For those of you who don’t know, Screeching Weasel are a punk band from Chicago, Illinois. Formed in the mid 1980s, and fronted by the legendary Ben Weasel, they made a name for themselves as a great live and studio band with the same kind of ethos as the Ramones in terms of brevity and speed. When Rip it Up was in its infancy, we felt that this was a good thing, and this feeling has persisted over the years.
This interview has been dragged up from the depths of history – I am in the process of scanning the back issues and I thought that it would be a good idea to post up some of the old articles as ‘period pieces’, partly because the photocopied typing will be almost illegible when I have finished scanning them. This one dates from Summer 1988, when Hud managed to get a postal interview with Johnny Jughead [long since departed guitarist] and Ben Weasel [the hardcore answer to Mark E Smith, and notable punk rock curmudgeon] all about their recently formed band, Screeching Weasel. For the record I will quote it verbatim, complete with youthful overstatement and factual inaccuracies.
“This interview was done in Operating Theatre no. 2, Prospect Heights General Hospital, with Dr John McJuggly and Dr Benjamin Weaselstein whilst they were performing open heart sugery on each other. Hmmmm, yeah right – Straight Edge heroes from Chicago – read on!
RIPITUP: How’s the new album going, and how dos it compare to your last?
Screeching Weasel: The new album has worried us since the completion of the first. It’s a heavy responsibility to create new material that can compare to a first album project, but we’re confident that “Boogada Boogada Boogada” is an intense album with humourous endeavours. Also it should be known that the first 250 albums will contain a poster of us bowling naked. [We are very proud of our units and we want to share them with anybody who cares enough to run out and buy our album.] The release date will be some time in December .
RIU: Is Warren still enjoying being in the band? Does he still do Ozzfish?
SW: Warren is still dangling his head in the clouds. He’s as happy as a Communist – influenced anarchist could ever hope to be. Warren Fish and Greg Oz have given up the Ozzfish Experience but have not forgotten the memories.
RIU: What pisses you off most of all about ‘Hardcore’?
SW [Ben Weasel]: It would have to be a toss-up between people who think hardcore is original and not rehashed ideas from way back, AND the overcrowded amount of politically aware bands which are too serious and boring.
RIU: Which bands do you currently rate/admire?
SW: Angry Samoans, Adrenalin OD, Ramones, White Flag, Wire, Black Flag, Descendents, and many local bands which we love and respect more than any famous band we’ll never hope to meet. Bands like Bhopal Stiffs, Naked Raygun, Spongetunnel, Friends of Betty.
RIU: As an Englander I tend to have a stereotyped image of the States [jocks in checked shirts, baseball caps, MacDonalds every 50 yards,]. What is your image of Britain and would you like to tour here?
SW: I picture everybody looking and acting like John Cleese, English chickens with their heads cut off. Actually I picture them as being like us only with different accents. We are looking forward to touring England and Europe and will hopefully be doing so in Summer ’89. If we can get the record company to help us out, or anybody else for that matter. So anybody reading this, write to us especially if you run or book shows.
RIU: What’s the worst job any of you have done?
SW: What the hell is a job????
RIU: If you weren’t in Screeching Weasel, what would you be doing in between crime, breakfast and mammoth personal hygiene sessions?
SW [Johnny]: If I wasn’t doing Weasel, I’d be living out of a paperback in some dark alley in a small slum in the centre of town.
SW [Ben]: I’d be pumping gas for a while until I got sick of it, then i’d blow it up, buy a gun and kill everyone who said “Have a nice day”.
RIU: Favourite TV Shows?
SW: “My Favourite Martian” – I don’t know if they play it in England. It’s about a Martian who lives with a man who calls him Uncle. Every once in a while, TV antennas shoot out of the top of his head. TV is an experience i’d never want to give up.
RIU: Favouite food/drink combo?
SW: Pizza and beer, except Johnny – Pizza rolls and root beer.
RIU: Can any of you ride a bicycle?
SW: I had a bike with training wheels [stabilisers – ed] once, but I crashed into a fire hydrant.
RIU: How long have you been bosom buddies for, and do you still ‘hang out’ together?
SW: Ben and I can’t help but ‘hang out’ together – we both live in my basement. We even share the same soap, toothpaste, wrestling magazines, A-Team jell-o moulds. We’re all pretty close. If we weren’t, there wouldn’t be a band. Warren likes to think he’s a loner with no ral friends, but I think he’d freak out if we never talked to him again. The band has been together 2 years.
RIU: Any startling personal/physical attributes [i.e. webbed feet?]
Besides the fact that we’re all mentally warped and suffer from paranoia, we’re OK. No physical ‘believe it or not’ stories from us.
RIU: How content are you with your lives, and what if anything do you crave?
SW: I will never be content with anything. I am a spolit brat and want everything. I want a country named after me. I want to be a real superhero. I want all women to kiss my feet. I want a soda pop that doesn’t leave an after taste.
RIU: Do you ever see yourselves growing up, settling down?
SW: I’m as tall as I’m ever gonna be. I’m not proud of this, but I have to live with it. As far as settling down is concerned, no-one should ever settle down unless they’re dead or seriously wounded.
above: The Weasel cranking it out in what seems to be somebody’s living room. One of the comments on this video on Youtube says it all: “hooray for shitty punk rock – his voice cracks like hell and the music could be played by a three year old but its the best shit around”
RIU: Time to don the Weasel honesty caps. Rip It Up – whaddya reckon?
SW: Fuckin’ sucks, man. Nah, it must be good if we’re in it. Tho’ it doesn’t rate as high as a fanzine I used to do called ‘Promising Decathlete in Terrifying Escalator Accident’…..
RIU: Any last comments?
SW: Thank you and fuck you all. [is that hardcore enough?]
Postscript: A lot has happened since this interview took place a quarter of a century ago. Weasel are still going, albeit rather like The Fall with the singer as the only consistent member. Ben Weasel is now an author, songwriter, broadcaster, vocalist and all round punk rock renaissance man. Never one to shy away from controversy, he found himself in big trouble on 18th March 2011 at a Weasel show during the South by Southwest festival the Scoot Inn, Austin, Texas. As punknews reported at the time:
It’s a “a carnival of schadenfreude” Weasel said of SXSW, and repeatedly said he regretted coming. Yet the contentious atmosphere turned more aggressive by show’s end, with Weasel ultimately jumping into the crowd, allegedly to confront a woman who had hit him in the face with ice.
Another woman, who security staff said was one of the venue’s owners, ran on stage to break up the fight. Weasel was soon dragged off the stage by security. He left the venue before he could be tracked down by reporters, and has not yet returned a call requesting comment.
Whatever your opinions of the man, you can find out the full story [in his own, highly opinionated terms] at their website.