Posted December 7, 2004


A recent issue of "Esquire" magazine featured short articles describing what it feels like to be attacked by a leopard, endure a helicopter crash, and stay awake for 11 days. They could have saved column space by just slapping down the cover photo of the Paybacks' latest album "Harder And Harder."

Popular etiquette dictates that it's impolite to ask about a woman's age so let's just say that based on lyrics alone, WENDY CASE has packed a lot of living into her years on this mortal coil. Standing tall and singing into the light, she manages to balance a chip on her shoulder, wear a sneer on her lips and, one presumes, keep a wad of gum clenched in her teeth. Add a throaty vocal delivery that treads a fine line between distressed and flat-out beautiful and you're left with the closest thing Detroit's had to a true street-level believer, women's division, since long-forgotten 80's enigma Karen Monster (blue/black rinse and Johnny Thunders fixation notwithstanding). If she told me she hung the moon, I'd probably believe her.

Case joined us at the Bar for a quick nip to talk about the band and the release of their newest album, "Harder and Harder".


Q Do you find that hailing from Detroit puts any added pressure on the band to deliver the goods either on stage or in the studio or does it actually work to your advantage?

WC: It used to be that, when you told somebody you were from Detroit, they'd just say "So what?" I always remind myself of that when I see people either glorifying our status as a Detroit band now or dissing us for it (a lot of us are starting to see the inevitable backlash from the hype).

We're very proud to be a Detroit band -- and I think that a big part of that pride stems from the fact that all of the musicians in this city do what they want, and for the right reasons. We've all spent too long doing it our way to consider what anybody else thinks about it.

There are plenty of "journalistas" out there who would tell you that we're pretending that we don't care about the attention that Detroit has received over the last few years. They're wrong. We love the attention -- but we're still going to do as we please. Anything else would be bullshit.

Q What's the hardest part about doing what you do?

WC: Pacing yourself. There are several people in this band, myself included, who love to party. If you get drunk, slam your ankle in the van door and pass out on the floor -- you're still going to have to drive eight hours to the next town in the morning, unload equipment and put on a show.

We find that short tours are the most brutal. When you know you're going to be going home soon, you tend to push your luck.

Q Which song would you rather never hear again?

WC: Anything by Jewel, Alanis Morissette, Lenny Kravitz or Sting. Can't they all just move to Barbados together or something? A cave maybe...

Q Anything under the "hobbies/interests" section of your resume which may surprise people?

WC: I fantasize about moving out to the country and starting an alpaca farm. Really, I do. But do you know that one of those fuckers costs about $20,000? We've got to sell a lot more albums before the alpaca farm happens.

Q Nearly 30 years ago, Bob Seger bragged that Detroit audiences are the "greatest rock and roll audiences in the world." Did the old codger nail it or is that merely the stuff of myth and pipedream? What other cities have rolled out the red carpet for The Paybacks?

WC: Detroit audiences are a great proving ground. They're tough, but they're also very loyal. If you can win them in Detroit, you've really got something going. Other cities that are particularly nice to us: Madison, Chicago, Seattle and the country of Spain. We also sold out our last show in New York. That was nice, they went nuts!

Q What's the strangest thing you've ever seen while on stage?

WC: I think it was in Minneapolis -- we were playing and this guy in the front row was really, really, REALLY drunk. He kept crawling onto the stage and writhing around on his stomach and we would sorta shove him back into the crowd. It was mildly amusing until he wiggled up to Dan, grabbed his leg and took a big bite. Dan is normally a very mild mannered, sweet-natured guy. But the wiggler caught a boot in the face for that one.

Q First concert attended and first record purchased?

WC: First concert: Bo Diddley in my 6th grade elementary school auditorium in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He was amazing -- made a big impression.

My first record was not purchased, but stolen. I shoved a copy of the "Alice Cooper Show" (a live album) down my pants in 8th grade. That was before CDs, so it was no easy trick. Before that, I used to shoplift 45s -- one of the early ones I remember was Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom." I still love that song.

Q With hindsight being 20/20, any career move you'd like to go back and change?

WC: Nope, I've done everything the hard way. I think that's the best way to learn.

Q If forced to choose, who would you hire to play your wedding: the original Alice Cooper band, the "glory years" Kiss line-up, or CheapTrick?

WC: Boy, that's a really tough question. Can't I have all three?

Q Top five desert island discs?

WC: Another tough question. For today, how's about these: Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers "L.A.M.F.," Beck's "Mutations," The Beach Boys "Disc 3" from the box set," The Sonics "Here are the Ultimate Sonics" and The Band "Music from Big Pink."

Q Since we're in a bar, what are you drinking?

WC: I'll have a Sam Addams (I can't help it, that shit tastes good!) and a shot of Hornitos, please...