Basing a punk band on an obscure character invented by a Canadian comedy troupe whose criminally underrated half-hour sketch show went off the air in the mid-90s seems like a bit of a stretch, to say the least. But Chicago guitarist Andy Slania went ahead with it anyway.
The character in question is the Eradicator, intellectual property of the Kids in the Hall. This mysterious squash-obsessed agitator was created and played by Bruce McCulloch in 1989, during the show’s very first season. Maniacally focused on climbing the “D squash ladder” at his local athletic club, the self-anointed Eradicator taunts and heckles his upcoming opponents from under cover of a not-quite-intimidating ski mask, at one point crashing a business meeting in full regalia. He sleeps overnight on the court before a match to “get a feel” for it, and he even showers in his disguise—only the man who vanquishes him has the right to unmask him. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds.
“I came up with the idea back in 2012, when I was between bands,” Slania explains. “I wanted to do something light-hearted—I’d been in a pretty serious hardcore band prior—and for whatever reason the ‘I’m the Eradicator!’ line stuck out for a chorus I was working on. I had nothing else really, so I started to write a five-song EP from the perspective of the character. And it just went from there.”
Slania, 36, is a veteran of Chicago’s punk and hardcore scenes. Over the course of 15 years he’s played in a long list of bands (including Tension Generation, Galactic Cannibal, and his current group Bad Mechanics), and in the 2000s he helped Ryan Durkin run popular local label Hewhocorrupts Inc.
Today Slania operates Stonewalled Records, which released the Eradicator’s self-titled ten-inch in 2015 (the project’s debut) as well as its self-titled full-length in October. That the lark has lasted two years and two records seems like a marvel, but Slania has made it possible by inventively spinning new story lines from the original sketch’s four minutes of content.
It also helps that Slania’s band is good. The Eradicator’s gruff, up-yours punk pairs well with a lukewarm can of PBR and a disdain for modernity and the so-called finer things. Sometimes Slania is alone onstage, playing guitar along to a laptop programmed with rhythms and bass lines; other times he enlists friends from bands such as Milwaukee’s Direct Hit to back him up. “After releasing the ten-inch, I probably played three to four shows as a full band,” he says. “But I was still sitting on hundreds of records, because, surprise, not everyone in the world is familiar with the sketch. Because it was a singular character, I figured I could do a solo band. Going solo lends itself to being more comedic.”
Slania has taken his shtick as far afield as Australia. When Stonewalled artists Bong Mountain were offered a tour down under, Slania helped get them there—and with Bong Mountain as a captive backing band, he saw an opportunity to don his ski mask and wield his racket abroad. According to the Australian booker, though, the Eradicator would face a couple problems. One, no one in Australia cares about squash. And two, the Kids in the Hall were never a thing there. “I think the video coming out for ‘I’m a Squash Man’ was a huge help,” Slania says. “Even if they don’t understand the sketch, they still think it’s entertaining. Obviously the majority of people don’t get it, but even a small crowd will see it and be like, ‘Oh, I wasn’t expecting to see this tonight. What the hell is it?'”
Slania lets loose onstage, committing completely to the Eradicator persona—because if you’re going to do a character that most people won’t even recognize as a character, you might as well play up the absurdity. He always plays in costume, and he’s worked at injecting banter from the sketch into his set, which he says has become easier with the release of the full-length. The last couplet from “Eradicator Out,” for instance, is “Don’t try to follow me / I have a cab waiting,” a line taken directly from the sketch. Slania likes to close his set with it, before climbing down from the stage and running out the front door to “get a cab.”
No matter how little his audience might understand, Slania gets a kick out of embellishing the character’s story onstage. But that’s not to say no one is in on the joke.
“I played at the Fest in Gainesville in October, and there was a guy who showed up in a ski mask,” Slania remembers. “I was contacted by someone from the squash Reddit who wanted to know if I was an actual ‘squash man’ or just a Kids in the Hall fan. Supposedly the producers of SquashTV in Canada were really into my video. The first guy that ever bought an Eradicator record at this fest in Milwaukee came up and asked, ‘Is this like a Kids in the Hall thing?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I wrote five songs about the Eradicator sketch and put it on a ten-inch.’ And he’s like, ‘I will take one of those.'”
How long can Slania can keep up the act? “My running joke to myself is that the moment I get sued is the moment it ends.”
The Eradicator play a New Year’s Eve show at Reggie’s Rock Club, opening for the Suicide Machines. Members of Direct Hit—who also play their own set—provide backing-band support.