Scattering The Rats: An Interview with Donita Sparks of L7

L7
Standard

Mina Perniskie (lead signer of Wellington’s own Secrets of the Sun) chats on the phone with the indomitable DONITA SPARKS of LA band L7. Mina is a longtime fan of L7, first hearing them as a teenager. Her 14 year old self was fan-girling hard during this interview.

Having formed in 1985 with raucous genre defying blend of metal, punk and pop, L7 are back with new album Scatter The Rats. L7 are in their element as a live band, and have a tour of Australia and New Zealand lined up for May. Make sure to get along to one of the shows to get your face ripped off.


Mina Perniskie: I was really excited to see that L7 were coming to NZ, and I believe this is your first time coming to NZ with L7 is that correct?? I know you have been to Australia in the past.

Donita Sparks: I think we were in NZ in either 1992 or 1993, we’ve been there once.

It’s been a while obviously, are you excited to be coming here?

We’re very excited to be coming to NZ.  We were really disappointed that last time we went to Australia, we did not come to NZ, and we thought you guys hated us! We were like, why aren’t we playing Auckland at least? So we’re happy to be playing there now.

And you have two shows, Wellington and Auckland! After a long hiatus you’ve been playing together again now for about 6 years?

I think we reformed in 2016, yeah those were our first reunion shows so this will be our fifth year back, which is crazy!

You are obviously a very influential band, so how does it feel over the last couple of years in particular to be able to write new music, get out a new album Scatter the Rats and tour again after kind of a long hiatus?  Do you feel that this is a great climate for a comeback if you will? With your legacy as well?

Well, it’s been amazing.  There’s a documentary on us that’s out called Pretend We’re Dead.  That was coming out, and then we were thinking about doing some reunion shows, and then that kind of happened. And then we were thinking about well let’s do some new music, because if we want to keep touring, none of us wanted to be like an ‘oldies band’ or something, you know what I mean?  You can’t just keep on doing a reunion tour forever, you know! So that’s why last year we put out Scatter the Rats and we’re super happy about the way it came out.  And it’s great, because we’re still touring that record, and there are spots in the world that we haven’t hit yet with it. It’s exciting again.

You can probably find new fans as well as reminding your older fans that you’re around as well with new music, so that’s great.  Your music has always been great and to me really aggressive but in a fun way. It’s soo heavy hitting and I think in the current political and general climate of the world it’s great to have L7 back out there and touring.

We’ve always been heavy hitting and we’ve always had melody in our heavy hitting as well so we’re not just a metal band, we’re not just a punk band and we’re not just a pop band, we’re like all three combined you know? (laughs).  We like a good catchy melody, and we also like aggression and we also like to slow it down every now and then too and play something a bit more introspective maybe.

Absolutely. It’s quite hard to pin down L7 down to one genre, it covers multitudes. Do you like talking about genre, or is it kind of annoying?  I personally hate talking genre, it’s like people have to pin you down to one box. Alternative rock kind of covers it but people want something more specific.

Well I suppose it’s important if your readership or your listening audience has never heard the band.  Most bands that I love are sort of genre defying. You might think “oh you may think they’re this, but then argh there’s this curveball and I never expected them to do this  kind of a song”! Those are the most interesting bands to me. So we’re cool if people wanna talk about it. Listen some people think we’re a heavy metal band you know? But we’re actually from the art punk scene in mid 80s Los Angeles. So we are not even from a metal scene  So we’re cool discussing genre and all that stuff. It’s a valid train of thought I suppose

With having multiple style and taste and influence as a band, you’re quite a collaborative band with all of you contributing to the music.  Is that kind of fun, do you all have different tastes and things that that you bring into the music?

What brings us together is the music, and I think that we all like the different corners and pockets of our band musically.  So any one of us can bring in a song that’s gonna sound like L7. As long as we’ve got Dee playing drums, and us with distortion.. just the way we play is very L7.  It’s almost like anything that comes in is gonna sound like an L7  song. So it works you know. And If we have to make some additions or changes to it we’ll do that too.   But we’re not afraid to play any genre of music. We’ve played songs that just have reverb guitar, no distortion at all.  I’m a sucker for hand claps, and for bongos! Some people think we’re just metal but it’s like what are bongos then? I like surf music. So..there’s that.

