Following the demise of the Dead Kennedys in the wake of the financial and emotional disaster that was their 1986 obscenity trial, vocalist and free-speech icon Jello Biafra launched a solo career, devoting some of his releases to spoken word observations on American culture and politics and others to collaborative efforts with several bands. Biafra was born Eric Boucher in Boulder, Colorado, and began collecting odd records in high school. He moved to San Francisco and took his stage name from the war-ravaged African nation then called Biafra, appending the name of the popular dessert substance because he liked the way the two sounded together. Biafra formed the Dead Kennedys in 1978, and the band quickly gained a following thanks to its hyper-driven sonic assault and Biafra's nasal, declamatory (and often quite funny) political rantings. In 1979, a year before the Kennedys' influential debut, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, was released, Biafra ran for mayor of San Francisco on a bet; his platform included holding auctions for high-ranking city government positions, setting up a board of bribery to handle liquor licenses and building codes, banning automobiles in the city limits, forcing businessmen to dress in clown suits, and allowing vagrants legal access to empty buildings. (Voters apparently found the satire compelling enough to place Biafra fourth out of ten candidates.)
Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables suffered distribution problems owing to the Dead Kennedys' name and subject matter, so Biafra formed his own Alternative Tentacles label in 1981 to counter the majors' reluctance to disseminate his material. When the Kennedys included a poster of H.R. Giger's painting Landscape #20 (Penis Landscape), which depicted rows of penises engaged in anal intercourse, in their 1985 album Frankenchrist, the band and label were prosecuted under California obscenity statutes for distributing "harmful matter to minors." Biafra's apartment was ransacked by police, and a trial was undertaken in April 1986 that lasted over a year; a hung jury resulted in the charges being dropped.