Archive for Thursday, September 23, 1999


September 23, 1999


If you ask L7 singer Donita Sparks about music festival fare, prepare yourself for a rant.

Life on the road ain't all it's cracked up to be. Canceled gigs, endless bus rides and early-morning interviews are all part of a day's work for the average working band.

Just ask L7's lead screamer-guitarist Donita Sparks, who's currently waking up in another strange hotel room in another strange city:

"Touring has always been a lot of work but a lot of fun at the same time. When I'm at home for a while I can't wait to get on the road, and when I'm on the road for a while I can't wait to get home. So I think I'm just miscontent wherever I am."

Discontent is a way of life for Sparks and company, who have blazed the riot grrrl trail since releasing their self-titled debut in 1988. The Los Angeles foursome became virtually synonymous with the media-fueled grunge movement, finding commercial success and critical acclaim with 1992's "Bricks Are Heavy."

The group quickly became poster children for grunge, playing shows with Nirvana and Pearl Jam, appearing on big-budget soundtracks and high-profile tours.

"I think that a lot of people heard of us through 'Natural Born Killers,'" Sparks said. "It's on cable, it was a huge movie. A lot of people even if they don't know the name L7, they know the song 'Shitlist.' I'm talking about mainstream kind of people.

"Lollapallooza was the same thing. At the time it was a big deal to be playing main stage at Lollapalloza. I don't think our label at the time really seized the moment. It could have been great for us. I don't think it did much for our career, but we had a hell of a good time."

Having recorded for Epitaph, Sub-Pop and Slash, the band now owns its own label, Wax Tadpole, distributed by Bong Load Records (Beck, Elliot Smith). Sparks talked about her newfound position as a mogul.

"We find ourselves in a fortunate position. Because of our success we were able to start our own label with a name that's big enough to do it. ... Now we have the cocaine and the hookers. We own the label, so we have the right to the cocaine and the hookers. It's in the manual."

Owning their own label gave Sparks and bandmate Suzi Gardner the time and space to record an album they were pleased with.

"We collaborate a lot actually and then we'll bring in stuff on our own, too," Sparks said, referring to the band's writing habits. "We have to make it like a job sometimes. We're not the kind of people who wake up in the morning and start playing guitar with our morning cup of joe. So we have to force ourselves to write."

L7 is currently on the road again to promote its seventh release, "Slap-Happy." The group kicked things off by opening for goth-kings Ministry on a string of dates and now headlines a cross-country club tour.

"The Ministry thing was really plush compared to what we're doing now," Sparks said. "But it's good to have a little of both worlds sometimes."

While touring the band received nationwide publicity for a set of bi-coastal pranks. During a Lilith Fair stop in Pasadena, Calif., the group had an airplane fly over the crowd bearing a banner reading: "Tired? Bored? Try L7." The following day, at a Warped Tour concert in Asbury Park, N.J., the banner read: "Warped needs more (derogatory term for female anatomy). Love L7."

Sparks explained: "It's our war on mediocrity. Lilith Fair was pissed off and the Warped Tour laughed but agreed."

Sparks was outspoken about the implications of Lilith Fair for women artists who don't fit the mainstream mold.

"We've never done Lilith Fair nor would we ever want to. I think it's really narrow and boring. ... They have this real hippie goddess crap going on in their advertising that's really nerd. ...

"I think they're liars if they say 'A Celebration of Women in Music' and it's only middle-of-the road women in music. Where are the blues artists? Where's (expletive) Etta James? Where's some noise artists? Where's Atari Teenage Riot? Don't (expletive) say it's a celebration of women in music, when actually it's a celebration of middle-of-the road women who are on the radio, who have a lot of (expletive) airplay. So it's like, 'Yeah, go out and support the women.' Those women are already extremely successful. They're all over the (expletive) radio.

"People want to support women in music and there's nothing wrong with that, but they're supporting women who are very heavily supported already. It's not a full range of what women do in music, and I think that it's sexist. ... They're not singing rock 'n' roll. I'm not saying that rock 'n' roll is better than middle-of-the-road music. I'm just saying that Jewel is not rock 'n' roll in any way, shape or form. There's no (expletive) way she is a woman in rock. ... I don't like it when they call non-edgy people rock 'n' roll. Jewel is the modern-day Perry Como."

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