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Deborah Harry Talks To L7
Debbie does L7
by: Deborah Harry

I've wanted to meet L7 for a long time. When I first heard of them, I thought that their visuals and all the innuendoes coinciding with their name were really clever. Then there was this pro- choice rally in Washington, but L7 weren't invited. It was sort of "more legitimate" music and film people and politics and stuff like that. They asked me to get them in, and I couldn't do it. So then the next time I almost met them was at their gig in Hoboken, New Jersey. It was a really crazy crowded room, and I didn't force my way back. Finally, we got to talk on the phone, this is a result of that.

DEBBIE: I Hear voices. . .
JENNIFER FINCH: Debbie, I guess what we'll do is introduce ourselves, and then you can sort of figure out if you can recognize each of our voices. I'm Jennifer and I play bass for L7.
DEE PLAKAS: I'm Dee and I play the drums.
SUZI GARDNER: I'm Suzi, I play guitar.
JF: Donita is not here yet, she's being fashionably late. She'll be here soon, I'm sure. We've been plagued with car problems lately, so I'm sure that's what's going on. You know living in LA and all.

DH: [ sings ] 'Oh, whoa, whoa'. . .yeah, I know LA. You must be having a better day than I'm having.
JF: Why? What's up?

DH: It's just gray, gray, gray, here. Very gray.
JF: It's beautiful and sunny here and we all have our bikinis on and we're going to go surfing after the interview.

DH: I thought you were busy, hard-working girls.
JF: We're working right now. This is work. Isn't it great? I went with you and [ artist ] Robert Williams to go see Iggy Pop a couple of years ago. Do you remember me?

DH: That was at the Palladium?
JF: Yeah.
DH: I saw Robert recently.
JF: Do you own that painting he did of you?
DH: Yeah.
JF: How is it? Did you find room for it? It was pretty big.

DH: Chris [ Stein ] has it at his house. It's too big. It's ridiculous. Wallpaper by Robert. Maybe he should go into wallpaper. Do you have anything from him?
JF: No, I tried to get on the list but I don't have any money.

DH: You should have gotten some money by now.
JF: No, not really. Well, we've gotten lots of publicity, but as they would say in the record business, "It's not translating into record sales."

DH:So you're in the studio now making a new record?
SG: We're a few weeks away from the studio.

DH: So you're writing stuff?
SG: Writing and rehearsing
JF: We seem to end up going to rehearsal and
DP: reminiscing about the good old battle days
JF: and gossiping and stuff.

DH: I did go to see you in Hoboken, you know.
JF: Did you sweat a lot?

DH: It was a very sweaty night, yeah. It was like lurking in some large crypt. Also, I wanted to apologize about the abortion thing in Washington. You know, the march? Sorry that I didn't get you backstage. I didn't have much control over that situation.
JF: Don't worry about it.
DP: Yeah, we enjoyed watching you that day.
JF: Did you see us? We were pulling an obsessed fan situation on you. We were sitting there yelling, "Debbie! Debbie! Over Here!"
DP: We were certain that you blew us kisses during "French Kissing in the USA."
SG: I was moved to tears during the performance. it was real touching. That was awesome.

DH: It was wild.. So I've been looking over your press kit that they sent me and. . .
JF: All lies!

DH: Good! It says here that you don't really want to be so political, yet you really are very political. So what are you gonna do about it?
JF: Well, we don't consider ourselves a political band, but we have political sides. I mean, we consider ourselves concerned citizens just as much as anyone can be concerned, but because we have popularity, we're using that to our advantage to express our opinions and encouraging other people to express their opinions. Really, that's just what it's about. i mean, we have songs that are political, but we also have songs that are just party rock songs or about kicking your boyfriend out of the house or whatever.

DH: I think even if you have songs like that it becomes political because you're female. Everything that you do becomes political.
JF: I think that's unfortunate, because I don't think it's that everything we do becomes political, I think everything we do is made to become political by other people.

DH: Exactly. How can we change this?
JF: I think that it is slowly changing. It's nothing that's going to happen overnight.

DH: It's really sickening, it's boring. Why shouldn't we just be able to be talented and interesting people? Eh?
JF: Yeah, we're in total agreement. Hey, Donita [ Sparks } just got here.
DS: Hi, Debbie! How are you doing? Sorry I'm late. I'm sure these guys have already told you, but I think we all had posters of you in our rooms growing up.
SG: I have a story. I won a radio promotion for a look alike contest for you. I came in second place, and won your album and tickets to your show in Northern California.

