Selections from The Punk Vault [L-Seven]

L-Seven – 7″ EP
(1982 Special Forces/Touch and Go Records)

No, this is not “that” L7, the girl grunge band from the West Coast. Long before they would recycle the name and spell it slightly different, there was a little band from MI who came first, and they put out only one record on a label that is still active and quite famous today.

When I was in my late teens, I came across this single in my record collecting exploits and got it simply for the fact it was a Touch and Go record. I had never heard the band before as I’d never seen the record at the time, and the band were not on any compilations, which as you all know is how I discovered more bands than I can count.

While searching the web for any information I could find on them to make for a far more interesting read, I stumbled across some message board and a post about the band by a fellow named Ken Waagner, who just so happened to be the band’s manager back then. I emailed him and he responded and sent me the following stories that former band mates had written for Touch and Go.

Dave Rice, guitarist for the band wrote…

Wow, trying to remember what happened twenty-odd years ago; this ought to be good…I guess we started L-Seven around ’80. Me and Mike Smith were in a band called the Blind that was really great but rubbed all the promoters in town the wrong way every chance we got. We met Larissa and started recording stuff in our rehearsal space and were lucky enough to get Frank, who we really admired, involved. We also had a guy named Chuck on clavinet at the beginning. We were trying to combine, I dunno, Rick James and PIL, I guess. Something like that. Oh yeah, and the Yardbirds, who Frank turned us on to (we actually covered “Heart Full of Soul” and “Over Under Sideways Down”). Then Hardcore happened, which polarized the scene and the band. Larissa met the Necros around then and me and Frank thought they were swell, while Mike and Chuck left, appalled. I have no idea what Chuck went on to do, but Mike joined Figures on a Beach, who eventually signed to Sire records, released a cover of “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” (b-b-b-b baby…) and promptly disappeared into some kind of major label limbo, never to be heard from again (okay, that’s not entirely true; Mike contacted me a couple years ago and we talked about me producing a CD for his new band, Fireking, that he had started with Tony from FOAB. He sent me their CD “Live a Little, Love a Little”, which sounded just like you would expect something called “Live a Little, Love a Little” to sound. I haven’t spoken to him since. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a nice guy, I like him just fine, but…). We then stole Scott Schuer and Kory Clarke from a band called the Attitudes. If the Attitudes were around today they’d be like Blink 182 or something, but those guys could play their asses off and wanted to do something more challenging. Good for them. Somehow, two of the big promoters in Detroit thought we could make them some money and sort of took us under their wing. They got us on some big-deal bills, with Iggy and U2 and whatnot and there was a weird feeling that we might “take off” in some way, which made us pretty uncomfortable, as we were, for the most part, pretty dedicated to the whole punk rock thing. I forget when, exactly, we recorded the EP, but it was towards the end. Corey was concerned that we weren’t a hardcore band, so he created a division called “Special Forces” to release it on, which you probably know. Did anything else come out on Special Forces? Just curious. Corey should start a separate hardcore label now, just to be funny. Anyway, Larissa decided to quit, so that was that.

Me and Scott formed the Linkletters with Scott on drums, Ken Waagner, who managed L-Seven, singing, and Bill Methner (R.I.P.) on bass. We played slow, fucked up psychedelic music while tripping our brains out at dozens of hardcore shows. The audience of mostly bald teenage skaters with two-liter Cokes didn’t know what the hell was going on, but it was a lot of fun anyway. Then I went to L.A. and formed Sandy Duncan’s Eye, which released an album on Flipside and, after I left, a 45 on Sub Pop. I’m in Oakland CA now, playing, implausibly enough, in a two piece electronic/hardcore combo called the Gentlemen’s Club. It’ll never catch on, but fuck it all anyway. I’m also doing some crazy improv stuff out here and I’ve gotten together with Scott a few times in the last couple years and recorded some pretty cool stuff with him. If you’re interested, you can find mp3s of it at Scott stayed in Detroit and played in a band called Sleep and then Turkish Delight and is now teaching English, which I happen to know he speaks beautifully. Kory, inspired by being soundly ridiculed by the entire hardcore scene (nationwide, thanks to the Meatmen!) went full on megalomaniac rock god on everyone and started the Trial, who used lots of echo, and then Warrior Soul, who are evidently the biggest, most important band in the world, according to the website. We can only hope that Kory is one day recognized as the comic genius he undoubtedly is. Frank had the good sense to settle down and be a responsible human being (or so he says).

