Joe Steinhardt, cofounder of Don Giovanni, a label most well-known for signing bands like Waxahatchee, Screaming Females, and The Ergs! recently published a Facebook post challenging “two labels, Recess Records and Asian Man Records to completely disassociate with sexist, racist, and homophobic punk bands like The Queers and Screeching Weasel.”
The call-out was likely inspired by a recent Facebook post made by Joe Queer, lead singer of The Queers, calling the murderer of unarmed teenager Michael Brown Officer Darren Wilson “a man of peace in a world of mayhem” and linking to a fundraiser that many have likened to a bounty or reward for the racist killing. Ben Weasel jumped into the comment fray with his usual “punk singers are supposed to offend you, go listen to some band I don’t like if you don’t like it, weak sheeple diaper babies” free-speech-means-no-one-is-allowed-to-disagree-with-me schtick, which which not received kindly given his track record.
Ben Weasel’s track record, for the uninitiated, includes using transphobic language against a woman and disclosing her trans status without her consent because she disagreed with him on the Pop Punk Message Board. He also punched two women in the audience at SXSW Screeching Weasel shows, causing the rest of his band to resign. He posted an apology about the punching incident that has since been removed from the Screeching Weasel site, showing that he acknowledges that it did happen. Not that he needs to, since there’s video. Joe Queer, for his part, has gone on record defending Weasel, saying “the chick deserved a punch.“
Todd Congelliere,former frontman for Five Year Plan and Toys That Kill and founder of Recess Records, replied to Joe Steinhardt’s call out:
Hey Joe Steinhardt i’ll find you at least 25 anti-racist,anti-sexist,anti-homophobic Screeching Weasel lyrics and/or ben MRR columns and you will prolly only come up with 1 youtube video. Ben’s music/writing actually opened my eyes to some of these topics when i was younger,and he still believes it. wanna know why i know that? COS I ACTUALLY TALK TO HIM!! This is just another by-product of the reality tv,dog eat dog, attention starved generation who has to start an internet pissing contest to boost your own ego. sad to see people blindly following but thats the way we are, aren’t we?
Joe Steinhardt responded:
Todd, those quotes really opened my eyes up to some of those topics when I was younger too and Screeching Weasel, as anyone who knows me knows, has been a really important band to me over the years. But people change and it can be pretty disheartening and very hard to come to terms with when they do. My early reactions were similar to yours but I eventually came around to the opinions which I now have. I don’t hate you for being okay with Screeching Weasel, nor does it negate anything else about you and what you do. you run an incredible record label and have been a huge inspiration to me, which is why it is disappointing that you are working with this band. You, just like Mike, are not the targets, just the recipients of my open letter, and I hope people understand that. I have nothing bad to say about you or your label, which is why I don’t think you should be associating yourself with artists like Screeching Weasel in 2014.
All in all, the controversy raises interesting questions for punk fans, musicians, and publishers. When do you disown or distance yourself from an artist? When are those who shelter and abet violent individuals themselves culpable for the individual’s actions? Is being punk rock really about being a racist, sexist, transmisogynist asshole, or glorifying corrupt police officers and parroting racist language and arguments from Fox News? And does anyone even really care about irrelevant shitty 90s pop punk bands fronted by horrible human beings anymore?