DH: Oh, did we ever get to meet?
SG: No, but I could have sworn you were looking at me from the stage, thinking, "Get a life! Get your own look!"

DH: And then you did!
DS: So what's your angle on the story?

DH: Oh this? I don't know, because all of the press that they sent me was all about how you're all wild and hard-assed, and you didn't want to be feminist or political. . .
DS: That's not true about the feminist thing.

DH: All of this stuff is so contradictory it doesn't make sense to me. I started thinking about how do you feel within yourselves as a group and how your personalities balance out with each other and why it works between you as a band. What do you think about that?
DS: I think the thing about us is that we work really good as a unit. We see a lot of bands that really don't get along. It's not really anything that we think about. it's just something that happens. Maybe it's just that we've been together so long we couldn't imagine not working together. We've been through so much.
DP: We all have distinct personalities, but on a lot of different issues we're united. We're a unit as L7, but we're not four carbon copies.
DS: And we could not live together like the Monkees. No way!
JF: Also all four of us had very different upbringings.

DH: In what way was that?
JF: Our parents lived in different places.

DH: Were your parents into music? Were you repressed or encouraged? Was it vastly different?
JF: I grew up with just my father and he was always very encouraging of what I wanted to do. I'm glad about that. Although there was always the, "You do this for awhile and then you have something to fall back on." i also grew up in LA. Donita and Dee grew up in Chicago.

DH: So it's two from LA and two from Chicago?
SG: No, I'm from Northern California.
DS: Within our homes, of course, every family has different circumstances. Statistical back ground or what ever, we're all from middle white class suburbia.

DH: All right, well....How do you feel about tropical fish?
SG: I can only raise goldfish. They last along time.
DP: I have bad luck with goldfish. I think I overfed them all of the time. I'd come home from school and they'd all be floating.

DH: So how do you persevere in this rotten, stinking business? Obviously, you're not really die-hard show biz chickies. You have serious things on your mind and you're sort of dedicated to the clandestine aspect of music and expressing some kind of spirit or spirituality or some kind of mental involvement with your life besides making money.
DS: We're serious about having a good time doing this and trying to think things that are maybe sort of different. We did a show in all bald caps one time when we played this violating club called the cathouse in LA, sort of a hair farmer club. So we all wore bald caps that were done very well. We looked like a band of Sinead O' Connor's or something. We do a lot of stuff like that. We're hosting the Rock for Choice show tonight, and we're all going to dress in evening gowns and wear the names of clinics that have been bombed recently, you know, like beauty contestants wear Miss Hawaii or Miss Illinois or whatever. Instead, we'll have Miss Bakersfield Clinic or. . .

DH: Sounds good.
DS: Hey, Debbie, we were at the bra auction last night and yours brought in some of the highest dough!

DH: Well, you know what I was thinking of doing? I was thinking of having my tits removed for the next auction.
JF: Your bra went so fast. Donita and I were going to bid for it and it was like, "Do I hear $30?" And were getting ready to pull our paddles up and it just went, "$30, $40, $50," and right up into the four hundreds.

DH: Wow!
JF: We couldn't even get the attention of the auctioneer.

DH: The best thing about that bra is that I bought it at this place where all the drag queens buy their underwear.
JF: There you go.

DH: Down on 14th St. It's really a fun place to shop. if you come into the city we've got to go over there. It's hysterical.
DS: Excellent. So how's Chris doing?

DH: Chris? He actually has fleas. He's infested. As we speak, he's out to get some bombs to try and get rid of his fleas.
SG: Tell him not to put off too many at once because this woman somewhere in the Midwest set off like a 100 and it burned the whole place down. tell him not to put up more than three at a time.
DS: We're knowledgeable about parasites.

DH: Tell me more.
DS: I got lice on tour that we did with this band called Catbutt. There were two bands in one van, and we were sharing pillows and everything and somehow nobody else got it on tour, except for my boyfriend, who was in Catbutt, and I. That was pretty amazing that nobody else got it.

DH: They might of had 'em and not admitted it.
DS: Crotch crickets, we've had it all.
JF: So since you worked with John Waters [ in Hairspray ] and we worked with John Waters in [ Serial Mom ], lets dish the dirt.

DH: Right. How was working with John Waters for you?
DS: He was awesome!
JF: He was great. He's a people pleaser.
DP: It was a dream come true.

