Few bands have had the same sort of impact as Scream did. They were, and are, a ferocious, energy driven Hardcore behemoth who weren’t afraid to embrace rock’n’roll and melody and every single one of their albums was rammed full of anthemic sing-a-longs. And live they were, and are, a life changing force of nature. So when Southern Lord announced that they were re-issuing No More Censorship, we made it our mission to speak to Scream and on the eve of the records release, we finally caught up with singer Pete Stahl to chat about about NMC 17, the DC scene, their origins, punk rock and more. And this is what he had to say…
Interview by Tom Chapman & Tim Cundle
MM: So, what was the impetus for originally putting the band together? Why did Scream reform? And are you guys now a full time band again?
Pete: First off thank you for your interest in our band. I don’t really like to refer to it as reforming because we have been playing together off and on for 40 years now, since high school. We are brothers and family and like any family as you may know you lose touch sometimes, might even live in the same town and not see each other. In the early 90’s while on a US tour. Skeeter left the tour to deal with family issues at home. Franz, Dave and I looked for another bassist to finish the tour but then Dave was invited to play with Nirvana. Franz and I decided to stay in LA and we started another band called Wool. When Dave had a break after Nevermind we got back together and did a tour, then we went back to our bands and our lives…Every now and then Scream would play Xmas shows back home in Washington DC with Kent on drums. In 2010 we had an opportunity to record a new record “Complete Control” released on Side One Dummy. After that we began to play more regularly here in the US and abroad. A few shows a year…The why and the impetus was the new music we create and the brotherhood we share as a touring tribe. It’s as simple as playing. Punk rock is fun!
MM: Let’s talk about No More Censorship… What’s different about the record this time around? How does the re-issue differ from the original release? Is this just the beginning? Do you plan on re-releasing the rest of Scream’s back catalogue?
Pete: Would love to release more! We have another record we were working on that I recently found. It was recorded after we recorded Fumble, our last record on Dischord. I can’t find the masters and no one knows where they are. As far as what’s different about this release of No More Censorship , NMC17…It’s the sound. It’s the 606 Sound City board. It’s John Lousteau and his team. It’s Franz Stahl and all of them combining to re-ignite the sound. It sounds great!! I was blasting it in my truck today. The packaging is different too. I’m very happy with it.
MM: What are your personal highlights on No More Censorship? And what do you remember about writing and recording the record? ….
Pete: We built a sick drum riser in the studio and mic’d it all up. We did a lot of experimenting and pushed ourselves to our limits. Those are the highlights. We recorded the record for and at a studio famous for Reggae music in Washington DC, Ras Records at Lion and Fox studios. I remember the artist Eek-A-Mouse stopping by with the largest sack of weed we had ever seen!!!
MM: Even though you guys were from Virginia, you soon became an integral part of the DC scene. What was that it like to be part of such a vibrant scene when it was just starting to find its feet and its own identity, and how did, and did you feel about being part of a scene that would go on to become synonymous with punk rock and hardcore, and famous, the world over?
Pete: Well yes, we’re from Virginia but Arlington/BXR is a suburb of DC and if you’re from there and someone asks you where you’re from, you say DC. It was a small scene and we were inspired and influenced by the local new wave, punk and rock’n’roll scenes spearhead by bands like Root Boy Slim, Urban Verbs Penetrators, Dceats, ,Slickee Boys, The Razz, Teen Idols, Bad Brains and so many others. Finally we established ourselves among them with our own thing; that was the first goal. I still feel like DC music doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. But that’s okay, in the end it’s something that bonds us.
MM: And back in the “heyday” of DC Hardcore you were around at the same time as so many legendary bands. Were there any of those bands that you bonded with in particular? If, at the time, you would have done a split LP with one of your peers – can you pick a band you would like to have done that with?
Pete: Bad Brains gave us our first hall show in DC at the Wilson Center and our first NYC show at CBGB in 1982. We did record for a compilation they were putting together, but it was never released. If I was to dream of who to do a split record with it would have been Fugazi. It would have been fun to do a split that was actually a collaborative effort where we created and played together.
