial. I could think of no worse way to stab Dead Kennedys fans in the back than to turn around and trash everything we ever stood for and allow one of our best (and my favorite) songs to be used to sell products by a global corporation with controversial labor practices. Dead Kennedys always stood against things like this." said Biafra.
Yes, there was an honest accounting mistake. We were all trying to identify how the discrepancy happened. Only after I refused to sell out to Levis did the others bring in lawyers and start making all kinds of wild accusations. When we (yes, we) found the discrepancy and totaled it up, we paid them the money before their lawsuit was even filed. There was no court order then, and there was no cover-up. As soon as we knew the total we told them. The perpetuity offer was only that - an offer - waiting for a counter offer where both parties could hopefully meet in the middle and shake hands. We thought we were dealing with reasonable people.
At the trial, Ray, Klaus, and DH went up to the witness stand one by one and lied. They claimed they wrote the music to all my songs because, "Biafra is not a musician." They claimed I could not possibly have written anything because I don't play a musical instrument, and worse yet, don't read sheet music. (Does this mean the secretary who typed an author's dictation created the literary work? No. How many artists do you know who teach their songs to the band by humming the parts? I still do. Charlie Chaplin did it with a full orchestra.) They also claimed that I somehow sneaked the writing credits by them, and they never noticed the credits on the albums or their BMI statements for the last 20 years. Imagine my shock and disgust to see them say these things with a straight face.
They also brought in an expert witness from Grateful Dead Records who claimed I owed Ray, Klaus, and Darren hundreds of thousands in damages for "failure to promote Dead Kennedys." What did they ever do? He based his conclusions on a cockeyed axiom that if "X" amount more money had been spent advertising old albums people already know, "X" amount more CD's would automatically have been sold. Therefore I should pay a huge damage sum for albums that don't even exist.
The ex-DK's also demanded damages because their own solo projects did not sell as well as Dead Kennedys. That was somehow my fault, too. Thankfully, the court threw that one out. The Grateful Dead guy further claimed I owed damages because Dead Kennedys, who broke up 14 years ago, were not periodically in Billboard, Rolling Stone, and get this, VH-1. He admitted he had no experience with underground punk labels.
To my eyes, even the three ex-Kennedy's looked visibly shocked when the jury verdict was read. They quickly showed that their intention was not to milk Dead Kennedys as a "democracy" at all, or even to share the band's royalties. They filed a motion to expel me from the Decay Music partnership, so they could pay me a lump sum and then never have to pay me again. That motion was denied.
They are now operating their so-called "democracy" so that I have no say in how they dispose of Dead Kennedys at all. I was never consulted about them hiring lawyers and publicists to smear and attack me, let alone using money they owe me to help pay for it. Shouldn't I be allowed a say in whether I help finance legal action against myself? This is not a democracy.
I found out about their new attempt to hijack the Dead Kennedys back catalog not from them, but from the press.
I was only sent a cassette of this supposed live album a few days ago. They have not allowed me to see the artwork (but "voted" to charge me for it, of course). I have also not been informed or allowed any say in who might be releasing this.
Another example is the censored version of Dead Kennedys' song, "Police Truck" in the Tony Hawk Pro Skateboard game. The offer originally came to Alternative Tentacles, and as legally obliged, we copied it to East Bay Ray. We never heard from Ray again. Needless to say I would never have agreed to any of our songs being censored just to appear in a video game. I have no idea what happened to the band's share of the money either. At least a hundred people have come up to me and complained about the censored "Police Truck."
Their live cassette sounds ok, but the performances range from so-so to just plain bad. I am especially galled that Ray would take so little pride in his own work. There are guitar mistakes in almost every song - over half a dozen in "Police Truck" alone. I guess they just don't care. It's also obvious I paid more attention to the stage performance than to the microphone at times. So needless to say, I don't recommend it. If anyone wants to check out live stuff without lining the pockets of those who support suing their ex-band mates, there's tons of it on the net already.
As for "democracy" and "sharing," Ray and the others have refused all requests for a full and proper accounting of Decay Music's books. They almost never share copies of any of their correspondence or let me know what is going on. All I get are vague statements claiming what they owe me is deducted for "expenses," but I am never allowed to see what all those "expenses" are. No correspondences, no invoices, no statements, nothing. Funny how the last check added down to zero. Ray also testified in court he has been skimming "commissions" for himself off whatever comes through the Decay Music account. He specifically promised me earlier he would not take "commissions" from me or the band. This is not a democracy.
I am not the only person who loves Dead Kennedys enough not to let this stand. We have formed the Alternative Tentacles Legal Defense Fund to help with the enormous costs of the appeal. The fund can be reached through Alternative Tentacles' website or mailing address.