As a follow-up to Jello Biafra & the Guantanamo School of Medicine’s 2009 full-length debut, Audacity of Hype, the band has released a new EP titled Enhanced Methods of Questioning on the Alternative Tentacles label. Comprised of five new mind-blowing originals and an interesting eighteen-minute rendition of The Deviants’ “Metamorphosis Exploration,” Enhanced Methods of Questioning does not disappoint in any way.
It is hard to believe that it has actually been twenty-five years since San Francisco punk legends The Dead Kennedys officially called it quits. Having since contributed and participated in several unrelated musical endeavors, vocalist Jello Biafra hasn’t by any means been inactive in the scene over the years. Lard, the industrial punk and metal-esque band he formed together with Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen, was Jello’s first project after The Dead Kennedys disbanded in 1986. Since then Jello has done some collaborative work with singer/songwriter Mojo Nixon, with whom he released a roots rock and country effort titled Prairie Home Invasion, as well as albums with the grungy post-punk band The Melvins, Never Breathe What You Can’t See and Seig Howdy, and with others. He has also been well known for his socio-political commentary and spoken word satire, of which he has released a slew of recordings, and with which he has toured extensively.
Now with the Guantanamo School of Medicine, Jello Biafra is doing what is arguably his best work since The Dead Kennedys. What’s more, the Guantanamo School of Medicine is Jello’s first full-time band since The Dead Kennedys. Inspired by Iggy Pop’s 60th birthday gig at the Warfield, Jello began entertaining plans of putting together a new lineup of musicians to accompany him on stage at his approaching 50th birthday celebration. Besides, he had an overflow of songs he had written but never used, and it was high time to put them to good use. So the band was formed, initially under the name Jello Biafra & the Axis of Merry Evildoers, and played two sold-out shows at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall. From there it progressed into a full-time project. It undoubtedly helps matters that Jello has some very talented and experienced bandmates backing him up: Ralph Spight on guitar (Victims Family, Freak Accident, Hellworms), Jon Weiss on drums (Sharkbait, Horsey), Billy Gould on bass (Faith No More), and Kimo Ball on guitar (Freak Accident, Carneyball Johnson, Mol Triffid, Griddle). Altogether the Guantanamo School of Medicine members are an impressive group of musicians, not to mention respected figures in underground music.
Enhanced Methods of Questioning is first and foremost a punk record, though with tight pummeling drums, ferocious guitar work, skillful low-end accompaniment, a few metallic hardcore riffs thrown in here and there, and of course Biafra’s ultra-distinct vocal delivery and socially and politically conscious lyrical content. With the five original songs, Jello Biafra & the Guantanamo School of Medicine show that they are far more concerned with quality than quantity. I mean, what band other than this one can successfully write, record and perform such solid compositions utilizing musical elements ranging from spaced-out psychedelic rock, industrial bits, and hardcore to experimental noir jazz undertones, progressive trans-rock’n’roll soundscapes, and old school punk? Not many, if any at all. As such, all five original songs on Enhanced Methods of Questioning are standouts: “Dot Com Monte Carlo,” “The Cells that Will Not Die,” “Victory Stinks,” “Invasion of the Mind Snatchers,” and “Miracle Penis Highway.”
Recently I had the opportunity and pleasure of interviewing Guantanamo School of Medicine guitarist Ralph Spight. What follows is the content from that interview in its entirety.