MM: As with many bands your sound slowed down, became more melodic, more “rock”. Was there ever a conscious decision to alter the sound or was that a natural progression?
Pete: We actually began playing slower mostly cause we didn’t know how to play. In fact we had a whole series of songs —the first that we wrote that were not Hardcore inspired, more garagey in a way. Once we saw the Bad Brains and Motorhead we started playing faster, we morphed, but our foundation was always melody and 60’s and 70’s rock.
MM: You moved away from Dischord records – was that a difficult decision to make? Did you get any flak for doing so
Pete: No, in fact we were encouraged to look at other labels by Ian at Dischord. We did a lot of touring and were different than other Dischord bands in the sense most would record a record and break up and go to school or their separate ways. We were on a different path and looked beyond for what we could do. Dischord’s focus has always been releasing new music by DC bands. We were always criticized for being too rock…And we still are.
MM: Can you remember much about touring Europe back then? Were you playing a lot of squats and that kind of place? Any standout memories (fond or not so fond)?
Pete: Best times of our lives. Yes, we played many squats and collectives. A fond memory is playing the Emma in Amsterdam and walking outside and seeing thousands of bikes parked out front. It was a magical experience. Skeeter was stuck in London and we had to wing the show without him.
MM: After Scream you formed Wool – did you see that as a natural evolution of the Scream sound or was it something of a departure…
Pete: Definitely a natural evolution for me.. After all we were dooing the same thing with a different crew of great musicians, but with my brother as riffmeister and me on melody of course it was gonna be in the same vein…
MM: I remember Wool was supposed to play the UK (in fact my band at the time was booked to support you at the Duchess of York in Leeds) but that show (and tour?) never happened – can you remember why?
Pete: No iIm sorry about that. I seem to recall playing there. I do remember playing Adam and Eves in Leeds and the crazy metal bar that fronted the stage. Did we replace the show you mention with that???
MM: What other musical projects have you guys been involved in after Scream folded (I’ve mentioned Wool, there was Goatsnake of course and there was a band called Nirvana and an outfit called the Foo Fighters….)…
Pete: I have a band called earthlings? which bridged out of WOOL before Goatsnake. We are still here and in fact I’m going out to the Rancho de La Luna in Joshua Tree to record this weekend. Also, I was in a band that did two albums called Orquesta Del Desierto. Kent plays in The Suspects and other DC outfits, Skeeter plays in Soylent Green and my brother Franz plays with DYS. Also don’t forget Dave had a band called Them Crooked Vultures as well.
MM: Speaking of Nirvana – were you guys involved in the grunge world at all?
Pete: Wool was certainly associated with that scene…it was that era and we played with a lot of those bands. But, with Scream and our relationship to Hardcore i don’t think we can be pigeonholed in that cubbyhole.
MM: Do you think that Hardcore and Punk rock are as political and as rooted in a desire to change the world today as they were back in the eighties? And do you think that the current political and social climate is similar to that of the nineteen eighties?
Pete: No I don’t. We’re in different times. I feel far from the eighties and I think for that generation music meant far more .Images drive creativity and thought today, much more so than music does. In the eighties there was a wave of conservatism that circled the globe from Regan and Thatcher and though it feels like sometimes we are taking steps forward with progressive voices we then fall back to what we are facing now. The power of Global corporations does not have society’s best interest in mind. It’s a machine. New Social Media platforms give us the opportunity to rally mass movements for change but also leave us wide open for manipulation. It’s about moving forward with eyes open.
MM: And do you think that creativity is increased, shaped and focussed by periods of great political and social upheaval and change? Why?
Pete: Yes of course. I think all art and music is a reaction to our social and political environments. In intense times the repressive energy can propel and inspire action…
MM: Any there ant plans to write and record a new Scream record, and if so, what, if anything, can you tell us about it…?
Pete: We have been dreaming of recording and make plans but they fall apart. My brother and I live on the west coast and Skeeter and Kent on the east coast. We do have a batch of songs we have been working on. Maybe at the end of this year we can make it happen.
MM: If there’s anything that you’d like to add, speak now or forever hold your peace…
Pete: I’ll hold on to Peace every time!
NMC ’17 is out now. Order it here