My Blog__ ORGAZM ADDICT: AN INTERVIEW WITH JENNIFER FINCH OF L7
Almost a year ago I did an interview with Jennifer Finch who was the bass player of 90s grunge-metal band L7. The interview was one of my favorites, but I didn't know quite what to do with it. So, when my friend Hether Fortune of the band Wax Idols asked me to contribute to her zine Orgazm Addict (also featuring Kristina Marie Dove, Natasha Stagg and Alexis Blair Penney), I knew the piece had found a home. Check out the interview below and go buy Orgazm Addict today.
AN INTERVIEW WITH JENNIFER FINCH OF L7
If I could go back in time, be born American and play guitar as effortlessly as I wash my hands, I would have wanted to be in L7. Not only did L7 make iconic music, but they seemed like the coolest people in the 90's grunge scene. I don't know. Maybe it's because they were from Los Angeles. Maybe it's that L.A. 90's thing that enabled these four women to balance androgyny, talent, confidence, sex appeal and power like a ever-lasting game of Jenga. L7 were cool. That's it. Plain and simple. Cool songs. Cool shows. Cool videos. Cool interviews. Cool people. So, when I found their former bass player, Jennifer Finch, on Facebook I kinda did a little victory dance and then nervously messaged her for an interview. Luckily, she said, "yes" because that is what cool ex-rock stars do. They get on Skype and interview random fans they don't know. Seriously, it's fucking cool.
Jennifer Finch now works as a web developer. She has been off heroin for 10 years and writes literature for drug recovery. She also volunteers for a program that helps women in prison make the transition back into the work force. She is archiving her photographs and taking her dogs to the vet. Her boyfriend is a pro-wrestler. She is happy. Oh, and she still hates wearing shoes.
Why did you like playing barefoot in L7?
I was just going to the store today and I was thinking, "God, I wish I could go barefoot!" But I made myself put flip flops on. I guess I'm a nudist at heart. On stage, I liked being barefoot because I felt more connected. I had more of an awareness about what was around me. When my hands, brain, heart and legs are doing other stuff my bare feet connected me so I didn't just fall into something.
You never injured yourself on stage? No broken glass or anything?
Never. Barefoot goes beyond the stage. It's almost crazy people stuff.
Speaking of crazy, what do you think about your peers Courtney Love and Kat Bjelland and how you have all progressed and famed individually?
I think that one of the weirdest twists of fate is that we all came out of this one single scene because there weren't that many of us so we kind of just found each other. Everyone went on to do really unique things with their lives whether it is featured on E! Entertainment or not. I mean, Courtney is unique, she's Courtney, we all know who she is. If she didn't have the success she'd be a crazy cat lady right now and, in a sense, she is.
Just a famous one with expensive clothes.
Yeah, exactly. Part of Courtney's story is that she gets financially wrecked too, you know? She's in hotel rooms looking for money, then a cheque will come in from something and she's okay. She doesn't help the situation either with her publicity. She lives in an apartment like the rest of us. Then, she gets a bit of money, goes and rents a serious mansion and lives like luxury for 6 months until the money runs out. I wouldn't do that, but that's just me.
What do you think about the 90's music industry compared to now?
I think the music industry was always propped up on false pretension - a fake way to make money - and now it's hitting them. It's not the internet, it's not anything, you know, it started as a vanity industry and it spent money that it never had. It was always borrowing from one artist to another or one company to another investor to support itself and now it can't do that.
I read this interview with Steve Albini and he said that he thinks music is so much "better" now because bands can produce and promote themselves because of the internet and social networking. As someone that plays in a band, I don't really think it's all that great right now.
Everything is so homogonized. I'm not like an, "Oh, the old days" kind-of-person, but I'm going to say something like that now. At one time, you'd have such different music coming out of, like, Texas compared to Vancouver. This doesn't just go for music, but for everything, even Roller Derby, any sport. My boyfriend is a pro-wrestler and that industry is experiencing the same thing as the music industry is now. Even though pro-wrestling can be very localized, if someone in another city wants to start a pro-wrestling club in their town they can just look it up on the internet and see what everyone else is already doing, giving them a clear picture of what it is supposed to look like instead of inventing a unique idea of what they think it should look like. I think music is the same thing. Any kid can go on Youtube and see what his peers are doing. When I was growing up, you read fanzines or listened to tapes or records, I mean if you were lucky enough to get a hold of someone's record, and then you built on that. Now, it's so visual. Everything is so pre-packaged. I see younger bands now and they are so perfect, right from the gate! The only thing I am enjoying about the music industry right now is this common understanding that no one is going to make any money so then they are doing it because they really love it.
