Q&A: Donita Sparks of L7 - Rolling Stone
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Q&A: Donita Sparks of L7

Grunge guitar goddess on her band’s new album, ‘The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum’

Donita Sparks and L7Donita Sparks and L7

L7 perfiorming at Lollapalooza 1994 at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, CA, on August 28th, 1994.

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

Could Donita Sparks be any more rock & roll? She sings and plays guitar for a hard-ass band, L7, a group that eternally lingers in that ultracool level just below actual mass popularity. She lives in Los Angeles, in Silver Lake, which even your mom can tell you is mighty hip. She’s tough (at one show, she chucked a tampon – a tampon that had been in use – at the crowd). But today, soon after the release of L7’s fine new record, The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum, and before a summer tour (with new bassist Gail Greenwood) opening for the Offspring, Sparks is playing hostess at her hillside house. She’s no Martha Stewart – surprise! – but she tries. A radio sets the mood with “Boogie Nights” and “Baby, Come to Me.” Her house is strewn with Sparks debris, but she politely serves room-temperature water from a jug on the table. And she dabbles in decor. Her living room is filled with exotic lamps – a particularly festive one has a blue shade festooned with fringe balls and pictures of Eddie Van Halen. “I made that,” says Sparks proudly.

Pop backing vocals. And I think we pulled it off. I thought it was something we had to shy away from in the past – you know, for the rock aggression thing. But you hear bands like Cheap Trick or the Breeders doing awesome backing vocals, and you get more confidence. So, basically, we ripped off Cheap Trick and the Breeders.

How did the Micro Jammers’ toy guitar end up on “Drama”?

It was out of complete frustration, like, “Fuck it, I can’t play these riffs, let the Micro Jammers do it for $1.99.”

“Off the Wagon” has the chorus, “Off the wagon and on the town.” Today, admitting drunkenness is taboo.

That song came to me one night. And I was thinking at the time, “Shit, some people might not like this.” But it’s not really advocating drinking. It’s what I do. And how can you censor yourself like that? Especially when you haven’t struggled over the lyrics – they just came to you, like, channeled.

Gail is fabulous in the band and has a really good time playing. Before she was in Belly, she was in hardcore bands on the East Coast, and I think she’s very happy to be rocking hardcore again.

I like it. It’s freaky to me.

Jennifer Finch, your old bassist, left suddenly. What happened?

She left [when we were] in the studio. We were talking about all the touring we’d have to do on this record, and she just had, I think, a bit of a freakout. She’s toured for years and, at this point, was just over that. So she pulled out. With that time clock a-ticking away and the cost of being in a studio, you can’t sit around and hem and haw over something like that. We had a bass player within a week.

No. I went to see them one night. They were supposed to go on at 10 but got bumped to midnight, and I couldn’t stay.

Sometimes I take that truckers’ speed, the, uh…


Yeah. Or a couple of beers. Sometimes I’ll jump around in the dressing room or break shit – get that adrenalin going. Sometimes sex … with myself.

A Serial Mom anecdote, please.

We had to wear leggings and control-top pantyhose underneath so our bodies would look better, and we all got yeast infections.

Good music, travel-size products, a vibrator and lots of sunglasses, because we look like shit so often that we need to mask ourselves from the fans and from photographs.

Blondie, the Ramones, David Bowie, the B-52’s. Early on, I had Rocky and Sha Na Na.

What was the record that changed your life?

Rocket to Russia, by the Ramones. My older sisters had great musical taste, so I was also exposed to Bowie and Lou Reed and Roxy Music, but with my stupid little friends, I was listening to Boston and crap like that. My sister brought home Rocket to Russia, and everything changed. My hair was green within months.

Oh, gosh. The Mills Brothers, Dean Martin, Buck Owens, Deee-Lite. I don’t even listen to rock much. In a party situation, yeah, but when I’m chilling at the crib, I listen to all different stuff.

Do you collect anything?

I collect Jim Carrey things. I went to the Liar Liar premiere last night. It was awesome. I’m Hinckley for that guy.

You mean like, kill to get his attention?

Yeah. I was close enough to either kiss him or throw something at him at the premiere. I would never – let me say on the record – I would never throw anything at Jim Carrey, except my booty.

Last question: Why do you do it?

Sometimes I think I do it for the abuse. I don’t know. You bust ass, you create stuff, and then you’re just throwing it out there for people to spew their opinions about. It’s really masochistic. Maybe that’s the appeal. I went to a costume party the other night that was a superhero theme party, and I was Super Doormat. I wore a welcome mat as a cape on my back. It’s harsh, but I think it’s partially true. I’m a fucking doormat.

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