By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
After major-label success, with all its accompanying hanging out with Kurt, semiregular Rolling Stone mentions of onstage shenanigans, a role in a John Waters movie, appearing on Letterman (who could forget football fogy Art Donovan plopping down with Dave after L7 ripped through "Pretend We’re Dead" and barking, "I haven’t heard such a racket since the Japs were bombing me in World War II"?), L7 are now back to running their own show. Considering the band’s gung-ho attitude, it seems appropriate to keep the first round of questions on the Teen Beat level.WEEKLY:So, how’s the tour? DONITA:Well, we started out with Ministry for the first six dates, and that was really fun and very cush because we were the opening act and there’s not all the pressure of being the headliner. Now we’ve intentionally been playing a lot of small clubs, and [adopting a clenched-jaw Lovey Howell accent] the accommodations have sometimes been subpar. DEE: After we left Ministry, we had to drive 15 hours to get to the next show. We get there and it’s, like, basement dressing rooms with leaks and drips. And this huge cockroach. DONITA:It’s all part of our rock & roll fantasy. WEEKLY:What are your pre-show rituals? DONITA: Suzi drinks coffee and smokes 10 cigarettes to get her voice all primed. DEE: I do a little bit of stretching and drink coffee. WEEKLY:What vices do you only indulge while touring? DEE: A lot of junk food and candy on my part. It’s like a stress reliever or something. SUZI: Taco Bell. WEEKLY:What’s the best thing a fan’s thrown onstage? DONITA: Certainly not the many Birkenstocks that come up at those festivals. SUZI: I recently got a miniature barrel of monkeys with a phone number taped inside. There’s better stage shopping in Europe. DEE: That’s true, ’cause I remember getting a sweater thrown up, and it was this really cool cashmere green meshed with silver, and it was really unusual. It fit me perfectly, and I wore it for years. DONITA:We get bras, panties. WEEKLY:What do you like to imagine your fans are doing when they listen to your albums? DONITA: Masturbating. This acquaintance of mine said she and her boyfriend had sex to "Lorenza, Giada, Allesandra," and that she came at the very end of it when it slows down and it’s going, "I love you I love you I love you" . . . I can’t imagine fucking to our own music; the thought is a complete cum-blocker. SUZI: I always hope that people are listening to us stuck in traffic on the way to work and hopefully getting out some of their anxieties. And I hope they’re partying on Friday and Saturday nights, cranking it.
Suzi Gardner is the soft-spoken member of the group, and when she’s on a roll, her mates provide her with space. When asked if she’d be an L7 fan if she wasn’t in the band, she thoughtfully considers the question like it’s not even absurd.
SUZI:There’s a lack of just rock going on, a lack of regular rock & roll bands, and I would have to be an L7 fan. A kid told me last night that he was grateful to us because there aren’t that many bands for him to listen to.DONITA: There’s really hard rock, but it’s got a lack of melody. SUZI: There’s a lack of hook-iness going on. Where’s the damn chorus? is what I’m always saying. WEEKLY:Any good partying stories? DONITA: We recently fired our manager, and we have our own record label, and it’s been work, work, work on this tour. WEEKLY:When you’re performing, do you differentiate between getting yourself off and getting the crowd off? DONITA: Well, I’ll tell you, our last two shows — in Philly and Connecticut — were complete duds. The crowd was just not happening, and I wasn’t even putting it back. I like to be energetic onstage, but if the crowd’s not going off and you’re moving around like that, it becomes a pose, and then I can’t do it anymore.
Everyone agrees that Floyd’s to blame.
The Serious Part
The history of L7 reads like the fable of a billion other bands: Donita Sparks comes to Hollywood from Illinois, gets a job at a local alternative rag (this one, where Suzi Gardner also once worked). Sparks joins a few bands, including the Shrews, who are remembered by about seven people as having sucked. Gardner plays with the Debbies. Sparks, recalled fondly as a Weekly art-department prankster, could also make co-workers cry ("She was like the mean girl on the school playground," recalls one). The two met and joined forces in 1985, hooked up with bassist Jennifer Finch and, after their Brett Gurewitz–produced debut, with drummer Roy Koutsky, found their "goddess of thunder" in Dee Plakas.
In 1988, there weren’t many chick hard-rockers. Locally, X, Alice Bag and the Go-Go’s had already made their marks. But L7 was too melodic and too married to the riffage of Motorhead and AC/DC to be part of the punk scene. If you were lucky enough to squeeze into Raji’s for an L7 show and remember hearing "Shove" played at arena decibels, you remember fiercely unifying, cathartic exercises in maximus minimus rockus.