Maty’s Corner #19 Ben Weasel; He’s a Jerk, He’s a Hero!

Maty’s Corner #19
Ben Weasel; He’s a Jerk, He’s a Hero!

Ben Weasel is one of most maligned, polarizing and interesting characters in the punk scene. He’s captained two defining bands, authored 2 books, is presently working on a musical and has effortlessly pissed off most of the “punk” scene. Gonna apologize in advance if I get anything wrong and do my best shed some light on a nasty rumor or two. Strap in and take a ride to the punk house.

Ben’s first and most notable band Screeching Weasel started in 1987 in Prospect Heights Illinois and became a fixture in the chicago punk scene. Their alumni over the years has boasted some heavy hitters such as Mike Dirnt, Mass Giorgini, Aaron Cometbus and Dan Vapid. They are probably the most influential band to pop punk/power pop/emo since the Ramones. Their brand of punk has covered quite the broad spectrum from weird pop culture fantasies to the pretentiousness inherent in the more leftist portion of punk rock.

1987 brought us their self titled debut. The album was around only briefly at the time as Underdog Records had no interest in re-pressing after the initial copies sold out. It was re-issued in 1997 by VML Records. This album is great for the hard core fans but easily their worst or best album depending on perspective. I enjoy it but would not play it to introduce someone to the band. The highlight is early versions on some of the band’s better known songs being, Murder in the Brady House, My Right, Hey Suburbia, and I Hate Led Zeppelin. It’s worth a listen if you love Screeching Weasel or just some kind of music nerd.

In 1988 Weasel put out Boogada, probably their best known album. This was their debut on Lookout Records. This featured better produced versions of a few tracks off of their first album. This effort sees the beginnings of their transition from strange near hard core to the pop punk powerhouse they are today. One of the stand outs on this is Nicaragua which seems like a fuck you to the over sensitive crusties. This was also one of the first appearances of the famed cartoon weasel character.

1991 gave us My Brain Hurts. This showed the band in the more pop punk/ Ramones-Core direction. This featured backing vocals with the edition of Dan Vapid and a better, more rounded out sound. A highlight from this is one of my favorite Weasel songs, Science of Myth, a song that still affects me to this day. This release took the weasel to new heights in popularity.

In 1992 Weasel released an album that changed my view on punk rock in general and was the first one I ever heard. It was titled Ramones. This is a cover of the entire first Ramones album done in Screeching Weasel’s own break neck pace. The repress also had the Formula 27 EP tacked on at the end and is entitled Beat Is on the Brat. This is the version I got. This was their first album to be recorded at Sonic Iguana studios with Mass Giorgini producing, a unit that has put out many of pop punk’s greatest releases.

Following the Ramones celebration was 1993’s Wiggle. The band’s most solid album. It featured a number of songwriting collaborations with Joe Queer and one with Aaron Cometbus. The highlight of this is the entire album. Though Crying in My Beer and High School psychopath near have their own life beyond this release. Supposedly there have been regrets about some of the songs chosen for this album which I don’t get personally.

Also 1993 brought us Anthem for a New Tomorrow, yes they are that fast. This was a bit more straight up than Wiggle. I think part of that was the bulk of the tracks were written strictly by Ben Weasel. It continued their legacy as pop punk titans. Their instrumentation and lyricism had jumped by leaps and bounds at this point.

1994 brought what was initially going to be Weasel’s last album, How to Make Enemies and Irritate People. Dan Vapid had left the band at this point. Green Day’s mike Dirnt had been recruited to fill in. The recording does show the strain the band was feeling. It was still a great album nonetheless. It’s still classic Weasel even if a bit tired. This also marks their final release with Lookout Records. It really looked the Weasel was out to pasture.

1995 brought us an interim album, Kill the Musicians. This is packed with a bunch of goodies such as b sides and vinyl only stuff. A definite must for the hard core Weasel fan.

Cut to 1996. Reformed Weasel with a new album, Bark like a Dog on a new label, Fat Wreck Chords. This alum sounds a lot more alive and in tune with Screeching Weasel than their prior effort. They sound more alive. This was their only album to hit Billboard at #34. Bark gave us Cool Kids which is an excellent Weasel track.

