DH Peligro, longtime Dead Kennedys drummer, dies at 63

DH Peligro, longtime Dead Kennedys drummer, dies at 63

DH Peligro, a musician best known as the longtime drummer of legendary San Francisco punk band the Dead Kennedys, died Friday at his Los Angeles home after police said he suffered a brain injury due to from an accidental fall, according to an Instagram statement shared by the band. He was 63 years old.

“Arrangements are pending and will be announced in the coming days,” the statement read. “We ask that you respect the privacy of the family during this difficult time. Thank you for your thoughts and words of comfort.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri on July 9, 1959, Peligro (Darren Henley) began playing drums early in his childhood and moved to San Francisco when he was about 15 years old.

“By the time I got there, I had eight bucks in my pocket,” he told music writer Mark Prindle in a 2004 interview for his website, Mark’s Music Reviews. “I walked across the Bay Bridge, walked in and boom. This is where I lived in a van on Shipley St. near Folsom between 5th and 6th. There he met the members of SSI, the first band he would play in.

Peligro said that at the time he was influenced by a number of pioneering punk and ska bands from San Francisco and Los Angeles, including the Offs, the Dils, the Plugz, X and the Go-Gos, and attended frequently at shows at the Deaf Club, a famous punk venue on Valencia Street in the late 70s. He compared SSI rhythm guitarist Paul to Joe Strummer of The Clash and described the sound of the first band he was in played as “very fast”, with “politically astute” lyrics. Jello Biafra, the frontman of the Dead Kennedys, noticed Peligro at SSI gigs, but it was guitarist Raymond John Pepperell (East Bay Ray) who invited him to audition for the Dead Kennedys after the original drummer Bruce “Ted” Slesinger quit to pursue a career as an architect.

A photo of the Dead Kennedys in 1980.

Anne Fishbein/Getty Images

“I ran into East Bay Ray at the Mabuhay Garbage-Gardens…We used to call it the Mabuhay Garbage after a while,” Peligro told Prindle of the North Beach club. “And he asked me if I would come and audition. I immediately thought, ‘Well, you know what? I will not have the concert. I’m black, and nobody wants a black drummer in their band, even if it’s punk rock.’ … That’s certainly what I thought. Because I had seen all these other bands, and I played a lot of rock before that, but I think I was one of the first black rock drummers. Or so it seemed to me.”

For the audition, Peligro said he performed “Insight”, which was later released on the Dead Kennedys’ 1987 compilation album “Give me Convenience or Give Me Death”. The band told him he was in – and by Peligro’s own account, he beat out 15 other drummers who had also tried out for the gig. Peligro then joined them in the studio to record the single “Too Drunk to F—” before performing on their EP “In God We Trust” from 1981 and “Plastic Surgery Disasters” from 1982, as well as “Frankenchrist” from 1985 and ” Bedtime for Democracy” in 1986, released the year the band broke up.

After that, he briefly performed with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, writing a few songs on their fourth studio album, “Mother’s Milk.” The Dead Kennedys reunited in 2001 without Biafra for multiple tours and the release of live studio albums including “Live at the Deaf Club” and “Mutiny on the Bay”.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers (LR) Anthony Kiedis, John Frusciante, Michael

The Red Hot Chili Peppers (LR) Anthony Kiedis, John Frusciante, Michael “Flea” Balzary, DH Peligro pose for a portrait backstage at First Avenue nightclub in Minneapolis, Minnesota on November 16, 1988.

Jim Steinfeldt/Getty Images

Later in life, Peligro played guitar and sang in his own band, Peligro, in addition to performing with Nailbomb and Jungle Studs. Before his death, it was announced that he would star in the sci-fi comedy “Free LSD” by Los Angeles punk band OFF! in 2023, as BrooklynVegan first reported.

“My dear friend, my brother, I miss you so much,” Flea wrote in a tribute to Peligro on Instagram. “I am devastated today, a river of tears, but all my life I will cherish every second. The first time I saw you play with the DKs in ’81, you blew my mind. … You are the most real rocker and a crucial part of rhcp history.

East Bay Ray too share the band’s original statement on Twitter with a brief addition: “I’m sad”.

Dave Lombardo, drummer and co-founding member of iconic thrash metal band Slayer, wrote that Peligro’s frantic, hardcore style on the Dead Kennedys’ early albums influenced the way he played in his own band.

“I send my deepest condolences to his family, his bandmates and everyone affected by this tragic and untimely loss,” he said. tweeted. “Rest in peace.”

Lol Tolhurst, founding member and former drummer of The Cure, shared a photo of Peligro, who he called “a lovely man and an awesome drummer”.

And Jon Wurster, the drummer of 1990s DIY rock band Superchunk, shared a video of the Dead Kennedys performing in San Francisco circa 1984 on Twitter.

“DH Peligro left the building,” Wurster wrote. “One of the absolute greatest.”

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