Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tangent Starting with Jim DeRogatis: GO!

Jim Derogatis, this man keeps showing up in my life! (I even played with him for a single 7inch record under a fake hardcore band named: The Shotdowns.)  Jim and Greg Kot helped Screeching Weasel quite a bit in the early days.  Greg Kot wrote an important article about us in the Tribune many years ago, (I can't seem to find that specific one online.  But, Vapid, Panic, Ben and I had to drive downtown for a proper photo shoot, and the article has a classic picture of the band in leather jackets and Jeans but me, of course, in a colorful suit jacket and baggy pants with tucked in socks climbing bricks behind the rest of the band, looking more new wave than punk.  Here are two other articles that he wrote, keeping our name in the papers: It's Harvest Time, and Cynics From The Suburbs.  Jim Derogatis besides writing about us quite often in the Sun Times also wrote an equally influential yet severely past our prime article about us in Spin Magazine (Screeching Halt).  Jim has always been attracted to the idea of "anti-hero" which is evident in his book Let It Blurt.  I had always thought that Jim was infatuated with Ben as a punk anti-hero (an artistic crush), often letting other interesting things about the band fall to the wayside.  But there is no denying the help he has given to me freely over the years, and quite honestly it has taken me a long time to realize that we have a mutual respect for our places in music and art.  He even was kind enough to write about my other music pride and joy which I keep hoping some day will be appreciated on a grander scale, (We can all dream.) even though I don't think he ever really cared much for our music, Even In Blackouts.   Punk Goes Acoustic.  Here's a major tangent: I was thinking of my writing in Even In Blackouts the other day, which was later accompanied by the incomparable Gub Scot Conway.  Our writing seemed to work so well together.  We are both slightly warped.  Our drummer and bassist, Bice and Phil Hill, often talked about how they had to take our strange musical structures and try to make sense of them in order to create a palpable backing rhythm section.  I felt proud that Gub and I caused such wonderful headaches in such amazing musicians.  Anyway the point I was going to make here is I still believe in the idea of An Album, and even the idea of a Concept Record.  This can manifest in many different ways.  The type I've been interested in is similar to the concept record that Ben Weasel was into with a record like Anthem For a New Tomorrow, it wasn't telling a linear story, it was a grouping of songs sharing attitude, themes, and images.  I carried this into EVERY Even in Blackouts record. (Often this happens, in subtle ways on most records anyhow. Records in varying degrees chronicle what a band is going through during a particular time.  They are little slices of history.)  The step I feel I took farther, more consistently, is the title of a record had to be wholly original whereas Ben most often enjoyed capturing phrases from sub cultures and even the mainstream that struck his fancy, like My Brain Hurts, (Monty Python) Thank You Very Little (Chevy Chase in Caddyshack), Bark Like a Dog (Bill Murray in Caddyshack). (Some I assume are entirely original)  My titles for neither better nor worse HAD to be completely fabricated and meticulously tied to the themes of the songs on the inside, even if unintelligible to the listener.  For instance: Myths & Imaginary Magicians was playing on some references to Screeching Weasel's The Science of Myth, which was originally borrowed from Joseph Campbell.  Myths are the standards we try to live up to, the morals that are embedded in our culture, they help us face a world that can be callous and chaotic, but the use of the word Myth has also come to mean, trying to live up to an unreachable conception of the self which has much more to do with personal identity than social norms.  It's usage on Myths & Imaginary Magicians refers to friends of mine like Ben Foster, Steve Walker, Matt Nelson and Peter Flynn (A radio play I wrote about Peter Flynn), and even myself, we are all too hyper aware of the divide between social personae, caricatures of ourselves, and the less perfect, less awesome, less dramatic, flawed, reality of the actual self.  This rocky balance between self loathing, self aggrandizing, and just being oneself is apparent in a goodly percentage of the tracks from that album. The last part of that album title: "Imaginary Magicians" - a magician that isn't a magician, that isn't there, so that even the tricks are twice removed from being real magic.  That is the metaphor for types like myself. The reality is that "we" are not performing real magic, that we are mere humans, hiding behind illusions, twice removed.  Our intents are often selfish or caught up in justifying ones capricious nature when we think we are being mysterious or intriguingly contradictory.  (Because sadly this makes us interesting.)  All the titles in the Even In Blackouts' catalog have a certain amount of complexity, and they most definitely painstakingly mirror the songs on each particular record.  Like Heidegger in philosophy my goal is to cultivate my own language, my own points of reference, like music itself, to create my own individual path which ironically takes steps towards universality the more honest and truthful it becomes.  I search for the write groupings of words to express the inexpressible moods and emotions that stir in all of us.  That is my grand goal, and even though it might sound absurd, pompous, or just plain ridiculous, it is how I have always felt about creativity.  I don't expect anybody to get that, but it has become an important element in my writing and creative pursuits.