1998 kicked in with Television City Dream. Vapid had again left the band and Mass Giorgini was filling in on bass along with producing the album. This is a blend of the Weasel pop sound with a blend of the harder edge found on their earliest work. It was yet another solid effort from the Weasel. They were still on Fat Wreck at this point.

In 1999 Weasel released their overall most interesting album, Emo. Interesting due to a lot of the song writing sounding like a lot of mid western punk that was being labeled as such and the obvious fact that this band’s music had an influence on the scene. Though I doubt this band ever stole their sister’s clothes, make up and hair products. This whole album stands out as it was quite different from anything the band had done. They had split from Fat and released this on Panic Button Records which was run by founding member Jughead.

2000 saw the release of Teen Punks in Heat. Another solid release from the band. It looked like they were in a full fledged reformation as they had played two sold out shows. Their first live performance in seven years. But Weasel broke up again and wouldn’t release another album for 11 years.

2011 marked Weasel’s craziest year to date. They were back on Fat Wreck and with a new album, First World Manifesto. Some of it takes stabs at everything that”punks” like Fat Mike are about. Along with this was the incident at South by Southwest. A female member of the audience had been throwing ice and spitting at Ben through the duration of their set. After an hour Ben lost it and threw a punch at her, guess you shouldn’t screw with the band, then the club owner rushed Ben and he defended himself. Following this was much of the punk scene forming a lynch mob. His own band threw him under the bus and got shit canned as a result. Fat Mike was of course full of self righteous indignation due to him being such a stand up guy, right.

Aside from Screeching Weasel and polarizing fans Ben fronted another highly influential group, the Riverdales. They took the Ramones influence to new levels. Lead vocals were shared between Dan Vapid and Ben Weasel. Really amazing band. They released 5 albums between 1995 and 2010. I’m pretty sure this band is dead as Vapid was one of the people to turn on Ben the moment the wind blew wrong.

Along with this Ben has put out 2 solo albums and 2 difficult to find books. After 23 years the Weasel marches on. Honestly I think Ben exemplifies punk more than a number of artists in the scene. It’s supposed to be a bit unfriendly and dangerous. You want safe, go listen to some shitty pop music. Ben screwed up and apologized. Get over it. As for Vapid and crew, you betray your band, you deserve the unemployment line. If you know Ben’s band, give another listen, if not, check ‘em out!
-Maty Almost

Lookout! Or Else. More Ben Weasel


So Larry Livermore put out a book about Lookout Records and appearently misrepresents Screeching Weasel based off of info from John “Jughead”. Less than surprising considering that a lot of the scene is hell bent on maligning Ben Weasel.

-Maty Almost

Now for Ben’s posted thoughts on the book.

So, this Lookout Records book that just came out – what a mess. It focuses way more on SW than I’d imagined it would. If I’d known I was living that comfortably and rent-free in Larry’s head I’d’ve done a few things differently.

But the main thing is the factual errors. And not just the author. You’ve got band members who had no idea what was going on discussing business they had nothing to do with and talking dumb shit.

One example: the author asserts that we supposedly had a deal with Lookout to put Homosexual on MBH and reneged on it. Presumably John is his source since he’s the one quoted.

What actually happened was that Larry refused to sign a deal with us so we agreed with Shred of Dignity to do the Pervo-Devo EP well before signing with Lookout – weeks if not months in advance. Larry refused to agree to release MBH till it was about halfway mixed, and only after I gave him an ultimatum when he 1. started insinuating that he wasn’t going to sign us if we didn’t put Science of Myth as the first track and 2. asked me to renege on our deal with SoD and add Homosexual. I said, “sorry pal, I already have a deal with Matt at SoD. He was willing to take a chance on us when you weren’t.” Matt was in the studio doing a photo shoot with me and Bruce LaBruce for the Pervo-Devo sleeve and Larry hectored and berated the shit out of him trying to get him to give the song up, to no avail. By the time he suggested putting the song on both records he’d alienated Matt to the point where Matt wasn’t even willing to do that (and it seemed dumb and cheap to me anyway to put it on both releases, not that Larry was asking my opinion at that point).