True. I was listening to one of your songs and noticed it has a surf element, I think it was “Mr Integrity”.

Yeah and that has bongos! And hand claps. And surf guitar. So it’s like you know (laughs).. and it rocks.

I think that’s what makes L7 fun.  Because you do all these things and it’s surprising and interesting, you know?

I think we feel pretty free to kind of just throw in whatever elements.  I think maybe some bands are afraid to do that, because they are in a very tight narrow genre.  And my God if they fucking break that genre well they’re fucked! Because their fans will not forgive them. But with us it’s like ‘OK whatever, you’re not gonna forgive us you don’t have to be our fan anymore’.  OK fine, you don’t dig it? Go listen to…whatever’.

 

There’s plenty of stuff out there and they don’t listen to you …but hopefully they do! My next question.. so this is around the whole gender issue and you guys probably get sick of talking about this to a point, but I’m gonna ask the question. And quoting from the documentary as well,  you said you ‘wished the whole gender thing would go away’ and ‘please recognise us for our rock’. Do you feel that you’ve achieved this on the whole or is this still an issue today? I feel as women in rock we have achieved some measure of respect now, it’s not as bad as it used to be. But I still think it’s a thing.  What’s your view on that?

Well, we had respect from the get go, from our peers and from rock audiences.  Pretty much. It was sort of the guys with the power, the money guys, the business suit guys who were really kind of for whatever reason afraid to let go of the power.  I think we’ve always transcended our gender. I don’t think anybody really fucking cares.

My objective with the band when we started out, I didn’t want a name that revealed our gender. I was like ‘L7’.  I didn’t want The ‘blah blah blah Girls’ or anything like that. I was just like No. I want people to hear our music and not be able to tell what gender we are. And we definitely achieved that. So yeah I feel great.  Listen, if you were a Doctor 100 years ago, you were a ‘Lady Doctor’..it didn’t matter if you were the best doctor on the fucking planet. So you know, it’s all growing pains and its all you know, somebody’s gotta be the fucking avant garde, in terms of you’re out there first, or second, or third..whatever.  I think in the rock circles we hold our own, and yeah.

I definitely think so.  I’m really looking forward to the show.  When I heard that you were coming and there were tickets  I was like, I’m in there! Done! It’ll be a great show. I’m sure you rock just as hard as ever.  Watching the documentary I was just like…the raw power, the fun..it’s soo rock. So I’m really looking forward to seeing that in person, with my own eyeballs and my own ears!

I feel and I think the whole band feels this way too, that we’re a better live band than on record. We’ve had producers and engineers spend like a month on one of our records and then they go see us live and they say ‘What the fuck have we been doing for the last month!?’.  Because there is this connectivity when we’re on stage together and you feel the power of the band that you just can’t capture sometimes in a recording studio.  So if you want to see us in our element, come see us live.

See you live.  Absolutely. Excellent. Well I think that’s about our time up isn’t it?

Hey, I do wanna tell you one thing though.  We did a collaboration with Joan Jett. We did a cover of her song ‘Fake Friends’ and she’s on our version, singing and playing guitar. We’re going to be releasing that just for the Australia & NZ tour.  So that’s gonna be available just in that market as a single. So you can throw that out there!

Oh wow! Awesome, I will definitely be throwing that out there.  That’s a little tidbit just for Kiwis, I guess. And Australians. That’s awesome news!

That’s exactly right.  Cool!

Was great to speak with you, thank you so much.  I’m really really looking forward to the show when you’re here!

Thanks! We will see you in NZ, finally!

 


Here’s a playlist of Mina’s favourite L7 songs:


Ticket link for L7’s upcoming Australia and New Zealand tour: https://sbmpresents.com/tour/l7/

L7 Poster

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artist Profile: Garry Thomas Photography

Garry Thomas
Standard

Welcome to Will Not Fade’s Artist Profile series, where we take a look into the people in the music scene who aren’t necessarily musicians.

