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Ben Weasel
Screeching Weasel
"Major Label Debut"
"Punk USA"
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Ben Weasel
interview by: Mike Alfini March 2004

Mike: What was the first punk show you ever saw and what did you think of it?

Ben Weasel: Naked Raygun probably. Probably was drunk, probably had fun, probably tried to avoid the skinheads.

Mike: What was the last show you went to and how was it?

Ben Weasel: Last show I didn't play that I went to was probably MTX in '99 or 2000. I honestly don't remember it.

Mike: What do you think about punk rock today compared to when you first got into it?

Ben Weasel: There was no money in it so you did it because you hated the shit on the radio and wanted to make something different and hopefully better. Now bands hear the shit on the radio and try to copy it to make a career for themselves. Other than that, it's the same old idiots acting like idiots and boring people with their shitty bands.

Mike: When and where was the first Screeching Weasel show ever?

Ben Weasel: I think at a club called Batteries Not Included at North and Clybourn in the summer of 1986.

Mike: Is their one show that you have played that sticks out in your mind bad or good for being the most memorable?

Ben Weasel: I had a great time with the Riverdales opening for Green Day on a closed-off street in Switzerland. We played as the sun was setting and it was truly fucking beautiful. But I also had fun pulling out my dick on stage and daring skinheads to suck it and wondering if they'd punch my face, but I was drunk a lot back then.

Mike: What was your favorite venue ever to play at around Chicago?

Ben Weasel: McGregors in Elmhurst was fun except for the dumb brass bars around the stage. But, again, I was mostly drunk then so I'm probably remembering it as being good when it actually might have sucked.

Mike: Do you prefer to play all ages shows or 21+ shows?

Ben Weasel: All-Ages, all the time. 21+ shows tend to be populated with people who are in their early twenties and who are still excited about not living with their parents and being able to drink legally. So they behave like assholes. Only they play the part of jaded assholes. It would be more fun if more people randomly beat the crap out of them.

Mike: Is there one record that you have made that sticks out to you more than any other as being most memorable to you and why?

Ben Weasel: "Anthem For A New Tomorrow" maybe isn't my favorite, though I like it a lot, but it's memorable because it was the first record that I conceived in its entirety before the band had ever heard a note of it. Art, music, titles, everything. Made me momentarily feel like I didn't have my head up my butt creatively.

Mike: What are your 5 favorite records of all time?

Ben Weasel: I don't really have favorite records. I like songs. Crimpshrine was always my favorite of the East Bay bands in the late 1980s, though I'm a huge MTX fan as well. Dr. Frank is a true genius; a man who has mastered the art of songwriting. I always liked Hendrix a lot. I like the Stones and the Kinks a lot more now than when I was younger. It took me a while to separate their best stuff from the other lame 70s crap that was on the radio when I was growing up. I liked the punk bands that were sort of pioneers, both musically and in what they did to lay the groundwork for bands like mine. Like D.O.A., Black Flag, Zero Boys, Ramones of course, the Dickies. I tend to prefer American punk over the British stuff, though some of it was good, the Pistols, Buzzcocks, Rezillos, especially Wire. I love listening to Pink Flag, then moving on to the Urinals and 100 Flowers, then the Minutemen, then Jawbreaker. It all makes sense as you listen to those influences and how those bands interpreted them and it's mostly very good, occasionally a bit pretentious, but mostly really good stuff. I like John Coltrane a lot and I hear his influence in some more aggressive rock like the Stooges, especially on "Funhouse," which also seems to have a heavy soul influence. I am a big fan of the Cranberries, though they need a new lyricist. I love Bjork; if I wasn't married I'd be sending her love letters because her music is utterly brilliant and she's pretty foxy in a weird alien way. I think her lyrics are brilliant as well. Right now in punk, I like the Obsoletes quite a lot, they're insanely talented and they don't even seem to know it. The Modern Machines would be good except their drummer is unbearably bad. There's no excuse for hanging on to a drummer who's that untalented. I don't care if he's your friend, find a new friend who doesn't blow elephant balls on the drums. A punk band can get away with a lousy singer and guitarist like me, and a lousy bass player, but a lousy drummer will drag you down every time. I liked Shotwell, they took up where Crimpshrine left off very well, but I don't know if they're still together. I kind of like the Onion Flavored Rings too. And the Dillinger Four. I could do without the alcohol-fueled "zany" schtick, but they're for real and they know what a good tune is and how to write one and perform one. But I don't understand sticking things up your butt on stage. GG Allin already mined that field. I hate the American Pie bands, the California Elite, but so what, who doesn't?

Mike: Who are your 5 favorite Chicago bands of all time?

Ben Weasel: Naked Raygun.

The Effigies were good for a while.

Big Black were interesting but I don't know or care what they were singing about.

The Bhopal Stiffs were great. They were the best live band in Chicago in the late 80s and their recordings are great but they still don't do the band justice. They're the only band I ever danced to.

I can't think of any other great Chicago bands off the top of my head. AOF did the Black Flag thing good, but I never saw them live and their politics were foolish.

Mike: At this time do you like living in Chicago and what are the pros and cons for you?

Ben Weasel: I don't live in Chicago, I live in Oak Park. I love it except for the weather. That's the old joke about the guys from NY who moved to Chicago because NY had enough crime and pollution and traffic, but the weather was too nice. Chicagoans are pretty self-centered, you see it when you're driving, or when you're in the supermarket and some fat pig is wandering around aimlessly in the aisle blocking everybody's way with a cart full of Honeycomb boxes and Oroes and Twinkies and shit. And Diet Coke of course. If I wasn't from here, I guess my criticism would be that there's too many fat guys with moustaches. And as is typical of most big cities, there's too many shitty bands taking up valuable space and time and real estate in people's consciousness.

Mike: What area of Chicago did you grow up in?

Ben Weasel: I grew up in Prospect Heights and Mt. Prospect.

Mike: What are your thoughts on Schaumburg?

Ben Weasel: Big, ugly mall. Lots of dickheads in SUVs and Hummers getting in the way of people who aren't enormous assholes.

Mike: What are some of your favorite places to eat at around Chicago?

Ben Weasel: I eat in Oak Park. Robinson's has the best ribs in the state. Gepettos is great all around, but especially their thin-crust. New Pot on Lake, Khyber Pass on Lake, Grape Leaves on Oak Park. I even like the Mexican fast food place on Lake but I can't remember their name. When I lived in the city, I was addicted to Da Nicola, but they went out of business. Also that Chinese place downtown, I think they were called Tsang or something.

Mike: You once wrote directed and stared in a low budget film about punk vampires. Do you have any interested in being involved in film making again?

Ben Weasel: If the money's right, I'll listen to any offer. But I'm not taking that stuff on myself. It costs enough money just to make music.

Mike: Any last words?

Ben Weasel: Nope.

Bhopal Stiffs
8 Bark
"Structurally Sound"
"Hours of Operation"
"Leave Home"
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