And of course John keeps referring to Matt as “Bruce LaBruce.” Maybe all gay guys look the same to him. Anyway, I was no saint back then, but accusing me of reneging on a deal when it was literally the exact opposite of what I did in spite of a lot of pressure – Larry threatened not to sign us and we had a $750 studio bill to pay, not to mention a dead van and no money to fix it and get back to Chicago from California – is a bit much.

Gub, who played on one tour with us and ended up on a long out of print live radio EP is credited with having been an actual member (he wasn’t – he was filling in till we found someone permanent. Nice guy, but he wasn’t in the band) and, remarkably with having played on two tours, and on the Wiggle album. I mean, all you had to do was look at the jacket to know that’s wrong. Come on.

Our first album apparently cost $200 to make. I wish I hadn’t put in all those hours at the warehouse to pay the $1000 studio bill then! And this is something that has been documented publicly. In fact I’m 99% sure it’s on the liner notes of one of our anthologies. Somebody Google it if you give a shit.

That’s off the top of my head, and I’ve only skimmed this thing so far. Look, the author asked me to participate and I declined so I have only myself to blame for not being the voice of reason responding to John’s many fanciful tales of days of yore but stuff like completely blowing an easily verifiable thing like who played on an album – I don’t get that. Then again, I’ve never tried to write a book like this so maybe this is par for the course. I guess I’ll have to write my own book someday.

-Ben Weasel


Maty’s Corner #15

Maty’s Corner #15
Havok on Polaris album review

Recently Havok on Polaris’ album Fan Dance Party came across my desk for a review. Musically I’d put it somewhere between the power pop and harder skate punk of the 90’s era. I love it. At 24 tracks sounds like all of the bands influences show through. I’d personally compare them to Parasites, Last Chucks and the Ergs with a touch of Ten Foot Pole and later 7 Seconds and a bit of NOFX and Screeching Weasel’s comical sensibility. They’re a trio outta Lawrence Kansas, yep Kansas has something other than Dorothy and Levinworth. Really tight playing, it’s nice to see pop punk pushing past the 3 chords from time to time. The more hard core readers may not dig these guys, but life sucks without a bit of fun so check ‘em out anyways. This is definitely one of the more exciting offerings of the year from punk rock in genereal. My favorite track off of this is My Radio Sux. While being track one is good enough to get me pumped for the rest of this fast paced good time. You can check in with these guys at or get releases over at

A nice letter from Ben Weasel to Fat Mike

So There’s A Lynch Mob After You!

A primer for the beleaguered punk singer

Fat Mike, you’re having a bad week. You’re in the soup and there’s no use pretending otherwise. But I’m here to help, brother. Take a deep breath, count to ten and sit down while Poppa Weasel shows you how it’s done.

As you may have heard, I had a little trouble along these lines about 3 1/2 years ago when I slugged a woman in one of our crowds who had been showering me with beer, spit and ice cubes (including one right above the old peeper!) all night. Then I got jumped by another lady and popped her one in the kidneys for good measure. Hey, she had like six inches on me; I thought she was a giant condor. Anyhoo, it ended up in living color all over YouTube and within about 90 seconds the mood on the Internet had turned ugly. This formerly beloved, adored, highly respected gentleman was suddenly public enemy number one!

You and I both know this sort of thing barely registered a blip on the radar in punk not so long ago, but times have changed, my friend. It’s a brave new world, and you and I are a couple of dinosaurs, lumbering around, knocking into shit and making a nuisance of ourselves. The kids are not pleased. But not to worry – your PR expert Ben Weasel is here to save the day for you!

First, apologize. I know – you’ve done it. Not good enough. You need to apologize again. And again. And again. You need to keep apologizing for the rest of your life. People who had nothing to do with the incident, who were thousands of miles away at the time, and who have no idea of the context (and couldn’t care less) sincerely believe you owe it to them.