Anyway back to Jim!  He has written a blog post about the Jughead's Basement Podcast.  And I think that is swell.  (I could talk more about Jim, but really you should just go over to his web page, and see all the marvelous things this man has done for the upholding of everything rebellious and beautiful about music.  Jim DeRogatis) And even though going off on the titles of records may have seemed a tangent, even to myself, it really wasn't.  I mean to hold sacred those who still think in terms of a record as an art form.  It was funny when I first started saying each of my podcasts is a piece of art, but truly I mean it.  And to say such a thing isn't implying that it is great, (even though I think they are.)  It just means they are constructed to be something wholly (and even holy) unto themselves, the structure matching its interior, making it it's own THING.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Jughead's Basement Episode 8: Naked Raygun's Throb Throb

In this episode of Jughead's Basement, Naked Raygun's 1985 release, Throb Throb, is examined. This episode features special guest co-host, Dan Vapid.

Interviews with Naked Raygun:

Jeff Pezzati 
Camilo Gonzalez 
Jim Colao 
John Haggerty
Eric Spicer

Interviews with Steve Albini
 (Producer & Engineer of Jawbreaker and Nirvana. Musician in Big Black and Shelac.)

Guest Contributors:

Steve Walker on "Metastasis" 
Eric T. Roth on "On/I Don't Know" 
Jim DeRogatis on "Managua"

Closing song: "Rat Patrol" covered by Cheaper By The Case in 1997 by my friends: Mark Montgomery, Fritz Doreza, and Eric Mahle.

Friday, July 19, 2013



This is a late night post based on my friend Graham Rae asking me about a band "I was in" that I must have talked about in an early Screeching Weasel interview called TORTURER.  This is my grammatically unchecked response:

I have been working on a new Jughead's Basement podcast this month with Dan Vapid.  The band he recommended working on was Naked Raygun, then both of us said Throb Throb.  But this post is not about Throb Throb, or Naked Raygun, or Dan Vapid.  It's about John Braun and a band that was but never was called TORTURER.

The Naked Raygun members are about a half decade older than me and Vapid, but both Vapid and I have slightly older brothers so there is a common ground when talking about influences.  Vapid was fascinated with asking the Naked Raygun members if the music genre that made "you" pick up an instrument was the same as the genre that propelled "you" to be in the band.  It was mostly unanimous that the two were not the same.  In most cases the members of Naked Raygun were raised listening to Led Zeppelin, The Who, Van Halen, and my favorite UFO.  But these bands, even though causing one to pick up an instrument, mostly frustrated more than inspired.  It was just two damn difficult to play for a novice.  What lead most of them to playing in a band was the arrival of punk music with The Ramones, The Stooges, and one of my favorites The Stranglers.  These bands gave hope that a novice could play like them.  This did not mean you would be able to write songs as melodically interesting but that did not matter at the time one was to be propelled.  Just to know that I could put two fingers on the fret board and it would create a power chord was inspiration enough to continue.
But this was not the case for my best friend since shortly after my birth John Braun.  Technically he wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth, even though his father was a well respected cop who got free fireworks, records, and concert tickets for his son (he has an older sister Lora, also into music, damn she was physically, emotionally, full bodily in love with Aerosmith), John Braun was more or less born with a silver gibson flying V in his hands.  My brother, because of his highly fire conducive room full of posters and pages out of cream magazine dried out from pot smoke and cigarettes, from floor to ceiling, he was the one that gave me the vision to see what rock could be.  For a time I could put down my Mary Poppins record and gaze at his walls when he was gone, the freaky early look of The Tubes, a old school 3d poster of Pink Floyd, concert tickets from the tiny venues called Haymakers and Beginnings that attracted such new acts as The Scorpions, Judas Priest, and UfO.  He took photos from the crotch of his pants and became a master at snapping shots of bands worthy of framing. 
Anyway, I was talking about John Braun.  Damn that boy could play, even when we only had brooms for guitars, or just plain old air, he was leagues ahead of me, in style, and in actually understanding rhythm and melody.  Really at times he was so damn good and deserving of my admiration that I became more of a voyeur of our own playtime, our imagining of ourselves as Alice Cooper or Brian May from Queen.  I did not improve in my imagination or even when we got instruments.  This was about the time my family was falling apart, my dad had left my mom with 5 kids, she never having worked as an adult now had to take care of all of us and pay for food.  There was no time to even entertain the idea of getting me my own guitar.  For the longest time I had to play air guitar along side John playing his actual first guitar which I think was not a flying V but an Ibanez Destroyer.  I eventually got a job at a movie theater, under age, with permission from my mother, and earned enough money to buy a cheap copy brand called a Hondo Stratocaster.  (I got a stratocaster because I thought it would allow me to play like Ritchie Blackmore.)  I would bring it over to John's house at the other end of our neighborhood and we would listen to cassettes called "Guitar Licks" which you could purchase from Circus Magazine.  The first one we had was Hot Licks by Randy Rhoads.  Randy Rhoads was our hero, way more than Eddie Van Halen.  Now that I think of it Randy had some kind of punk aesthetic going, metal yet super melodic, fast yet simple at times.  God damn he walked into those Ozzy auditions an unknown with a tiny peavy decade amp and blew the minds of all listening.  Then of course he had to die in a plane crash, but I got to see him live, YOU BET I DID.  One of the best damn days of my life!
So… where was I?  Yes John Braun.  Fuck, he was good!  So we started a band!  The band was just like our underground fort we never built.  Our bass player and drummer was as non existent as the stove and bunk bed that were to be built 100 feet under the grass in my backyard.  We weren't a garage band, we were a basement band.  But he LEARNED, and I stumbled, I tripped, My fingers wandered the fret board like an elephant in a quadra-pair of skates for the first time on ice as thin as a strawberry fruit roll-up.  But do you know what?  I fucking named that band.  I fucking read a book called The Shadow of The Torturer and declared that our nonexistent band was to be called TORTURER.  And by fucking god, it was!  Without me there would have been no Weasel, without me their would have been no Torturer… well actually there was no Torturer, but while it lasted not existing I was in a glorious spacious friendly and inspiring metal hell with the most awesome air-guitar jammed dreams of Rosemont Horizon Stadium proportions.  
And yes, to this day that fucking John Braun friend of mine is thousands of times better than I'll ever be, and that's as it should be.  He's one of my unsung heroes.

