Dead Kennedys Beat Jello

Judge denies former singer's appeal

June 19, 2003 12:00 AM ET

A 2000 ruling against former Dead Kennedy's frontman Jello Biafra was unanimously upheld by a California Court of Appeals yesterday. The three-judge panel found that Biafra still owed bandmates guitarist East Bay Ray, bassist Klaus Flouride and drummer D.H. Peligro more than $200,000 in compensatory and punitive damages because his label, Alternative Tentacles, withheld money from the band partnership, Decay Music. Biafra's attempts to dissolve the partnership and gain sole custody over the Kennedy's music was also denied.

"From the beginning of this ordeal, neither Klaus, D.H. nor myself wanted to go to court to settle something that should have been handles reasonably between us," East Bay Ray said. "This ruling clearly says that Dead Kennedys and Decay Music are a full partnership. Biafra, regrettably, is left as the only one who thinks otherwise."

The dispute dates back to 1998, when the band discovered a $76,000 underpayment from Alternative Tentacles to Decay. Two years later, when a jury in San Francisco Superior Court ruled against Biafra, he claimed the band brought their suit against him because he denied permission to license their song "Holiday in Cambodia" to Levi's for a television ad. "They're punishing me for sticking to the principles of the band and underground, independent culture," Biafra said at the time.

"We wanted Biafra to recognize our vote in how we wanted our music released," Flouride said. "No one seemed to understand that by Dead Kennedys and Decay Music controlling our own catalog, Jello still gets 100% of his record royalties and his music publishing, which is exactly what he is entitled to. We just wanted an equal say in all matters that pertained to the band."

After the initial ruling, the remaining three DKs had their back catalog reissued on Manifesto Records. A DVD, Dead Kennedys, In God We Trust, Inc.: The Lost Tapes, will be released next month, and a new live album from 1979 will be released in late-2003/early-2004.

The DKs formed in 1978 in San Francisco's punk scene, and the band's independent ethic and left-wing political leanings helped pave the way for the Eighties hardcore scene. The four-piece splintered after the release of 1986's Bedtime for Democracy.

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