Interview with Mike Doughty

The beginning of 2012 has already given many impressive and inspiring releases but not many are as essential and as completely fulfilling as Yes And Also Yes from Mike Doughty. The album consists of fourteen vibrant, witty and mesmeric indie pop songs which engage and inspire through quality song writing and captivating sounds. Alongside the album Mike also has an autobiography The Book Of Drugs out which deals with drugs, music, and the “weirdness, and messed-up-ness, of life in Soul Coughing” that have been part of life to date. With immense pleasure we had the chance to talk with Mike and ask him about the album, book, his music and more.

Hello and a warm welcome to The Ringmaster Review, thank you for letting us pry a little into your creative world.

2012 is starting off with a bang for with the release of your new album Yes And Also Yes and your autobiography. What is your overriding emotion as they find their way into the ears and eyes of the world?

I tend to keep distant from what the world thinks of what I’m putting out. I definitely feel obliged to the audience, but I think the way to do the best work is to keep your head down, pay attention to what you’re making, not how it’s perceived. Otherwise, I get delirious, and the machinery jams.

You have had a fair few releases under your belt to great acclaim but does the feeling ever lessen on the eve of releasing something new?

Like I said–I have to pay attention to the work, not to the reaction. That said, I guess the short answer is no–because there’s always anxiety.

Do you have different feelings, nerves, tension or whatever over the book compared to the album as it exposes a different and more personal aspect of you in many ways?

References to ex-girlfriends in songs can be super oblique, but in the book, they’re described in detail. That’s been a painful and weirdly exhilarating process, communicating with people from way-back-in-the-way-back. There are people I love of whom I tell some pretty gnarly stories–I’m very scared of their reactions. I don’t want to lose them.

Can we first talk about the album Yes And Also Yes? The title has been commented on everywhere I am sure but can you give our readers the inspiration behind it?

It was the title of an online dating profile. I improvised it–you had to type something in that box just to post it. Later I realized it was kind of weirdly suitable to where I was at. It also related to improv sketch comedy–Del Close and “the rule of yes” and that kind of stuff–and I’ve been doing a lot of comedy shows around Manhattan and Brooklyn, playing a couple of songs on a bill of five or six comedians. So maybe I absorbed some of that.

Any thoughts on those kind of sites, haha did you find any budding romances?

There were some almost-almosts, but nothing of substance, and lots of awkward shittiness. I met my girlfriend through friends–she’s basically been nearby me forever–and there’s a really intense connection that makes all that slogging through dates really ludicrous. Though maybe I had to scan the horizon before I realized she was standing behind me. I say to her, all the time, “Where the hell were you all this time?!”

How would you say Yes And Also Yes differs and has evolved from previous albums Sad Man Happy Man and Golden Delicious?

To a certain extent it feels very specific to where I wrote most of the songs–an artists’ colony called Yaddo in Upstate New York. A lot of it was coaxed from ideas that I’d been collecting since I finished the last album, but it was an unusually intense thing to have them all bloom in the same tiny span of time.

Am I right in believing not all of your fans were taken with and liked the directions you took with previous albums and were strong in their desire to share that with you?

Actually, I’ve been making them happy since Sad Man Happy Man, it would seem. There are always people who go, “He’s better acoustically, as in Skittish,” or, “He’s better with lo-fi electronics, as in Rockity Roll”, or, “He’s better with a full band”, and the “He was better in Soul Coughing” contingent is always a vocal and irritating minority

How did that effect you and has it has a bearing on your emotions and thoughts with this new album?

Sad Man Happy Man I definitely was thinking of a lot of kvetching about over-instrumentation, and I responded to that. This one I just put my head down and got the work done.

How much of you as a person, your emotions and feelings as well as experiences go into your songwriting and lyrics?

Absolutely all of it–though in mysterious, nebulous, sideways angles.

I am not sure if this question makes sense haha but do you ever fear you may expose to much of the real you in your songs or is that not an issue for you?

I’m a committed over-sharer. Totally suited to these times. It’s really not an issue. The only weird thing is when strangers think they know me well enough that they email me to come to their weddings and are taken aback when I decline.

