Today he is most famous for portraying on-screen characters such as the image-obsessed model Derek Zoolander and the painfully awkward Ted from the Farrelly brothers' infamous comedy There's Something About Mary, but Ben Stiller spent a brief period of his youth playing drums in a New York City experimental noise band called Capital Punishment. In a new interview with Rolling Stone, Stiller and former bandmate/current documentarian Kriss Roebling recall their past as would-be musical trailblazers, and the time they inspired the title of a Kiss record.
While Capital Punishment only played live once — under the name Rent a Gong — their sole record Roadkill will be reissued on September 14th for the first time since the 1980s by independent label Captured Tracks. (Preorders of all formats are available on the official Bandcamp page.) The press release cites obscure proto-industrial influences like Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle, but Stiller insists, "My taste was just much more kind of poppy, like Hall and Oates and Duran Duran, maybe, like, getting into the Romantics or something. Kriss [was] much more like the musician who was into all this stuff. And I felt like he pulled us into it." The reissue's official single "Muzak Anonymous," re-released in July, is an era-appropriate track featuring a simple post-punk drum beat, sparse jangly guitars and frenzied screeching intermixed with half-spoken nonsensical lyrics about the omnipresence of Muzak, the mindless generic background music heard often in waiting rooms and department stores.
The band's rudimentary noise jams may never have made them famous, but they did get to play their music for larger-than-life Kiss bassist Gene Simmons during a period when he was attempting to become an actor. Simmons was in a movie alongside Roebling's mother, who knew her son's bandmates were huge fans and invited Simmons for dinner at their home. Roebling recounts, "There was specifically one song that we kind of thought of as being sort of inspired by Kiss, called 'Creatures of the Dark.' And he said, 'Oh, I like that, I like the name.' And then he went on to say, 'Well, that's cool, you guys got cool ideas, but you just gotta get your technique together.'" Later that year, Simmons apparently hand-delivered an advance copy of 1982 Kiss record Creatures of the Night to Roebling's mother as a token of appreciation.