It makes me feel really good to hear you say that.
Good! At one point in time you told your parents you wanted to be a musician and go on tour and they'd laugh in your face. It was truly an expression of a starving artist. You truly were sacrificing other aspects of your life to be able to do it. For a while music was a totally viable career choice and suddenly, it's not again.
(This is the point where, if I was a different person, I would have said "I feel you, girl.")
How did you deal with the way the media obsessed over your band being all-female? Did it contribute to your process of identity as a musician?
I never even figured out what was going on, intellectually, for a long time, I'm a slow grow that way. I just thought, "Oh, I'm in a band with all girls. This is great." At the end of the day, I look at it as society just trying to adjust to egalitarianism. The 90's and now are at a state when that can truly be realized. It's kind of the last gap. I come from L.A. punk rock, luckily, and everyone played in the same scene. It was so diverse. I didn't know any different.
I heard you were a runaway teen.
I had a difficult childhood. I was adopted and the people who adopted me had difficulty with me so I was bounced in and out of the system a lot until I ended up with my dad. I always had an adventurous spirit. No one could tell me to do anything, ever. It was almost like someone would give me a rule and I'd find a way around it and make them feel bad about the rule.
And you documented everything in your life through photography. Are you still exhibiting your work?
It is something I'm still doing, but it's more archival. I'm going through thousands and thousands of photos and trying to pull story lines out of it. As I said, I'm not nostalgic so it kind of goes against my grain. I've found some great stuff! I was part of an era where people wrote letters to each other! Not only do I have photographs, but letters from promoters and other musicians.
I saw all the photos from Lollapolooza on your website. They are so great. What is your take on digital archiving verses tangible archiving?
It's funny because when social media hit really hard a couple years ago scrap-booking became really popular again, you know? Hobby stores were promoting it. Stuff will always come back. I was looking at TIME magazine and they had this historic review of royal portraits. Paintings to photography. With photography now and digital media you can really tweak an image to be exactly what you want. But, if you think about portraiture it's kind of the same. Kings and queens could have a professional paint them any way they wanted to portray themselves. "Make my boobs bigger, make my waist smaller." For a long time with photography, you were stuck with what the camera captured, but now it's back around. I think technology just cycles like that.
But what do you think about the fact that we don't have to describe things to people anymore? Like, say I want to introduce you to a band. I don't have to describe them to you, I can just send you a video.
I think that has always been a known tactic through photography and music whether people know it or not. When you take an image of yourself playing live and show your audience, you're showing other audiences how to react to you. Chuck Peterson going and graphing Nirvana with Kurt being passed over the audience in a small club was showing the audience how to react to Nirvana, in a subconscious kind of way. Still images are so much more powerful than watching a live audience. I'm the worst about it. As I said, my boyfriend is a pro-wrestler and we'll be looking at photos from his events and I'll like a picture but notice that there are five empty seats behind him. And he goes, "Who cares!" And I'm like, "No, your showing people that no one comes to your shows!"
How did you end up with a wrestler? What do you think of that whole scene?
My boyfriend is the dirtiest, bad guy in his league. Just the other day he beat up a cop at their show. He comes out to My Chemical Romance and it makes me feel funny. It cracks me up. It's the same, DIY, we're doing this for ourselves, our friends and whoever shows up. Pro-wrestling to me is the new local music. They do it in bars. Everyone does it for free. They dress up, they create these stories and perform and it's just because they love it. It's a bunch of guys and gals dressing up like super heroes and kicking each others asses.
Do you still go out to shows in L.A.?
I do, but nothing recently has blown me away. It's that whole thing, like, everything just seems like a shadow. I'm calling it, "The Shadow Generation".
There is this band called Nasa Space Universe in L.A. that I really like. Hardcore boy stuff. The first time I saw them, I hated them. The singer whipped his dick out and I was appalled, but now I totally love them.
See, that is what a musician should do! They should appall their audience at first. It's important for young people to be able to pull their dicks and boobs out on stage.
Hell yeah! Wouldn't it be great to see a nineteen-year-old girl or boy do G.G. Allin right now? Someone who had the guts to do that. To have a passion and despair that deep. It would be good. [Pauses] Self-help has made everyone too perfect now.
I just look at everything that is popular now, like indie popular, and I just think it's so safe. Then, there are these amazing bands who don't get the same amount of press or attention but are doing such interesting things.
But that is the way it should be! Popular music should be safe for the masses because it leaves more movement and momentum for the underground. Underground music should be underground!
Honestly, talking to you has been so refreshing and kind of reaffirmed my own bullshit. So, thank you.