“I remember thinking, ‘I’ll probably never be on a tour that’s this f**king crazy ever again’”: how L7 were responsible for grunge's most debauched tour

L7 in 1992
(Image credit: Gie Knaeps/Getty Images)

Grunge is not a scene associated with clean-living and abstinence. As you can gather from some of the genre’s much-missed casualties, it was often a messy and drug-addled environment but you might be surprised about the title-holders when it comes to what has been touted as grunge’s most debauched tour: that honour would go to LA-formed Seattle invaders L7.

As recounted in Mark Yarm’s excellent oral history of grunge history Everybody Loves Our Town, they took some serious beating. In the book, Sub Pop veteran Megan Jasper remembers the quartet visiting the record label’s offices in Seattle. “We would rate bands on how much they smelled,” Jasper said. “It wasn’t an official list but our accountant would make jokes and write it down. L7 were on the list, but Babes In Toyland were the smelliest. Geoff actually followed them around one time with an air-freshener, spraying them.”

“L7 were badasses,” agreed Danny Bland, guitarist in scuzzy Seattle rockers Cat Butt. “They were an all-female rock’n’roll band, they smelled as bad as we did.”

Bland should know – the tour in question saw his band head out on the road with L7. “Donita (Sparks, L7 vocalist and guitarist) named our big tour together Swapping Fluids Across America,” remembered Cat Butt guitarist James Burdyshaw. “Donita was with Dean (Gunderson, Cat Butt bassist), and Danny was with Jennifer (Finch, L7 bassist)... It was like the fuckin’ Partridge Family.”

“There was a lot of fluids being swapped,” agreed Finch. “There was a lot of alcohol. There was a lot of vomiting.”

Elsewhere, the tour took in brawls in bars, a face-off with a gang swinging machetes at them, a stabbing (for L7’s Donita Sparks), witnessing a gangland killing and some hardcore drug-taking. “I barely remember the tour,” admitted Finch. “I was on so much heroin.”

“I remember thinking, ‘I’ll probably never be on a tour that’s this fucking crazy ever again’,” Bland concluded. Thankfully, all members of both groups lived to tell the tale.

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.