Neko Case :: The Aquarium Drunkard Interview

“It’s exciting and kind of spooky!” Neko Case writes in the liner notes of Truckdriver, Gladiator, Mule the new eight-album boxset collecting her entire discography, from her 1997 debut The Virginian to 2013’s The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You, summing up her reflections on 18 years of riveting, fierce, and beautiful music. Case is a singular artist, possessing a powerful, blustery voice and a black coffee sense of humor, and over two decades she’s crafted murder ballads and torch songs, heartbreakers and head bruisers, building complex worlds where forces of nature collide with confused characters. She sings her lyrics collage style, slipping between settings and times, and her arrangements often morph around her voice, shifting from twangy noir to charging pop.

Case’s work is often difficult to categorize, and stronger because of it. She’s a true original, connected to the wellspring of American roots music but always able to rocket that voice of hers into the stratosphere. Listen to “Star Witness” or “Night Still Comes,” for those moments where she belts it out full force; Neko Case makes exciting and spooky music.

Aquarium Drunkard spoke with Case via telephone from New York, where she ate a quick breakfast of oatmeal while discussing women with guitars, the punkness of gospel, and the violent nature of her lyrics.

Neko Case :: Deep Red Bells

Aquarium Drunkard: This boxset is really beautiful. 18 years of songs – do I have that right? Maybe a little more?

Neko Case: I wanted my own Roman column, essentially, but they don’t make those anymore, so I put out a boxset.

AD:Was it weird looking at your work in this sort of compact way, putting it all into one thing? Was that a strange feeling?

NC: It makes you look at time differently. Basically, I was shocked at how much time had gone by, but how brief it all feels. I’m not even really partway through my career yet, so some people have said, “Why are you putting out a boxset if you’re not near death or something?” I’m like, “Why not? I want to go to my own funeral.”

I just have so much so much stuff that I’ve collected over the years. [Through] working with my friend [artist] Kathleen Judge, who I work with a lot on stuff, and my friend Randy Iwata from Mint Records, I just realized how much stuff I have. I was planning on making a book that spanned my entire career, [featuring] photos and ephemera and writing, and I realized that there was no fucking way I could get even a little of it into an 80-page book. [Laughs] I realized I had to write a whole other book [to go along with the photo book], so I’m working on that now. Ideas make other ideas, which is a great thing and also a kind of unfortunate thing if you don’t like working. If it was just me who made all this stuff I wouldn’t be able to stand dealing with it. [I’d get] so fucking sick of myself. But there’s a lot of people I’ve worked with, so I’m looking forward to celebrating their efforts and telling demeaning, hilarious stories about them, and how they pooped their pants at the Shoney’s in Natchez. There’s no drug addicts or serial adulterers in my band. We have to just get the dirt that we got, so there’s an occasional pants pooping or maybe spilling salsa in the van, because rock & roll is some wild shit.

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