Indie singer-songwriter Mike Doughty spent eight years as the frontman and lead guitarist for the alternative cult band Soul Coughing. And while his poetically driven style became popular among fans, Doughty found himself sucked into the vortex of band life that so quickly convolutes the love of music and rips at every aspect of life, and he called off the band in 2000.
Now, after more than a decade as a solo artist, having had time to process those years, Doughty’s choosing to revisit those songs, breathe new life into them and present them to the world as never before on a new record. In our interview, Doughty is candid and refreshingly face-forward about the task at hand, and he’s got us as excited as ever to hear the new work!
Can you tell us about the genesis of the campaign idea to rework older songs in your catalog? Where did that idea first enter the picture?
I wanted to see, again, what it was like to live inside these songs that I wrote.
I wrote a memoir called “The Book of Drugs”; a lot of it was how dark the years in Soul Coughing were. All bands are marriages, and this was an abusive one. I haven’t touched those songs for years, but, after the book, I wondered, “Who was the guy who wrote these? In his apartment, on his roof, in hotel rooms -- before they entered the ugliness of the band process?” I picked through them; I wanted to make versions that were more like maybe what that 23/25/27-year-old wanted them to be.
You’ve described the process as “scary” and “freaky”. What specifically draws out those descriptors?
Separating the songs from the darkness is painful -- moreover, taking a look at who I used to be is painful.
As you look back over some of these songs and rework them, did any anecdotes or stories that you’d forgotten about come back that you’d be willing to share?
I remember all the times I went out to clubs -- house music in NYC in the early ’90s, drum-and-bass music in London (my girlfriend lived there) in the mid ’90s -- loving the DJs, and writing melodies in my head, singing them to myself as I was dancing.
Of all of the songs, which of these was the most surprising in terms of traction with fans or response?
Yet to be determined. The version of “Super Bon Bon” is somewhat along the lines of trap music, which is among the specialties of my producer, Good Goose.
Do you favor any of the reworked tunes over the originals so far?
There were a few tunes off “Irresistible Bliss” that I really intended to be bangers -- again, written as I was dancing in clubs -- but they came out weirdly small and fluffy, to my taste. They’re bangers now. “Sleepless”, “How Many Cans?”, especially.
Among your exclusives, you’re offering a “large collection of unusual mugs” but give no definition beyond that. That’s quite a mystery for the hot beverage consumer on the other side and yet it’s all gone. Can you tell those of us who missed out any more about it?
I don’t know why I started collecting mugs, years ago. The person who Pledged for them is gonna get three huge boxes of utterly random mugs -- bizarre companies, locations, tourist attractions. I’m moving in with my girlfriend, and we’re just not gonna have the space. I thought a fan might think they were fun, rather than just leaving them on the curb!