Neko Case has spoken: She wants to be a ninja

Talk about crossover appeal. Alt-country siren Neko Case has fans coming in from all angles: Country fans are coming around to her critically acclaimed solo career, the indie kids love her because of her role in the massively creative Canadian me...

Talk about crossover appeal. Alt-country siren Neko Case has fans coming in from all angles: Country fans are coming around to her critically acclaimed solo career, the indie kids love her because of her role in the massively creative Canadian megagroup the New Pornographers and, thanks to the NPs song "The Electric Version" being included in the video game "Rock Band," even casual rock fans are getting in on the action.

Though she was born in Virginia, Case has been referred to as an "honorary Canadian" because of her various collaborations with musicians from the Great White North (she attended an art and design university in Vancouver).

After a couple of albums billed to "Neko Case and Her Boyfriends," the Tacoma, Wash.-raised singer/songwriter dropped the moniker and released a series of increasingly well-received albums on Bloodshot and, currently, ANTI- Records: "Blacklisted," "The Tigers Have Spoken" and 2006's "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood." (Of course, she's also been incredibly busy touring, recording with the NPs -- four studio albums to date -- and guesting on other artists' projects.)

A follow-up to "Fox Confessor" is in the works, and is tentatively scheduled for a spring '09 release.

In anticipation of her performance at the College of St. Scholastica Wednesday with her friend Howe Gelb's group Giant Sand, Case talked to the Budgeteer via e-mail about Monkeemania, becoming a ninja and, strangely enough, Supertramp.


Budgeteer: I have always adored your take on the Shangri-Las' "The Train from Kansas City" -- do you remember when you first discovered that track?

Case: In my early 20s. My friend Brian Connelly put it on a mix tape for me.

I see you are playing at Red Rocks near Denver soon. Do you prefer big shows like that or more intimate ones, like you will have here in Duluth at St. Scholastica?

I like the small ones. I like to see the people's faces. I'm not a big "rally-er of crowds at the festival," so the smaller ones are more my element.

In your Vancouver days, you played in a lot of different groups. At that point in your career, did you think you'd be playing music professionally in 2008 ... let alone on such a large, international scale?

No, I didn't think so, but I'm sure deep down it was my desire.

How did you end up collaborating with the rest of the New Pornographers crew? At what point did it become more than a "side project" for you and everyone involved?

Carl (Newman) asked me to be in the band. None of us ever thought of it as a side project. It's the Canadian way to be in several bands at once.


Have you ever attempted to write a track in the NPs style? Is it easy to switch between being in charge of everything during your solo career, then, maybe a couple nights later, singing someone else's songs explicitly in the NPs?

I don't try and write like Carl or Dan (Bejar) -- I am not them, so it would seem cheap and insincere. I do a lot of vocal arranging based on their influence, though. The new one I'm working on has lots of vocals. Switching is easy; I'm just used to it now. There are times when I play two different shows back to back. It's challenging and very physical, but I dig it. I want to be a ninja someday....

What do you listen to in your free time? Anything pique your interest of late?

Lately it's been Charles Mingus' (1959 album) "Blues & Roots." I love those melodies!

What kind of music did you listen to growing up? Did your parents' taste influence yours at all?

Yeah, the only thing I was into that my parents weren't was the Monkees. They tolerated it. I did not tolerate their love of Supertramp, though. I was a jerk. I'm not sorry though; Supertramp is hateful Gollum rock. Maybe I wouldn't feel so strongly about it if it was not force-fed to me.

To be fair to my parents, I only liked the Monkees 'cause I was hot for Mike Nesmith -- which is pretty darn shallow, but, hey, I was 9. I still love "Last Train to Clarksville."

You once told The Stranger that you hope to see the state of music change in favor of musicians and music fans in your lifetime -- what do you think it will take for that to happen? Do you think the rise of independent labels or digital distribution will be a bigger factor?


No, people have to forget about the fake "fame prize," and they have to quit swallowing the "you're lucky to be here" lie. Musicians have to stick up for themselves, which is the best way to stick up for the rest of us. Respect yourselves.

Finally, what can you tell us about opening act Giant Sand? Did you hand-pick them for your tour?

Howe Gelb is a good friend of mine who makes very inspiring music. I've wanted us to tour together for a long time. Finally, the stars have aligned.

Hear highlights from Case's solo catalog at and . Free MP3 downloads are available at both sites.

Neko Case will perform at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the College of St. Scholastica's Mitchell Auditorium. Giant Sand opens. Cost is $27 ($25 advance). For tickets call 723-7000 or visit .

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