The tracks within Yes And Also Yes carries a vibrant and uplifting tone throughout and even in its darker emotive moments still has a twinkle in the eye kind of mischief. Do you write a song with a particular emotional purpose or do they evolve their own expression and emotion as they come together?

I just write them. I don’t really know where they’re going when I start, and I try and figure out what the song wants to be, rather than try and force it in a certain direction. That sounds like corny hippie shit, but it’s true. In fact, what a song really relates to, on its deepest level, sometimes doesn’t become obvious until I’ve been playing it for years.

Listening to your lyrics one cannot but be in awe at times of the way you use and link unexpected words into a natural union. When you write do you ‘visualise’ the words, feel them rather than just play with them on paper if that makes sense?

They’re definitely not intended to look good on paper, they’re meant to work sonically, absolutely in tandem with the melody, and the pocket in the rhythm they dwell in. I think about how they sound, as opposed to visually.

Is there a particular track or moment on the album that gives you personally an extra warm glow?

When my cellist, Andrew “Scrap” Livingston, says, “Shall we do it again?” before “Rational Man” it is really hilarious and strange to me–as he is extremely hilarious and extremely strange.

The album is very varied with an array of distinctly different sounds and wonderfully enterprising ‘additives’ coming together to make a truly mesmeric release. How does your songwriting evolve from that first seed of a song to the distinct creation you finish with?

I think I have an idea of how I want them arranged when I start writing. I think

The track Holiday (What Do You Want?) features Rosanne Cash, how did your link up with her come about?

She called me a great songwriter from the stage at a benefit show, and my jaw hit the floor. Then, a bunch of months later, there was a note in the chorus of “Holiday” that I was unable to hit, so I thought I’d find a female vocalist to do a harmony, and I could duck it. Before I called up some female vocalists, I just thought, Well, I’ll drop a line to Rosanne, and see if, by some weird twist of fate, she might want to do it as a full-on duet. And she did. WHOA.

Any chance you can teach all other artists how to not make terrible Xmas songs too?

Boy oh boy, the ones that I really hate are the ha-ha-Christmas-is-dumb songs. Too easy!

As you mentioned you wrote most of the songs for the album at an artists’ colony called Yaddo? For us unaware of this place could you elaborate on that and did it make the writing experience better or strikingly different to how you have composed in the past?

It was super fun. I had a studio in the woods. I was totally sequestered. It was pretty great and totally new for me, of course.

The album again is released by yourself. Apart from I am sure an increased work load, are you happier having your music released this way and what are the advantages?

The increased work load is serious–as is the increased expense. Though, allegedly, I’ll make more dough at the other end. Actually, labels have been pretty nice to me over the years, though, at every label, there’s some dude saying, “You should put a piano on that song,” basically so they can play it for other people and tell them the piano was their idea.

Do you think you needed to have gone through being on a label to understand and see you could release your work by yourself and make a living from it?

Very good question. I have a super enthused audience, very sharp, very interested and engaged. And, of course, I’ve toured like a motherfucker. I think that’s got more to do with it than specific label situations.

Can you give some reassuring words for those unsigned artists who still hold on to the belief that a label is the only way forward?

There’s a zillion ways to do it–the sad thing about the labels is that they basically paid for a van and a sound guy. It’s hard to win an audience unless you’re zooming around from show to show for a few years. It’s more difficult for younger artists–even amazingly talented ones.

I read that you are bipolar? Do you think this adds something different or extra to your music that others cannot find within themselves?

Wow, I don’t really know. Since I got medicated and stopped the fucking horrible side of that shit, the songs have been really good, but they weren’t too bad beforehand, either.

Who and what are the influences in music or outside that have had the biggest impact on you as a musician and songwriter?

I was hugely influenced by David Letterman (very absurdist talk show host) when I was a teenager. He’s incredibly poetic. Also the playwright David Mamet is a Jedi of verbal rhythm. A lot of alternative stuff as a teenager–Replacements, Billy Bragg–hip-hop as an older teenager–Tribe Called Quest, Casual, Craig Mack, the Beasties.

As mentioned earlier you also have your autobiography The Book of Drugs out too. I have yet to have the opportunity to read it so can you give some insight to it and the period of your life it deals with.