Granted, in my case, I apologized once and then dropped it, but I’m Ben Weasel; people would think I was ill if I kept saying I was sorry. But you’re Fat Mike! You play the game! Heck, you own the team! If you take the ball and go home, the game is over! So you need to play by the rules. And rule number one is eat shit. Lots and lots of shit. And when you think you can’t take any more, stuff some more shit in your cake-hole and swallow, and do it with a big smile on your face.

Second: try to understand that this is never going to end. Ever. You’ll be up on stage at age 80 bragging about all the coke you just did and trying to convince your geriatric fans to vote for Chelsea Clinton and people will still be bringing up the Big Kick. The sooner you wrap your head around this fact, the sooner you can face reality and take action.

Now, if you were me, you could play the heel and use this situation to your advantage; I’m currently making more money and playing in front of larger crowds than ever before. But you suffer from the unfortunate affliction of wanting to be liked and respected by strangers. So you’d better start getting used to disappointment, because people will be throwing this in your face for the rest of your life. It’s not going away.

Next, you’re going to need to get used to the crazies. Not just the yappers and scolders, but the ones who talk about attacking or killing you and who threaten to post your home address on the Internet. Accept that people are going to wish cancer on your kids, claim that you beat your wife, and announce that they hope your children end up doing donkey porn. Trust me brother, I’ve been there. These are the kind of morally righteous men-of-the-people whose rage you’ve piqued, and they will not be ignored.

This may seem insane to you, but if somebody threatens your life on social media, don’t expect Facebook or Twitter to do anything about it except delete the post. You can’t take legal action unless you file a suit. The cops won’t do anything about it either. You’ll have to defend yourself.

I recommend the Mossberg Persuader. Hell of a shotgun. The great thing about the Persuader is it’s got a pistol grip. Easy as pie. Seriously, the guys from Teenage Bottle Rocket could operate it (if they had opposable thumbs). And it doesn’t matter if you can’t shoot. If you fire this fucking thing within about twenty yards of your target you’re going to obliterate it and everything around, behind and possibly underneath it. I’m pretty sure it even destroys things in other dimensions when fired. I know your politics mean you’re supposed to be against guns, but you can’t count on neutralizing every intruder by kicking him in the face. What if you’re in your bathrobe and slippers after having lurched out of bed at 2 pm? Besides, being a rich San Francisco liberal means never having to live by the rules you impose on everyone else, so do yourself a favor and pick up that Persuader.

And, as a backup, get yourself an English Bulldog. Unlike a pit bull, they won’t tear your kid’s face off when you pop out for a loaf of bread, but they will savagely attack an interloper. Our guy Weezy is a peach with our kids, but somebody looks at one of us cross-eyed and he will sink his teeth into flesh and bone with a fury and purpose unparalleled in the animal kingdom. And we had his nuts cut off. Imagine what he’d do with a full set! The mind reels.

So, you’ve groveled for a few days and fortified your bunker. Now it’s time to plead insanity – or the modern version of it, anyway: enter rehab. Make sure to have your publicist spin it just right so everybody gets the message: that wasn’t Fat Mike backhanding a fan to the ground and then drop kicking him in the face when he was defenseless – it was the drugs!

Now, I see you’ve already made some tentative moves in that direction, and that’s good, but not good enough. The idea that painkillers and a sore neck made you commit a felonious attack on a friendly stranger is a bit of a stretch. You need to prove you’re a walking disaster – you need to do your 28 days. And let’s face it, considering that you’ve been reduced to a physical and mental wreck thanks to years of drug and alcohol abuse, it might not be such a bad idea anyway. And you could actually have a little fun! You’d be surprised how many of those 12-steppers have a sense of humor.

The goal here is to convince people that you weren’t in your right mind. Never mind that you’ve done plenty of this stuff before, from spitting on fans to throwing bottles at women’s heads from the stage. If it’s not documented on YouTube, it didn’t happen. You did, however, get caught on video viciously and brutally beating a fan for trying to hug you. Let’s be honest – you’re lucky you’re not sitting in a jail cell right now. Your offer to buy him a beer was hopelessly lame. Come on. The mob isn’t going to be impressed with that, besides which, the guy’s lip is so swollen, torn and bruised from its encounter with the business end of your Doc Marten he won’t be drinking anything for a week.

