Ben Stiller’s high school punk band Capital Punishment is getting reissued
Once upon a time, before Ben Stiller was a runway model or a barometer of our maturity, he was a teenager who enjoyed cool young person things. And, via some combination of luck, taste, and the musically excellent time period in which he was raised, he ended up playing drums in a totally decent punk band called Capital Punishment for a hot minute. Now, that band is getting reissued (or more realistically, issued for the first time) by indie label Captured Tracks, and Stiller is positively tickled by it.
On a recent appearance on The Howard Stern Show, he explained:
I was in a ridiculously weird band. Capital Punishment. I was like 15, 16, and my friend in high school, Chris, started this band. He was the one who had the talent, he wrote the songs. I was the drummer. We recorded an album called Roadkill…It’s really weird music. We were listening to a lot of Bowie and Eno. It’s like “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)”…it’s not great, but there are some songs that are kinda okay.
According to Stiller, the single album they recorded in 1982 was basically lost to the sands of time until some random group of vinyl fetishists called “Captured Tracks”–a real company and not a joke one–dug up the album and asked to release it:
What happened was some outsider music label which I didn’t know existed, people who are into weird music, I guess it’s been found and they asked if they could release it. It’s not about me, it’s about capital punishment. [Howard Stern: “Yeah right.”] But yeah, this company, they’re called Captured Tracks and they’re a real company and they’re putting it out.
Listening to the tracks that are online, it’s clear why Captured Tracks was into them. They’re a great example of how experimental the kids were getting in the early ’80s as punk mutated into more interesting offshoots like post-punk and no wave. The CP kids had a sense of humor, too; just listen to that fake English accent! That Ben Stiller played drums on these songs seems more “random fun fact” than “craven publicity stunt”:
Stiller’s not the only public figure associated with the band, either. In a lengthy interview with AZCentral.com, former bandmate Peter Swann–who is, ironically enough, now an Arizona appellate judge–called the reissue “a complete surprise” and “kind of a hoot.” Here’s hoping they get the band back together, Sloppy Secondz style.
Here’s the aforementioned Howard Stern interview. Stiller starts talking about the band around 26:00. Go back a little before that to hear an adorable discussion of Stiller’s budding friendship with David Bowie.