What We Hate, the documentary on Chicago punk legends Screeching Weasel originally slated for release this year, is being shelved until further notice thanks to a heap of srs dramz that’s developed between the filmmakers and their principle subject, singer Ben Foster. Foster published a post on the Screeching Weasel Facebook page Tuesday afternoon stating that the folks behind What We Hate are “bummed out about the film” and refuse to complete it if the controversial singer retains the final cut approval he was allegedly granted in April of last year. Several hours later, a response post appeared on the What We Hate Facebook page indicating that the film cannot be completed because Foster’s attitude as of late has become severely counterproductive (“We are no longer allowed to speak with him directly…”).
It should be noted I was first alerted to this story via a pop punk message board, because I am a thirty-three year old man who regularly reads pop punk message boards. I am not proud. But I digress: What We Hate’s official website remains up with no mention of this social media donnybrook, so who knows, maybe the lawyers are already hard at work trying to avoid Lawsuit City.
Seems like the filmmakers made a serious boner granting Benzo final cut, especially after he went rock ’em sock ’em robots on those two women at SXSW. Did they think they were dealing with a rational human being at that point? Ben’s entire band quit on him a week later. On the other hand, I was never entirely convinced that assault episode wasn’t some massive publicity stunt, and no one’s vetted these filmmakin’ folks, and it’s super easy to vilify Ben Foster because he reformed Screeching Weasel without Jughead and he punched two women and he’s been consistently talking shit about everyone on the face of the earth since the day he was born.
If you want my advice, What We Hate filmmakers, just cave in to whatever silly demands Ben has right now, and in twenty or thirty years you can make a documentary about how shiteous it was making this documentary (you know, like Taylor Hackford did with Hail! Hail! Rock n’ Roll). Or, I don’t know, go make a documentary about the Queers. Their singer owned a fucking sea food restaurant. Now that’s interesting!
Lookout! Records, the California-based independent record label that helped usher in the modern era of pop punk as we know it via such bands as Green Day and the Queers, has closed down after twenty-five years of operation. Somewhere, the laces of an anonymous teenager’s black Converse high tops have become irreversibly knotted out of frustration and sadness.
Founded in 1987 by friends Larry Livermore and David Hayes, Lookout! Records quickly aligned itself with San Francisco’s East Bay punk clique by issuing discs from that scene’s giants (Crimpshrine, Operation Ivy, et al). The signing of a nascent trio named Green Day in 1988 would prove to the be label’s wisest business decision; when that group exploded onto MTV seven years later, their first two efforts for Lookout! became an unexpected revenue goldmine. Of course, by that time, Lookout! Records had also cemented its reputation as the underground’s premiere purveyor of pop punk, having released pivotal albums by such melodically-inclined outfits as Screeching Weasel, the Queers, and the Mr. T Experience.
Things behind the scenes at Lookout! were not always as upbeat as the records they pressed; a legal kerfuffle nearly broke out in the mid-’90s after Screeching Weasel front man Ben Foster began publicly taking Livermore’s business ethics to task RE: the group’s 60/40 contract (which in fact favored the band). At the brink of lawyering up, the label decided to simply re-sign Screeching Weasel to a contract where everything money-wise was clearly spelled out. Around the same time, Larry Livermore sold his stake in the company, although he would always remain the figure most closely associated with that iconic eyeball logo.
Livermore’s departure marked the beginning of Lookout!’s decline as new management had apparent difficulty handling monies. Dodgy bookkeeping was the complaint most often leveled at the label as one flagship act after another jumped from Lookout! to competitors such as Asian Man and Fat Wreck Chords. Such maneuvering always hurt, but no blow proved bigger than Green Day’s July 2005 decision to pull their first two albums from their former home over alleged unpaid royalties. Lookout! Records would never fully recover from the defection of their poster band (and only seven figure generator); just a year later, the label ceased issuing new releases to focus on selling their storied back catalog.
Lookout! Records was to me in the ’90s what Stax was to kids in the ’60s. It was just a goldmine for all who loved snot-nosed Ramonesy junk. They released the three best Queers albums (Beat Off, Love Songs For The Retarded, Don’t Back Down), the two best Screeching Weasel albums (Boogadaboogadaboogada!, Anthem For a New Tomorrow), every Donnas album I’m embarrassed I don’t own, the only Mr. T Experience album I wasn’t embarrassed to own (Everyone’s Entitled To Their Own Opinion), and the best-sounding thing Furious George ever recorded (the Goes Ape! EP). I can’t think of another record label I ever consciously, or even subconsciously, pledged my allegiance to like that.
That said, it would be a stretch to say it’s a shame Lookout! is finally folding after x amount of years. They had a nice little dynasty for probably three times longer than they thought they would. Also, if you’re sitting on two Green Day records and you still can’t manage to pay Pansy Division on time, well, your business license should probably be revoked anyway.
Then again, what do I know about running a record label? Diddly squat. I just snap up what they poop out. Who knows, maybe a couple of those Pansy Division albums cost several million clams to make.
