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Monday, April 15, 2013

WRESTLING WITH WEASELS



            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
upon 

a red wheel
barrow 

glazed with rain
water 

beside the white
chickens.

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.