Soul Coughing, the New York-based alternative rock band from the 1990s, is long gone, but the group’s songs are returning to the airwaves, sound systems, touring circuit, etc thanks to an unlikely source: the band’s former frontman and founder Mike Doughty.
This probably doesn’t raise the eyebrows of the typical music fan, however, it’s hard to find a musician who is more disgusted with a former project than Doughty is with Soul Coughing. In the past few years, Doughty (who has been riding a strong solo career for more than a decade with more than a half-dozen releases) has detailed the toxic relationships between him and his former bandmates. He revealed in a 2012 memoir that the harmful era took a major toll on him mentally — and ultimately sparked a nasty drug habit.
So it came as quite a surprise when Doughty announced this past summer that he would be releasing an album of re-worked Soul Coughing songs on an album called Circles — which features new versions of hits like “Circles” and “Super Bon Bon.” On top of the new album, Doughty is only playing Soul Coughing tunes on the current tour.
When going back to re-work the Soul Coughing songs, did the hip-hop, electronic and jazz influences that were with you resurface or have they always been there throughout your solo career?
A huge part of my listening diet has always been dance music and avant garde music. And always, there has been, pop music. There’s always like a Katy Perry song that I come up with. So the mixture of those musical habits is basically my musical identity.
Were you ever worried that revisiting these songs might reignite the dark era you had with Soul Coughing?
At its best, music allows you to be in the eternal present. So when you really inhabit a song, you’re looking out from the song as opposed to looking at it the way you look at prose on a page. So that kind of inhabiting isn’t an experience of examining the context of it, the past, whatever it is — it’s just wearing the song and feeling it.
In your memoir Book of Drugs you essentially revealed you were never satisfied with the final product of a lot of these songs. So was this project something that was triggered by the book or had you been considering this for a while?
I don’t really know why this has happened [laughs] …. The best stuff in my artistic career has happened without a whole lot of premeditation.
What are the emotions playing these songs live for the first time in years in front of audiences?
Basically I’ve just been diggin’ it. I love my rhythm section. Catherine Popper on bass — most recently of Jack White’s band — Pete Wilhoit on drums …. I’m really finding what I meant when I wrote these songs at first.
Mike Doughty plays the Neptune Theater on Saturday, November 2nd. Tickets can be purchased here.
Special Guests include Mooch Hooch.
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