He is the one that accidentally taught me one of the most important lessons.  And that's how I'll end this:  While I was air-guitaring and he was actually playing to a video featuring Alice Cooper's live concert of Welcome to My Nightmare, with blood, spiders, tight spandex, long hair, and plenty of sweaty wanking, wanking.  I stopped, put down my air guitar and stared at the television screen.  "God damn that guitarist sure can rip it up."  Then John said, "Yeah, he's great.  He also plays guitar for Elton John."  And I said, "Wow he most love this so much more!"  And then John stopped, put down his real guitar and asked, "Why would he love it more?"  And I had no answer.  Why would he love playing with Alice Cooper more than Elton John?  Why was my sister's boyfriend hit in the face with a brick outside a Disco Club (that was later set fire and burned to the ground) by a  Rocker just because in the disco they liked to dance instead of thrash their heads?

Here is one thing I learned about music theory, with 1,4,5 you can write a Ramones' song, a Lead Belly blues, an Iron Maiden metal lambast, a Bach sonata, a disco Donna Summers ballad, a Roger Whitaker soft sound, or even a non-existent wank for a band called TORTURER!

Monday, April 15, 2013


            Ben and I met for the first time in Junior high.  I was in 8th grade and Ben was in 7th Grade. We were both on the Wrestling team for secondary reasons.  Meaning neither of us said, "Wrestling!  YES!"  My older brother had wrestled and did very well, so my teachers used comparative coercion to get me to join.  I didn't really care about being better than my brother, but Junior high had been tough on me, and I thought maybe this would help give me a little guidance.  (In retrospect it actually DID help.)  Ben on the other hand was not given much choice.  I'm pretty sure the coach, Mr. Chase, and Ben's father forced him onto the team, to keep a watch on him after school, to keep him out of trouble.
            For years River Trails had had an All Star wrestling team.  This year would be different.  This year our team was the closest one could get to the status of The Bad News Bears... only in wrestling leotards.  We only had one or two people on the team that were actually "good" wrestlers, Mario Marotti and Eddie Bryant.  Some others were OK but the badness of the rest of us, equaled out the good.  Our horribleness was overwhelming sometimes but we always had fun.
            In those days in school I was called Spaz or Wildman Pierson.  I had an incredible amount of unbridled energy.  I wouldn't say I was always out of control and unfocused, because I was often the most calm child. I could sit for hours and hours making latch hooks out of yarn.  It was just when I got excited I couldn't quite figure out how to channel that spasm of energy.  For instance I was an incredibly fast runner so I tried to play football, but whenever I would get the ball I would get so excited I couldn’t think straight.  At my first practice I ran a touchdown for the opposing team.  My own teammates tried to tackle me.  The coach wasn’t a very good teacher.  He yelled at me.  Everyone laughed.  I quit that day.  Supposedly Mr. Chase thought he could guide that crazy energy into some good on the wrestling team.  So…that was a prequel to how Ben and I fit together in this story. 
            I wouldn't say we became friends during this time.  Quite frankly to this day I don't know if we were ever really technically friends, or if we even thought of ourselves in that way.  We might have gone straight from acquaintances to business partners to dysfunctional brothers.  I had to meet Ben two more times over a period of 6 years before we even began considering picking up guitars and starting a band.  So our history together had begun being horrible at something we were forced to do, but somehow we managed to have fun doing it.   So perhaps we didn’t mind if we would be considered a bad band, perhaps that would make it fun, and make us subconsciously strive to be Good on our own terms.
            The idea behind the movie The Bad News Bears has a lasting affect on Ben and me. (And also Vapid) Scenes and dialogue from the Bad News Bears had become a part of Ben’s everyday vocabulary.  The Bad News Bears and Caddy Shack were the inspiration for much of his punk infused slang.  I think even on that wrestling team Ben enjoyed the fact that we were bad!  And quite frankly so did I.  After junior high, in high school when the gym teacher would ask for volunteer team captains to pick teams.  I would immediately raise my hand.  I would then proceed to put together the most motley crew of disinterested, geeky, outcastes.  My teams would never win, but FUCK did we have a great time losing.  This may have come from my experiences on that wrestling team with Ben.
            The other strong memory and what most people from that team, probably still to this day, remember about me, is that fact that I would throw up randomly during wrestling matches.  I would literally throw up, puke up all my guts onto the wrestling mats, but only during public matches.  I was in the 90 pound wrestling class.  At our first match I wrestled in my bout at top intensity, apparently without breathing.  At the end of the three positions I had won by a single point.  When the referee brought me and my opponent together to shake hands, I started to sweat, I couldn't breathe.  And like when a fire hydrant is pried open during the summer months to soak the kids in bathing suits and t-shirts, my throat released a continuous gush of gallon upon gallon of clear puke, onto the mat, onto my opponent and onto the referee.   For that entire year of wrestling, every time I threw up, I won.  If I didn't throw up, I didn't win.  And I can remember that when I got that feeling, I would look up to my team, and Ben's beady eyes and Cheshire grin would be facing me, his body in position to run and grab the nearest garbage can.  My malady became heroic, and Ben was always there to run to get the nearest can for my puke.  I wouldn't say his intentions were driven by compassion, sympathy, team spirit, or even for cleanliness, I think mostly he helped because my puking during matches was theatrical, weird, subversive, gross, chaotic and gut wrenchingly hysterical to him.  And to be quite honest, that’s how I see it in retrospect.  I am the fool, we were the fools, and we continue to be the fools who don’t give a fuck.  These are my earliest memories of the seeds that would become the core of Screeching Weasel.

