A significant figure in American punk rock from the late '80s onward, Ben Weasel is best known as the founder, lead singer, and guitarist with the band Screeching Weasel, though he's also worked with other acts, recorded as a solo artist, and built a thriving second career as a writer. Weasel was born Ben Foster in Prospect Heights, IL, a suburb of Chicago. Foster developed a strongly opinionated streak and rebellious nature as a teenager, and was tossed out of three different Chicago-area schools before he was shipped off to Maine to attend the Elan School, described by its administrators as "a residential school for troubled teens." While Foster had been a serious heavy metal fan, at Elan he was introduced to punk rock and became a passionate follower of the Ramones and pioneering hardcore acts such as Black Flag and the Circle Jerks. After returning home to Illinois, Foster took at a job at a movie theater, where he renewed his friendship with fellow usher John Pierson, who'd known Foster in junior high. Foster and Pierson bonded over their shared enthusiasm for punk, and they decided to form a band after checking out a Ramones show; Foster christened himself Ben Weasel and Pierson became John Jughead.
Initially called All-Night Garage Sale, the band changed its name to Screeching Weasel (inspired by a frat boy's T-shirt which read, "I've got a screeching otter in my pants"), and made a name for themselves on the Chicago punk scene with their smartass lyrical tirades and stripped-down musical attack. Screeching Weasel's self-titled debut album appeared in 1987 (reportedly recorded for a mere $200 in the middle of the night), and a year later they released their second LP, Boogadaboogadaboogada! The band hit the road, but except for a show at Berkley, CA's famed punk clubhouse 924 Gilman Street with Operation Ivy, most of the dates were disastrous, and after returning home, the rhythm section quit, leading to the first of many breakups for the band. Weasel played for a while with the Vindictives and formed a band called the Gore Gore Girls (no relation to Detroit's all-female garage rockers), but in 1991 Screeching Weasel played a one-off reunion shop to help pay off the bills for recording Boogadaboogadaboogada!, which led to a new lineup for the group and a deal with Lookout Records, who released the band's third long-player, 1991's My Brain Hurts.
By this time, Weasel had developed a reputation with punk fans for his lively and opinionated column in Maximumrocknroll, as well as his own fanzine, Panic Button, and Screeching Weasel 2.0 was significantly more successful than the original run of the band. They also developed a passionate West Coast following and were a major influence on the pop-punk bands who were emerging from 924 Gilman, especially Green Day, whose bassist, Mike Dirnt, stepped in to play bass on 1994's How to Make Enemies and Irritate People. However, by the end of 1994 Screeching Weasel called it quits again, marking their demise with a collection of rarities called Kill the Musicians. Weasel formed a new band, the Riverdales, who took his worship of the Ramones to new heights and released two albums, 1995's Riverdales and 1997's Storm the Streets, before Weasel and Jughead re-formed Screeching Weasel once again. However, for several years in the '90s Weasel was unable to perform live and could rarely leave his apartment due to a severe panic disorder.
Therapy allowed Weasel to get his demons under control, and in 1998 the band returned to action with Television City Dreams. In 2000, Screeching Weasel started playing live again and released Teen Punks in Heat, though Weasel soon began focusing on his career outside the band, publishing a novel in 2001, Like Hell, and completing his first solo album, Fifatevi, in 2002. 2002 also brought another book from Weasel, a collection of magazine pieces called Punk Is a Four Letter Word, and in 2003 the Riverdales returned with Phase Three. Weasel's second solo album, These Ones Are Bitter, is scheduled for release in the summer of 2007, and he has also announced plan to launch Medota Recording Company, a label dealing exclusively in digital download material. When not busy with his other projects, Weasel also frequently writes songs with Joe Queer for the band the Queers, and Queer "repaid" the favor by writing a song called "Ben Weasel," which features the lyric "He don't like Nirvana/I know he don't like Prong/And I'll bet you five bucks that he don't like this song." ~ Mark Deming, Rovi