Three Great Things: Screaming Females

The punk band loves to nap, and also to be awake.

Three Great Things is our series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. In this installment, Screaming Females split the assignment up, each offering one thing they love.
— Josh Modell, Talkhouse Executive Editor

1. Nap Time

When Screaming Females first began to tour, I thought that taking a nap in the van was one of the most egregious disservices I could supply my travel companions. I figured that being entirely present at all hours of the day was my duty, but I quickly learned something I hadn’t known up until then: I am an incredibly sleepy person. Up until we began to travel regularly, I was very much a creature of habit and seemed to thrive under the constraints of a daily routine. I have always been a fan of bedtime, but had not yet earned my robust reputation for napping. I tried my best to stay awake, but the gentle lull of our van combined with my new late bedtime routine made it difficult. I gave energy drinks a stab, I gave gas station coffee a try, but I eventually had to give in to what is now my most honest and pure pleasure: nap time. 

Obviously, nap time is not for everyone, and I know many fine folks who dislike nap time. I find nap time to be a delight. Nap time is better than a cup of coffee. Nap time generates the illusion of time travel! Nap time gently reboots my brain. Nap time provided me with a clearer mind, probably a more tolerable temperament, and a wonderful little boost of energy. I often feel a great deal of guilt for my penchant for naps, but as I grow older and begin to accept and value my most innocuous proclivity, I am proud to say: My name is Marissa Paternoster and I really, really, really need to take a nap.

—Marissa Paternoster

2. Being Awake

Being awake is great because I constantly have things that I want to accomplish, and if I’m asleep, I can’t accomplish them. There are so many thoughts to think, so many feelings to feel, and I have an easier time feeling them when I’m awake. Like, for instance, I felt anxiety about writing this paragraph. The thought of someone reading it made me feel afraid, but if I had gone to sleep and ignored my anxieties, when I woke up, I would have woken up to feel more anxious. Instead, I stayed awake and I wrote this shit and I feel good, because I got it done and now I can move on to thinking about other things, like guitar riffs and old movies. Nothing against the nappers, but basically, all of the things that I like doing require being awake.

—Michael Abbate

3. UK Breakbeat Hardcore

On March 17, 2019, during a monthlong Screaming Females European tour, we had the rare occasion of a day off. Since this singular day without a show was on a Sunday in Berlin, it seemed mandatory that I finally go explore the city’s infamous nightlife rave scene. After conferring with a few locals, I was soon following a group of primarily new acquaintances on and off trains around the city in search of a techno party run by the queer activist collective Room 4 Resistance. After a few wrong turns through various warehouses we received the obligatory Berlin stickers-over-the-phone-camera (standard practice at Berlin nightclubs, seemingly to prevent unwanted images from spreading across the ‘net) and entered a space that I can only describe as exactly what you would think a queer Berlin rave would look like.

The party progressed late into the night with laser projectionists, experimental queer cinema, and a lineup of DJs playing endless hours of obscure minimal techno and trance. I was having a blast while simultaneously not able to recognize a single song that was played. Around 4 AM the headlining DJ, Mama Snake, went on and the party kicked it up a notch. I made my way to the dance floor and was serendipitously reunited with the few members of my crew still powering through late into the night. Right at that moment I realized that I knew the beat that was slowly fading in as the DJ seamlessly blended the mix into the new track. A frantic breakbeat repeated over and over, each time touching some deep memory that I could not quite pinpoint. After about a minute of this, the beat dropped to make way for the classic synth stabs of The Prodigy’s “No Good (Start the Dance).” The rest of the 500+ attendees seemed to have the realization at the same moment as well. The place absolutely exploded!

When I say that I love old school Prodigy most Americans envision the terrifying image of Keith Flint dancing and writhing in a sewer repeatedly declaring, “I’m a firestarter!” While The Prodigy’s worldwide blockbuster album Fat of the Land contains a number of undeniable bangers, my true love is for the group’s earlier output. Before being beamed into millions of households via MTV, producer Liam Howlett and his crew of dancers and hype men were blowing up the British rave scene with numerous 12” singles and albums worth of UK Breakbeat Hardcore on the XL Recordings label.

In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, British youth became obsessed with the American electronic and dance genres house and techno. With a blatant disregard for genre conventions, young UK producers started creating their own tracks mashing up the diva vocal samples and piano lines of Chicago House with the raw electronic synths of Detroit Techno, haphazardly layering these elements over Hip Hop style breakbeats, while also kicking everything up a solid 10-20 beats per minute. Seemingly overnight British youth traded in Friday night pub brawls for ecstasy-fueled illegal raves packing literally tens of thousands of people into open air fields every weekend. They called it the Second Summer of Love.

I absolutely love this era of UK Breakbeat Hardcore aka Old Skool Rave. The scene would quickly split into the opposing and more famous genres of Happy Hardcore and Drum n Bass. But my passion is for the era when the two genres were one. A track could easily go from a tough-as-hell distorted bass line and heavy breakbeat straight into a riff of cheesy major scale piano chords. It was one of those beautiful moments in time where a bunch of kids disregarded all the rules and created something truly weird, unique, and era-defining.

Intrigued? Check out Smart E’s “Loo’s Control” and Son’z of a Loop Da Loop Era’s “Far Out” for those hands-in-the-air rave piano lines. Both records were released on Suburban Base Records. DJ Edge’s “Compnded” is a bit of a weirder track, smashing seemingly unrelated synth lines and samples up against each other with a four-on-the-floor kick barely holding everything together. Dance Conspiracy’s “Dub War” EP takes the idea of the 12” single and flips it on its head, creating an almost classically composed suite of five intertwined chapters. This record was released by XL Recordings, as is the next one, which is of course The Prodigy’s “No Good (Start the Dance).” And that brings us full circle.

When DJ Mama Snake dropped “No Good” at the height of her Berlin set back in March it was very obviously a tribute to Keith Flint. The Prodigy frontman/dancer had tragically passed away at the age of 49 just a few days before. In 2000, at 19 years of age, I would regularly drive my beat-to-hell Ford Taurus around suburban NJ listening to this very same track wondering what it would be like to hear it DJed at a proper European rave. It was amazing to see the ecstatic reaction to a song originally released 25 years ago! Mourning the dead is never easy, especially someone you’ve never met. While The Prodigy’s Music for the Jilted Generation is one of my all-time favorite albums, my initial reaction to the news of Keith’s suicide was muted. It was something I thought about while driving through Europe last March but could come to no real conclusion as to how it made me feel. Somehow fate had brought me here, dancing with reckless abandon at 4:30 AM along with a crowd of sweaty partygoers celebrating Keith’s unmistakable mark on the world of techno. There seemed no better way to honor him.

—Jarrett Dougherty

Formed in New Brunswick, NJ in 2005, Screaming Females are Marissa Paternoster (guitar, vox), Mike Abbate (bass), and Jarrett Dougherty (drums). Over six albums and more than a decade of music making, the band has remained deeply individual and steadfastly DIY. They have also grown into one of the most dynamic and devastating touring bands going today.