(A few years earlier, KISS played at this same Junior High.  At the time I was in elementary school at Feehanville, right across the playground.  during recess I watched the whole band load in!  This is an article my friend wrote about this strange KISS appearance.  When KISS Rocked...)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Small List of Early SW Experiences

A small list of early experiences highlighting the difficulties of sustaining Screeching Weasel
One of my favorite SW photos

1. To raise money for our first trip to Berkeley California, (No shows in between. Our first appearance at Gilman was a one show tour from Chicago to California) I worked three jobs.  My schedule 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Gloria Jeans Coffee Bean.  6 p.m. to Midnight Randhurst Cinemas. Midnight to 6 a.m. Cleaned Movie theaters and pulled up carpeting.  (After a couple of weeks of doing this I had a bit of a momentary breakdown.  I was pulling staples out of a piece of carpeting that rolls down the aisle of a theater.  My head started tingling, I looked across the carpeting and it began to grow longer and longer into the distance, like for miles, like past infinity.  I stood up and fell back down, dizzy.  I quit my third job the next day.)  Ben worked the night shift at a gas station and also made bird feeders, or bird food, some strange job with my other friend Glen (This may have been a bit later.  But he was working a lot too.)  When the two of us pooled our money together we still didn't have enough to get all four of us to California.  So Ben and I painted his Parent's house to pay for Steve's ticket.  Steve did not help.  That was a sore spot for awhile.  Warren paid for his own ticket.  Ben and I drove across the country in his Chevy Malibu.

2. To help pay for the recording of Boogada Boogada Boogada Ben and I worked at a job my brother got us.  Ben's parents had moved away, and the two of us were living in my mom's basement.  For most of that time he worked nights at the Gas Station and I worked at The Coffee Shop and at a Record Store.  We hardly saw each other except for rehearsals.  I would get home from work just as he was going to work.  I would visit him at the gas station for band meetings.  Anyway.  We added another job into the mix.  He and I would head to a factory before the sun had risen and shave aluminum shards off of long pipes.  The pipes would roll out of a machine.  We would grab them, one of us on each end.  The ends of the pipes were all rough with sharp points sticking out.  We would proceed to shave off all the extra aluminum to make the ends smooth.  We had gloves and masks, but after 8 hours of that, we would go home sweaty and there would be slivers of metal stuck in my fingers and in my face.  Sometimes I'd forget and I'd rub my face with my hand and a shard of metal would cut across my skin.  That sucked.

3. Ben and I took some classes at Harper Community College.  The idea was to see if the intellectual stimulation would help us write music.  We took 1 Poetry Class and 1 Music Theory Class.  I don't remember a single thing from the Theory class, but from the poetry class I remember:

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Every day we would listen to Steve Dahl in Ben's car, go to class, and then eat burgers at Dairy Queen.  I think this was also during the Shards of Metal days.

4.  Once Boogada came out Ben went to live with a man named Dave Best, who ran Roadkill Records with us.  Ben slept on his floor.  I eventually moved there for a little while too and the two of us slept on Dave's living room floor without mattresses.  I think we each had sleeping bags and that's it. The memory Ben and I used to share about this is Dave would wear these boxer shorts with bananas on them.  They were torn in spots.  Sometimes one of us would wake up and he'd be standing above us sucking on a piece of fruit, and sadly we'd get an unwanted peak at his ball sacks and penis.