Garry Thomas

Garry Thomas

Who are you?

Garry Thomas

How did you start off doing photography?

In the last year or so I’ve discovered a passion for photography. I first borrowed a DSLR from a friend and dabbled in a bit of Astro / Night Photography, and along the way started loving Landscape Photography. It’s challenged me to get out and about when I’m not feeling like it, like when i get up in the pitch black of the morning to shoot the sunrise over the city, or being the only one on a beach at 2.a.m, to try and shoot the Milky Way. I’ve booked entire holidays around the possibility of finding something new and spectacular to take photographs of. Best of all, it’s an excuse to explore our beautiful country.
Recently, I’ve photographed a few bands. Thus combining a couple of my biggest passions in the world.
My oldest passion – Music. And my most recent passion – Photography.
Throwing that together with a 15 year fascination with Photoshop, and a background in design and its a pretty freakin’ sweet way to hear some new bands, have some fun and meet some new faces.

Why do you photograph musicians?

I love music, why not help people create / document a point in time?

Film or Digital?

Digital

Colour or Black and White?

Both

What has been your highlight so far as a photographer?

Bongzilla were amazing. Been listening to them for 13 years. Got to shoot them.

Bongzilla by Garry Thomas

Bongzilla by Garry Thomas

What band would you most love to photograph?

Tool, Nine Inch Nails, Queens

Have you got a favourite venue?

Wherever the music takes me.

What do you consider your most essential piece of equipment?

24-70mm 2.8 lens, Ear Plugs

What kind of ear protection do you use?

Decibullz custom ear plugs from Amazon

Have you got any advice for aspiring beginner photographers?

The best camera is the one you have in your hand.

How can people contact you if they want to use your services?

https://www.facebook.com/garrythomasphotos/

https://www.instagram.com/garrythomasphotos/

Garrythomasphotos@gmail.com

Hit me up and I’ll probably come photograph your band.

Planet Hunter by Garry Thomas

Planet Hunter by Garry Thomas

Delaney Davidson by Garry Thomas

Delaney Davidson by Garry Thomas

Fall Of Man by Garry Thomas

Fall Of Man by Garry Thomas

Tom LaHatte by Garry Thomas

Tom LaHatte by Garry Thomas

Artist Profile: Stella Gardiner Photography

Stella Gardiner
Standard

Welcome to Will Not Fade’s Artist Profile series, where we take a look into the people in the music scene who aren’t necessarily musicians.

Stella Gardiner

Stella Gardiner

Who are you?

Stella Gardiner.

How did you start off doing photography?

I was originally into Lomography and experimental street film photography,and it wasn’t until much later in life that I started using a digital camera. I bought a Canon 5D and made a few low budget music videos with a friend in London. Upon returning to New Zealand I decided to use the camera for photography and on a whim took it with me to a Peter Murphy gig in Auckland. I sent my images to a media outlet on the advice of a friend and the rest is history.

Why do you photograph musicians?

Musicians bring the world so much joy. They give it their all performing on stage and I want to immortalise those moments for others to share and enjoy. Going to a gig, for me, is a cathartic experience. It’s an added bonus if I get to photograph as well.

Film or Digital?

Mostly digital although I have tried film as well but it’s tricky.

Colour or Black and White?

Both. Depends on the artist and the atmosphere or venue.

What has been your highlight so far as a photographer?

So far it would have to be photographing The Cure. For a teenager obsessed with Robert Smith this was a fan-girl dream come true!

The Cure by Stella Gardiner

The Cure by Stella Gardiner

What band would you most love to photograph?

Grace Jones. I saw her live at Camden Roundhouse in London and would absolutely kill for the chance to photograph her. She is an amazing woman.

Have you got a favourite venue?

I love Meow on Edward Street as there is always a place to get a great shot and the décor is eclectic making for super interesting backgrounds. I also love San Fran for the high stage and super awesome staff! I do miss Bodega though.