It’s a long, long time to summarize. Weird childhood on military bases, coming to New York as an 18-year-old in the late 80s, putting together a band that turned into a total toxic shitshow, a long love affair with drugs that turned into a fucked-up nightmare, then emerging from that, and the world being even stranger than it was before.

How did the writing process differ for the book compared to writing lyrics apart from the obvious?

For a song, if you write 30 words, you’ve had a ridiculously productive day!

The book is an honest and stark of your drug addiction and recovery; can you without giving away too much to stop people needing to buy the book, give a little insight into this?

I don’t really know. You need to find your people. In 12-step stuff, meetings, wherever, find the people who have what you want.

Your addiction problems were more concentrated at the time of your band Soul Coughing or were they in place before then too?

Oh, sure. When Soul Coughing turned to pure shit, that’s when I just decided to say fuck it and stop trying not to be wasted consciously, because life just wasn’t worth it.

Was your experience with the band, which was without doubt not a great time a major accelerant of your problems?

Oh yeah, see above. Though if you’re a certain kind of fucked-up person–as I am–you’re gonna find horrible abusive people no matter what. Had they gone down in a shipwreck, I’d have found another three awful people to be in a band with.

Obviously the book holds much more than the things we just talked of but as the title suggests your problems with drugs and addiction are the major elements. How did you feel whilst writing about this period of your life for the book and future public consumption?

I’ll pretty much tell anybody anything about myself. I don’t have a lot of secrets. I’ve told pretty much every one of these stories over dinner to somebody. I worried, for sure, about people in my life being hurt by what I said about them, though.

Going by your lyrical style and music I can imagine along with the honest portrayal of your life there is a healthy vein of humour too throughout the book, did that humour give you a strength during your darker times?

Yeah, the dark humor, the weird consciousness, that’s basically all I’ve got.

Will you consider another book in the future?

Love to, if I have a good idea.

What is next for you once the promotion for the album and book has passed?

Songs, more songs, always writing songs.

Are there live shows on the horizon, hopefully in the UK?

I sure hope so. Love the UK.

A great thanks for sharing your time for our questions, it has been a real pleasure.

Anytime, I really appreciate the opportunity.

Would you like to leave us with any last comments or thoughts?

I’m sure I’ll think of something really interesting to add 90 minutes after I send this to you!

And lastly knowing you as an inspired poet too would you give us your favourite couple of lines from either one of your pieces or a poem that inspired you?

Rita Dove: “If you can’t be free / Be a mystery.”

Read the Yes And Also Yes review @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/mike-doughty-yes-and-also-yes/

RingMaster 17/02/2012

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Karn8: Sick EP

A date for your diaries, February 22nd, the release date of the new eagerly awaited EP from UK rock band Karn8. It has been a long three years since their previous release, the 2009 album Of All The Strange Things, though the band has constantly kept busy with their hard work ethic of consistently gigging which has built up a fervent fan base at the same time. The Sick EP sees their return to recording  and shows the band has not only continued where they strongly left off but evolved into an even more impressive and essential band. The four track release owns the ear from the very first note to its last. Taunting and engaging, provoking and inspiring, the EP is an instinctive feast of intimidating riffs, wanton grooves, and additive swagger. Karn8 and their music make one feel dirty, lascivious, and most of all deeply satisfied.

Since forming in 2002, Karn8 has relentlessly riled up the senses with original creative rock sounds driven by provocative sex fuelled energy. Previous EPs Wicked Boy, Destruction Is The Answer, and Everything That You Despise, as well as the aforementioned album have rippled with tracks that excite and inspire with formidable additive sounds and a raunchy seduction. Sick not only continues this attack but raises it to irresistible proportions.

The title track opens the EP and immediately lays a claim for the track of 2012. It is hard to imagine any song matching let alone surpassing the sleazy orgy of pleasure that is Sick. The song saunters in on a teasing riff from Bones with his baritone guitar, as always the sound he produces is devilish and siren like. Within moments vocalist Kirst unleashes her seductive charms, her voice wrapping itself around the ear to caress and enthral with wicked glee. The song unveils a groove as essential as breathing, its scorched tone intertwining with the senses in a deliciously dark manipulation. As notable as the sound within the track is the union of vocal and silence two thirds in, Kirsts mesmeric suggestions surrounded by a silence that teases as it stretches the absence of sound to its limit. It is inspired and why Karn8 command such devotion one they sink their hooks in.

