If you’re a fan of punk rock, then there’s a good chance you’ve heard the band Screeching Weasel—they’ve been around since 1986. And, if you’re familiar with Screeching Weasel, it’s likely you also know about an unfortunate incident that involved Screeching Weasel at the South by Southwest Festival in March of this year in which the lead singer, Ben Weasel (Ben Foster), punched an antagonistic female audience member after she threw ice cubes at him and spat on him. He also assaulted a woman who tried to pull him away from the first woman. The event resulted in the departure of the other four band members—whether by choice or through firing depends on who you ask. Despite speculation of a breakup after 25 years, Screeching Weasel lives on with a new line-up that includes two members from Reno band Miracle Drugs.
Zac Damon, who plays guitar and lead vocals in Miracle Drugs, says he was asked to join Screeching Weasel because he was in the band previously from 1997-98. Damon recorded with the band on two albums, the EP Major Label Debut and Television City Dream. He left the band mostly to move back to Reno because he hated living in Indiana.
“After the whole debacle at South by Southwest, I rejoined,” Damon says. “I was asked and decided to rejoin. Ben needed a whole new band and asked me for suggestions. He had a whole criteria … Pierre fit perfectly,” says Damon, of his Miracle Drugs bandmate and drummer, Pierre Marche.
Marche is an original member of Sucka Punch and played some with Big in Japan, another band with Damon. The two have already recorded a new album with Screeching Weasel—a seven-track EP titled Carnival of Schadenfreude—and played a sold-out show at Reggie’s in Chicago on Oct. 29.
“Playing with him, that show in Chicago, he showed nothing but love for his fans,” Marche says of Ben Weasel. “His fans are just that. They are fanatical about Screeching Weasel. Most of them weren’t even from Chicago. Being the new guys, it’s intimidating.”
Joining a band that has recently gotten so much bad press could be considered a bit controversial or seen as a risky move. However, Marche and Damon see it from a fairly practical standpoint.
“I just see it as he made a mistake,” says Damon. “He made a hasty decision in the moment, and he apologized for it. I think it’s ridiculous that people hold him to this higher standard just because he is a semi-famous punk icon. One incident doesn’t make him a woman beater. I wouldn’t join the band if I thought this would be a recurring incident.”
In an official statement from Weasel, the singer apologized for his actions writing, “Whatever my feelings are about fans crossing the line like that, I wish I could have that moment back and deal with it in the same spirit as I did the preceding 60 minutes.”
Both Marche and Damon see the whole incident as unfortunate and an overreaction on Weasel’s part but also something that was blown out of proportion by the media and the internet.
“He’s basically a decent guy,” says Damon.
The new EP has received mostly positive reviews. “Weasel hasn’t missed much of a beat,” writes Rich Becker of Liquid (Hip). “[It] succeeds beyond expectations,” says Jim Testa of Jersey Beat.
“That was what I was most worried about—carrying the torch of Screeching Weasel,” says Marche. “It’s probably the most exciting thing I’ve ever done, being a part of this. [Weasel] is a complete professional about it, and so you have to be, too. It’s probably one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.”