What do you consider your most essential piece of equipment?

Actually my jeans. I need a lot of pockets to hold all my stuff when I shoot haha.

What kind of ear protection do you use?

Isolate titanium ear plugs. They block loud sounds but I can still hear conversations in the crowd perfectly. It’s really trippy.

Have you got any advice for aspiring beginner photographers?

Think outside the box and be prepared for anything. Oh and ALWAYS treat the crowd, promoters, venue staff and fellow photographers with the utmost respect. They can be your biggest ally at a crowded venue.

How can people contact you if they want to use your services?

https://www.instagram.com/stellagardinerphoto/

https://www.facebook.com/stellagardinerphoto/

stella.gardiner@gmail.com

Peaches by Stella Gardiner

Peaches by Stella Gardiner

Linen by Stella Gardiner

Linen by Stella Gardiner

Julia Deans by Stella Gardiner

Julia Deans by Stella Gardiner

The Chats by Stella Gardiner

The Chats by Stella Gardiner

The Exploited by Stella Gardiner

The Exploited by Stella Gardiner

The Jesus & Mary Chain by Stella Gardiner

The Jesus & Mary Chain by Stella Gardiner

The Mummies by Stella Gardiner

The Mummies by Stella Gardiner

Will Not Fade Awesomeness Award 2020 – Hamish Morgan

Hamish Morgan of Happy Valley
Standard

You’ve got to love people who embody a DIY ethic, and Hamish Morgan certainly fits that description. Wellington has been facing the loss of many local venues in recent years, including youth hub Zeal which was vital for the all ages music scene. Obviously with less venues available, bands have fewer places to play, meaning that the local music scene suffers as a result.

So Hamish took it upon himself to provide a place for local bands to play: his living room.

He recently wrote a piece about it for our homies The Mousai: 

https://themousai.co.uk/post/189631733776/hataitai-homewrecker-wellington-7122019

For over a year now, Hamish has been hosting house shows at his flat in Hataitai. He provides a backline (amps, PA, microphones, drums etc), a venue (his living room) and advertising on Facebook and with posters.

Hamish Morgan of Happy Valley

Hamish playing with his band Happy Valley. Image: Will Not Fade

It’s a risky business. Maybe it wasn’t the wisest decision to name the events “Hataitai Homewrecker”. Yes, it is located in the suburb of Hataitai, but I’m sure that he doesn’t want his home destroyed. He limits the events to only once a month, noise proofs the space as much as possible and tries to enforce a strict curfew so as to not upset the neighbours too much. On the wall is a framed warning notice from Noise Control, who had been called out to the very first Hataitai Homewrecker event, but the other events have been mostly uneventful in that respect.

These events have become a right of passage of sorts for many bands. Hamish was the first person to book my own band to play, and many local Pōneke bands first cut their teeth at a Homewrecker. Plenty of musicians from the punk/hardcore etc scene in Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton and even as far as Sydney have made the pilgrimage here to play as well.

This is more than just providing another place for bands to play. A bonus that some people may not realise, local artists are getting some good exposure from the posters. My personal favourite is from Daniel Vernon (of the band Dartz), who did this amazing hipster Hulk poster. I’ve since been noticing his artwork popping up all over the place. 

Hataitai Homewrecker poster Daviel Vernon

I’ve had a few chats with Hamish and he’s stressed to me about how he wants to avoid it becoming a “sausage fest”, and wants to ensure there is a variety of gender representation. And he’s done pretty well, with plenty of wahine featuring in the lineups of great bands that play his events. I don’t want to put words into his mouth, but like me, Hamish is an early childhood teacher. Males make up a very small minority in that area of the teaching profession, so we are very aware of the impact it can make.

It’s been a great success, with Hataitai Homewrecker events having occoured monthly for over a year now. And Hamish is showing potential for branching out, having recently organised a free local show at a skatepark (sadly this was canceled due to a horrendous storm) and currating a stage for the upcoming Newtown Festival in March 2020.

