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Dead Kennedys

Dead Kennedys
Dead Kennedys

Live At Last

Punk icons and satirical social commentators, Dead Kennedys, are finally coming to Perth, performing at Capitol on Saturday, October 11. SHANE PINNEGAR speaks with bassist, Klaus Flouride.

The Dead Kennedys are set to play Perth for the first time, after a planned visit 30 years ago was cancelled due to police harassment. 

“The first time we went out there we were scheduled to play Perth,” bassist, Klaus Flouride explains, “in ‘83 or something, and apparently the story goes that the police were starting to hang out at the clubs a little bit. The club owners were complaining because the patrons were leaving their club and going to another club. And these were the clubs that we were going to be playing in.

“They said to the police, ‘come on, we’re dyin’ here – everybody’s leaving’, and the police said, ‘you think they’re leaving now? We’re just hanging out – but if you think you’ve seen a lot of us now, wait till just before the Dead Kennedys turn up. We’re all excited to see that!’

It is the ridiculous truth that in the early ‘80s the police were busting bands and comedians for saying something as commonplace as ‘fuck’ on stage as though it were a capital offense (Molly Meldrum was arrested for saying ‘get funked’ on stage when he was DJing once in 1983). The ultra-conservative government of the day would undoubtedly have seen The Dead Kennedys as some kind of anarcho-terrorist outfit wanting to leave the city in ruins.

“Yeah,” says Flouride. “And the thing was that the bookers of the clubs knew that they were doomed to have the show shut down – so they cancelled out on us!’”

Fast forward 31 years and the West Australian government are no longer so overtly jack-booted in their defence against political activism. In the ‘80s The Dead Kennedys’ shows were legendary, riotous even. Flouride says they still are.

“You’ll be surprised how intense it still is! I’d liken it to a train careening down a track, realising that their brakes don’t quite work and just trying to keep on the track. They’re pretty fun, but they’re barely in control.”

From ’78 through to ’86 singer, Jello Biafra, was incredibly outspoken, spitting satirical and political rhetoric and firing subversive, barbed lyrical bombs at the corruption and selfishness of the ‘greed is good’ generation. Just because he’s no longer involved with the band (Ron ‘Skip’ Greer has been their singer since 2008), doesn’t mean they have gone all soft, though, and the message in their music is still massively important.

“Yeah, it’s even more… I wouldn’t say ‘tempered’, but it’s more honed. I think they share equal footing,” Flouride declares. “I think our music is what’s carried us this far, maybe more than the message. We’ve always been interested in musical interplay, but at the same time the words, unfortunately, they’re still all fairly applicable.

“We don’t tell people what to think. It’s mostly going, ‘this is what we’ve noticed. Think about this. Go and do your own study if this has got your attention’. Think for yourselves, though, and find out.”