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Nardwuar the Human Serviette and Jello Biafra

"Jello Biafra is my number one inspiration"

By Allan MacInnis

It makes perfect sense, when you think about it, that Nardwuar the Human Serviette - media personality, Evaporators and Thee Goblins frontman, and uber-fan, describes Jello Biafra as a “complete template” for himself. Nardwuar - Ani Kyd’s co-conspirator behind the Jello Biafra 55th birthday bash, June 17th at the Rickshaw - tells BeatRoute that, from the way Jello acts onstage (“he’s up there jumping around, and he’s always wearing something interesting”) to the cool inserts in his records “(just like we have the Bev Davies calendar in The Evaporators’ Busy Doing Nothing!”). everything about Jello Biafra is “sort of how I’ve modeled myself. He’s pretty much my number one inspiration, at least in an artist.”

Of course, the relationship between Nardwuar and Jello didn’t start off so well (their first meeting was captured on video).

“In 1989, the first time that I met him, he didn’t like me at all, and said ‘Farewell to you sir,’ and walked away.

Despite that early snub, Nardwuar assures readers that “Jello is not intense and abrasive compared to some of the other people I deal with. I mean, look at Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, destroying a tape of the interview that I did with him, or Kevin DuBrow of Quiet Riot destroying the interview tape. Jello’s done nothing like that - he’s never destroyed a tape. It’s true he’s written over my face with a black marker - that was in 1989 - but it helped inspire the song, ‘I Got A Rash,’ because my face was completely covered in black marker, so then I tried to wash it off with that - you know that soap they used to have in elementary schools, you know that powdered soap? Like, they didn’t want to put in real soap? I washed my face in it, because they had that at the university at the time, at UBC, and I got a complete rash!”

The now-legendary 1989 snub was sampled on Nardwuar’s first record, Oh God, My Mom’s On Channel Ten! “There was a little interview snippet there, and that’s included on the record,” as a way of turning people on, pre-internet, to Nardwuar’s radio work with CITR. “When I put out the record I mailed it to him and I wrote, ‘please don’t sue me,’ and then he wrote me back and said ‘No, I won’t sue you but send me more of your records! So the next time I met him,” Nardwuar continues, “he was like, ‘where’s the Smugglers 7 inch?’ - like, he knew about the record I’d put out by the Smugglers, on Nardwuar Records, which was inspired by Alternative Tentacles.” The “Cleo” catalogue numbers on Nardwuar’s releases may take their name from Nardwuar’s cat, Cleo 1, but they’re modeled on the “Virus” catalogue numbers on A/T releases. Of course, fifteen years after their first meeting, Alternative Tentacles would be distributing both Nardwuar's records and his DVDs, so everything definitely worked out all right - a testament to the virtue of persistence, Nardwuar-style.

Besides a shared fascination for politics and conspiracies, “Jello is a complete music historian” and music lover, Nardwuar says - something else the two have in common. “He loves the 1960’s and all the different types of bands that are out there and always informs me on information about these bands. I’ve tried to supply Jello with records, too - I remember once I gave him a Simply Saucer original pressing from the 1970’s and Jello’s like, ‘nope, I already have a couple copies of that!’ Jello always has a couple of copies of every record. But actually the last time I saw him, he did not have Xaviera Hollander’s record - you know, the Happy Hooker, with Ronnie Hawkins on it? He did not have the record, and he took it from me!” (The brazen theft was also documented on video, here on the set of Ani Kyd’s short film I Love You… I Am The Porn Queen.)

 I was like, ‘Jello, you cannot have the record’ and he was like, ‘look, Snoop takes from you and I’m going to take from you!’ So he did actually take a record from me. I was honoured, actually, in that respect, because I knew Jello would add it to his collection. And a few years later I did find another copy…”

In addition to hoping to do another interview with Jello - it will be his thirteenth - Nardwuar is very excited that his band, Thee Goblins, will be performing with Biafra on the 17th. “I wanted to have The Evaporators play, but it was too quick, and I couldn’t get a hold of everybody, and the guitar guys were away, so it was like - ‘well maybe Thee Goblins can play,’ and then it all just came together really quickly.” Extra Goblins were quickly recruited from The Evaporators’ pool to back up the band when Jello joins them onstage. “Hopefully Jello will enjoy some Acetone organ in Dead Kennedys’ numbers!”

Jello singing with Thee Goblins will be a first for Nardwuar. “It’s very rare when you’re able to do music onstage with somebody you've interviewed," Nard says. "Like, I’ve interviewed Thor, the metal god, and I was able to do music with Thor. I interviewed Franz Ferdinand - and I was able to do music with Franz Ferdinand. I’ve interviewed Andrew WK, and was able to do music with Andrew WK. And I’ve interviewed Jello, and now, finally, this is the moment where we’ll do music with him. Scott, the drummer of Thee Goblins, has called the gig ‘the biggest gig of our lives!’”

More Nardwuar vs. Jello Biafra interview footage can be viewed here:

Excerpt from Jello Biafra’s first letter to Nardwuar, as dictated to Beat Route by Nardwuar:

"Thanks a lot for sending me a copy of your album. No, don’t worry, I won’t sue you over your plagiarizing my voice after you accosted me for that interview. How could I pass up an opportunity to be on the same record as Gerald Ford? Did you send a copy to him? I have also heard a hilarious tale of you going into some rich, powerful businessman’s house with a video camera awhile back. I haven’t actually been able to see that yet, but would like to!” (“That’s me going into Jimmy Pattison’s house for Halloween and Jimmy showing me around,” Nardwuar explains. “I guess Nomeansno must have told Jello about it.”) In return for your stealing my voice, is there any chance you could send me a few more copies of the album, that I could pass on to my weird friends? Peace and sabotage - Jello Biafra."