5.  Five years during the early band days I also attended Columbia College.  I don't know how the fuck I managed the time for that.  I didn't sleep much.  I worked at Crown Books, rehearsed with the band in my basement downtown where Panic lived below me, and we would tour whenever we could afford it.  I do remember that I would buy a pack of peanuts from the vending machine, and that would be my food for the day.  I would slowly eat one peanut at a time to make it last the day.  I think I saved myself 12 bucks a week for food.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Recent Photo and Weight Loss
due to rigorous puppet show.
Photo by Joe Mazza

I have sadly not committed all my puppet adventures to writing.  I should have done that not only for people to read but to increase my memory, and learn to base things more on a current truth than a retrospective truth.  Alas, I never learn my lesson.  I don't value the telling of my experiences until it is too late, then it becomes just a mere fiction of the more sensational reality from which the memory derives.  So, though I hate to admit it, I may owe a little credit to Facebook for giving me an instantly gratifying format to type out my daily exploits.  It is not what I would call the best way to do it, but at least when it is recognized and "liked" by "friends" it does give me a sense of achievement, a post pavlov positive reinforcement for the masses. If you are interested in the genesis of my odysse, and Paige's support by coming with me, to Cincinnati, the story can be heard in the The Whole in 30 Days Podcast called Leaving… Actually now as I write this I realize that a previous podcast called Binge & Purge was the true beginning of this part of my adventure, I toured for three weeks with Madcap during that podcast, which in turn lead to me "Leaving" Chicago in the later podcast called "Leaving."
Link to 30 Days Podcast.

This below is my attempt at recovering some of those FB posts in hopes that I get inspired to keep better track of them.  And also, for right now, I am tired of talking about my musical exploits, which probably means I am about ready to live those exploits instead of write about them, which I guess is good.  So for now enjoy, or get a good laugh out of what Jughead is doing now.
So, in case you do not choose to listen to those podcasts, all you need to know to follow these small posts is that I took a gig, touring in a puppet theater called MADCAP based in Cincinnati, and that me and my girlfriend Paige had to pack our bags to live there, actually next door to there in a blue collar neighborhood of Cincinnati called Cheviot, for 7 months.  Almost every day, I travel to elementary schools all over the midwest to perform two Grimm Fairy Tale based stories called Rumpelstiltskin and When You Wish Upon A Fish in front of hundreds and hundreds of kids from ages 5 to 12.

PS. Besides the cool feeling I get from giving kids a neat experience they will remember for a long time, I have also lost alot of weight, due to the fact that we have to set up our puppet show anywhere from 1 to 3 times a day, and then I sweat like crazy during the show and then have to break it all down and do the same again the next day.  So this cute video above is one BEFORE I lost about 20 pounds because of the work.

September 18, 2012
South Bend Indiana. After the puppet show. We sat on the front of the stage with the kids. I had two old guy puppets, one on each hand. I was pretending they didn't know math. The kids loved it! I'd say things like, "You think you are smart, Kid? Well at least I know 2 + 2 is 5!" And they'd laugh and then correct me. A bit later another kid, very quiet and intense, walked up to me and padded the shoulder of one of the old guy puppets. "What's 9 times 4?" He asked. I turned towards him and said. "OOOOHHH that's easy, 157!" He just looked at me and the puppet, then said with a very serious and sad face, "No really. I really need to know." I paused, then said in the puppet voice, "36." He thanked me, then walked away quietly.

November 9th 2012
So often in the elementary schools we need to change into costumes in the kids public bathrooms. Well today I was changing out of my costume after the show, and in the stall there was a big shit in the toilet. It would not flush, so I went about changing and decided to "unload" when I got home. I walked out of the stall and one of the kids went in after me, and said over the stall to his friend as I was exiting: John just left a big pooh in the toilet. I did not dispute the accusation of a 7 year old. I was the bigger man and just walked away... humiliated.

November 15th 2012
On the road spreading peanut butter onto a piece of bread with a pen. I feel like I'm back on the road with ye ole Weasel again.

November 21st, 2012
Had to sign the second half of my Puppet Tour contract yesterday, I said "Is this contract in puppetuity?" No one laughed. Maybe it's a joke for Puppeteers that are also lawyers.

Jan 21st, 2013
Who else here drove from Cincinnati to Hagerstown Maryland tonight and almost died in a snowstorm in the mountains? Anyone? Anyone?

Jan 23rd, 2013
My new puppet partner and I drove 15 hours total and weathered a dangerous snow covered mountain for a 45 minute puppet show. Theater is weird, ya' now?

Jan 30th, 2013
Tonight I dressed like a woman and pretended to eat plastic sausages in front of one hundred kids stuffing their faces with actual bags of Doritos and Fritos, while two or three parents visibly slept in their chairs. THEATER!

