SCREAM by Joel Dowling
Interviews

D.C. punk legends SCREAM discuss new album ”D.C. Special”, coming up in 2023 on Dischord Records

Photo by Joel Dowling
After four decades of contributing to local culture of Washington, D.C. and the worldwide punk and alternative rock community, SCREAM are kicking off another decade of mileage with a bang. The band is planning on releasing their highly anticipated new LP on Dischord Records in 2023! Dubbed “D.C.Special”, the new offering features contributions from the members of Nirvana, Fugazi, Bad Religion and some other guest-appearances, and will be detailed in the coming weeks.

To celebrate this unique moment, we’re wrapping up the year with a special interview with founding members Franz Stahl and Skeeter Thompson, who sat down with us to discuss their early days with SCREAM and give you some more details on the new record!

Hey there, guys! Thanks so much for joining us here on IDIOTEQ. Much appreciated! How are you? How’s 2022 been for you so far?

Skeeter Thompson: So far so good. And how has 2022 been to me? Well that’s sort of retaining question please 20-22 has been really full of ups and downs. I don’t want to bring anybody down with mine was yeah it’s been a rough one. Just being honest but God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.

Franz Stahl: 2022 Has been probably the busiest and most prolific for me as a musician, as with the band too and it actually stretched back starting in 2020. We had not done a record in 10 years. D.C. Special STILL not finished and won’t see the light of day till 2023. The lead up and the work still continued in to this year All of this done during all the difficulties that a covid world does provide. It has been frustrating, but wonderful at the same time, as we also got to do a couple shows in Europe with our friends, Soulside and GSVB in Poland this past July. I really did not think these shows were to happen, but to all our delights they did, and it was amazing fun!

”The new SCREAM album” sounds insane and it’s my great pleasure to have this opportunity to discuss it with you. SCREAM formed exactly 40 years ago, so we’re really looking forward to let it mark a truly memorable anniversary for the band. We’ll dive into some of the details of the new offering, but please let us go back to the early 80s to get some proper background on the DC scene back then. Tell us a bit about 21 years old yourself and how you remember that era.

Franz Stahl: Hmm…I was new to the scene! Skeeter turned us on to this new scene he had been witnessing bubbling in downtown D.C… A hardcore punk scene, and in a very small sense. Scream had by then just dwelled in our basement in Northern Virginia playing house parties playing covers and a few originals. We were trying to purge ourselves as a cover band cause we had begun to see these punk bands, kids like us, playing their own music and we wanted to be just that. Through our new friendships in the scene we got some gigs at Woodlawn High School and other places, once we had a set of mainly all originals. At age 21, or whatever.. it certainly was a big deal for me, doing real shows and BEING an actual entity as a band, which obviously culminated, and was solidified with our first recording and full record release, “Still Screaming” on the infamous Dischord Records. We were in it from there on!!

Skeeter Thompson: So if I was to go back to the younger version of myself and try to summarize that whole time period it was such a vibrant experimental and transforming part of my life both good and bad. The music scene was very flourishing. Even there wasn’t a lot of places to play if you didn’t play it was certain format. We tried the earlier format and found ourselves focusing on Originals so then we stepped into a whole different scene of people.

You got to remember we’re actually from Virginia. I lived in both DC and Virginia growing up my dad was from DC my mom was from Virginia. I spent four or five Summers over in Southeast DC in northwest DC. Also have Step Brothers live over there so it was very familiar with DC but not about how Vibrance of Music. Don’t even say the sky was the limit not tested all in every sort of outlet and Muse. In fact I think that was one of the better things that we did in our seeing that we would every now and then throw in some eclectic rock and roll song Buddy Holly Big Bopper. But we could also do the garage stuff anything so it was great fun early days. Also about that time out I was married so I was really had torn between two lives.

SCREAM by ©sal_owen_photo

SCREAM by ©sal_owen_photo

It’s so amazing that you’re doing this with the original lineup. How does it feel to be together again? What energy have you been bringing since getting back to the studio?

Franz Stahl: All the energy in the world was on display at the recording of this new record. It was kinda of a herculean effort on all our parts, and it was a production unlike I’ve ever done, or seen. It first came around in a very un-band like situation, because of covid, we wrote and worked on music remotely and separately as most of the band world had been doing during these covid periods. We only were to pre production the material all together in a rehearsal studio in VA a week prior to actual recording. Our 17 song in 10 day endeavor provided all the energy needed to get it done, and those who thought it was to be a complete disaster fueled it even more. The fact that it was all original, and previous members involved brought much excitement!

