Rocket Queen: Movies of My Dreams

Neko Case's cinematic potential, and Seattle musicians who are finding film and theater work.

It's rather extraordinary that none of Neko Case's songs have ever shown up on a David Lynch film soundtrack. If I were Lynch, I'd have tried to license her work the instant her seductive, noir-drenched masterpiece, Furnace Room Lullaby, dropped back in 2000. Listening to Case's timeless, Patsy Cline–channeling alto always sends my thoughts in wildly imaginative, cinematic directions—not just because of her genuine siren-like sensibilities, but because the similarities in our backgrounds have always made me feel a strange sort of kinship with her. We were born less than two weeks apart, and spent our formative years in Tacoma. We didn't actually meet until many years later, when she began working at Hattie's Hat in Ballard, but I think it's safe to say we probably drank from the same keg of Rainier at some point.Young women in T-Town in the mid-'80s were exposed not only to questionably high doses of classic rock and underage-drinking opportunities, but to a disturbingly potent degree of childhood paranoia, thanks to the insidious fears associated with the Northwest's notorious Green River Killer being on the loose. I'd often wondered if the macabre elements in Case's earlier work (not so apparent in her latest release, the distinctly sunnier, pop-oriented Middle Cyclone) had some link to that experience; in fact, Case has said that the song "Deep Red Bells" (from 2002's Blacklisted, arguably her best work) grew out of those adolescent fears. Morbid inspirations aside, Case has always been a vocal and affectionate supporter of her hometown, with a passionate pride that undoubtedly made her June 2 homecoming show at Tacoma's elegant Pantages Theater a memorable event. Her June 4 show at the Paramount should bring nearly the same reaction, although at press time it was entirely sold out.Case's work might not yet have intersected with the Lynch film world, but her erstwhile bandmate and Seattle-scene veteran Bill Herzog has connected with one of his contemporaries in a big way. Herzog, one of this city's most talented stand-up bass players (he's gigged with Joel R.L. Phelps and currently plays with Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter), has landed prime placement on the soundtrack of Jim Jarmusch's forthcoming film, The Limits of Control. The indie-cinema heavyweight is apparently very fond of Sunn O))), the experimental psych-artists with whom Herzog has collaborated in several contexts, both alone and with his Sweet Hereafter colleagues. What's more, other Seattle players are all over the soundtrack, including members of Earth and former Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil."My involvement with the Limits of Control soundtrack, personally, is a music piece that plays about four different times in the movie," explains Herzog. "[It plays] at transition points when the protagonist sets out on each new branch of the tale. The song is 'N.L.T.', from the last Sunn O))) record, called Altar. It's a duet between me and the drummer from Boris named Atsuo, [with] Atsuo on bowed cymbal and me on bowed upright bass, but very, very heavy sounding."In that same camp, but in a more theatrical context, Hereafter guitarist Phil Wandscher, Herzog, Sykes, and drummer Jason Merculief were recently contracted by local director George Mount to compose a score for the Seattle Shakespeare Company's forthcoming production of The Tempest. "Our music always has some soundtrack type of quality, and this seemed like an exciting new venture," Wandscher says. "When we finally sat down and got George's take on the production—which is a little less Ashland, Oregon, and a little more contemporary—we got to working on it. Jesse wrote a beautiful song for one of the [scenes], and [Herzog and Merculief] helped me make up the storms with feedback and thunderous drums."Wandscher is obviously charged by the project and hopes to do more mixed-media collaborations in the future. "We've also had songs in some really good independent movies, like Twelve and Holding and a Belgian movie that just appeared at SIFF called El Dorado. It's exciting to step a little out of character and write for something specific. I really hope [to do more], 'cause that's where the money is!", he laughs. "Something along the lines of Neil Young's work on Dead Man, or Ry Cooder's work on Paris, Texas. Bring it on, Hollywood, bring it on!" The Tempest runs through June 28 at the Seattle Center House; more info can be found at seattleshakespeare.org.rocketqueen@seattleweekly.com

 
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