Mike Doughty On Soul Coughing, The Book of Drugs and His Solo Career

Categories: interview
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Deborah Lopez

In this week's print edition, we're profiling former Soul Coughing frontman and singer/songwriter Mike Doughty, who will be in San Juan Capistrano at The Coach House on Thursday. He recently released an autobiography, The Book Of Drugs, which chronicles his drug and alcohol addiction along with his tenuous time in the band. Read the full interview after the jump.
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OC Weekly: Is this tour in support of the live album or the book? Or both?

Mike Doughty: I'd say primarily for the book. It's like a reading/evening of songs.

How does that work? Do you little bit of both?

Yeah. Play some songs, read a little bit and a few questions. I was quite terrified contemplating this at first, but it's going really well.

What made it so nervewracking?

I'd just never done it before and I didn't know if people wouldn't be having any of it. But people are into it I'm glad to say. I was more worried about it more in terms of the mechanics of a rock show.

During the readings, does everyone get quiet and attentive?

Yeah. They're seated shows so generally the vibe has been chilled out and intimate.

What was the impetus for you to write the book? It takes a lot of courage to rehash a lot of these painful stories. What made now the appropriate time to relive the past?

I'd be blabbing about how I'd write a book one day and an editor called me up and was like here's some money. So I had to do it. My impetus was that I had a bunch of really good stories. I don't really have or claim to have any kind of overarching wisdom on my life. But I have a zillion tales that I've been telling over dinner and coffee and I set out to lay them down and put them together chronologically.

I'm sure you're experience as a songwriter and writer helped with that and helped make them easy to rehash and relatable to a certain extent.

Yeah well that is the hope.

There's a quote that said "I love drugs, I can't renounce drugs. Drugs worked the bulk of the time and I spent most of the time high...etc. You know that one. It seems like you're at peace with how things turned out and made your life better for it.

Life is quite amazing. I feel like I'm a better artist than I've ever been. I have more friends in my life. Everything is much more dynamic and interesting and romantic and poetic. But the thing is that it's predicated on the near death experience.

That being said, have you gone back and listened to any of the material or demos you recorded during that time when you were using?

The Soul Coughing stuff?

That and what became outtakes or stuff you used on your solo albums. Or maybe B-sides.

In terms of the old material, no. There was much disappointment around the Soul Coughing stuff. It wasn't what I wanted it to be. It was compromised both by the fact that I was high and the fact that my bandmates, in my opinion, were kind of psychotic. So much of the decisions were made out of spite towards me. It was a really nightmarish situation.

So it's safe to say that there hasn't been any contact been you and your former bandmates.

Oh gosh no. Soul Coughing was an abusive marriage full of emotional violence and I have no interest in stuff I wrote years before I met those guys, it's heartbreaking. Lots of people are Soul Coughing fans, I am not. I don't own that much, even of the stuff I wrote years before I met those guys. It's heartbreaking.

I remember seeing you guys open for Dave Matthews Band in 1996 at Madison Square Garden. Everything on the surface seemed great, it's disappointing to hear all of this.

Lots of people are Soul Coughing fans. I definitely am not.

I guess we can cross that off as a reunion tour then.

Umm yeah.

It seems like your solo career has grown organically and has grown on your own terms and you've built your following without having to worry about Soul Coughing's legacy. You've completely done your own thing...

When I first went out, the bulk of the audience was actually angry at me for being an acoustic guy. But there was this nugget of people who had actually downloaded Skittish, my acoustic album, off of Napster. They were coming for those songs. Starting with them, I slowly built an audience that was in it for the solo stuff. The biggest luxury problem I have is that people used to yell out "Super Bon Bon" or "Circles" and I'd have to say no, I don't play those anymore. Now, people are yelling out solo songs and it makes me so happy. People yell for "Madeline and Nine," and I have to say, no sorry I'm not playing that tonight, but God bless you! It's a great thing.

Mike Doughty performs with Rachael Cantu and Mike Viola at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 496-8930. Doors 6 p.m. Thursday, April 12, $16 to 18. All ages.



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