Skeeter Thompson: Okay so how does it feel to be back together again? That’s hard to say cuz we’re never really totally broke up. We’ve known each other so long, we always stayed in contact. And you know we recorded a album 2012 and release that on side one dummies so so there! Although it was a years where I was raising my family or trying to raise a family a little Hiatus there but we still stay in contact. I kept getting in and out of trouble myself.

So and I was in another band for a while had bands going back and forth but nothing really just been Hometown Heroes of where I was living at the time. Which was Little Rock Arkansas. So that being said you know we are both with all of us have on different sizes of the country now it’s always good when we get together it’s just like old times same headaches same jokes. Although with a lot more maturity were not as wild and raging as we used to be. Very four very strong-minded men and we definitely never change that. Just a Brotherhood that most people would never really understand. And when we get together it’s like we never miss a step Dale bicker over a little imperfections cuz we’re perfectionist we’re always swing for the fence it’s always intense and we’re always coming with a new riff the energy is always there. It’s like breathing us I believe that’s the way I look at it. Just part of our everyday life.

So so yeah it’s been 30 years since Fumble. Even though that was with a whole another drummer almost another band LOL.. I digress that’s the thing I’m like a dinosaur I’m really overwhelmed by you know the way things are done now thank God we have people who are not overwhelmed such as like Pete and Franz those guys are very knowledgeable. Me I just want to play bass and fight song I want to think about that part of as I save the business I’ll leave that to the to the intellect intellects I’m always like being in the pit get my hands dirty.

”D.C. Special” comes out almost 30 years after ”Fumble” and in terms of releasing new music, tools and media available, it’s obviously a whole different world right now. What were some of the most strikingly different strategies or elements of the game that you’re trying out for this new release?

Skeeter Thompson: Cherry on this question you’re asking how there’s more of a reason to scream now than ever before or something like that? Well yeah it’s pandemics all around earthquakes everybody shouting you know people need to be heard you know Community is being robbed blind. George Floyd, Trevon Martin, Brianna Taylor,Ahmaud Aubrey and the list goes on. Then we have number 45 to just tore a country apart spreading more fear and so it’s happening worldwide now many things that talk about everybody needs to be heard everybody wants to be heard..

Franz Stahl: I would have to say that crowdfunding (Kickstarter) is the most significant tool used this time compared to when we did Fumble. That just didn’t exist back then, or ANY social media platforms, tools etc. This record would not have been made otherwise as we had no label and raised all recording costs through that platform. Every aspect of putting out a record, promoting and even the forms used to pass music back and forth and communicate with band members, and anyone else involved utilized all the technologies…Instagram, Facebook, FaceTime, and we transfer. Technology was THE element comparing this record to the past record, and all past records.

SCREAM by ©sal_owen_photo

SCREAM by ©sal_owen_photo

While raising funds for the recording process, you stated that “There has never been more of a reason to scream than right now’. Tell us a bit more about the lyrical side of ”D.C. Special”. Is there a main theme behind the album, or some topics which are very dear to you personally?

Franz Stahl: Well..with regard to that statement I believe my brother, Pete, was trying to convey all that humanity had been going through during the covid period, and the fact that as we got somewhat closer to normalcy we all were ready to explode!, Scream! and let go all this that had been dormant and isolated for so long, and on top of that what had been going on in the world in all the wrong extremes showing it’s ugly head.

And simply too, all the bands, and music that was just ready to finally Scream it all out, and Play it out all Loud, and live again!!

SCREAM by ©sal_owen_photo

SCREAM by ©sal_owen_photo

The album will feature some exciting contributions from the members of Nirvana, Fugazi and some other guest-appearances. Can you share some names and more details on that?

Skeeter Thompson: Yeah I guess I don’t I think the whole reason behind having all the different artists on The Record you’re asking for to get to this question it’s just to get the vibe that you know we grew up in such a vibrant place and was lucky and that we’re still getting along a lot of these people a lot of scenes people don’t get along. And a lot of people have sort of deletes like attitude but in our scene it doesn’t really come across like that nobody has bad attitude I’m sure they have troubles and good times and bad times when we usually pull together for the they’re greater cause which is music and art politics etc etc

Franz Stahl: You’ve already tipped your hat to a few kind of (laughs)! As well though, we had many involved from the D.C. scene that may not be as familiar to others outside the scene, but yes, we do have our old bandmate, and dear friend Dave Grohl making a appearance , as well as, Joe Lally from Fugazi and Brian Baker of Bad Religion to name a few. The rest shall be divulged in time..

