The Dead Kennedys’ Sober Drummer

The Dead Kennedys’ Sober Drummer

By Kristen McGuiness 04/18/12

D.H. Peligro broke stereotypes as one of the few African-Americans in the punk movement. He also nearly broke himself, through a harrowing mix of heroin, crack and one very dangerous lollipop. 

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Peligro back in action Photo via

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And ironically that’s when Flea showed up?

Yeah. Low and behold. I had just moved to Miracle Mile with some guys from Fishbone, and Flea comes by and tells me that the Red Hot Chili Peppers were looking for a drummer. I went to the audition and borrowed some drums, and got in. I was trying to conceal my drug use and I was asked not to use around Anthony [Kiedis, who was newly sober at the time]. It was tough to go on tour and be strung out—going from city to city, and getting so sick. Whenever it was show time, I would get out there and kick some ass, but the 22 hours before and after the gig were hell. Anthony took me to a meeting and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get it but I did know where to go. Not long after, I got kicked out of the Chili Peppers. That’s when I went over the edge. I decided, “I‘m just going to get loaded to the bitter end.” There were a lot of hospital visits and rehabs and methadone clinics. And then finally, in 1998, I got sober. That’s when I got the six years.

Then what happened?

The Dead Kennedys had started touring again with Brandon Cruz singing. We were touring across Europe, South America, and the Americas. We were on the way to Turkey and some guy on the plane gave me a morphine lollipop. I though, “What kind of balderdash is that? A morphine lollipop.” I knew I shouldn’t take it but I did. I started sucking on it and a few minutes later, this overwhelming wave of euphoric sensation just washed right over me. It was hard to come back [to AA] and tell people. They were so shocked, and though I was able to get three months back at first, I relapsed again and it just felt like I couldn’t stop.

What finally brought you back to solid sobriety?

I kept trying to play music. I did some gigs and I was so out of it, I couldn’t even really play. They had to get another drummer to show up for me. It was exhausting. I would get sober and then I would get loaded again. Finally, I called up MusiCares and they got me into a treatment center in Georgia.

And what’s it like now?

I started up my band Peligro again and play with the Dead Kennedys here and there. I just did some acting in a new film Dumped.  I’ve been writing my memoirs—I’m at the end of the editing process. And in February, I’ll have two years sober.

I remember when you relapsed. It was really sad. You were one of the first people who was nice to me at meetings, and I felt that this place couldn’t be that bad if some famous punk rocker was willing to reach out and be kind. And then I saw you when you were relapsed and it was like the lights were off.

Thank you. You know I forget that sometimes. I forget how much you can help people when you’re sober. And how dead you become when you’re not.

I’m glad you’re alive.

Kristen McGuiness is a freelance writer and regular contributor to The Fix who wrote previously about old timers in AA and sober travel, among other topics. She is the author of 51/50: The Magical Adventures of a Single Life