DH: A people pleaser? I've never quite thought of him like that, but I love him. He's the most wonderful guy. I think he's truly unique and he has this formula all his own. He's a black sheep, you know? He told me once that he's from a very distinguished Southern family, sort of an American aristocracy, some kind of birthright or something in there and that he was the black sheep.
DS: I thought he was an only child.

DH: I don't really know that. He seems like a very cultured man, doesn't he?
DS: Yeah, cultured in sleaze, as well. He's a prince.

DH: Yes, he is. So did you get to meet Kathleen Turner?
DP: She was very nice. After we did the film, she sent us gifts of these pink miniature Swiss Army knives. Each of them had imprinted on it, "Thanks. Kathleen Turner." That was really sweet.
DS: We sent her our body lice.
JF: We had to wear control top pantyhose to get into these pants that John wanted us to wear.
DS:We got yeast infections from the control top pantyhose.
SG: 'Cause it was really hot.

DH: Oh, no! Did you get Monostat for free?
DS: Yeah, we had a Teamster go out and get it for us.
JF: A case Gynelotramin
DS: for L7's trailer please. The pants we had to wear were like these beige color spandex pants. We were like, "Oh my God, we need control top really bad!" So first they went out and got us control top and they only went to mid-thigh, so it looked like it was really tight and nice up until mid-thigh and then from your thigh until your knee it was like this bubble of blubber. So then we had to send them out to get extended control top pantyhose. The Teamsters were like, 'What is with this L7 band? First they want control top, then they want extended control top, now they want Gynelotramin! What's next?"

DH: I think fro now on when anything happens to you guys, you could really capitalize on it and make embedments out of them.
DS: What are embedments?

DH: Embedments are these things that they use in science classes, and they also sell them at airports, and usually they have like a rattlesnake head or a scorpion floating in 'em. I think from now on anytime you really want to share with he world, you can make them into embedments and you can sell them at gigs!
DS: Merchandise, merchandise!

DH: So how's Ricki Lake's show?
DP: She's very perky. The subjects are pretty light. She's losing a lot of weight and is dressing very fashionably.
DS: I've seen her show a couple of time on both shows there's been either a marriage or marriage proposal. We need more in-bred marriages topics; I like the topics where the brother marries the sister-in-law's ex-whatever.

DH: There's quite a bit of it in England. and I think in Bulgaria there's a lot.
JF: Judging from those TV shows, there's a lot right here in the United States.
DS: There's a lot right here in this room.

DH: When I was on Loveline [ K-ROQ's advice program ] I was surprised at the dilemma young kids are having with sex. I mean, that sort of shocked me.
DS: Oh, I think they make up those problems just to call up. i heard you on Rodney not to long ago. We've never been on Rodney's show. Can you talk to him about that?

DH: You wanna go on?
DS: He's never invited us!

DH: He's probably afraid of you. But you should definitely go on there. He's a sweetie.
DS: I think he looks like Karen Valentine.

DH: He does, doesn't he? He thinks he looks like Brian Jones.
JF: So, it says here on this list from Ray Gun that 'perhaps the women can talk about the so-called glamour of their professions. Do photo sessions really suck? How do they try to objectify you?" Should we attempt to answer the question?

DH: Good God. No. I just think they should whip into your room around some ungodly hour of the morning with camera and lights and quickly flash you as you open your eyes. Those would be the most interesting pictures and probably the most flattering in the long run.
DS: We prefer when the photographer gets down on his knees and get those double-chin shots. Like up the nostril
JF: with a bugger hanging on your nose hair.
DS: Up-the-nostril, double-chin shots are sort of our favorites.
JF: Not just our favorites, but our speciality.
SG: I think the most glamourous photos are those live shots where you're all kind of greasy looking.
DP: And you're making a wolfman face face or something.
DS: And you can see the control top line.

DH: Do you wear them for your shows?
DS: Of course! Debbie, we have to look fabulous every time we're on stage.

DH: But you do look fabulous in that little silly red silly tutu that I saw you wearing. It was just perfect.
DS: Who are you talking about?

DH: There was some outfit that you had on in Hoboken, and I thought, "Jesus! what's she doing in that?"
DS: Debbie, you were drunk that night, weren't you? You actually saw the Lunachicks! You think you're talking to the Lunachicks right now, don't you? Great! A true professional.

DH: Yeah, it all blurred into one lump. I couldn't see anything. It was horrible, but I did run into my old band, which was also very horrible.
JF: By the way, we invited Clem Burke and Frank onto out bus at that show. They ate all our food, drank all our beer and
DS: didn't even say thank you!

