HIGH FIVES: Screeching Weasel
by Sam Sutherland
November 18, 2010
Every week, High Fives asks five bands five themed questions over five days. This week, we’re all caught up in the release of the Bruce Springsteen documentary, The Promise, and talkin’ music docs in anticipation.
Oh, Screeching Weasel. Purveyors of catchy, Ramones-style pop-punk since 1986, perpetually underrated by the mainstream and a indelible influence on some of the most popular radio rock bands of this decade. And at the centre of it, the band’s only constant member and punk rock legend-dude, Ben Weasel. The kind of smart, honest loudmouth that could only have emerged from a scene built on smart, honest (and loud) music, Weasel’s musical output has frequently been matched by his equally popular and divisive writings for punk print stalwart MAXIMUMROCKNROLL. Still igniting controversy in 2010 (He’s conservative! His solo record featured members of All-American Rejects!), Weasel & co. continue to tour relentlessly after a nearly ten year hiatus. Last week, Fat Wreck Chords re-issued the band’s underrated, unexpectedly hardcore-influenced 1998 full-length, Television Teenage Dream.
What is the greatest music documentary of all time?
Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock-N-Roll.
What is the worst music documentary of all time?
I can’t think of any that I’ve hated. The Metallica one is pretty silly and the Wilco one was pretty boring, but I can’t think of any that are just terrible.
Has anyone ever followed you on tour or in the studio to document you? How did you feel, and what were the end results like? If not, do you dream of the day when someone cares that much?
Ben Hamper came along on part of a tour with Screeching Weasel in 1993 for a piece he wrote for the Detroit Free Press, but nobody ever followed us around with a camera. He described me as a cross between Henny Youngman, Ward Cleaver, and General Patton, which I thought was fair and accurate.
I used to love the idea of somebody following me around with a camera to chronicle my genius, but then I realized I’m really not that smart or interesting. David Bettencourt (On The Lake, You Must Be This Tall) is filming a Screeching Weasel documentary at the moment but he’s not planning on following us around as far as I know. I have to sit for a couple interviews and I think they’re going to shoot some footage in the studio when we’re recording the new album and that’s about it.
Do you think increased interest in the behind-the-scenes working of bands and records is worthwhile, or does it remove some of that patented rock and roll mystique?
Rock and roll mystique is complete bullshit. I’m for anything that pulls the covers on it.
What music documentary has yet to be made that you’re dying to see?
I’d like to see an honest portrayal of what it’s like to be in a working band; a band that’s not famous and never will be, but that does well enough to pay the bills – like my band. Because that’s the life that most working musicians live. And it’s a real job, and like most jobs, it’s not very glamorous. We talked about doing a Screeching Weasel documentary for over a decade but I always resisted it because it seemed like it was too likely to end up being one of those things that’s just for fans – lots of guys from more popular bands talking about how important and relevant your band was and all that silly bullshit. David is a documentary filmmaker so I’m hoping that he makes the film about Screeching Weasel the one I’m dying to see: an honest look at a working band. For me, that means showing the good aspects of it but also showing how much it can suck, like any other job. From the conflicts with the labels to the inter-band issues, dealing with crooked promoters and obnoxious fans, all that stuff. If the film shows that side of it I think it’ll be a real public service. It’s important to deglamorize rock and roll.