A Fistful Of Questions With Sara Whizbanger

     Pianist.  Vocalist.  PhD.  Podcaster.  Writer.  Heavy Metal enthusiast!  This edition of Fistful of Questions goes out to Sara Whizbanger.  


What is your full name?


Sara Sutler-Cohen


Do you have any aliases?


Sara Whizbanger


Do you currently or have you ever played any musical instruments?


As a kid, I played multiple instruments. These days, I sing and play piano.


Tell me about one of your first musical memories?


I grew up in a musical household; my dad was in the 1960s psych-rock band Country Joe & The Fish, so my memories run deep. That said, it was probably when I first heard heavy shifts in music. As a kid barely 13, I’d heard Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Ozzy, Scorpions, stuff like that. But these were all later albums from 1980-83, so my first Sabbath record was Mob Rules, my first Scorpions album was Blackout, and the first Priest was Screaming for Vengeance. Then I found the earlier stuff for all these bands and became completely obsessed with music, trying to understand their trajectory of sound. Because I was a child, 12, 13 years old, I didn’t have the cognition to parse that; instead, I felt it to my bones. This was when it sunk in that heavy music was a curative for childhood trauma. From there, I gravitated toward loud and heavy music more and more.


I feel like my identity was fixed in a way because of my family (my older brothers drew me into the East Bay punk/metal scene when I was 9 or 10), so I had to find my place amongst the soundscapes that surrounded me.


Tell me about the genesis of The Whizbanger Show. 

As a teenager, I had designs on being a deejay, but my shyness, fear, and introversion prevented that for many years. I had a lot of false starts! Some pals of mine up in Calgary had been trying to get me to join Metal Nation Radio for years. In 2015, I finally joined. I had no name for the show, but I’d fooled around with Sara Whizbanger as an alias so my students wouldn’t be able to find me. That stuck, and The Whizbanger Show was born! My time at Metal Nation Radio was challenging because I wanted to play underground music, and they wanted me to play (literally) “the heavy hitters.” I took a short break and joined MMH - The Home of Rock Radio, where I deejayed for nearly three years. Then, in April of 2023, I launched independently.


What inspired the name The Whizbanger Show?

I wanted to bring back the old adage, she’s a whizbang! I took it as my name around 2008 on MySpace because my students kept finding me on social media.


Soon after, an acquaintance who’s also the frontperson for one of my favorite death metal bands saw me at a show and said, “Hey, what’s up, Sara Whizbanger!” That memory was always sweet and fun, so I took it as kismet.


If you could insert yourself into any one band what band would it be and why?


I don’t want to insert myself into someone else’s band. First, if it’s a band I love, then the sound would be different. Second, if it’s a band I dislike, wouldn’t that be me on some weird ego trip to improve their sound?


I did perform with my dad last Spring in New York, though, and I loved that. LOVED that. I sang Born Under A Bad Sign and Reconsider Baby. One of my life’s highlights. So yeah, I’d love to perform with my dad more.


Have you ever heard a song and immediately wished you had written it?  If so… What was the song and artist?


Ah, like an enviable set of lyrics? There are some amazing lyricists out there, for sure. I’m a writer, and there are word wizards out there that are so inspiring. Carole King comes to mind. Dorthia Cottrell of Windhand writes gobsmackingly wondrous lyrics. Linda Perry is pretty amazing, too. Patti Smith rates up high as well. I find inspiration in these amazing artists. I’m often prompted to pause the music and go and write.


Do you have any non-metal musical inspirations?


I listen to just about everything. Truly. Lots of outlaw country, rap (I seriously can’t wait for L’il Jon’s Meditation album), pop, old-school ska, Americana, rebel folk, bluegrass, Delta Blues, R&B, and reggae. My voice coach (Disco Mountain Man of Tragedy: The All Metal Tribute to The Bee Gees and Beyond) is having me sing Italian opera these days as a training technique.


There are very few genres of music I dislike. Heavy music has my heart, though.


What band have you witnessed live that has really impressed you with their live show?


So many bands! This is a tough question. Like, almost impossible. Because we just lost him and lost him too soon, I’m going with MC50, who I saw at The Regency Ballroom in San Francisco in 2018. Without Rob Tyner, we didn’t know what to expect. Then, out came this giant I’d never seen before! This was Zen Guerilla’s Marcus Durant, and to say he “did justice” would be the understatement of the century. He even had this Tyner sensibility about him. That was one of the best shows we’d ever seen, and I feel so deeply grateful to have seen Wayne Kramer and The MC5(0).


Do you have a favorite venue to see bands play at?


I like smaller venues. Some of my favorites are gone, but these days, I’d say The Cornerstone Berkeley rises to the top as one of the best venues to see shows. I love The Regency (San Francisco), but prefunk at Bar 101 first. The Regency is famous for overpriced drinks. Oh, The Independent is bar-none. I’ve seen so many shows there. Also Bottom of The Hill and The Fillmore. Both of those venues were the last places I saw shows before lockdown. Church of Misery at BoH and Patti Smith at The Fillmore.


