Here’s the basic timeline: When legendary D.C. hardcore band Scream broke up in Los Angeles in 1990, founding guitarist Franz Stahl and his brother Peter stayed out west and formed the group Wool. Scream’s drummer, Dave Grohl, went off to join Nirvana. Then, in 1997, Stahl got a call from Grohl, asking him to join his ascendant new band, Foo Fighters. Two years later, Grohl asked Stahl to leave the band, citing creative differences. That was 1999.
In 2009, the Stahl brothers reunited Scream, (in its original, sans-Grohl line-up), at Washington’s Black Cat. Just recently — and with Grohl’s production help in the studio — the band recorded a new album scheduled for release on Side One Dummy Records later this summer. And on Friday, Scream returns to the Black Cat for a second much-anticipated homecoming gig.
But where was Franz Stahl during the decade between Foo Fighters and the reunited Scream? Turns out, he was running from fans in the streets of Japan, soundtracking surf films and touring West Virginia in a country band.
Click Track spoke with Stahl on Saturday morning over the phone from a park in Hollywood where he was watching his son’s soccer game.
You went straight from Scream to Wool to Foo Fighters. But what happened after you left the Foo Fighters?
Actually, right before I was in the Foo Fighters… I hooked up with a friend of mine who was producing this Japanese artist. It turns out the drummer who was doing the actually recording was Scott Garrett from Dag Nasty — an old D.C. boy. So I was just hanging around and when it got to the end of the record, they needed a guitar player to go out on the road. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time so I ended up doing a tour with this Japanese rock star, basically, all across Japan…
I was in Tokyo when my brother called me and said, “Hey, Dave might be calling you because I think they might need a guitar player.” So that same day, Dave called me at my hotel and asked me if I wanted to be in the Foo Fighters. Of course, you don’t have to twist my arm. It was crazy. I told him I had to finish my obligation there, which I did. Then I flew directly back to L.A. at the end of the tour, and then from there, flew straight to New York.
I had a day of rehearsal. We went over one song a couple times and then the next day I was on top of Radio City Music Hall as their new guitar player. [Foo Fighters guitarist Pat Smear passed the torch to Stahl during a performance on the marquee of Radio City Music Hall during the MTV VMAs in 1997]. It was such an insane 48 hours.
So during your first performance as a Foo Fighter, you only knew one Foo Fighters song?
Absolutely. And what is little known is that I did my run with the Foo Fighters while this Japanese guy — his name is J. He comes from this band called Lunacy, which are just huge over there — he went and did his solo project. So I went off and did the Foo Fighters and J. went back to his band... Lucky for me, when I got out of Foo Fighters, J.’s band disbanded. He decided to do his solo thing again and he wanted all the original players... So for the next seven years I was touring in Japan.
Are you still in touch with your old Japanese bandmates?
The day of that earthquake I was freaking out. I have a lot of friends over there. The guy that does my tattoo work, he’s over there. But they all seem to be fine. A little freaked out, but everybody made it through. But personally, it was really hard for me. I basically lived there for seven years. I’ve been to Sendai and I know people there. It really had an effect on me and thank God my friends are still there.
Wow. That’s good news. What was it like to go from being in the Foo Fighters to being so popular in Japan?
It was crazier than the Foo Fighters. I don’t know how much you know about Japan, but the fans there are just fanatics... On the first tour, it was total Beatlemania. We were chased down the street all the time! The Japanese, they kind of like to have this mystique about their artists. Out here, we mill around after soundcheck. During the show we talk to people. We hang out. A lot of those guys over there don’t do that. They hide in the dressing room and they like to keep the mystique... Scotty and I being Westerners... We’d go walk around... And there’d be hundreds of kids chasing us down the street. It would be like the running of the bulls.
When did your time in Japan come to an end?
My last show was in 2005... It was such a great time in my life. I immersed myself in the culture. I learned Japanese.
So what were you doing between 2005 and the Scream reunion in 2009?
Basically, what I’m doing now. I have a little studio at home. I was writing and getting involved in licensing my own music, doing little soundscapes, soundtracks for surf films, whatever I could do. Hitting the pavement and hustling. And then two years ago, my brother hooked me up with this country band called Smith and Pyle... We did a tour of West Virginia which was insane. Dude, it was insane! We’d play these little clubs. You think punk rock is hardcore? We’d play these little clubs in West Virginia and it was just hardcore people... like right out of those road house movies... I work in the film industry, as well. I dress sets. I’m a teamster. Out here, it’s all about the hustle and you kind of have to get your hands in everything.
What was the impetus to get Scream back together?
Pete and I had been jamming... and we thought, we oughta get Skeeter and Kent [original Scream members Skeeter Thompson and Kent Stax]. Let’s just do some Scream shows, have some fun. And that’s what it’s been... We all have our lives and our families. We’re not trying to re-start the band or anything. We’re just having fun and recording and doing what we always did. We’re lifers and you can’t really put it down.