Live 'Tigers' has Case fired up


January 14, 2004


Though she's certainly no slouch in the recording studio, sultry alternative-country chanteuse Neko Case is always best appreciated onstage. Now, as part of a new deal with Anti/Epitaph that makes her labelmates with Tom Waits, Nick Cave and Solomon Burke, Case has released a fiery live album recorded with the Sadies, in part during a show at Schubas in Chicago.

"The Tigers Have Spoken" features a mix of new material written with Case's longtime friends the Sadies, well-chosen covers by Loretta Lynn ("Rated X"), Buffy Sainte-Marie ("Soulful Shade of Blue") and the Shangri-Las ("Train from Kansas City"), and show-stopping versions of the traditionals "This Little Light" and "Wayfaring Stranger."

I spoke with Case as she took a break from recording her new studio album in Arizona and as she geared up for a tour that brings her to Metro tonight.


  • 9 tonight
  • Metro, 3730 N. Clark
  • Tickets, $18.50 (18-over show)
  • (773) 549-0203

  • Q. I gather this live album is a warm-up for the new deal with Anti/Epitaph?

    A. Yeah. We haven't signed it yet -- we just licensed this record to them so far -- so I don't want to say I have the deal until I actually sign the piece of paper, but all the legal stuff is in the works. This record was actually contractually obligated to Mint Records in Canada, which is my longtime label, and that's sort of my last record for them, although I'm still going to have them putting my records out in Canada.

    I'm focusing really, really hard right now on the next studio record, and it's killing me, frankly. [Laughs] Not really, but it feels like it is. I can't set a deadline, no matter what I do; I can't figure out when I'm going to finish it. I'm working full-steam, but I can't see the end of the project yet. I'd love to be a little more reliable and give people a release date and stuff, but I'm not going to put it out until I'm ready. The problem with ideas is they lead to other ideas!

    Q. What was the idea with the live album? It's not a typical set or a live best-of; you're stretching out and trying a lot of different stuff.

    A. I wanted to make a live record because I really wanted to make a record with the Sadies, who were kind of my band before I ever had a band. We haven't worked together in years because we've both been so busy, and I figured that a good excuse to force myself to work with them would be to do a record -- otherwise we're never in the same place at the same time. My favorite Sadies experience is the live Sadies, and I thought this would be the best way to capture that.

    Q. Did you rehearse much or were you winging it onstage?

    A. Oh, we weren't winging it; we rehearsed for a couple of weeks and we spent a lot of time writing. Some of the songs didn't make it on to "The Tigers Have Spoken," but we did record them for the new studio album because we felt that was how those songs should be showcased first. I didn't feel like I personally was proficient enough to record those songs live, so we recorded them here in the studio in Tucson. The Sadies are going to come back and do more recording for this album, too, so it will be the usual guys [steel guitarist Jon Rauhouse and bassist Tom Ray], and then the Sadies plus lots of guests.

    The new album is not one cohesive thing yet; I have about 14 songs, I think, but the problem is I don't have a title yet. Things really change course when you figure out what the title is, and this is the longest it's ever held out on me before, so I'm real confused at the moment. Basically, I'm so deeply entrenched in it that it's all I think about night and day. I spend all my time in the studio, but I can't even tell you about it, other than we've had some cool guests -- we got Garth Hudson [of the Band] to play, and it was like the highlight of my life.

    Q. Tell me about writing the title track of the live album with the Sadies.

    A. They made a tape of some ideas, and there was this one song that I just heard the words right along with it. It seemed like a bitchy girl-group song right off the bat when I heard the demo, and I was like, "Yeah, that's great!" [Sadies guitarist] Dallas [Good] and I are really into the Shangri-Las -- hence the cover of "Train from Kansas City" on the record -- and we really wanted to do something like that.

    Q. How did you choose the other covers?

    A. Well, the Sadies and I have been doing "Rated X" together forever, so that was kind of a no-brainer. Then we sat down for about half an hour and discussed some other songs and decided what was right in literally no time at all. Some of what we recorded didn't make it onto the album; we did a version of "Raging Eyes" by Nick Lowe, but a friend of ours needed something for her film, so we went into the studio and recorded that. Now it's part of "Lipstick & Dynamite, Piss & Vinegar," the film that Ruth Leitman made about female wrestlers in the '50s. It's a great movie.

    Q. Female wrestlers and Neko Case -- it sounds like a great pairing!

    A. Yeah! And the crazy thing was that in getting involved in that project, I watched the movie, and the first wrestler that they interview turned out to be my great aunt. It was so crazy, because she says, "My real name was Elsie Shefschenko," and I was like, "Huh? That's my real name!" And then she goes, "And I'm from Custer, Washington." And I was like, "Oh, my god! We were the only Ukrainians in Custer, Washington!" I had no idea, so I called my grandma and it turned out, "Oh, yeah, she's a famous wrestler."

    It was really funny, because when I was in my late teens, I was on a roller derby team, and she started out on a roller derby team. I met her in Toronto at the film's premiere, and it was the most excellent thing ever. I knew there must be some lady like me somewhere in the family!