Sunday, September 4, 2011

Scream: Still rocking out, making new music, delivering insightful lyrics

Pete Stahl -- still screaming -- at Seattle's Funhouse. (All Andy photos)
By Andy

Brothers will be brothers.

At last Friday night's Scream gig at the Funhouse in Seattle, singer Pete Stahl grinned at his brother, Franz, and then joked with the crowd that it was OK for him to tell the guitarist to move his box of pedals off to one side so he could freely -- and maniacally -- bounce around the stage. After all, they're family, and that's part of the deal.

Drummer Kent Stax smiled from behind his kit. Earlier in the evening while relaxing outside on the Funhouse patio, he noted that the Stahl brothers have a crucial bond that gives the band a boost alongside the solid rhythm section of Stax and bassist Skeeter Thompson.

Drummer Kent Stax.

The foursome, which formed the equal-parts-punk-and-rock-band about 30 years ago in Washington, DC, is still hammering it out today and recently released the seven-song "Complete Control Recording Sessions" on Side One Dummy Records.

Although the Stahls live in Los Angeles and Stax and Thompson still reside in DC, they save time in their lives to make the bi-coastal Scream Team thing work with occasional trips across the US for recording sessions and gigs.

"It's always gonna be good to see them-- I enjoy the shit out of it," Stax said. "We'll always be friends. We all get along ... it works -- the chemistry."

Franz Stahl.

Franz says that he and Pete grew up in a music-oriented family -- their dad managed a DC rock band in the '60s -- and have always played music together, whether it be in Scream, Wool or wherever else the tunes take them.

"I don't think about it too much, it seems like it's always there," he said of the brothers-in-rock dynamic. "It can be really heady sometimes with my brother. Our relationship is a lot different than with the other guys. The other guys are your wives -- your brother is your brother."

Today, the band is clicking, good times abound and it makes sense that they're still doing Scream together, Franz added with a smile while taking a drag off his cigarette as punks shot baskets on the outdoor Funhouse hoop.

"There's no pressure -- we get up there and rock out. It's great. It's like it's 1985 all over again... but with a gut! But not me," he noted about having the trimmest waistline in Scream.

Skeeter Thompson.

As Pete set up the band's merch table and Thompson cruised around the venue striking up conversations with folks, Franz and Stax were Scream spokesmen for the evening and discussed everything from the new songs, recording in old drummer Dave Grohl's studio in LA and how the band's early lyrics from the "Still Screaming" album still strike a chord in today's world.

On songs like "Your Wars/Killer," "Bedlam," "Fight/American Justice" and "U Suck A/We're Fed Up," the band "railed" against the Reagan administration, Franz said.

"Back in the day, we were writing about the destruction of the Republican Party, but the lyrics apply even more so now," he added. "And I told Pete that we've seen the consequences of this and that and to say something about it."

Pete included a political reference in the new song "Stopwatch," while the remainder of the song goes the personal route, a place where Scream has visited countless times in its songbook over the years.

"I'm the riff master, the songwriter," Franz said. "(Pete) writes about what's going on around him." (Franz contributes lyrics, too, and Pete has been known to wield a mean guitar, so it's a family affair all across the board.)

Stax especially likes the message going on in the new song "Elevate": "Just the idea of a more positive elevation in your mind. It's a very truthful song, as well. But I'm just as happy playing all of them."

The Stahls sing it together.

This latest round of Scream activity began with a reunion gig on Dec. 20, 2009 at the Black Cat in DC; the band previously existed from 1981-'90 and later toured with Grohl for a bit in 1996.

Franz -- who joined Grohl in the Foo Fighters for two years in the late '90s -- said that playing and recording with his Scream family is hard to beat. He added that "Complete Control" sold out its initial pre-sale run of 800 on 10-inch red vinyl (with an insert featuring a download code) , has been repressed and is getting positive reviews.

"Getting on stage is something that I've been doing my whole life. It's like second nature," he said. "We're not trying to re-do Scream from like 20 years ago. We wanted to play again, but we didn't want to go out without some new music.

"We're not under any illusions that we're gonna put out a record and be this 'thing,'" he added about shaking up the pop charts. "It's just great to have the music out there."

(Cat and Andy: This was our first time seeing Scream -- we missed them by one day in May at the Black Cat, where we enjoyed a beer at the club during our DC trip. We would have stayed, but we had already committed to attending the Death Fest in Baltimore to see friends Corrosion of Conformity. Pete's other band, Goatsnake, was originally scheduled to play the fest, but canceled.

Over the years, we've seen Wool and Goatsnake several times, so it was great to finally see the Scream Team in action.)

Pete Stahl, one happy man.

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