and Frank Callis, the bass player added:

Dave is right that we started L-Seven in early 1980. I had been playing in a new wave band called Retro, which had one independent release: a 7″ with the songs “U-Boat” and “Picture Plane”. The original incarnation of L-Seven consisted of Dave Rice and Mike Smith from the Blind (guitar and drums), myself on bass, and Larissa Stolarchuk, who later played guitar as Larissa Strickland in the Laughing Hyenas. After a few months we added Chuck McEvoy on clavinet and sax. We played a couple of gigs with that line-up in Detroit and Lansing. Chuck left first, for personal reasons. (He formed a British-style funk band called “What Jane Shared” that made a small splash then disappeared.) Mike left shortly afterward because he felt that Larissa wasn’t a strong enough singer. I imagine that her personality rubbed him the wrong way too. This was in late spring of 1980.

We obtained Kory (drums) and Scott (second guitar) from the Attitudes right away, and the band took on a more focused and harder edge. We played around Detroit, Lansing, and Kalamazoo, with Ken Waagner as our manager and roadie, along with Bill Methner (R.I.P. indeed) as our second roadie. I had made a good connection with Vince Bannon (who was booking the legendary Bookies Club in Detroit) while I was with Retro, and he did help us get some high profile gigs, some of which we weren’t ready for (most notably with U2 at Royal Oak Theatre). There was some interest from an associate of his who did become a major figure as a promoter in Detroit, but our attitude didn’t coincide with his ideas, and that relationship really didn’t get very far.

There was a scene in Detroit at that time, and we did pretty well on our own, with a hard post-punk sound with some funk influence. Larissa called it jazz, as compared to the hardcore punk she was getting into by then. Dave and Kory were the best musicians, and we all could play (and were interested in) more than just straight ahead punk. Larissa really couldn’t sing very well, but she projected plenty of attitude up front while the rest of us were basically guys who like to play a show, then get high, drink, and hang out (hoping for a little sexual reward later in the night too). Larissa was heavily in to English punk when we met her (we were all more or less Anglophiles musically), and started a fanzine of her own. She gradually became interested in American hardcore punk, and introduced the rest of the band to that music. At some point, probably through her fanzine, she got to know the Necros, which is how we got to know Corey, long before Touch and Go became a real label. We saw the release of the Necros first EP, along with the other early bands (Meatmen, etc.) associated with that scene. We didn’t fit in musically (or politically) with that axis, but they liked our attitude and accepted us pretty much. We were mostly a bit older than most of the kids associated with that scene (I being a good 5 to 7 years older than the rest of the band, who were mostly in their very early 20’s at the time. We did shows with some of those bands, and our music gradually became louder, faster, and shorter as a result. We continued playing in Detroit, Lansing, and Kalamazoo for the rest of the year. We had a practice space in Detroit’s Cass Corridor at the time, and we opened it up and promoted a few shows (with local and out-of-town bands) there ourselves.

We were ready to record, and Larissa got Corey to agree to release our EP, but I understand that he and Larissa were uneasy with putting it on Touch and Go because it didn’t really fit in stylistically with the other stuff he was releasing at the time, so they came up with the idea of “Special Forces”, implying some connection, but acknowledging the differences between us and the rest of the bands on the label. We recorded the EP in early spring of 1982 (I can’t remember the name of the studio, but it was in Detroit), and I remember driving down to Corey’s parent’s house in Maumee in early summer to pick up about 50 of the 1000 that were pressed. With the single, we were able to promote the group a little better (myself and Ken Waagner), and we were able to get to Chicago a few times, including a swing through Milwaukee and Madison with the Gun Club, who we rescued after their vehicle died in Detroit. (We made them an offer they couldn’t refuse: free travel if they let us open for them.) We also played in New York at least once. By the summer of 1982, there was a lot of tension between Kory and Larissa especially, as Larissa was losing interest in the band musically, especially as she was seeing John Brannon of Negative Approach by then. Kory quit and came back once, but I dealt the final blow to the band when I announced that I was quitting due to personal reasons really unrelated to the band, but the band seemed to be heading toward a dead end anyway. This was probably in January or February of 1983.