DH: Well, that's the kind of guys they are.
DS: I mean, we don't mean to dish the dirt, but it's sort of like inviting someone into your home when you invite them on the bus and they don't even say thank you or anything!

DH: I know. You're just never going to ask them again, are you?
DS: Well, Frank was cool. But off the record, was Clem an asshole?

DH: Oh, we can say that on the record!
L7: Ooooh!!!

DH: We can put that all on the record. So you know Joey Ramone is a huge fan of yours?
DS: We love Joey Ramone!

DH: I think Joey's the greatest guy. I did a duet with him, but they wouldn't even put it on my record.
DP: So why didn't they want to put that song on the record?

DH: They just didn't like the version as much as the other version. They didn't think it sounded as good with Joey because we had to change keys. But I thought it was cool enough as it was. So are you guys going to do any duets?
DS: Well, Jennifer and I just sang back up on a Joan Jett song that Joan and i wrote. We just did that yesterday.

DH: That's great. Joan's real cool.
DS: That was fun. But duets?
JF: We've never really tackled that area. Maybe next record.

DH: I think that's a good area for you to tackle. Maybe you should get Lemmy from Motorhead.
JF: I don't think he likes us.

DH: oh, he loves everybody. He's a real nice guy, too. A real gent.
SG: We've never met him.
DS: He's already done that stuff with Girlschool.

DH: Okay, then forget about him. Sorry.
DS: Maybe Rodney Bingenheimer.

DH: No, Rodney can't sing at all. he gets very nervous, but he would be enthusiastic.
DS: Maybe Snow?

DH: Snow?
SG: Barry Manilow.

DH: Or Johnny Mathis. I thought that "Young and Foolish" would be a great rock song. If you did a version of "Young and Foolish" with Johnny Mathis, your way, that to me would be killer!
DP: We want to do a duet with Jerry Lewis.
DS: We want to do a duet with Jerry Lewis singing Gary Lewis and the Playboys songs.
DP: Yeah, kinda like a medley.

DH: Ah, I think that's a good idea Gary Lewis is actually kinda cool. And Jerry Lewis is a sadist! Have you girls figured out anything you can do now that hasn't already been done?
DS: Of course, all the time. .

DH: But you're not going to say what it is, right?
DS: Of course not.
JF: Should we tell her about the goal we had this year?
DS: The telethon?

DH: What?
DS: Well, this year we had a few goals that came true and stuff, which was cool. But the one that didn't come true was that we wanted to get on the Jerry Lewis Telethon really bad. We had it working from all angles. We had our potential publisher working on it, we had our manager working on it, and they wouldn't let us on the telethon.

DH: Of course not.
DS: Yeah, but why? I believe, unless it was a dream, I saw X on the Jerry Lewis Telethon years ago.

DH: I don't know it might have been a dream.
DS: The Jerry Lewis people said that they only wanted national acts. So what does that mean?

DH: Well, you don't see too many bands on that show.
DS: Well, I saw Gary Lewis and the Playboys on there.

DH: Yeah, that's a little different.
DS: I mean, they had Wynona Judd on there ten times.

DH: They played one of my videos on there years ago, and then Jerry comes on and says, "Yeah, so what?"
SG: What a jerk!
DS: Meaning that you should have been there in person?

DH: I don't know.
DP: He's a pretty spunky guy.
DS: We still want to get on. Maybe we'll tone down our image just to get on that show. We'll suck up to Ed MacMahon.

DH: If you start planning now for next Labor Day, I think you'll be fine.
JF: We've been planning since we were toddlers. Debbie, why don't you come out in the beginning of the next year and do a Rock For Choice show with us?

DH: I probably will, because I'm going to have my little band together by then.
DS: even if you don't have a band together

DH: I can come out anyway?
DS: Yeah, and we'll be your back-up band.

DH: Okay. I'd love it. That would be so much.
DS: We did that for Joan Jett for a night because her band wouldn't come out. We were the Blackhearts for a night. It was really fun.
JF: So you come out, and I'll be Clem Burke for a night.

DH: No, no. I have my own thing now. We call it Dirty Harry.
DS: Excellent. So we'll be the Dirty Harry back-up band for you. Or bring out your whole band. Whatever you want to do.
DP: Or Johnny Mathis.

DH: Oh, God! It's an idea who's time has come.

[RayGun Dec./Jan. '93/'94]