chickfactor: where are you from?
neko case: tacoma washington. I was born in alexandria virginia.
cf: were you living in vancouver?
neko: I was. I lived there for 5 years. I was going to college, which I’m now done with.
cf: when did you start singing?
neko: when I was in a punk-rock band called miaow pretty much. I always sang around the house but I never really sang in front of people or really thought I could do it. I don’t know. I’m sure I always wanted to. I’ve been in punk rock bands since 1987. 12 years now. I’ve always been a drummer.
cf: do you think of yourself as a songwriter or an interpreter?
neko: well, I write songs and I sing other people’s songs. I don’t know if I think about it that hard.
cf: do you play many instruments?
neko: I play the drums really badly. that’s about it.
cf: when did you write your first song?
neko: I think in 1995.
cf: how come?
neko: well, I played in a punk-rock band and I wanted to write some songs. then I wrote these songs and they weren’t really punk rock songs. I had to kind of make my own band after that.
cf: what’s the meanest thing you’ve ever done?
neko: me and my friend were really pissed off cause this fucking shitty ass girl in tacoma was trying to get it on with her boyfriend — this girl was really rich and her mom had bought her a brand new car. she was a total bitch and I do not feel bad about this to this day. we went to the grocery store and bought a can of tuna and a bottle of clam nectar and we went to her house in the middle of the night and dumped it into the heater vents of her brand new car, so not only would it heat up but it would pump into the car. our friend lived across the street from her, and he saw her the next day throwing things out of the car trying to figure out where the smell was coming from. that might be the meanest thing I’ve ever done.
cf: do you know [fabulous tacoma artist] margaret doherty?
neko: yes I do! I loooove her. she’s the sexiest lady in america.
cf: she’s the best. I went to a party last summer, the theme was italy in the 60s and she made this faux sculpture thing.
neko: she is the most amazingly artistically talented person ever. she’s a genius.
cf: what sign are you?
cf: do you believe in all that malarkey?
neko: no, but it’s fun to talk about. I like to believe in it sometimes just for my own amusement and the amusement of others. apparently I’m supposed to meet a cancer man or a taurus man. but I had a taurus boyfriend and he was terrible and he left me for another woman. when I go to jail, it will be for killing him. I had a cancer boyfriend, he was pretty darn nice and I still like him very much to this day.
cf: did he live in a shell?
neko: no, he had a little bit of an extrovert problem. he never shuts up, but he’s a good man.
cf: are you superstitious?
neko: no, I’m really into intuition and stuff. do you think superstitious is a negative term? I don’t think so. I guess I must be.
cf: tell us a tour horror story.
neko: there’s always breakdowns and stuff. the worst part is just getting in fights with people you’re on tour with.
neko: yeah. that’s not very good. the worst thing that can happen on tour is customs and immigration problems. they treat you like shit. musicians are generally treated like shit everywhere.
cf: why do you think that is?
neko: because it’s popular culture and our society doesn’t really consider popular culture art. we’re considered a low form of art. I don’t know why. because all the people who have the money, who make the music industry go, they don’t care about us. I could go on about that for hours. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out how to make the cycle of being treated like shit stop. it’s hard because when you think about it, you don’t get paid shit for playing live. you get paid what you would have gotten paid in 1962. there’s been no standard-of-living increase for local musicians and people can argue that local musicians aren’t really that good and don’t deserve to get paid but the fact is they provide an incredibly valuable service. creating local art that makes local culture and it’s incredibly good for people’s morale. why do people work all week? so they can save up and go out on the weekend. it’s hard because you get paid really bad and sometimes club owners treat you really bad. I don’t really mind not getting paid that much because it keeps the door price low for people who work, and I think that’s good. culture should be accessible to everybody. but I would like to get treated nicer. I would like to sing through a decent p.a. on occasion. not that it happens all the time. I’m not saying it happens everywhere. I’d like to not have stupid things in my record contract. most record contracts nowadays have a clause that says you have to pay for broken acetates. that’s a holdover from the 50s and they still make you pay for them even though they don’t exist. there’s so many things that make me completely insane, and I don’t know how to stop it.
cf: are you a drinking woman?
neko: not really. I’m hyperactive. my body doesn’t process alcohol very well. I get drunk and then I’m only drunk for half an hour no matter how hard I drink. there’s really no point. I have a really short attention span, I just can’t keep working on it.
cf: what’s your most embarrassing moment?
neko: well, it happened in private but it was so funny I felt I had to share it. I was at a party and I got really drunk — which is of course how most embarrassing moments start — and I was wearing a dress and I took off my underpants and I stuck them on somebody’s head and I put them back on a few minutes later and I was dancing. and then the next morning I woke up and I went to go to the bathroom and I went to pull my underwear down and I was like OW! and there was a wad of gum stuck in my pubic hair and I had to cut it out with a pair of scissors. I was embarrassed all by myself, that’s how bad it was.
