In case you don't know it there's a party going on and it will last for three days. Well, for three nights at least, as Alternative Tentacles bring their roster of bands, old and new, to The Great America Music Hall in San Francisco. Each night The label's proprietor will cap off the evening with his new band, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine.
I talked to the man...
Jello Biafra's voice is now a gravely rasp. It's probably that way from years of speaking engagements, years of punk rock wailing, and most recently from touring with his band, The Guantanamo School of Medicine.
"Starting your own band is often, especially in the punk underground, the first project somebody young has ever attempted on their own without it being a homework assignment or something you're ordered to do by your parents. So the D.I.Y. ethic is very very important," says Biafra whose label, Alternative Tentacles is one of the oldest indies around. This comes from a punk rocker who fronted San Francisco's legendary Dead Kennedys in 1978 when he was barely 20 years old. The singer has travelled a long road that included beating obscenity charges for artwork on an A.T. release from his own band.
Jello says running a label and following his own path as an artist has been a real challenge. "It's been a lot of hard work...The inspiration came early on when as a record collector and vinyl junkie I saw all of these great Bay Area and Southern California punk bands coming and going and not leaving albums behind. I thought if I ever got a label I'd at least be able to help out some of these people who work outside of the mainstream entertainment industry, including in this day and age, the corporate punk industry, and (help them) do really good stuff their way," says Biafra.
Times have changed since the early days of punk. For those of us who are now old enough to have kids who come home from the shopping mall with punk hair, clothes, and the latest major label pop punk boy band mp3's, Jello contends his label still releases headier art. Says Biafra, " Now that punk can be considered accepted and normal, that doesn't mean those of us who like the nasty stuff should give up on punk all together. It just means supporting the people who are still really good at the styles you like or who are breaking the mold or trying to do something new." It would also seem he encourages new artists to push boundaries. "It's not like I'd ever tell somebody, 'your lyrics are too negative, or oh, that artwork is too controversial, or that doesn't sound normal enough to get skateboard endorsements,'" says Jello
Although the music industry and his label have taken a beating from the rise of Myspace, Itunes, and mp3s, Jello quips, "I think it's good that almost everything is available now. It's a very sharp contrast to the 70's when it was that only recent releases from major labels that were easily obtained. I can just imagine how horrible it would have been to go through the 70's if all you liked was rock-a-billy or something, you know, nothing was in print."
So three nights of Alternative Tentacle's brand of punk rock. Jello says this ought to be really good time.
Show is at The Great American Music Hall
Thursday November 5 through Saturday November 7
Doors 8 pm. tix $20-$22 ($50 for a three day pass)