Jan 31, 2013
At my Puppet gig today, I overheard a teacher asking her kindergarten kids to state their favorite holiday. The first two said, independently of each other. St. Patrick's Day. Is it really possible that these children would pass up the gifts of Christmas and the chocolate eggs of Easter for Cabbage and Corned Beef?

Feb 6th, 2013
We were in a huge theater of an Arts Academy for Children with our Puppet show performing for their Kindergarten thru Third Grade. Before the show started another teacher brought a high school class in to look at the theater. He pointed out that we were from Madcap Puppets. He also stated with a grand voice that it is important to introduce children to theater at a young age, and I whispered to my partner Dustin, "Or else there'd be no gay men."

Feb 10th 2013
What do you do when you run out of Socks for the kids to make puppets in a puppet workshop? You start hoping some of the kids that left early left behind their mutant misfit puppets. You hide behind a partition and begin ripping off the google eyes, weird patches of hair, and random bits of fabric leaving behind a slightly ripped sock for the late kids to rebuild into something they may love, or leave behind once again for the cycle to begin all over. Or you can just put eyes on a stick and bounce it in front of their face and say, "See! It's a rod puppet." Then you watch their eyes roll back in their head and then they walk away from you in complete disinterest.

Feb 15th 2013
I usually don't say sentimental stuff like this, but I was at a school today for a puppet show where I witnessed that the way a Principal runs his or her school really does make a big difference. The way he spoke to his kids, the way he peaked their curiosity, the respect he showed them and us, really paid off to make a great puppet performance. With amazing questions from the young students afterwards. Indiana, you surprised me.
(Not in the Fb Post):
The Principal confided in us that he had to miss watching the puppet show because of a custody battle.  At first I thought this was strange for him to tell us that HE was in a custody battle.  But as he continued talking I realized that he was talking about protecting a child from her father, who just got out of prison that day, from grabbing her out of school.  Her mother was frantic, and the Principal informed her that she needed paperwork that stated he doesn't have permission by the state to take his daughter.  So the Principal had to take the mother and the daughter to file paperwork to protect her from the father.  Now I don't know if this "father." had any intention to harm, ya' know, just because he was getting out of prison, but it did show me the level of involvement that an active Principal is thrown into, and that important choices can be made each and every day.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


John & Liz working on a new recording.

I have been working pretty hard on the new podcast: Jughead's Basement.  I have not had as much time to write a new story for this blog.  I don't want to pressure myself to create these entries on this site.  I want to feel the need to write about something before I just write about anything only because of the need to stay productive.  I still owe the site a Part II for The Lillingtons, and I am starting work on one about first meeting Operation Ivy, which in a smaller form is on the new podcast about Operation Ivy's ENERGY.  In the mean time here is an interview I just did for I BUY RECORDS.  If you want to read it in Italian, you can find it at that link.  I just heard they also have it in English.  I have left the Italian translated into english way in which the questions were asked, because I think it is very interesting how languages mutate and create different ways of saying things through random translation.

[A] - Hi John, it is a great honor for us of I Buy Records! to talk with you. First of all, how are you?

[JOHN] How I am all depends on when someone is reading this.  If it is the morning, I’m probably angry that I have to be up.  If it’s the afternoon, I’ve probably gotten used to being up and am now ready for whatever the day presents, if it’s early evening I’m probably hungry, and chances are I’m slicing and sautéing onions and tomatoes, and hopefully Mushrooms.  I love mushrooms.  If it’s late evening, I’m probably typing something similar to what you are reading, because that’s when I do my best writing.  If it’s the weekend I’m probably drinking Rum and Cokes and spending time with my girlfriend Paige in a city I’d like to get out of.  I’m in Cincinnati till Mid May 2013 performing a puppet show for kids, then back to Chicago.  I bet that’s a longer answer than you expected.

[A] - I feel you can be considered an artist at 360 °: Writer, Actor, and Musician: My desire is to touch a bit on all these points. So let's start by talking about your literary activities. You've written two books that have had great feedback and that I just bought from Amazon (Weasels In A Box and The Last Temptation of Clarence Odbody). Could you make me a brief presentation of both books for further encouragement to read them?

[JOHN] I have been lucky to have had the chance to indulge myself in such a productive creative life that you have so lovingly referred to as “Artist at 360 °” One of the only careers I dreamed of since childhood was to be a novelist.  This has been one of my only career goals since before I can remember.  All the rest of my profitable pursuits have been mostly unexpected.  The two books you mentioned are the products of all my experiences trying to manifest themselves into what I have always demanded of my scatterbrained destiny.  

With that said, I have much improvement ahead of me, but I am very proud of how my first two endeavors into writing a novel have turned out.  Weasels in A Box was my attempt to write about Screeching Weasel without it taking the form of a tour diary.  The main goal was to not only talk about the history of the band but to be able to express how it felt TO ME to experience it.  It is a very abstract and surreal exploration of being on the road and beginning to understand the concept of Semi-Fame.  A few seasoned musicians have told me that the story captures the feeling of touring very accurately.  

