Ben Weasel

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Ben Weasel is best known as the singer and songwriter of Screeching Weasel. He was born Ben Foster and raised in Prospect Hts, IL (which is also home to punkdatabase.com). A troubled childhood culminated with Ben spending nearly 2 years at the controversial Elan School in Poland, Maine, where he eventually discovered punk rock and began his first attempts at songwriting. Ben appears to have been actively involved in the Chicago punk scene in the mid to late '80's, writing for local 'zines and booking shows at Durty Nellies, but locally his reputation began to decline as his band's national popularity rose. Nationally, Ben gained notoriety and controversy for columns he wrote for fanzines, most notably Maximum Rock-N-Roll. An early letter he wrote to Maximum Rock-N-Roll, in which he ripped on SST Records and compared Sonic Youth and Husker Du to Yes and REO Speedwagon, was re-printed in Sonic Youth's Master=Dik 12" single.

In 2006, Ben and his wife moved to a farm outside of Madison, Wisconsin.


Music

  • In 1986, after witnessing the Ramones in concert, Ben formed his first band with guitarist John Pierson, aka Jughead. It was the first band for both Ben and John. Initially called All Night Garage Sale, the band soon changed their name to Screeching Weasel. Screeching Weasel was very prolific and released a slew of LPs and EPs between 1987 and 2000. The band also when through a number of line up changes and broke up three times. In 2009, Ben announced he was reforming the band with on-again-off-again SW member Dan Schafer but without Jughead.
  • In 1990, Ben and Jughead formed a band with Russ Forster (formerly of Spongetunnel and Fudge Tunnel) and Glynis Johnson, the former bassist of Friends of Betty and Red Red Meat, but Glynis quit after the first show. Initially called "Glynis Johnson and the Disgusteens", the band later became "The Gore Gore Girls" (not the current all-female band of the same name from Detroit). They broke up after third show, by which time they were also on their 3rd bassist.
  • In 1991, Ben joined The Vindictives, volunteering his services as rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist when Joey Vindictive talked to Ben about needing a 2nd guitarist to fill out the band's sound. Ben had previously recommended Johnny Personality and Erik Elsewhere to Joey. Ben wrote 1 song and recorded 18 songs with the band. He appeared on their first 4 EPs and a couple of compilations before Billy Blastoff took over Ben's duties in the band. When the Vindictives compiled their early tracks for the Many Moods Of The Vindictives CD, a compilation of early tracks, in 1995, Billy Blastoff re-recorded Ben's parts. Joey Vindictive has since claimed that this was only done because he felt it pointless to showcase a former band member and leave his replacement waiting in the wings. The original versions of the 18 songs Ben played on were released on the Original Masters CD compilation in 2003.
  • In 1995, Ben formed the Riverdales with 2 former Screeching Weasel members. After releasing 2 LPs of pop punk that was heavily influenced by the Ramones, the group split in 1997 and Ben would comment later that a European tour with Green Day "destroyed any semblance of friendship" between the band members. However, in 2003, Ben and bassist/vocalist Dan Schafer reunited with a new drummer to record an new LP, Phase 3. The band went dormant after the release of the album but announced new activity at the end of 2008. They released 2 more albums before splitting again in 2011.
  • In 1996, a 7" EP appeared on Lookout Records by a band called The Shotdowns. Ben Weasel claimed that this was a group from the backwoods of Maine that he had discovered. In fact, the group was actually Ben Weasel and Jughead, with Sun-Times rock critic Jim DeRogotis playing drums and mystery bass player.
  • In 2002, Ben released his first solo CD, Fidatevi on Panic Button Records.
  • After the solo CD, Ben briefly played with an outfit called Sweet Black and Blue, but the group dissolved due to scheduling conflicts amongst the members.
  • In 2007, Ben released his 2nd solo album, These Ones Are Bitter under the moniker "Ben Weasel and his Iron String Quartet". The album was originally released on Ben's Mendota label. Ben had announced that there were no plans for a CD release, although Edmond Records released a limited edition vinyl version (which, interestingly, also included a CD version of the album). In 2009, Asian Man Records reissued the album on CD and vinyl.
  • In 2009, Ben released The Brain That Wouldn't Die, which captured a live performance of Screeching Weasel's My Brain Hurts LP (minus 2 tracks, a cover of "I Can See Clearly" and "Fathead", a song co-written by SW co-founder Jughead) performed live at Reggie's Rock Club in Chicago in August of 2008. Dan Schafer plays guitar on the record.

Record Labels

In the past, Ben has been actively involved with the running of several record labels.

  • In 1989, Ben, Jughead, and Douglas Ward helped turn Underdog Records in to a collective-run label when original founder Russ Forster gave up running the label. Ben and Jughead dropped out of the collective early on, but Ben did some writing for Underdog's fanzine. Ben later had a falling out with the collective and the collective would become a vocal critic of both Ben and Screeching Weasel.
  • In 1991, Ben formed No Budget Productions to reissue Screeching Weasel's Punkhouse EP, which was, at the time, out of print. In an insert included with the Punkhouse reissue, Ben stated his intention to use No Budget Productions to issue 7" punk records by bands he liked, such as the Queers and the Vindictives, but nothing actually ever came of this.
  • In 1997, Ben and Jughead founded Panic Button Records. They sold the label to Lookout Records in 2001 after Screeching Weasel broke up again.
  • In 2007, Ben announced the formation of the Mendota Recording Co., a new record label that would release music in digital format only.

Books

To date, Ben Weasel has authored two books. The first, called Like Hell, which was the tale of Joe Pagan, lead singer of a popular Chicago-based punk rock band. Many assumed that this was simply a thinly-veiled autobiography, but Ben has denied this. His second book, Punk is a Four Letter Word, is a collection of his fanzine writings.

Links

Ben Weasel's Twitter