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- Posted on Mar 30th 2009 11:36AM by Melinda Newman
Case talks to Spinner about man-eating tigers, killer whales and why sleeping with your bandmates is never a good idea.
The album's titled 'Middle Cyclone,' and several of the songs have cyclone or tornado references. What about this force of nature captivated you for this album?
I don't really know how it got started. I only kind of realized the thread of the theme about half way through the mixing process, but I had a dream where I was speaking to a tornado, and it was a person and it wanted me to read it a book because it couldn't hold the book. It was trying to get me to help it, but I was scared so it kind of had to figure out how to be a little nicer. It was a really short dream, but it really affected me and I woke up feeling really giddy about it and really excited.
Some songwriters say that they feel they're just a conduit for what flows through them. Is that your process?
I don't think I'm a conduit. I think I'm pretty aware and I'm pretty sensitive, so you know I write a lot of things down. I like little tiny details of things. I observe things a lot. I think that I write better when I'm occupied with something like doing the dishes. Your actual physical body is busy doing something you already know how to do, so your subconscious is a little bit freer to poke you and go, "Hey this is an idea we're having, you and me buddy," and then, you know, it kind of startles you and it's kind of an excellent feeling.
The emphasis track, the first single is, 'People Got A lot of Nerve' which is really about animals being animals. How did that song came about?
Well, I was on tour with the New Pornographers and I went to the gym and I was running on the treadmill and I was watching TV. I was watching some National Geographic animal disaster show. There was all this footage of killer whales biting their trainer's legs off, and the tigers being shot in the zoo because somebody was harassing it or elephants going crazy and killing people. It's just really bizarre that people still act so surprised when these things happen. It's like, keeping a killer whale at the aquarium is like asking a teenager to live inside a refrigerator. What is not to understand?
You bought a 100-acre farm in rural Vermont. Why?
I am from a farming family and I just appreciate that kind of lifestyle and I lived in Vermont as a kid and I always wanted to go back. I just really enjoy the people there. They're very friendly and they're very giving and I mean it's beautiful. The forces of the West are so gigantic, and impressive and daunting. The forces of the East are a little more people scaled. They're a little more fairy tale in a way.
You cover Nilsson's 'Don't Forget Me' on the album. It's a heartbreaking song.
Probably one of the saddest songs I've ever heard, ever, and you know, he makes the line "when we're older and full of cancer," just, it's kind of funny but then it's so beautiful. He just so threw in the towel right there. You're just like, "Nilsson, no, let me hold you!"
When recording the Nilsson song, you brought in 21 pianos, correct?
Yeah. I wanted to get a piano for the farm so I went on Craigslist and I thought it would be really funny to see how many free pianos I could get. And, by the way, free pianos are never free, you have to move them and tune them. I ended up with eight pianos, six of which were tuneable. I just wanted to see what it would sound like to have that many pianos. There was a hay-hook hanging above the middle piano [in my barn] that had a family of robins in it and you know, they didn't really care about our recording schedule, so the mama would fly in and the little babies would go crazy. You can hear them on 'Polar Nettles.' They were chirping their little heads off.
What was it like working with [the Band's] Garth Hudson?
He's the best. He's just such a lovely human, and he really doesn't phone it in. He has the best stories about rock 'n' roll and about being in the Band. The details that he remembers really just blow your mind; but at the same time, he'll be super fixated on something in the track and then he'll get up and fix the bathroom door with a screwdriver.
What's the key to staying sane on the road?
Exercising, and liking your band. You've got to really make sure you sleep. I don't drink on tour, I don't smoke ... I try to go running everyday. I eat a lot of vegetables.
That's hardly sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.
I'm happy to say it out loud because the rock 'n' roll mythology is really boring and stupid. I mean, I'm really boring, but at the same time its like, I'm not -- I get sick of the tantrum-throwing, drug addict stories. Like what kind of entitlement do you have to have to act like that toward people? That doesn't come with the job -- any job. It doesn't take that much effort to be nice to people, you know. It takes a lot more effort to just act like a douche, and it's embarrassing. I have my moments when I'm a total dick, I'm sure, but I try to take responsibility for that and not be that way. Or if I did act that way, say I'm sorry. "Where are my Sun Chips," you know! You don't want to have that moment in front of people -- that's just ridiculous.
If screaming for Sun Chips is the worst you've ever done...
Well, I actually did that once. I had a fever really bad in Calgary, and the promoter was a good friend of mine and the band had eaten all the Sun Chips, and I woke up from a nap on a huge pile of coats, and I caught myself stamping my foot, screaming, "Where are the Sun Chips?" I caught myself and I laughed because it was the stupidest thing ever.
Did you get them?
No, I didn't really deserve them. So, I don't want to act like that and there aren't people in my band that act like that either. Like if people are rude to waitresses, see ya later. You can't be in the band no matter how good you are. You will tip and you will say please and you will say thank you, like we had mothers, yes. Don't sleep with anyone in your band, and always be nice to waitresses and tip them.
Can you sleep with the waitresses?
Sure, but you can't sleep with your band. I mean, some people do it -- no thank you. That would be very awkward.