Best known as the frontman and songwriter for San Francisco punk band the Dead Kennedys, Jello Biafra (born Eric Reed Boucher) has grown into a man of many talents and pursuits. Biafra's musical exploits began in 1978 after responding to an ad posted by East Bay Ray, who was looking to start a punk band. Shortly thereafter, the two formed the Dead Kennedys, which allowed Biafra to develop some of his trademark musical characteristics.
Being engaged in politics from a young age, Jello Biafra's songwriting was highly politically minded, something that he balanced with a sardonic sense of humor, for which he credited Joey Ramone. Unable to learn guitar proficiently, Dead Kennedys bassist Klaus Flouride suggested Biafra simply sing the compositions he envisioned. The advice would cause Biafra to sing and yell his non-lyical riffs and melodies, which became a signature element of the band's sound. The Dead Kennedys was a critical favorite among punk and hardcore fans and writers, and they found decent success with their first record Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, which had breakout hits with the politically charged "California Uber Alles" and "Holiday in Cambodia."
The success of Fresh Fruit did not come easy. After running into problems with distributors because of their name and lyrical content, Jello Biafra started his own label, Alternative Tentacles, as an answer to the majors who refused to disseminate the Kennedys' music. Unfortunately, Biafra and his band would run into more resistance from the mainstream in 1986 when they were brought to trial under obscenity charges, courtesy of the PMRC. While they were later acquitted, the mounting legal costs led to the band's breakup; however, the legacy of the Dead Kennedys' lives on to this day in the hardcore and punk scenes.
The frustrating and seemingly ridiculous nature of the trial inspired an agitated Biafra to tour the country speaking on matters of free speech. This new direction found its way into Biafra's recordings, as he went on to release a series of spoken word records that reflected his indignation and acerbic wit.
In 1998, Biafra joined members of the band Ministry to form Lard. Taking the singing and songwriting duties yet again, Biafra and Lard released various albums all the way up through the '00s. Biafra continues to be engaged in politics; he worked diligently on Ralph Nader's presidential campaigns and speaks regularly as a member of the Green Party. Biafra still runs Alternative Tentacles and continues to record spoken word material, as well as involve himself in musical collaborations with artists like the Melvins and members of Lard.