Uncovering Peter Case: The Rocks Off Interview

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Julie Ensminger
Peter Case at Cactus Music last year
"I was always sort of not interested in what my generation was doing," Peter Case told Rocks Off 10 years ago after flipping through Louvin Bros. compact discs at a now-defunct bookstore in Sugar Land, surrounded by car dealerships, business parks and seamless lawns. As bass player for proto-punks The Nerves ("Hangin' On the Telephone") and singer/guitarist of the Plimsouls ("A Million Miles Away") during the 1970s and '80s, he embodied hook-filled, intelligent power-pop.

Subsequently, Case's solo career earnestly took off in 1986, and has spawned an unmatched catalog of rootsy singer-songwriter material much coveted by the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Robert Earl Keen.

Currently, his new effort The Case Files represents some under-the-radar live tunes, demo tracks and other rare material.

Rocks Off: When assembling the tracks for the record, how did you perceive some of the songs, like the 1986 demos, the first of your solo career?

Peter Case: I got both of those down in the right way, and when that happens songs become sort of timeless for me. Sometimes it's not like that, and I hear a problem with a song years later, but I feel both of those are gettin' it done, no problem, and seems like no time at all has passed. Some people say the later songs are darker, but I can't see it.


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RO: You grew up like a teenage Yippie, but over the last ten years, your songs teem with a sharpened sense of politics too -- was it the Bush years, or the overall drift of the country?

PC: I was unpolitical for a spell, and even though I sympathized with international and U.S. social justice movements, etc., those were sort of my drunk rock and roll years. Then, the Iran-Contra affair was a drag. And there was a huge homeless problem in the U.S.

These got my attention. When Bush senior ran, and when they impeached Clinton, that all really bugged me. That was the start of the renewed political awareness that re-ignited it.


RO: Although the record does contain much variety, it doesn't contain many live tracks or much from the Vanguard years, like demos from those popular songs. Why?

PC: There will be an album of new performances of my songs from the 1990s (aka the Vanguard years) coming soon. There are demos from that period, of many unreleased songs, and maybe they will be part of the next archive release. Dunno yet, and my first live album is coming soon.

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McGonigel's Mucky Duck

2425 Norfolk, Houston, TX

Category: Music

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