She fronts a band called the 'New Pornographers' and has been photographed in sensual poses in magazines diverse as Playboy, Kutie, GQ and Esquire.

But don't ask Chicago chanteuse Neko Case about her raunchy slipstream on the eve of her debut Australian tour with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.

Case, unlike expatriate Australasian country star Keith Urban, doesn't want to talk about her pictorial past.
"I've never posed nude but for some reason I have a reputation for doing so," Case, 32, told Nu Country.

Neko Case

"I never posed naked for anything. That would be pretty far out there. They probably confused with it when I posed for this calendar, Sympathy For The Record Industry. It was a pin up calendar. No-one in it is naked or even close. It's just fifties style pin-up stuff. I only did it because my friend Victoria is a photographer. She needed someone to be Miss February."

But Case told Playboy she and fellow singer Kelly Hogan often overcome lonely nights on the road with their own porn library.

"Well, when I go on the road with Kelly Hogan she always buys Leg Show," Case says, "We're big fans of Leg Show. The magazine has a woman editor and she always seems to cover more bases than a lot of other pornography does. I like it, yeah. I tend to lean more toward the more erotic or leave-it-to-your-imagination kind, more suggestive rather than full-on."


The Virginia born Bachelor Of Fine Arts is touring here to promote her three solo albums and the New Pornographers disc.

And she wants to be known for her music that brings her to Melbourne Myer Music Bowl with Anglican rural minister's son Cave and Calexico on Sunday December 7.

"If we talk about this stuff in the interview the editor will take everything out about the music and only talk about that (the pictures)," Case advised.

"It's probably better if we didn't mention it. I kind of want it to stop because being a lady in the music industry I want other ladies to know that I'm a musician and a producer and I make records. We just spent a lot of money on plane tickets to come to Australia - and I want people to know we're going to be doing that. Nobody knows you wrote your entire album and produced it."

Case wants to play down her raunchy pictures taken before and while touring to promote the New Pornographers.
"Carl Newman, who founded the band made the name up," says Case, "he found out later it was related to some Jimmy Swaggart rant against music, though. So it turned out to be very appropriate."

Although Neko distances herself from past photographic spreads because she wants more attention on her music, she has no qualms about others using it to sell their music.

"For me it's really important that there other ladies doing that," Case says, "because I think it's cool that people pose nude and stuff. There are plenty of people doing that but we already know that, you know what I mean. I'm not complaining about you. I just don't want people to focus on that with me."


Case left home at 15 and blazed a trail as a drummer from 17 in Tacoma, Washington.
She played drums in Canadian punk bands Cub and Maow before developing her country music career while at university in Vancouver, Canada.

"At 17 I was playing in a band in Tacoma, Washington," Case says, "I moved to Canada to go to college when I was 24. I pretty much started writing when I was in Canada."
She attended Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1998.

But her student visa ran out so she quit Maow and Canada.


Case released first solo album 'The Virginian' - a slab of traditional country - in 1997.
The voluptuous redhead co-wrote all 12 songs on her second album, 'Furnace Room Lullaby,' released in 2000 as Neko Case & Her Boyfriends.

Case also co-produced and wrote 11 of the 13 songs on her third album, 'Black Listed.'
"I wrote 'Things That Scare Me' in about half an hour," Case revealed, "some times a song can be around for a couple of years. It depends on what mood you're in or where you are or if you had a guitar handy. I never force myself to do anything, I collaborate with other people because it's fun."

So was her tune 'Ghost Writer' with a Woody Guthrie locale influenced by the legendary writer?

"No, it was a reference to living next to the Grand Coulee Dam and going to see the light show every night," Case explained, "I actually lived there."

The album was recorded at Wavelab Studio in Tucson, Arizona at the end of 2001.
Case played guitar, tenor guitar, piano, saw and drums and co-produced with Darryl Neudorf and Craig Schumacher.

The only covers were 'Running Out of Fools,' made famous by Aretha Franklin, and 'Look For Me (I'll Be Around)' recorded by Sarah Vaughn in 1963.

Her original tunes 'Pretty Girls' and the title track of 'Furnace Room Lullaby' featured on the soundtrack of Sam Raimi directed, Billy Bob Thornton written 2000 movie 'The Gift' starring Cate Blanchett and Keanu Reeves.

"We were asked to do it, me and the band," Case revealed, "they came to us. I saw the movie before I wrote the songs but I didn't write the songs with the movie in mind necessarily."


So what did Case think of the soundtrack that also featured her mentor Loretta Lynn on her songs Mama Why and Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven?

"They never sent me a copy of the soundtrack so I've never actually heard it," Case said, "they kind of forget about you after the deal's done."

Case also performed on the 'Shortening Sessions' tribute disc to Lynn - subject of the 1980 'Coal Miner's Daughter' movie.

"I've been listening to her ever since I can remember," Case says, "my grandparents were really into her. She's likeable and she's a great singer and she's funny. She doesn't take herself too seriously. As a protest singer back in the sixties she was probably a little more honest. I feel a little more connected to her. She's just so down-to-earth, so frank about things and she writes her own songs and she does other people's songs. She's very revolutionary without calling a lot of attention to herself for that fact. She just states it the way it is."

How did Case feel about the recording sessions for her version of Lynn song 'Rated X' on which she was backed by The Sadies?

"I don't know exactly, it's kind of strange," Case added, "when that song was recorded people were trying to get the funky bass rhythm section going."

