ROCK STARS can usually recognize a good cause when it's presented to them, but often they're politically ineffectual ("We Are the World" was a fluke, and really, who have the Tibetan Freedom Concerts freed?). There are a few exceptions to this rule, and Jello Biafra is one of them.

Biafra's post-Dead Kennedys spoken-word albums and political activism (including mocking the election process by running for mayor of San Francisco, and coming in fourth out of 10 candidates) are evidence of a commanding body of political knowledge and the will to act on it, which is exactly what he'll do in Seattle this week in protest of the World Trade Organization.

The WTO Band will be a supergroup: fronted by Biafra, with Krist Novoselic (Sweet 75 and formerly Nirvana), Kim Thayil (formerly Soundgarden), and Gina Mainwal. As of press time, they haven't actually practiced yet, so the best we can do is guess that the WTO Band will sound like sloppy punk protest rock with some spoken (screaming?)-word interludes from Biafra.

I spoke to Biafra about the project, and he was predictably manic, audibly excited, and impressively informed. And did I mention manic?


How did you put the WTO Band together?

It's not together yet; I haven't made it up there. It's a concept that's going to be thrown together quickly and brought to the stage to do what we can to protest and expose the WTO.


What can the WTO Band do to expose the WTO?

The WTO's best weapon is that hardly anyone knows it exists--that's why everyone involved in this who comes to Seattle needs to start becoming the media and going one-on-one with people they know in their family, at work, at school, and explaining how this thing works.

[For example], if it isn't obscene enough that we're not allowed to have labels on the food here, warning people that ingredients may be genetically modified "frankenfood," they're trying to get rid of other countries' laws in this regard, too. I don't mind genetically engineered food if people have a right to choose, but you don't have a right to choose when you don't know it's in your food to begin with.

These protests in Seattle are only the beginning. So, Krist's idea was to try and learn three or four songs, and I'm not sure what those songs are going to be yet.


"Frankenfood," maybe?

I don't have a song specifically about frankenfood, yet. I have got some stuff on this subject that I've never had a chance to record, like new feudalism, like "You Guessed It... New Feudalism." Another one about computer temp jobs [is] called "Electronic Plantation."


Oooh, that will resonate in Seattle.

Maybe we'll even learn "The Wal-Mart Shuffle." I mean, what they're trying to cement at this WTO convention is even worse than what was already there.

For several years there were some secret negotiations for another treaty called the MAI--Multilateral Agreement on Investments--which would then seal in writing that corporations had the same sovereign rights as actual nations, and they too could challenge other countries' laws to the WTO for "interfering with their right to profit."

The MAI negotiations were scuttled last December. But the new plan is to try and just work it in as bylaws to the GATT treaty, and hand it all to the WTO.


Just the concept of the "right to profit" is such a semantic steamrollerÉ.

I mean, we have to get away from this whole notion that it's more important to be a marketplace than a community, that it's more important to be competitive than to care about your fellow human beings and the state of the planet.


Well, but in a lot of ways that's the history of America.

Well, not if we can help it. That's why we're protesting the WTO. My hope is this is gonna be a watershed to expose all these other issues we've been talking about. I mean, it's a classic example of where our allies are not necessarily political progressive lefties or hipsters in the music world. A lot of trade workers are coming out for these protests.


Do you think it's strange that the WTO would pick Seattle, which is a concentration of liberal lefties and hipsters in the music world?

It's also because Microsoft and all who sail with them are in Seattle, and they justified it by saying Seattle has a lot of experience in dealing with protesters.

Who was it that ran the quote [from the police], "We've got plenty of pepper spray and we're ready to use it"? So bring your goggles, kids. Wouldn't hurt to bring a motorcycle or football helmet and thrift-store hockey equipment, too.

Proceeds from the concert will go to the Institute for Consumer Responsibility, to offset costs of a $40,000 ICR-funded media campaign against the WTO.

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