By James KeastShe named her solo debut The Virginian, her career has been defined by an exploration of country rooted in the traditions of Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline and Linda Ronstadt, and she now resides on a farm in Northeastern Vermont, but she's a Canadian gal to us, in spirit if not by passport. Since her emergence from the Vancouver punk scene with Maow in the mid-'90s, when she attended art school north of the 49th, through her ongoing participation in the New Pornographers, Canada has always had a love affair with Ms. Case and it's mutual. Her sixth solo album, The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You, adds some garage rock grit to the still-present hints of twang, and her epic singing pipes remain astounding. Ahead of her return to her adopted Vancouver hometown in late September, Neko Case answers some truly ridiculous questions.
What are you up to? Just gearing up for the new record, which takes a lot of flying and talking, and at home I'm repairing fence lines, moving poop from place to place and having deep psychology with many types of animals.
What are your current fixations? Music: The new Camera Obscura record hasn't left the CD player since I got it. Sonny and the Sunsets' "hit after hit" album is making me a better human being. Dr. Dog is making me drive the farm truck too fast. I've been obsessively turning to John Grant's "Pale green ghosts" sing-along harmony good times.
Films/TV: I've been heavy into Terry Jones teaching me about history (I love hearing him say "Ancient Vromans") in his documentaries. I did watch Auntie Mame again the other night for some surreal perspective. There's not much time for "watching" anything at the moment. I do have good dreams though if I drift off to sleep with "The Marvellous Misadventures of Flapjack" and "Adventure Time."
Books: I'm on a history tear. I've read bios of Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, Cleopatra and Alexander Dumas' grandfather. That was an incredible book! It's called The Black Count by Tom Reiss. Blew my mind! Also re-read "Marie-Anne; The Extraordinary Life of Louis Riel's Grandmother" by incredible Canadian history writer and filmmaker, Maggie Siggins. Maggie is a Canadian national treasure. Standing ovation!
Food: It's kale-out-of-the-garden season, so I basically eat like any caterpillar or grub-worm these days. Feels good!
As far as lifestyle or trends go, I'm happy with dirt on me and sore muscles.
Why do you live where you do? I love the people and the landscape. Most everyone are really friendly and kind. I lived here for a while as a kid and besides Canada, it is the only place I really felt like I fit in and was home.
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art: Sidney Nolan's Australian paintings, especially the "Ned Kelly" series. They are very moving and scary at the same time. They are visually arresting just-before-the-crime scene images, very tense. The colours are like those beautiful fish and frogs in the wild who are warning you that they are poisonous. Especially good if paired with the [historical novel The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey!
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why? The Sadies and I went and saw John Fogerty at the Saddledome in Calgary. We were all crying. Dude can sing! Loud, gorgeous, perfect pitch. It was so fucking inspiring. A couple years later I watched him soundcheck "Rockin' in the Free World" and I had the same feelings. Crushed by sheer power. It was amazing.
What have been your career highs and lows? I can't pinpoint exact things, it runs the gambit in a week, it's just life. Waiting for customs at the Vancouver airport always makes me question my line of work though, the travel part, and I always get me period all over myself in that line, like asshole clockwork.
What's the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig? "Paying YOU is easy cause it's so little, not like the other bands here." Phoenix, AZ promoter, Bob Corator, Rhythm room 1997
What should everyone shut up about? Anything on television.
What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself? I don't like that I'm too impatient to read tax documents or instructions longer than a paragraph. I don't like that I pick at my zits. I'm mad that I'm not as smart as I can comprehend. That's a cruel one — humans can see their own limitations and bum out about them. That's the joke on humanity, not Eve eating some goddam stupid apple. I guess we can't all be [17th century Italian artist and architect] Gian Lorenzo Bernini. I like that animals dig me. I have tiny hands that are good for working on cars. I'm good at making soup and I genuinely love people. I also like that I am good at holding my ground. Very "badgery." (This is not a popular attribute in Canada, I had to learn to tone it down. It made me a better person, thanks, Canada!)
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday? Sadly, it's "working." I wish that wasn't so, but I don't know what else to do with myself. I'm a Virgo, I'm all about "service."
What advice should you have taken, but did not? I can't think of any. There was some good advice I didn't heed quick enough, you know, some "break up with that asshole" etc., but I did it eventually.
What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you? Being mean to wait staff. Big mistake. Don't shit on people in the service industry. It's the training ground for becoming a compassionate human being. Yes, there have been firings long ago, though not of band mates.
What do you think of when you think of Canada? Home. Most of the most exciting and beautiful years of my life.
What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money? It was either the Monkees Greatest Hits LP or Blondie's Plastic Letters LP.
What was your most memorable day job? Super Modeling.
How do you spoil yourself? Halvah and granny smith apples. MMMMMMMM!!!!!!
If I wasn't playing music I would be… I would either be a full-time visual artist or have my own restaurant. Maybe both. I already farm so there's that too.
What do you fear most? That my parents will come back from the dead. Just kidding. The only thing I fear is depression. Having your vital human life reduced to that of a latex dish glove is a fate I wouldn't wish on anyone. All human skills in stasis, not being able to conduct electricity or feel hugs... ugh.
What makes you want to take it off and get it on? Big brains. And dudes who look like their job isn't talking on the phone. Put some dirt on it.
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter? In San Francisco I once had John C. Riley pull right up to me in a cab, get out and wave to me. I felt like I was in a dream and I was confused, but I waved back. Turns out he was waving at the people behind me. Not even slightly embarrassing.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them? Carolyn Mark. Wine, cucumbers, tomatoes, yummy crusty bread and CORN!!! She is the world's greatest dinner guest. The dinner would last a week.