Hogan also revived Lynn tune, 'Hanky Panky Woman,' - a record she found in a yard sale many moons ago.


Case distances herself from the thriving mainstream Nashville scene.

"There's not really anything happening in Nashville that interests me," Case says, "other than a small group of people I appreciate. I don't have to go to Nashville to be songwriter it's easier to be noticed if you don't go there. If you were a cup of water and wanted to be noticed why would you wade out into the ocean."

Case rebelled against one promoter by shedding her blouse on stage at a gig at Opryland in Nashville in 2001.

The singer, 45 minutes into a 90-minute net, ripped off her shirt in a protest against Opry staff.

But she shed her top in her latter day Illinois hometown for a different reason.

"In Chicago I pulled the top half of my dress off because I was hot, wearing this giant bra that was like a shirt," Case confessed, "It was not getting naked. But when I did a photo shoot at Chicago club the Hideout, they were making me wear these really stupid outfits, and I was like, "God, I'd rather be naked." And he was like, "Would you? Would you be naked?"

"So I took my clothes off and they took these pictures while I was wearing heels, which was the funniest part, because the most hilarious thing about pornography to me is always that they have to be wearing shoes, and they have to be pumps!"


So has Case ever worked with fellow Chicago singer Robbie Fulks who wrote 'Fuck This Town' about Nashville?

"It's funny you should mention that, I'm going to totally contradict myself," laughed Case, "Robbie and I just recorded some stuff together in Nashville. He put together a Johnny Paycheck tribute disc and asked me to come and sing on it. It was so much fun. I performed 'If I'm Gonna Sink I Might As Well Go To The Bottom' - one of his more honky tonking numbers."

Paycheck appeared with fellow former convict David Allan Coe in the 1981 movie 'Take This Job And Shove It' which followed his 1977 #1 hit of the Coe penned song.

Paycheck died of emphysema at 64 on February 18 after songs such as 'Pardon Me (I've Got Someone to Kill,)' 'It Won't Be Long (And I'll Be Hating You,') and 'He's In A Hurry (To Get Home to My Wife).

So what it was like recording with country legends such as Gail Davies - the first woman producer in Nashville in the seventies?

"Gail kicks ass, she was so much fun," Case revealed, "she was one of the nicest ladies in the whole wide world. I'm honoured to know her. We ended up getting loaded in a bar, singing some songs with a covers band. I don't remember much about it."

So who was on Case's session?

"There was Red Volkaert who played with Merle Haggard and Lloyd Green who played with Paycheck," says Case, "that was a little daunting and I was a little terrified but they were so nice. Mavis Staples and George Jones were also on the album. It was so exciting and fun."


Case plans to release her fourth solo album in 2004.

"I want to get started in February," Case says, "I'm in the process of doing that now. I have a lot of songs. Some don't have titles and some don't have bridges, I don't plan too far in advance. When I write half is when I'm on the road and half at home."

So what about her image she portrayed in fashion shoots to accompany feature stories in magazines such as Esquire, GQ and Playboy?

"I had a really fun time, they get you to wear fancy clothes," Case explained, "I'm not a super model. I'm too fat for that, I'm fat and I'm proud. I'm not really fat but in the world of fashion I'm obese. So hopefully other ladies of the world can have a good laugh with me about that one, the fact we're morbidly obese even through we're just regular ladies."
Among her other projects is the beautiful old-time country she sings with Carolyn Mark as the Corn Sisters.


Case has strong opinions on many peers.

"Well, I really don't like Reba McEntire's music at all, but I really like Reba McEntire for some reason," says Case, "I like Reba but only for her acting. You've got to admire her for her fancy, she's pretty over the top with her outfits and hair. I've got a soft spot for her. She just seems like a super-nice lady. And she was in Tremors, the movie about the giant worm! You gotta be cool to be in Tremors. And she always does that Travis Tritt thing where she insists on acting in her videos, too, which is good for entertainment."


But she appreciates the Dixie Chicks.

"You know, I started out feeling pretty snotty about the Dixie Chicks, and then I saw their live TV concert and I loved 'em," Case added, "their music isn't necessarily what I'm into, but I just thought they were sooo cool, and they were going for it, and they were playing their instruments so hard. And then I realised, you know, it's really cool that they actually play. That sounds really condescending 'cause I'm sure they've been playing a lot longer than I have and they're way better musicians than I am, so I didn't mean that with any condescension. I just meant that I watched them and I was like, That's cool. I'm glad that young girls are checking them out."


So what does Case think of Canadian chanteuse Shania Twain?
"She's kinda the cheese-filled hot dog of country music," Case says, "it's a hot dog but there's extra!"


Case is making the most of her Australian sojourn with Cave because of the huge cost of international touring.

"In Europe it's really good so many people come to the show, Case says, "but you owe the record company so much at the end of the tour. It's hard to get plane tickets for five people with all the expenses incurred.

"Coming here is exciting and necessary. I wouldn't be in Australia right now if Nick Cave hadn't asked us to come. It's a great opportunity and you're more likely to play in front of a lot of people if you're going to play with Nick Cave than if you don't. I really enjoy touring with Nick Cave. I've done it a couple of times."

Case appears with Cave & The Bad Seeds and Calexico at Myer Music Bowl on Sunday December 7. Bookings Ticketek - 1300 136136

If you can't get enough of Neko Case check out the site below.


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