Chicago's Screeching Weasel generally have a polarizing effect on most punk fans -- either you love their amateurish, tuneful Ramones imitation and singer/guitarist Ben Weasel's smartass suburbanite, often pop culture-oriented lyrics, or you hate them. Over the course of the band's career, which lasted for more than a decade and saw several breakups and numerous personnel changes, Weasel (in spite of occasional nitpicking from critics) remained true to his staunch D.I.Y. indie ethics, as befits a former columnist for the defiantly punk 'zine Maximumrocknroll.
Screeching Weasel were formed in 1986 by vocalist Ben Foster, who performed under the name Ben Weasel, after seeing a Ramones show. Early members included guitarist John Jughead and drummer Steve Cheese; after Weasel gave up trying to play bass, Vinnie Bovine was added on that instrument. The band recorded its self-titled debut album in 1987 for Underdog Records, of which only about 3,000 copies were pressed. Vinnie Bovine's personal problems got him kicked out of the band, and ex-Ozzfish Experience guitarist Warren "Fish" Ozzfish replaced him on bass. After playing some gigs in California, Screeching Weasel joined the fledgling Roadkill label, with Jughead and Weasel taking a hand in its operations, and released Boogada Boogadaboogada! in 1989.
Cheese left the band due to his reluctance to tour and was replaced by Brian Vermin. Following the supporting tour, Warren left and was replaced by Danny Vapid (born Dan Schafer), known early on as "Sewercap"; he had performed as a vocalist with Chicago-area hardcore bands like Generation Waste and the Igor Skulls. Following several EPs and singles of varying quality, Vermin and Vapid left to form Sludgeworth, and Jughead and Weasel called it quits and attempted to form another band with members including bassist Dave Naked. Screeching Weasel got back together following a reunion show designed to help the band pay off its debts, with a lineup featuring Weasel, Jughead, Naked, Vapid (now on second guitar), and new drummer Dan Panic (born Dan Sullivan). Lookout! Records agreed to release the band's next album if it was recorded under the name Screeching Weasel, and the more Ramones-like My Brain Hurts appeared in 1991.
Following the tour, Naked was replaced first by Gub, then Johnny Personality, and finally Vapid, who switched back to bass after 1992's Wiggle (Weasel then filled the second guitar slot). As something of a novelty, the band next recorded its own vinyl-only cover of the entire Ramones album, which is long out of print. What many consider the best Screeching Weasel album, Anthem for a New Tomorrow, was released in 1993. Following a decision to break up the band the next year, Vapid left early, and 1994's How to Make Enemies and Irritate People was recorded with Green Day's Mike Dirnt sitting in on bass. After the breakup, Weasel, Vapid, and Panic ended up together in a new, even more Ramones-influenced punk-pop outfit called the Riverdales, which featured increased songwriting contributions from Vapid and toured with Green Day. Lookout! released a compilation of outtakes, live performances, and out of print material in 1995 entitled Kill the Musicians and eventually convinced the Riverdales to revert to the better-known Screeching Weasel name, as Jughead rejoined the band.
However, legal difficulties sprang up quickly, eventually resulting in an acrimonious split. In the meantime, Screeching Weasel had recorded a self-financed album, Bark Like a Dog; it was eventually picked up by Fat Wreck Chords in 1996. A supporting tour was canceled at the last minute, but the band returned in 1998 with Television City Dreams, and again in 1999 with Emo. The rarities compilation Thank You Very Little and a new studio effort, Teen Punks in Heat, both followed a year later.
Screeching Weasel called it quits in 2001. For the next few years, Ben Weasel worked with the Riverdales and pursued a solo career, while Jughead went on to form Even in Blackouts. To close the door on the end of an era, the greatest-hits album Weasel Mania was released in October 2005 on Fat Wreck. Then, in March of 2009, Weasel re-formed the band with Vapid and three new members, Simon Lamb of the Ritalins, Justin Perkins of Yesterday's Kids, and Adam Cargin of Blueheels and the Riverdales. With 2011’s First World Manifesto, things seemed to be back on track, but the comeback was stopped abruptly. On March 18th of that year, while playing a show at South by Southwest, Ben Weasel assaulted two women in the crowd, claiming he was upset over ice being thrown on-stage. Weasel later issued a public apology, and seemed genuinely sorry for his actions, but in an interview with PunkNews.org, his bandmates unanimously concluded that they would not be performing live as Screeching Weasel in the foreseeable future. ~ Steve Huey