Ken chimed in with…

L-Seven changed my life literally, I was hanging out with Kory and Scott and the Attitudes, who I met when they opened for Echo & The Bunnymen in 1980. We went and saw L-Seven play a club one night and began going to every one of their shows, then when Chuck and Mike left, they asked Kory and Scott to join the band, and I followed as manager, soundman, promoter, etc.

We were based in downtown Detroit out of a storefront at 406 W. Willis that was know as the Clubhouse, which was originally Larissa’s living space and the band’s rehearsal space, but, after the closure of the Freezer Theatre, which was a storefront theatre just around the corner from us on Cass Avenue where there were a ton of shows; Larissa moved to an apartment, and we knocked down the walls in the clubhouse and used the materials to construct a stage, and put on all ages shows in that space for about a year. Mind you this was very much in the ghetto.

They toured a fair amount in the Midwest and on the east coast, playing shows with U2, Iggy Pop, The Gun Club, The Birthday Party, The Crucifucks, The Effigies, X, Bauhaus, Siouxsie & The Banshees and The Bush Tetras as well as countless underground shows and headline shows at different clubs around Detroit.

As we were all fairly young: 19-22 except Frank who was 27, and had a fair amount of success and ambition, we also had all the struggles of being poor kids in Detroit in 1980. Near the end, half the band had developed pretty serious substance abuse problems, our gear was stolen for a second time and the band began to really split over artistic differences as there was just so much going on musically and culturally and they were all absorbed in it, which was both the band’s blessing and it’s curse.

I managed L-Seven from the time Kory and Scott joined the band until the end, and managed Negative Approach until the “album” lineup split up, and also managed the Necros, from after Corey left the band and began to concentrate on Touch & Go full time; I then went on to promote punk rock shows from 1981 through 1985 including dates for Discharge, GBH, Circle Jerks, SSD, Government Issue, The Misfits, Bad Brains, etc. as well as loads of other bands including The Replacements, Soul Asylum The Dream Syndicate, Rain Parade, The Cult, Sonic Youth, White Zombie, etc.

According to Ken, the record was recorded at a studio called Multi-Track in Detroit, where several of the early Touch & Go Records were recorded such as Necros Conquest for Death and the Negative Approach album. Ken also adds “Oh, and I’m not “out of the business” as Frank mentions, but, he and I hadn’t connected in years. I own a company called Smartley-Dunn and we provide web services for a number of clients including: The Billions Corporation, Thrill Jockey Records and the band Wilco.”

There was 1000 pressed of this single and while it doesn’t get the attention and hype that a lot of the other old Touch and Go singles does, it is a fine piece of punk rock history and well worth owning. Hopefully someday Touch and Go will do a long overdue singles collection on CD so these old records can be heard and enjoyed again by the masses.

As to where they are now, Ken filled me in on that…

Dave Rice – Guitar
Lives in San Francisco and manages a transient hotel, where he lives rent free and has a studio/workshop in the basement. He is still making music in a group called The Gentleman’s Club <> and has his own website.

Scott Schuer – Guitar
Lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan and is a writer and English teacher.

Frank Callis – Bass
Lives in Detroit and is an architect.

Kory Clarke – Drums
Was last seen in New York pursuing his vision of rock stardom via his star vehicle Warriorsoul.

Larissa – Vocals
Was last seen riding a southbound Damen bus in Chicago 5 or 6 years ago, I haven’t seen or heard from her since.

Thank you Ken for the great information, and for getting the stories from the guys.

Click here to hear “Secrets from the record (right click and “save target as…”)