The Last Temptation of Clarence Odbody is a retelling of the movie It’s A Wonderful Life.  It explores a series of different choices taken by not only George Bailey and Clarence Odbody, but also even more so all the secondary characters.  The most pervasive question asked is “What would have happened if Clarence decided not to save George that night on the icy bridge?”  Like many of my writing pursuits, at the core I am investigating personal identity and what happens to your life choices when everything you know to be true about yourself and the people around you, is no longer valid or at least seriously in question.  This book is doing very well.  This is partly due to my creative editor who helped me push my confused eccentric writing closer towards a product a larger audience could appreciate.  (And we did this mostly without compromising my style.  Which was a very difficult task.)

Weasels In a Box - The Last Temptation of Clarence Odbody
[A] - Who are your favorite writers? Somehow have they influenced your style? What are you reading at the moment?

[JOHN] – My favorite writer and most influential is Milan Kundera, more specifically his book Immortality.  He set out to write a book that could ONLY be a book, not a movie, or a play, but a book.  I love the idea of mixing medias but I also strongly feel that each creative endeavor should have its own goals unable to be expressed in any other format.  His writing is highly philosophical but also personal and surprisingly simple in its portrayal of the plight of being human.  I would love to write like that!  

Right now I am reading Dracula.  I can’t believe I never read it before, it’s the only “monster classic” that I hadn’t read.  I’m having trouble getting through it.  It’s just been around so long and reinterpreted so many different times that I can’t read it without knowing what is going to happen next.

[A] - Are you thinking about a third book?

[JOHN] – Yes I just started writing a book called The Plight Of The Lampoons.  It is the story of a cartoon family that inexplicably appears in a real life suburban neighborhood, house and all.  The Lampoon children are trying to figure out where they came from, why they appear to be indestructible, and how come they all feel so incredibly alone.

Too Much Light play called: Inanimate

[A] - "The Neo-Futurists" is the theater group that you work with. Is there any link with the movement that was born in Italy in the early 20th century? What kind of act do you perform and what issues does it concern?

[JOHN] – That’s a very complicated question.

First: Yes, the creator of the Neo-Futurists, Greg Allen, studied the Italian Futurists, and combined many of their anarchistic, visceral, and dangerous artistic beliefs with later art movements including The Dadaists, The Surrealists, and The Happenings.  The Neo-Futurist style is often considered more performance based than theater based.  I guess the difference is not focusing on character work but every day life in itself.

Second: The theatrical style in which we write and perform in is immediate, non-illusory, political, and very personal.  Our main show is called Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, which has run in Chicago to sold out audiences every weekend for over 22 years!  I have been a part of the company for 16 of those years.  In many places I am much more known as a Neo-Futurist than as a punk musician.  I have written over 400 short plays and about 15 Full length plays with this company and also with my own company Hope And Nonthings.

Third: Find out for yourself.  It’s a very great unique thing.  It is an ensemble of insanely productive individuals. –

[A] - Although it is probably not famous in the U.S., the Italian theater has an old school that has made many actors famous, at least in Europe. Looking only at the most recent Italian tradition, I think about Carmelo Bene and Dario Fo. Have you ever heard of them? If yes, what do you think?

[JOHN] – Sadly I have not.  I know more about Italian Art than theater, although my favorite playwright is Luigi Pirandello.  I have been trying to find a way to teach in Italy.  I would love to study Italian theater and bring a little bit of my own style to it.

[A] - Direct question: do you feel you are more an actor or a musician?

[JOHN] – That question is slightly misleading, because I couldn’t conceive of being one without the other.  I love the deep concentration that goes into creating, and performing, a theater piece, but I’m never happier than when I am playing guitar on a stage in front of an audience bopping and singing along.  The former makes me concentrate, the latter let’s me escape.  Ultimately I imagine being a part of something original is the element that holds it all together for me.  No matter what form it takes, exploring a unique path, where you are constantly inspired by others and inspired by oneself, is the ultimate goal for me.

[A] - I am following your blog with great interest and I especially enjoyed the story of your trip to discover Sicily and Southern Italy, as being born and raised close by there. Why you were so touched by the way of life we have there? Would you recommend a friend to visit Southern Italy?

[JOHN] – I would recommend that everyone on the entire planet go to Italy and Sicily at least once in their life.  But everybody shouldn’t go all at once.  That would be ridiculous, very physically unpleasant, and probably impossible.  I imagine the day-to-day experience is much different living in Italy as a citizen.  For me there was a freedom, a passion, and a collective awareness of one another’s feelings and intentions, that I haven’t experienced anywhere else in the world.  Plus I think the scenery and the people are beautiful, in spirit, and also to look at.

[A] - Every time I read the booklet in the reprint of My Brain Hurts (Asian Man Records) I was moved to read your stories about the beginnings of Screeching Weasel. As you explained, also you have come from a long apprenticeship, with many miles touring around the United States and playing in front of two people before achieving success and great satisfaction. How was the first gig ever? 

