For many people, the Dead Kennedys are the embodiment of Californian punk. Led by Jello Biafra (who was interviewed in last week's issue), the DK's actually had something to say while, all around them, bands like the Germs were wallowing in drug-fuelled nihilism.
Less well-known is the fact that DK's bassist Klaus Flouride, real name Geoffrey Lyall, is a Detroiter. The band formed in 1978 when Flouride was just about to enter his 30s. The rest of the band members were at least 10 years younger than the bassist, who had played in bands in Boston and New York before arriving in San Fran from Detroit, having left Michigan in 1967.
In fact, young Lyall was in metro Detroit at an incredibly exciting time for music. Motown was booming, and the Grande Ballroom was rocking. "I used to go to the Grande every once in a while and see something," Flouride says. "The Amboy Dukes were playing at that point. The Iguanas too."
Flouride was actually in St. Clair Shores for the first five years of his life, before his parents moved to Grosse Pointe Park in an attempt to get their son into a better school system. "In 11th grade, around 1965, we had a civics teacher," Flouride says. "She was from Bloomfield Hills, which was basically white at that point, as was Grosse Pointe. Her whole thing about the civil rights movement was, 'Martin Luther King is a good guy and Malcolm X is a bad guy — got that? OK good.' Not covering Rosa Parks or that sort of thing."
He arrived in San Francisco in 1977 in his late 20s, by then a seasoned R&B musician. For a year, he bummed around town, then one day, he saw a want ad placed in a local newspaper by future DKs man East Bay Ray.
The rest is, of course, history. Flouride, East Bay Ray, DH Peligro and Jello Biafra would enjoy fame and infamy thanks to the Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables album and three follow-ups, and songs like "Holiday in Cambodia," "California Über Alles," "Chemical Warfare," and "Nazi Punks Fuck Off."
If the Dead Kennedys courted controversy while the original band was together, the level of unrest since the 1986 break-up has been deafening. Court cases over royalty payments have framed endless back-and-forth chatter. There were plenty of dissenting voices when the Dead Kennedys reformed without Jello in 2001, initially with Brandon Cruz taking vocal duties. Now, 13 years later, Ron "Skip" Greer is the singer, and the DK's will bring the current lineup to St. Andrew's this week, only 10 days after Jello Biafra's appearance at the Magic Stick. You can be sure that the two shows will be very different.
"We'll get on stage and play a bunch of songs," says Flouride. "There are a couple of new songs. We'll play one, the other, or both of them."
Whatever your view on the band battles, it'll be great to welcome Klaus Flouride back to his hometown. — mt
The Dead Kennedys play with Downtown Brown, Child Bite, and the Ill Itches at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 24, at St. Andrew's Hall, 431 E. Congress St., Detroit; 313-961-8961; $29.