“Carnival of Schadenfreude” was posted to the Screeching Weasel Facebook four days ago. Sample lyrics:
“Here in the Carnival of Schadenfreude
Everyone’s acting like they’re so annoyed
Looks like my name is mud
I can’t help but ask ‘So what?’
I’m trying to make a buck, not friends…
“Deep in the ugly heart of Texas now
They called it a battle of the sexes—wow!
It all seems a little fake
I can’t seem to catch a break
My gosh and for goodness’ sake it’s silly…”
At least Ben’s staying in character. No clue who’s actually in Screeching Weasel now (the Queers?), but this song is the titular cut from a forthcoming EP. By the sounds of it, the lyrics above will be the only aspect worth debating.
From the Bugs (featuring Queers bassist Dangerous Dave on vocals)—“Dave Navarro’s Goatee Fucking Sucks.”
Now someone just needs to write a song about the gap between Flea’s teeth. That fuckin’ gap, always struttin’ around like it owns the place!
w/ Kepi Ghoulie, the Colytons
Asbury Park Lanes
So it’s 2008 and the Queers are still at it. I went through a long period where I actively denied they ever existed, probably between 1999 and three weeks ago. I’m not sure why. Maybe part of me was mad they never got the recognition they deserved and I felt like they were embarrassing themselves by continuing to play and make records. Maybe I was still holding a grudge over Joe not laughing at the hilarious Van Halen joke I made when I first met him. Who knows. As you could probably guess, I get weird about bands sometimes.
At any rate, I woke up a few weeks ago and I thought, “God damn it, the Queers were / are really fucking important to me. I’m going to stop pretending they never existed.” I’ve been spinning their discs night and day ever since (I also wrote this totally bitchin’ Crawdaddy piece about them). Last week, I went to go check the Queers out live at Asbury Lanes in New Jersey. I was gonna go see them on a boat here in NY the night before, but I bailed for fear of getting sea sick.
I showed up as opening band the Colytons were ripping through their nasally set. They sound pretty close to Screeching Weasel; in Screeching Weasel’s absence, I can accept this. The Colytons are from Australia. How they ended up touring boats and bowling alleys with the Queers is beyond me. The Internet? Text messaging? It’s gotta be some modern technology what got them to the States. Anyway, the Colytons—I approve.
Turns out I’m guilty of not really paying attention to the Groovie Ghoulies when they were around. I always thought their singer Kepi was a girl. Thus, I was fully expecting the second opening band, Kepi Ghoulie / Kepi the Band, to be fronted by some kind of woman-type creature. Imagine my surprise when this scrawny dude walked on stage wearing a shirt emblazoned with “KEPI” and then announced that he was, in fact, Kepi Ghoulie. WTF, LOL, LBJ. Kepi’s new band was typical sub-par pop punk yazz punctuated by the singer’s wacky presence (he cracked numerous jokes about the gentrification of once-decaying Asbury Park).
The interesting thing about this concert was every band used the same drums and amplifiers, and they all sounded great…up until the Queers. As soon as Joe and the boys (still that guy from John Cougar Concentration Camp and some new yutz on drums) took the stage, the lead microphone stopped working and the snare drum was making some weird scratching noise. The fellas were clearly not amused, but they waited patiently while the tiny sound guy ran to and fro the stage in something of a panic. Eventually, King Queer had enough.
“Fuck it,” Joe said. “We’ve had worse.”
With that, the Queers launched into “No Tit.” Overall, their set was a highly rockin’ affair. They only played two “ballads”—“Teenage Bonehead” and “Like A Parasite.” Everything else was straight up punk. Joe was exerting medium energy, but the band still sounded good. Well, as good as a band can sound with microphone problems and some weird scratching noise on the snare drum. They nailed the tunes that really counted. “Steakbomb” in particular was pretty hot. Also, “Love Love Love” and “You’re Tripping” made my balls explode.
Original Queers singer Wimpy Rutherford was in attendance, and you better believe he got up there with the boys to bark out some nasty jams (“We’d Have A Riot Doing Heroin,” “Fagtown,” “Monster Zero,” etc). I’d never seen Wimp live before. He comes off as a pretty disturbed guy. By that I mean I could see how maybe as a kid this guy really was kicked out of the Webelos. I don’t think I’d be comfortable leaving my offspring near him.
For their grand finale, the Queers tore through a few classic Ramones tunes with Kepi Ghoulie returning to the mic. It’s always a treat to hear the ‘Mones, even if there’s some six foot tall longhair drunkenly doing the Jitterbug next to you (people in New Jersey are weird). I was kind of hoping the Queers would bust out a Black Flag song or two, as former Flag singer Dez Cadena came out for these punk rock proceedings. They didn’t. Maybe Dez said to them, “Hey, don’t bother playing any of my old band’s songs, ’cause I’m not gonna sing them.” Or maybe they didn’t see him there. Who knows.
On a side note, I’ve been called out before for mistaking lesser punk rockers for the mighty Dez, but there was no question this time it was him. He was wearing a big sandwich board that said, “Yes, I am Dez Cadena, ask me about Rollins.” No, really, I’ve seen pictures of the guy recently and I’d swear on six Bibles and a copy of Crazy that this was him.
Final Grade: Three dirty Converse sneakers out of four.