L7 Get Worldly With A Live Album, Home Video

Ex-Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic directed shoot of all-female punk band in concert.

To hear singer/guitarist Suzi Gardner describe them, the two audiences captured on L7's new live album sound as if they are a world apart.

Well, half a world, anyway.

One set of songs was recorded by the all-female punk band in the sticks of Nebraska, while the other was taped on the other side of the world -- in Japan, leading to the title, L7 Live: Omaha To Osaka.

And while the Midwesterners' shouts and applause will sound utterly familiar to American ears, the stop-on-a-dime reaction of the Japanese fans is likely to come off as alien to Yankees.

"You can tell the cultural differences in the way the crowds sound," Gardner said Tuesday from her San Fernando Valley, Calif., home. "Japan is known for being very controlled. So they go nuts, but then all of a sudden they all shut up at the same time. There'll be complete silence except for maybe a few hoots. You could hear a pin drop, and you're like, 'OK, weeeeellllllll.' It's so bizarre."

While L7 -- Gardner, singer/guitarist Donita Sparks, drummer Dee Plakas and bassist Gail Greenwood -- are currently in the market for a record deal, the next two months will see several new offerings from the band, including the independent release of their live album and a new home video.

L7 Live: Omaha To Osaka, a limited release on the tiny San Francisco-based Man's Ruin label, hits stores Dec. 4. Then in January, the group will issue "L7: The Beauty Process," a concert video directed by former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic.

For Gardner, the current emphasis on live material is appropriate. L7 spent eight months of last year on the road for three U.S. tours as well as a trek through Europe; this year, they hit stages in Japan and Australia.

"It doesn't matter whether it's a tiny, stinky little club or a giant hall, the energy that we get from the people makes a difference," she said. "It's great to look out and look into the faces of people and know that they're cutting loose from their stressful life or their boring life or whatever they've got going on."

The 16 tracks performed on L7 Live: Omaha To Osaka are drawn from throughout the band's 13-year career.

Songs such as the pummeling "Death Wish" and "Fast And Frightening" from Smell The Magic (1990) have been fan favorites for years, while tracks such as "Bitter Wine" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Off The Wagon" (RealAudio excerpt) hail from 1997's Triple Platinum: The Beauty Process.

Although the album contains a few new songs, the one track likely to stand out for most listeners is the album opener, "L7 Overture/Medley," a tapestry of L7 songs, such as "Shove" and "Sh--list," performed by the John Marshall High School Marching Band from Los Angeles.

Gardner said that, in getting permission from school officials to conduct the medley, bandleader and arranger B. Paul Bailey conceded to school officials that the often lyrically risqué L7 are "a little blue." Nonetheless, the L7 sampler is now a regular component of the marching band's routine.

While poster-artist (and Addicted To Noise contributor) Frank Kozik is not in the habit of releasing marching-band music on his Man's Ruin label, he said the decision to issue the L7 disc was an easy one, born of several years' friendship with the band.

It was actually L7 who conceived of the cover idea based on the album's American and Japanese settings. Kozik then painted the piece.

"Omaha is about as knee-jerk American as you can get," Kozik said. "And Osaka is about as polar opposite from Nebraska as you can get. So we put together a design that's like a Japanese version of [Grant Wood's painting] 'American Gothic.' There's a stern Amish guy with a big beard, and a cutesy, smiling geisha girl as his bride."

Soon after L7 Live: Omaha To Osaka arrives in stores, the band is looking to release "L7: The Beauty Process." Novoselic currently is shoring up a distribution deal for the video, Gardner said. A public premiere is planned for Seattle in late January.

Working under the pseudonym Murky Slough, Novoselic shot the 47-minute film on tour with the band in 1997. Live footage of songs such as "Drama" (RealAudio excerpt) is interspersed with sketches loosely scripted by Novoselic, then acted out by bandmembers on days off from touring or after sound check.

"They're a comment on the situations you might come across in dealing with record companies and music-industry professionals," Gardner said. "They're wacky vignettes."

Meanwhile, L7 -- who left Warner Bros. Records after fulfilling their contract last year -- are continuing to write new songs for their next studio album, which they hope to record after landing a new label deal. At this point, their next home is unknown, Gardner said. "It's total, 'Call Psychic Friends Network -- find out what label we'll be on.' "

Wherever the band lands, it will continue to wage war on what the bandmembers bitingly call "PMS fraud-rock." Gardner demurred from naming actual practitioners of the genre, but said a typical lyric might go: "I broke my fingernail/ And I overcooked the eggs/ And I think I'll write a folk song about it."

"We're playing some loud, obnoxious stuff," she said of her band's stock in trade. "People appreciate us for that, and for the sense of humor that comes across."