There are a lot of stories about San Franciscan punks The Dead Kennedys’ chaotic debut Australian 35 years ago. There were riots and arrests, but one I had to know about was the legendary pineapple incident. While talking to bassist Klaus Fluoride about the band’s return to Australia I brought up the incident, hoping to confirm it as fact.
“What was that?” a confused Fluoride responds. “Tell me more and I’ll try and recall it.”
According to Brisbane independent radio station 4ZZZ, one of their presenters gave lead singer Jello Biafra a pineapple before a Brisbane gig. “Don’t get caught with this after the gig or the police will arrest you,” the presenter joked. “They consider a pineapple as a concealed weapon.” Later that night, Biafra brought the fruit onstage with him, smashing it in protest to the police.
“Oh my god,” Fluoride laughs. “I don’t remember that, but I believe it happened.”
It’s hard to say what actually happened on that 1983 Australian tour, only because some of the confirmed stories are too bizarre to accept as fact. “It was mayhem,” Fluoride recalls. “Especially the Brisbane shows where [drummer DH Peligro] got himself busted… Well, he didn’t get himself busted; the cops just decided he was Aboriginal when he wasn’t, and it didn’t matter whether or not he was an Aboriginal because they were busting them for all the wrong reasons anyhow. That was bad four-ways from hell; that was crazy. [Guitarist East Bay Ray] said, ‘You can’t arrest him,’ and they said, ‘Well, we’re gonna arrest him,’ and Ray said, ‘Well, you can’t arrest him,’ and they said, ‘YOU get in the car,’ and they busted Ray also. Then they got them to the watch house and realised they had DH and Ray from a band that had been on the ABC television and stuff like that just earlier in the week. Then they were giving them belts that they’d gotten from kids that they’d caught – studded belts and things like that – and were asking for autographs,” he laughs.
The original incarnation of the band lasted from 1978 to 1986. In those eight years, the band released four acclaimed albums, featuring classic singles “California Uber Alles”, “Holiday In Cambodia”, and “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”. The band reunited in 2001 in less-than-ideal circumstances: a royalties lawsuit. Biafra and his label Alternative Tentacles were found guilty of withholding royalties from his former-bandmates. Eventually, that courtroom reunion became musical.
“At the end of it, DH said, ‘Well, if nothing else, let’s get together and the three of us play when it’s over’. Then we had the [Mutiny On The Bay live album] coming out, and we decided to do a meet and greet for that. That developed into, ‘Let’s do a few songs’. We asked Biafra, and of course he said no, so then we searched around and bumped into Brandon Cruz, who sang in the first reunion. We only played about five songs, but we got a good response and we added a couple more songs. And then there were agents and blah blah blah. It wasn’t a planned thing but at this point it’s an ongoing event. AN ONGOING SPECTACULAR EVENT!” he cries.
Now joined by Skip Greer on vocals, the trio of Ray, DH, and Fluoride have been together twice as long as their original incarnation, playing their classic songs. “Unfortunately, those songs are still topical,” he says. “That’s helpful and sad at the same time. It shows that people refuse to grow in a lot of ways.”
This year marks the 40th anniversary since the band’s founding, and the band are still touring heavily. Fluoride is the first to admit they’re not young anymore, but they’ve found a way to maintain their live shows, all without being arrested. “We pace ourselves, basically. We don’t like doing month-long or two-month-long tours because we know we’re basically not spring chickens anymore and we know what we’re capable of for giving a good show, and we wouldn’t want to do a show that we wouldn’t like to see. Things are more predictable as far as what we’re going to walk in to, for the most part, but there is still a fair share of chaos.”
The Dead Kennedys Australian Tour Dates
2 November: Metro Theatre, Sydney NSW
3 November: The Croxton, Melbourne VIC
5 November: Max Watt’s, Melbourne VIC
6 November: The Gov, Adelaide SA
7 November: The Trifffid, Brisbane QLD
Head HERE for tickets and more details about the tour.