So major tautoko to Hamish for taking it upon himself to provide a place for local musicians and sustain the music community.


Links:

Hamish posts his events under the Elbowdrop page: https://www.facebook.com/elbowdr0p/

Happy Valley Bandcamp: https://happyvalleywgtn.bandcamp.com/releases

 

Album Review: Lakes – The Constance LP

Lake The Constance LP cover art
Standard

I knew I was onto something good from the moment I first heard Lakes. Someone had recommended their new album The Constance LP on an internet thread dicussing Into It. Over It.

Regular readers will know that I’m a big IIOI fan. He was the first musical act that I travelled overseas to see play live. So if I hear someone comparing an act to IIOI, I’m going to check them out.

And good thing I did, because this album is fantastic. Insomuch that The Constance has become my easy pick for favourite album of 2019.

Lakes decribe themselves as “glock-rock”. Don’t let that put you off – it’s not an NSA advertisment – it’s because they have a glockenspiel. Is that significant enough to warrant naming their genre after it?

Well the glock certainly adds to their sound, placing bright accents in just the right spots. The interplay between the glockenspiel and the other percussion in “Ontario” nothing short of sublime.

To describe their sound further: it’s happy music. Sometimes relaxed, usually upbeat. They play mathrock, but the time signatures switch so subtly that you’d only pick it up if you’re listening for it. There are elements of emo, indie and pop-punk threaded through as well.

The vocal harmonies are devine. This much is obvious from the very opening notes of the album. Then we hear the chiming glockenspiel and trumpet come over the syncopated rhythms and it’s instantly clear that this is not your standard pop or rock music.

The singing is outstanding. The Bandcamp liner notes state that the vocal duties are shared between four people throughout the album, but it sounds like more voices are in there. On tracks like “Reindeer”, the singing is ernest and urgent, but for most of the record things feel pretty calm. The tender “Erie” sounds like painful memories, with sparse acoustic guitar and gently layered singing. I just love it all, from the chanted shouts of ‘Hey!’ in “Geneva” to the staccato delivery of the chorus in “Lucerne”.

I hope I’m not being too misleading here, But Lakes remind me a lot of Toe: fantastic musicianship, quirky time signatures, busy drumming that isn’t overpowering, and songs that are perfect for putting you into a great mood.

Lakes didn’t do themselves many favours when they chose their moniker. It’s not an easy name to search for. On top of this, when I’ve had friends give me a lift in their car and offer me a chance to choose the music, I haven’t been able to find Lakes on streaming services. I’ve included a songwhip link at the end of the article that you can use to find them, so they are available, but I’ve never managed to find them on a friends phone when searching for them on Spotify or Google Play when driving in the car.

This is not a criticism of the music. All of their songs are named after Lakes, so it’s an apt name. But it makes it harder for me to share and recommend their music if I don’t have a URL link handy.

It’s a hard choice, but I’d consider “Ontario” the highlight of the album, thanks to the aformentioned glock accents, the vocal hamonies, and the soaring trumpet and great drumming in the outro. Everything comes together into a georgeous package.

Lakes are worth your time. I don’t blame you if you haven’t heard of them, but there’s no more pleading ignorance now. Treat yourself to some georgously catchy and carefree music. Like I said before, Lakes were my surefire choice for best music of 2019. Check them out and see if if you agree.

Listen to The Constance LP: https://songwhip.com/album/lakes/constance


Lakes links:

Buy physical copies: https://thelpcafe.com/product/the-constance-lp-lakes/?fbclid=IwAR1_QSMl9ft39zXz8ZTc0_A5abs1GlS7b974Lnr57VFKZBoC5T5ULsXyqEI

Website: https://www.ourbandlakes.com/

Bandcamp: https://ourbandlakes.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ourbandlakes/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ourbandlakes

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ourbandlakes/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5TizUcJWoPu6QwTZnlsqVA

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/ourbandlakes

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/3FsRoxn81LEbOBSHb60T8G

 

Joseph James