Do you have a pre-show ritual?


Yes. Two Alleve, a good meal, and a cup of coffee.


What’s the weirdest experience you’ve had at a live show?


Isn’t every show weird in its own way? I’d say narrowly avoiding Toby Rage’s Chuck Taylor on my head at Ruthie’s Inn shows or Paul Baloff running into the girls’ bathroom also at Ruthie’s Inn to terrorize us by bursting open the stall doors and screaming. But with hilarity and love. Always.


The year is 2005.  Where are you at and what are you listening to? 


Living in Portland, OR, finishing my Ph.D., so probably music that would have been therapeutic for me then. Bad Brains, Lunachicks, Poison Idea…


(Interviewer’s note…  I saw the Lunachicks at Trees in Dallas around 1996.. I’ve never once heard anybody else mention them) 


What advice would you give young musicians that are just starting out in the music business?

Be kind, be patient, and find your tribe. Listen to a lot of other bands. Create with other artists. Surround yourself with people who want you to do well. Study stoicism. Be kind to yourself and turn your negative self-talk into curious questions instead. Find love in what you do. Expect little but maintain high standards.


What is an absolute band killer?




If you were to start your own music festival, what would be the name of that festival and who would be the three headlining bands?


I’ve already done this! 2015 Legion of Steel Metalfest and Conference at 924 Gilman.

Here’s the link:


But my fantasy festival is Wizard Fest. I did two wizard-themed shows and want to put on a festival. Get at me if you’re down. Let’s do this. The Whizbanger Wizard Fest has a nice ring to it. Headliners…hmm…Gorilla Wizard, Bog Wizard, and The Wizard. If Mark Greening ever takes over Electric Wizard, maybe.


Links to the shows: 

193. The Wizard Episode Part 1: The Bands September 8, 2023

195. The Wizard Episode Part 2: The Tracks September 22, 2023


What’s the longest time you’ve gone without bathing?


Probably two days. It was torture.


What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?


I’m an academic administrator and have been a sociology professor for nearly twenty years.


Is the Fistful of DOOM show in the top 10 of your favorite music podcasts?

Totally on my radar, and I have no idea how you people keep your shows so short. 


Do unicorns sleep standing up?


Yes! And they do so with other unicorns.


Give me three albums that I should listen to immediately, if not sooner.


Sully - The Tony Demo


Cultura Tres - Camino de Brujos


Hexenghül - s/t



You’re driving cross-country and you can only listen to one album the whole time.  What album will it be?


This happened. I listened to Hate Them for three days without realizing it. And it’s not even my favorite Darkthrone album. My kid likes to tease me about this.

Also, Stained Class.


You are writing a book about your life thus far.  What is the title of that book?


Also have been doing this. I have three memoir pieces published. I don’t have a title. Here are the publications if you feel like including them.

sara sutler-cohen - Memoir Magazine

Honestly, I think the reason I have published these excerpts is that I can’t think linearly. Maybe a title would be The Nonlinear Exploits of … yeah, never mind. See what I mean?


What role did your dad have in Country Joe and the Fish?


Keys! David Cohen. He was also in the legendary Blues Project.



What is your favorite song by Taylor Swift?


Is this like a CAPTCHA?


Do you have a Roller Derby name?

I did! Bomb Scott #R.I.P. 2/19/81




Slipknot or Rammstein (if you had to choose)?


No, thank you.


Doobies or Boobies (if you had to pick one)?


Boobies. But I’d pick two.


Waffles or Pancakes (if you had to pick one)?




Star Wars or Star Trek (if you had to choose)?


Star Trek forever. I used to teach a sociology course based on Star Trek. Happy to share the syllabus with anyone interested. Also, I have been considering getting NCC-1701 tattooed on my knuckles for about thirty years.


Favorite band t-shirt you own?


Midnight, 2017 tour. It’s a good fit and has baby blue in it. It’s a jersey. The best kind of band shirt.


Favorite meal?


Anything from Souley Vegan in Oakland.


Favorite book?


The Puttermesser Papers by Cynthia Ozick


Favorite movie?


Horror: The Shining

Comedy: Office Space

Cult: Desperate Living

Sci-Fi: All the new Star Trek flicks.

Revenge: Old Boy (original Korean film)

Drama: Terms of Endearment

Favorite album?


Stained Class


Favorite video game?


Sonic the Hedgehog (used to play with my kiddo)


Favorite Professional Wrestler?


She: Chyna

He: Rowdy Roddy Piper

Duo: British Bulldogs


     Massive thanks to Sara for this wildly entertaining and thoughtful interview.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I love reading answers and realizing how much I’d love to hang out with the person answering said questions.  You lot should click on the link so generously provided below and check out The Whizbanger Show. 


~El Pedo Caliente (aka Uncle Jameson from the Fistful of DOOM show)