Published Jan 01, 2006To cure a miserable winter cold, Neko Case self-prescribes a hearty lunch at a Toronto Jewish deli. "The waitress must think I'm pregnant," she laughs, chowing down. Between bites, the much-loved honky-tonk diva/heartthrob holds court on a wide range of topics with typically charming candour.
The core subject is brand new solo album, Fox Confessor Brings The Flood. It's guaranteed to elicit a flood of superlatives, and for once, believe any hype. In a now-sizeable body of work devoid of lowlights, it emerges as her most adventurous and accomplished yet.
It can justifiably be termed "much-anticipated," given that she worked on it for over two-and-a-half years. "It wasn't an easy album to make, not by a long shot," she says, "but it was an enjoyable process." It's not as if Fox Confessor claimed her entire attention during that period. "I made two other records in between, The Tigers Have Spoken and then Twin Cinema, with lots of touring too," she stresses.
Twin Cinema was the third New Pornographers record, while Tigers was the live record she made with the Sadies and other friends. "I treated that like a full album and it pretty much took as long to make. I'd never mixed or produced a live record before, so that was hard work and a real learning experience."
To make Fox Confessor, Case and co-producer Darryl Neudorf set up shop in Tucson, Arizona's famed Wavelab Studio. The usual list of multi-talented suspects/friends showed up, including members of Calexico and Giant Sand, the Sadies, Kelly Hogan, band-mates Jon Rauhouse and Tom V. Ray, and even Band genius Garth Hudson.
Neko used more songwriting collaborators this time out. "On Blacklisted [her 2002 tour de force], I wrote most of the songs myself, but I wanted a little more of that band camaraderie feeling here. I wrote some more songs with the Sadies and with Paul Rigby."
Case's richly imaginative lyricism reaches full bloom here. "Storytelling is easiest for me. I'm pretty boring, so writing about myself would be no great service to the listener. Yes, I'm in there, and I think the only autobiographical song I've ever written is on this record, but I shy away from love songs. I'm pretty impulsive in what I write, and I generally write songs that are too hard to sing!"
Neko describes the recording process as "a joyous one, with ideas bandied about freely. Generally the people I ask to be on the records I already like what they do. I don't need to tell Dallas Good what to play, though I may say something like, Hey, can you do it on the 12 string?'"
She also praises Darryl Neudorf effusively. "He is like the technological genius. If I want something done, he'll know how to get it done, and he is really calming. I don't believe in creative friction. There are times things don't work and we get frustrated, but we are never mad at each other. Darryl has been teaching me the technical side of recording too, so now I can be on more equal footing."
Other artists parrot platitudes about having creative control, but with Neko, that's genuine. "It's imperative that I call my own shots. I'm a huge control freak, but one that can let go of control. I'm not sure what that's called."
She finds not having control of pure pop darlings the New Pornographers "liberating. I don't write any of the songs, but I'm such a huge fan of the writing of Carl [Newman] and Dan [Bejar]. I've always really believed in that band and I'm glad the world cares about them. Seeing people do what they say they will is very inspiring to me. The town where I come from, everybody still just gets hammered and has five kids and that's a drag."
Other current sources of inspiration for Neko include welding (a new passion) and working on her classic car. "It's a 67 Mercury Cougar. I named it Angie Dickinson' it's just so Police Woman!"
Angie Dickinson would be proud.