By the way, you need to stop having your manager stick up for you on social media. It looks dogshit. When he berates some clown on your label for making a lame, feeble joke about this incident and then the guy frantically deletes his tweet, it does not reflect well on you. This is the time for your friends to stand up for you, not your employees. Being who you are, you attract a lot of barnacles and parasites. Take this opportunity to find out once and for all who’s really got your back and who’s just there for the free blow and the opportunity to do business with you. Your employees need to shut up and stay the course.

Now, I had the bad fortune of having a petty, vindictive jagoff for a label owner back during my trouble, and his employees – and even the other bands on his label – followed his lead when he threw me under the bus. He didn’t give a shit who I punched – his problem with me was that his delicate ego had been bruised because somebody got in his ear and convinced him I’d written a mean song about him on the album I’d just released on his label. Paranoia is a hell of a drug. Like I wouldn’t have crowed and gloated till the cows came home if I’d pulled off something that brilliant! That would’ve been one of the great “fuck you” moments in punk; I’d’ve milked every drop of publicity from it and I’m deeply offended by the idea that I’d deny having done it.

But that’s the disadvantage of putting yourself at the financial mercy of a silly, vain, spoiled rich kid. You used to be on Epitaph – you get it. Those kinds of people always kick you when you’re down (hmm, maybe that was a bad choice of words…). But you – you’re in the catbird seat, my friend! You hold the careers of your employees and the bands on your label in the palm of your hand! You’re like a chubbier, dimmer Caesar! You can ruin those smart-alecks if they don’t toe the line, and don’t think they don’t know it! So make sure each and every one of them keeps his mouth shut. Let ‘em know they’ll never work in this town again if they cross you. Sure, they already know it, but it can’t hurt to underline and bold it for them. Then when the smoke clears, you can end radio silence and have your publicist set up a mea culpa tour for you straight out of rehab. You’ll be back serving your audience shots of liquor laced with your own urine in no time at all!

Finally, take some time off. Do your rehab and your apology tour, then take a break. People will have had more than enough Fat Mike by then, and if time doesn’t heal all wounds, it at least helps the scars fade a little. Get some rest and write.

Come to think of it, you were talking about writing a musical a few years ago. Whatever happened to that? This is the perfect time to pick that project back up. After my e-lynching, I hunkered down and wrote an opera about a sociopathic, egomaniacal musician and his merry band of sycophants, leeches and toadies. It’s called Baby Fat and we’re just about done recording the first act with Mike Kennerty of the All-American Rejects. Blag Dahlia from the Dwarves sings the title role; Kat Spazzy (from the great Australian band the Spazzys) sings the female lead, and I’m singing the role of the overgrown frat boy rock star, Tommy Swank. It also features, among others, Todd C. from Toys That Kill, Roger Lima from Less Than Jake and Line Dahlmann from the brilliant Dahlmanns. It’s been great fun and it helped me channel a lot of the nonsense of the past few years into something positive and productive. I’d be glad to give you a few pointers on writing a libretto (it’s tougher than it looks!) and when Screeching Weasel plays San Francisco and LA after the album comes out on Recess Records next June, we’d love for you to come out to the show; we’re hoping to raise the money to dedicate a section of our set to a mini-production of Baby Fat. I think you’ll get a kick (!) out of it.

And as I noted earlier, Screeching Weasel is playing bigger and better shows than ever. Take a little vacation out to Chicago to see us at the Concord Music Hall on November 22nd. We’re playing with the Queers, Flatfoot 56 and of course, the Dwarves. (Let’s just hope Blag doesn’t punch any ladies!)

Chin up, Fatty – great art can come from this, and you can take a well-deserved break from all the punk politics and scenester nonsense you’ve been immersed in lo these many years. Of course, you’re always going to be stuck with that footage of you kicking a defenseless fan in the face for daring to touch you, but hey, that’s better than having to settle a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, right?

So welcome to the Carnival of Schadenfreude, Fat Mike. The bad news is, you’re stuck here for the rest of your life. The good news? You’ve got me for a seatmate, you lucky duck, you!


Ben Weasel