[JOHN] I really don’t remember what our first gig was.  It may have been the one in my friend Matt’s basement.  There is actually a video of that show floating around somewhere.  It includes an interview with the band.  Vapid recently told me that he is pretty sure that he was at that show.  I find that odd. I don't remember knowing him then, or how I even met him, perhaps it was then.  He didn’t join the band till about two years later.  The early shows I remember the most took place at a 21 and over bar called Batteries Not Included.  It was a run down dive bar on the Northside of Chicago that used to have punk shows after 10pm.  This is where we saw and met the members of Bhopal Stiffs, one of my favorite Chicago punk bands.  
What I remember most about these early shows is I was so tense strumming the guitar.  Playing in front of an audience made me incredibly nervous.  Because I have never felt that I am a very good guitar player, I just learned how to sell it well.  During the early days I was so tense that I would break at least 3 to 5 strings a show.  Sometimes it was so frustrating, and stalled the show so often, that I wouldn’t even bother to put replacement strings back on.  I think Ben began to nurture his audience diatribes during this period of our career, because he had to cover for all the time it would take me to change strings.  

The other memory was when our friend who worked at a psychiatric hospital brought some patients to our show at Batteries Not Included.  One of his patients, a very tall slender well built crew-cut-wearing fellow, stood directly in front of the two-foot short stage during our set, partially blocking the audiences view of us playing.  He stripped himself naked and started saluting the audience.  It happened so fast.  We couldn’t have planned it better.

[A] - As you also stated on the blog, you and Dan Vapid are back on good terms and this can only make us the fans very happy. Do you think that in the future there may be a possibility of a collaboration and why not, maybe a reunion of THE MOPES?

[JOHN]  I would never rule it out, but I don’t think it is really a thought in Dan’s head or mine.  We have headed in varying directions musically since we worked together last, so I don’t know if it would be beneficial or possible for us to do work together musically.  But Vapid will be joining me on the Jughead’s Basement Podcast.  We are co-hosting an episode about one of our mutually favored Chicago bands called Naked Raygun.  We will conduct interviews with the band members, and compile a list of writers to write pieces based on the Naked Raygun record Throb Throb.  When he told me that he enjoyed my podcast, I immediately asked him to help out in anyway that he would like.  He has a more deeply engrained appreciation for, and knowledge of, punk music than myself, and he can definitely add an important perspective to what I think is already a steadily improving podcast.
Even In Blackouts in Ireland

[A] - Do not you miss the thrill of going on stage as a musician? I read your interview for Punk Rock Pravda and it seems that EVEN IN BLACKOUTS run again, but as EIB. Is there anything new developing with EIB that you can tell us about?

[JOHN] We have decided not to call it Even In Blackouts or EIB in respect to our irreplaceable bandmates, Nathan Bice and Phillip Hill.  We have not decided on a name yet.  We will have a three part song called I WILL NOT featured on the Vindictive’s Tribute album to be put out by Sexy Baby Records.  
Also I am living in Cincinnati till mid May touring in a Puppet theater company called Madcap.  So the band, however it manifests itself, can’t be too active until I get back.  We plan on having a few living room shows in June and July of 2013.  The band members include: Liz Eldredge, Gub Conway, John Bliss, and John Szymanski.  This will be the first time Liz and I will have a band in which ALL members are located in Chicago. (Well… This will be true when I return in May.)

[A] - What are you listening to at the moment? Are there any bands/records you've heard recently that you'd like to recommend?

[JOHN]  I don’t get a chance to listen to much music these days.  But I have recently discovered a band called The Mixtapes, and Vapid’s new band is the best he’s done in awhile.  Both those bands cannot only play well but they consistently write catchy and smart pop songs.  Also I love anything that Cody Templeman does.  I want desperately to work with him again.

[A] - Excluding members of the Ramones, (otherwise it would be too easy) could you tell us who the punk-rock band of your dreams would consist of? I'll give you a maximum of two guitarists!

[JOHN] – I’m sorry to say that The Ramones wouldn’t even be on the top ten of my list.  I love their music, and they changed the world mostly for the better, but they have never been a top ten favorite of mine.  

If we stay within punk rock I’d have to say:
Mike Watt on Bass
Greg Hetson on Guitar
Jesse Michaels on Vocals
Grant Hart on Drums (and vocals)
Jeff Ott on second Guitar (backing vocals)
Although I think they would probably sound horrible together, and someone would end up dead.  But… For a hot moment it would be Amazing!

[A] - With the last question I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the time you kindly gave us. What are the targets for 2013 of Jughead? Maybe there will be an opportunity to see you again in Italy, in the upcoming future?

[JOHN] There are no plans yet to be in Italy, but if the new Yet-to-be-named band decides to tour, Italy will always be our number one place to go.  For now I will stay in Cincinnati and tour through the Midwest performing a very large extravagant puppet show for thousands of elementary school children.  Then when I get back to Chicago I will be teaching my own theater classes and returning to the stage with the Neo-Futurists’ show Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind for June and July.  I will also be continuing my work on Jughead’s Basement.  I would like to say that I will finish my novel in 2013 but they usually end up taking me at least 5 years to complete.  We will see!