cf: what’s the best thing you’ve ever found in a thrift store?
neko: a ceramic doberman pinscher wearing a housecoat holding a cup of coffee. it’s my favorite possession I think.
cf: what are the last three records you played?
neko: nick lowe, dig my mood. I’m a huge nick lowe fanatic. the calexico record I’m pretty into. I listen to bessie griffin and the gospel pearls all the time. kirsty maccoll’s galore. [sarah dougher walks up and starts helping]
cf: do you think you’re a folk musician?
neko: no, just country. I wish people would stop saying alt-country. it’s like they gave in. I’m not going to give up the word country for that piece-of-shit industry.
cf: who are your favorite country artists?
neko: I generally hate new country, but I like patti loveless.
cf: do you write songs on guitar?
neko: no, I write them in my head. I just sing them.
cf: how does the band learn them?
neko: I sing it to the band and they’re like “I think that’s in c. okay.” yeah, they’re very cooperative.
cf: did you write songs when you were a kid?
neko: no, I don’t think I ever did. when I was a kid, the kind of representation popular music got like on tv, you’d always see people in this scenario: “I’m going to become a musician.” everybody would go “that is foolhardy!” like don’t ever get that idea in your head. so I never thought that as a kid though I really liked music.
cf: so you never walked around singing songs to yourself?
neko: yeah, I did, but they were always songs I’d make up about my cousins to make them mad. I guess it is songwriting. I never thought of it that way.
cf: what were you like at age 12?
neko: I was a geeky, shy, nerdy kid.
cf: what did you listen to?
neko: well, my dad listened to a lot of heart, so I really liked heart. and they had guitars. I couldn’t actually get it into my head that they actually played them because no other ladies played guitars. and then I got into punk rock.
cf: who is your favorite drummer?
neko: I’m not a hole fan, but I was thinking about what a great drummer patty schemel from hole was. I used to see her in her other band. in the great school of great rock drummers, I guess I would have to be in the charlie watts camp of simplicity.
cf: do you think it’s a good idea to meet your heroes?
neko: sometimes it’s pretty disappointing. but sometimes it is.
cf: who have you met?
neko: well, I played the same show as loretta lynn once. and she’s definitely one of my huge all-time heroes. I sang a song with the good brothers, and we played right after her at this huge festival. I got there, out of the car, and I turned to my left and she was sitting in the car next to me. and she waved at me out the window. later she waved at me again.
cf: what kind of reception do you get in nashville?
neko: never played nashville. never been there in my life.
cf: do you have a computer?
cf: you’re so old-school.
neko: right on! I can still write with my hand, it’s incredible.
cf: what’s the last song that made you want to cry?
neko: a song by this woman mary margaret o’hara who is one of the greatest singers of all time: “dark dear heart.” I’m shocked that you guys know who she is, nobody ever knows who she is. it was on this henrys record. it’s fucking heartbreaking. she just has that lilty crying thing in her voice. she is so amazing.
cf: she’s catherine o’hara’s sister.
neko: she’s a babe.
cf: do you have a nickname?
neko: not that I’m aware of. my name’s so fucked up to begin with, nobody makes a nickname out of it. my parents think they were really clever and thought they made up
cf: what’s your middle name?
neko: it’s rochelle. it’s so rocker in a fringey boot way. neko rochelle, what were they thinking!?
cf: do you believe in love?
neko: not anymore. I don’t really have any faith in it anymore. it’s out there for some people. I don’t know if it’s out there for me or not. that’s going to look really good on paper. it sounds so pathetic, doesn’t it?
cf: there’s a microsoft nerd waiting for you back in seattle.
neko: maybe. it’s best not to have an opinion and then maybe it comes to you.
cf: what do your fans look like?
neko: they’re generally about 40 and they work for newspapers in charleston and indiana and places like that. and they always want to contact me on the internet. there’s lots of ladies too, the ladies are always cool.
cf: if you could kill someone and not get punished, who would you kill?
neko: well. I often wonder if I’m capable of such things and sometimes I think I definitely am. I have not really killing fantasies but I have a really great fantasy where I’m at my ex-boyfriend’s house and his british family are all around and I meet his new wife that he left me for and I meet her and I go to hug her but instead I bite her on the face. she bleeds all over her neck and the british people are all running around going “oh no! it’s simply awful! neko, how can you be so awful to her!? she’s so sweet.” and I just laugh maniacally and she gets really mad. she’s savagely bleeding and crying. there’s probably nothing wrong with her, she’s probably all right. he’s the creep. still, I can’t help myself.
cf: you’re supposed to hate her too.
neko: you’re supposed to hate her! cf