Ex-Dead Kennedys Frontman Objects To Use of Song in Grindhouse

The Dead Kennedys are a seminal Bay Area punk band from the 80’s who were known for the strong left-wing politics of outspoken frontman Jello Biafra. A couple of years ago, the band tried to re-unite without the involvement of Biafra, and after a legal battle won the right to use the Dead Kennedys name. Now one of their classic songs has been okayed by the other band members for use in Grindhouse (specifically the Robert Rodriguez-directed feature Planet Terror) and Jello Biafra is not happy. Not one bit. His objection mainly stems from the fact that the song is being used during a brutal rape scene… although, to be fair, it does sound a bit strange that someone would protest the use of a song that is called “Too Drunk To Fuck”.

Alternative Tentacles issued a statement from Biafra: “This is their lowest point since Levi’s. I like some of Tarantino’s work, another place in the film might have been fine. But this goes against everything the Dead Kennedys stands for in spades… Tarantino himself is pointing a gun at a disabled amputee woman’s head yelling “Dance, Bitch!” as the Nouvelle Vague cover of ‘Too Drunk to Fuck’ plays from a boombox… I wrote every note of that song and this is not what it was meant for. Some people will do anything for money.” I guess it goes to show how a song can be taken out of context and I can understand the creator being upset about this. On the other hand, Grindhouse is an homage to exploitation flicks and I’m guessing it features all kinds of other depraved content. What do you think, is Jello lacking a sense of humour here? Or is he just mad cause he’s not getting a cut?

  • jackson main

    I can understand Biafra not wanting to have his song lent to a brutal rape scene. In the statement he gave he outlined that, that wasn’t what the song was about. True, but the tone implies that the song had a deeper social meaning. Have you ever listened to that song? In my opinion it’s about exactly what the title outlines. I don’t think he should be acting so high and mighty about “Too Drunk To Fuck.”

  • Den

    Is Jello lacking a sense of humour? Or is he just mad cause he’s not getting a cut? Wow, clearly you don’t even have a Wikipedia level of knowledge about who this artist is or what he stands for.

    I’m a fan of this site, but you disappoint me a bit with this post.

  • I am quite familiar with the Dead Kennedys, in fact I own some of their CDs.

    I was merely posing the questions for you to answer. In my opinion, I think he is perfectly entitled to being upset.

  • Phil

    Jello Biafra is completely right.

    This movie is a big studio thing, it’s going to be cheap shock garbage playing in multiplexes across America.

    His band never stops trying to cash out on the music! Damn.

  • Den

    The DK’s are great. But I mean more what Jello has done since he left the band. Given his well documented antics I don’t really think his sense of humor can be questioned. And with his strong beliefs in anti-corporatism and in civil rights, having one of his songs used in a explotation movie depicting a rape scene would seem particularily like a slap in the face.

    It’s perfectly cool to pose the questions for your readership to answer. However the first question was seemed to be a bit baited. And the second showed a complete lack of understanding of who the man has proven himself to be with his activism post-DKs.

    In his statement he does seem to be confusing Rodriguez and Tarantino though.

  • Henrik

    I don’t get why you would use a song if it makes the artist who made the song upset. I have no idea what this band is or what this song sounds like, but I think if the guy who wrote the song asks you to please not use it in your movie, you’re a jackass if you do it.

    Disrespectful I have to say.

  • I’m with the majority here…. and I’m not exactly sure what jackson main is saying. ;-)

  • Henrik: The problem is his band members reformed the band without him and now have the power to make legal decisions on their own. So they gave permission, but Jello Biafra did not.

    I find it weird however that it’s not actually the original version of the song, but rather a cover of it, and they still had to get permission from the original artist.