SCREAM by ©sal_owen_photo

SCREAM by ©sal_owen_photo

Tell us about the production process. Did you manage to record the new tracks in Inner Ear Studios? For those not familiar with the legendary place, please give us a quick overview and your perspective on this unique spot.

Franz Stahl: All tracking was done at Inner Ear, and since it was to close soon after our production we were the last band to record there.

Inner Ear is known worldwide in the Punk circles for being the studio, and home, so to speak for Dischord records. The most famous bands being those like Fugazi, Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Rights of Spring. A very daunting list of bands which I cannot name all. It’s important to know the last location of Inner Ear in Shirlington, Va was actually the second location of the studio. The first being at Don’s house in his basement where bands like Minor Threat, SOA, Bad Brains, Scream and others did their FIRST recordings and which put Dischord records, and the Studio on the map. I think what was so unique about both studio locations was those who ran it, recorded and produced the records..Being Don, and Ian! And foremost being a part of this little music making community that never passed judgement on the bands, solely interested in just capturing the bands songs and having all this to them..Us, and not some big corporate record company and all the pitfalls under that. It was genuine, real, and ALL DIY!!

SCREAM by ©sal_owen_photo

SCREAM by ©sal_owen_photo

What were the dynamics of your cooperation with Don Zientara and Ian MacKaye and how satisfied you were with the outcome?

Skeeter Thompson: As for me I can say I leave that to the intellect I know earlier years dealing with Don and those guys that was really intimidated. Just because of lack of knowledge. But they always made me feel comfortable just an extended today I got on their nerves and I had to kick me out of the studio cuz’ I asked him any questions. I wanted to do things out of order when they.. like I said I have no real concept of I had no real concept of recording back then. It’s a whole different monster even now I know but I don’t know. But Don and Ian and Pete, Franz and Kent you’ve always just tried to make me relax in the studio. I tend to overthink things.

Franz Stahl: The Dynamics were pretty much as usual with Don as the head Master while Ian turned the knobs! Don obviously runs the rooms..the setups, the functioning of a Production, but also gives his input in a musical sense. Him and I both played guitars together on certain songs trying to suss things out. He’s a great teacher and mentor to me! Ian was more song involved in many aspects, along with our old friend Joey P, long time sound man for Fugazi. It was quite a group effort on all fronts.

SCREAM by ©sal_owen_photo

SCREAM by ©sal_owen_photo

Music wise, what can we expect from the new album? Were there some newer inspirations that helped you explore some new sounds now incorporated into your new release?

Franz Stahl: I don’t think we explored any new sounds to say as we’ve used much of everything on previous records as well as what we currently did. I did have exact ideas of different instruments I wanted to play for particular songs, and I believe I achieved that. We also incorporated some piano and organ on some tracks, not usual on a Scream record, but have had used in the past over the years.\

Let’s say I had a much longer time to think of these songs, and what to use compared to previous recordings. We all are very pleased with its outcome, though I wish we had another week to track songs.

Skeeter Thompson: Well as far as me and gave a pretty good effort and it’s going to be all over the place very diverse got some reggae song got some hardcore song, politically based song fun songs you know we’re always been sort of all over the place. We never stick to one real genre. And as far as like what I want to do with this I want to regard and start touring again and it’s damn pandemic I would have gone play and get with my people though I’m touching feeling Hangout expression!! I wanted to swing for the fence every time we play. Just went through major surgery on my hand so I’m waiting to test out my new digits.

Ok, so what’s the plan now? What are your next steps for the release and the promotional process, including live shows?

Franz Stahl: What’s next is quite obvious..We’ve had some delays in mixing the record for several reasons, but we are nearing the end now, and we hope to have it all packaged and ready to go by Spring/Summer 2023. Sorry for delay.

Of course we will be playing this record out LIVE in the new year. We will certainly keep you posted and thank for your interest in this interview. Let’s stay in touch!

Awesome!
Lastly, Franz, DYS announced a European tour for Summer of 2020, but it was called off due to COVID-19. Are there plans to run it back?

Franz: DYS on internal hiatus..hahaha! Would love to write some new stuff and play out with those guys, but life keeps getting in the way. Keep you posted on that too!

SCREAM by ©sal_owen_photo

SCREAM by ©sal_owen_photo

D.C. punk legends SCREAM discuss new album ”D.C. Special”, coming up in 2023 on Dischord Records
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