Alternative Tentacles

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Alternative Tentacles
Founded 1979
Founder Jello Biafra
East Bay Ray
Distributor(s) Revolver USA
Genre Punk rock
Alternative rock
Spoken word
Hardcore punk
Heavy metal
Country of origin United States
Location Emeryville, California (current)
San Francisco, California (historic)
Official website

Alternative Tentacles is an independent record label established in 1979 in San Francisco, California. It was originally used as the label name by the Dead Kennedys for the self-produced single "California Über Alles", and after realizing the potential for an independent label, they released records for other bands as well. Dead Kennedys guitarist East Bay Ray and vocalist Jello Biafra formed the original Alternative Tentacles partnership, but the label is now run by Biafra, who became the sole owner in the mid-1980s.[1]

Early influence[edit]

Alternative Tentacles went on to launch some of the most original bands of the alternative/punk scene including releasing records (which were later released by other labels) by bands including The Dicks, 7 Seconds, and the Butthole Surfers. The early compilation titled Let Them Eat Jellybeans! served to introduce American punk to the rest of the world.[2]

Some of the best known bands that have come through Alternative Tentacles are Dead Kennedys, NoMeansNo, D.O.A. and Alice Donut.[2]

In addition to musical acts, Alternative Tentacles also publishes spoken word albums, many by Jello Biafra himself. Another common theme of Alternative Tentacles records over the years has been the long-standing artwork of Winston Smith, which has graced many of their records, catalogs, posters, and shirts. Smith also designed the Alternative Tentacles logo.[2]

Legal trouble[edit]

In 1985, Los Angeles prosecutors charged Biafra with "distributing harmful matter to minors" for artwork contained in the Dead Kennedys album Frankenchrist. The artwork was a poster reproduction of the painting "Work 219: Landscape XX", also known as "Penis Landscape" by H.R. Giger. The case ended in a hung jury; charges were not re-filed. A detailed account of the trial is presented by Biafra on his second spoken word album, High Priest of Harmful Matter − Tales from the Trial.

In early 2000, the label and Biafra were named in a lawsuit brought by his former Dead Kennedys bandmates. The suit claimed that Biafra had failed to pay the band royalties on Dead Kennedys albums. The end result of the case saw the rights to the albums turned over to the other band members, who licensed them to Manifesto Records in the United States (and to other labels in the rest of the world). The taking away of the Dead Kennedys album meant that the label struggled to get back on its feet, since the biggest sales it had were Dead Kennedys albums.

In October 2002, the label moved to Emeryville, California.


Current artists[edit]

Former artists[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ “Dead Kennedys v. Jello Biafra”
  2. ^ a b c A Crash Course in Alternative Tentacles. Alternative Tentacles. 2004. Web.

External links[edit]