  • Henrik

    Yeah I know that’s the problem (if that hadn’t been the case the song wouldn’t be used). But the issue isn’t about the legality. The issue is common courtesy and respect for a fellow artist. He is the one who wrote the song (from what he said, I assume he is the one who wrote it) and I would think it common courtesy not to use it if he steps out of his way to ask you in public. Unless you’re too caught up in your own vision to take other people into consideration, which I guess isn’t uncommon among directors, but this isn’t an actors performance that may make or break the film, this is just a gimmick of having a certain song playing.

  • I see your point and you’d think someone like Robert Rodriguez respect an artist’s wishes. But with the way things work, I doubt he is even aware of how Jello Biafra feels. All he knows is he wanted this song in the movie, so someone goes to the record label and asks for permission, the other members of the Dead Kennedys give it their blessing, end of story.

  • Goon

    I have a question for how people take the “request to be taken out” thing – what situations would you put your foot down and say “no – it stays”

    for example, people asking for things to be left out of documentaries (assuming they are not being taken out of context blatantly) are usually/probably/almost always asking too much.

  • Henrik

    That is a good point. If that’s the case, hopefully now that it’s up on filmjunk, RR will read it soon and deal with the issue.

    I guess that’s the whole reason Biafra did it in public. It will be interesting to see if Robert Rodriguez responds, though I doubt it. We’ll just have to see if it actually ends up in the movie.

  • Henrik, you’re placing the blame in the wrong spot here. The directors hold no responsibility for any of this, it’s the other band members that own the rights to the music. If there’s anyone to throw moral questions at, it’s them.


    “His band never stops trying to cash out on the music! Damn.”

    As ‘un-punk’ as it is, some artists need to make money to live.

    “This movie is a big studio thing, it’s going to be cheap shock garbage playing in multiplexes across America.”

    Please tell me this isn’t some sort of punk rock ethic, bashing a film just because it’s a ‘mainstream studio picture’. If you want to slam DK for putting music in studio pictures then you’ll also have to look at Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Freddy Got Fingered, The Manchurian Candidate, The Big One…It’s been done before, just not under this context. You didn’t hear Biafra complaining about any of these previous situations. From what I gather, the issue here isn’t the use of a punk song in a studio film, it’s the circumstances under which the song is being used (a rape scene) that seem to conflict with Biafra’s artistic integrity.

  • Henrik

    Well I don’t expect anything else from the craftsmen who performed the art that was written for them. Of course they are going to earn as much money as they can from it.

    It’s the respect artist to artist that worries me.

  • reformedgrrrl

    True, most don’t seem to unsderstand the song, wikipedia quote “The song features a warp-speed, heavy surf-rock riff from guitarist East Bay Ray and satirical lyrics from Biafra that paint a trenchant picture of an outrageous, moronic frat-party. The hooks are more compulsive and catchy than the average Kennedys song, which probably accounts for its popularity in the UK.

  • Dead Kennedys respond to Jello Biafra’s claims regarding the use of their
    song “Too Drunk to Fuck” in the Quentin Tarantino movie “Grind House”

    Another year, another misleading public claim by the ever striving for
    attention Jello Biafra. While we would have preferred not to jump back into the
    fray, we felt it was warranted to make a public response due to
    Jello publicly giving away key scene points and false information for a
    movie that Tarantino’s fans are eagerly awaiting.

    In his statement, he included the mention of the preteen daughter of one of the other band members. His
    public comments show that he is more interested in casting himself as
    a martyr rather than having any regard for women’s or children’s rights.
    It also shows that he has no regard for the safety of a child. As usual, it’s all about Jello.

    Contrary to Jello claiming all the writing credit for himself, East Bay Ray, Klaus Flouride and D.H. Peligro also contributed to this song. Jello did not write “every note of that song,” that was proven in a court of law, when he was found guilty of fraud, and strains credibility. http://www.phillaw.com/html/dkappeal.html

    On a final note, JELLO is getting paid EXTREMELY WELL, and we challenge him
    to put his money where his mouth is and donate his share to a woman’s
    cause, if he is truly concerned with the issue.

    We hope that everyone goes out and sees “Grind House” and supports indie film
    makers and musicians everywhere!