Not many people know this, but Ben Stiller plays a mean set of drums. Although Stiller comes from a family of celebrated actors, his early creative endeavor was an experimental noise band he started drumming for when he was still in middle school. The brainchild of Kriss Roebling, a well known urban explorer and childhood friend of Stiller’s, the short-lived band was called Capital Punishment. A blend of post-punk with noise rock, avant garde, industrial, jazz, krautrock, and no wave, the band quietly released one record in 1982 and never played any shows.
A fascinating and frequently hilarious new 40-minute documentary titled “Roadkill: The Stories of Capital Punishment,” charts the band’s origins from high school hobby to a surprising resurgence nearly forty years later.
Per the official synopsis: “‘Roadkill’ [is] a new documentary film telling the surprising and often hilarious story of the band Capital Punishment. Formed when its members were teenagers, Capital Punishment self-released a blistering post-punk/industrial album in 1982 before going their separate ways upon graduation from high school. Frontman Kriss Roebling’s ancestors built the Brooklyn Bridge. Bassist Peter Swann went on to become a judge for the Arizona Court of Appeals. Guitarist Peter Zusi became a professor of Slavic languages. And drummer Ben Stiller became… Ben Stiller.”
The band’s lone album, also titled “Roadkill,” was reissued by Captured Tracks in September of 2018. In November, they released a new EP called “This Is Capital Punishment,” their first new music in over three decades. “Roadkill” offers an exclusive look into the origins and unlikely comeback of Capital Punishment, featuring previously unseen archival photos and video, as well as footage of the band’s sole reunion show. The documentary features exclusive interviews with the band members, including Stiller, who are reunited for the first time since going their separate ways after high school.
“I remember being very nervous,” Stiller told Rolling Stone back in 2018. “‘Cause I just really didn’t play the drums hardly at all. I remember feeling like I just wanna get through this and actually be able to play something that’s usable. … I wasn’t, you know, know, really that good at playing the drums, which you can pick up if you listen. You don’t even have to listen that closely to get that.”
“Roadkill: The Stories of Capital Punishment” was directed and edited by Jim Larson and produced by Ash Slater for Pitchfork. Take a gander, and be sure to watch out for some amazing footage of Stiller’s father, the great Jerry Stiller, in some early homemade films.