Following track Change My World is a gratifying full on rock tune, with the drumming of Leigh allowed to flex its muscles far more than the opener permitted. The band is always hard to compare to others which is wonderful, but here there is a slight Hole meets Kittie feel. The song rides an energy that is eager and insistent, with Bone’s guitar driving aural shadows into the ear alongside the vibrant vocals.

The EP is completed with more generous sounds within Stuck and Nothing. The first cruises through the ear with self-assured vaunt, its groove and sweetly mischievous vocals swaying like a cobra before the ear, ready to infuse their welcome captivating venom. With a tinge of Spinnerette about it the track it soothes and riles up the heart with equal measure. Nothing shifts into a more hard rock orientated track though being Karn8 it comes with their own distinctive flair and thorny style. Kirst bewitches and commands with her vocals yet again, her ability to twist, beguile, and exploit her audience as powerful in the studio as it is live. With Bones and Leigh destabilising the senses with their corrupting heavy and sometimes abrasive riffs and intrusive rhythms, the trio succeed with their determination to expose and feed the senses with the finest seemingly spontaneous rock sounds possible.

   Sick is a masterful release that with any justice will see it and Karn8 an important and obvious part of a vast number of personal playlists. Just give them a chance and listen and you will not be able to resist, and with another year of committed gigging and a proposed recording of a new album, this is the time to get your dose of the Karn8 sickness.

http://www.karn8.com/

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Xandria – Neverworlds End

It has been five years since German symphonic metal band Xandria caressed the ear with new material, the band to some extent taking a break but the wait is over with the release of their new album Neverworlds End, and what an impressive release it is too. The band returns with a new vocalist and the continuation of the majestic soaring sounds that set them up as one of the more important bands in the genre. This continuation does not mean it is more of the same though as the quintet has unveiled an album and sound that whilst retaining all the grace and elegance they always effectively offer, has a real bite to its sound now. The band has fused into their music a clear metal vein, a powerful and at times intimidating intensity which is glorious. This new flavour intensifies the album, its blending of menace and beauty into a formidable and striking release deeply inspiring.

Formed in 1997 by guitarist/keyboardist Marco Heubaum, Xandria has constantly built up a fervent fan base and impressive acclaim from debut album 2003 Kill the Sun and especially with their subsequent albums Ravenheart and India in 2004 and 2005 respectively, to Salomé – The Seventh Veil in 2007. Renowned for their stirring and dynamic live shows too the band in 2008 had to take stock with the departure of vocalist Lisa Middelhauve. With a couple of changes in between the band found and recruited Manuela Kraller (ex-Haggard and Swiss band Forty Shades)to front the band in the dying weeks of 2010, her live debut coming a few brief weeks after. Whether she was part of the instigation for the new approach found on Neverworlds End time will unveil but the band has returned with a new energy and intensity that takes them and the genre to greater heights.

Released via Napalm Records worldwide by the end of February, Neverworlds End as mentioned marks the debut of Kraller. With a style reminding of former Nightwish vocalist Tarja Turunen though with more restraint and self control, Kraller swoops and soars within the songs caressing the ear constantly but also finds a complimentary tone for when certain tracks bristle and pace with the metallic energy the album unleashes.

The opening track A Prophecy Of Worlds To Fall immediately indicates the new intent in town, the gothic vocal harmonies and keys from Heubaum soon joined by an ominous dark presence soon emerging as predatory riffs and rhythms. The track sweeps into warm symphonic realms bringing a theatre and emotion the band is known for but always there is the darker threat waiting, lurking for its moment to seize the senses. Kraller from the off shows her stature as a singer and a very satisfying skilled delivery, her voice riding easily upon the rest of sound created by the keys and guitar of Heubaum and fellow six string maestro Philip Restemeier.

The album has a strength and beauty throughout, tracks like Forevermore, Blood On My Hands, and The Dream Is Still, stylishly bringing together alluring melodies and harmonies with firmer and heavier intense elements. There is a drama and immense emotive grandeur throughout the album that sweeps one up on its eager arms. As good as previous releases were Xandria feel like a new band on Neverworlds End, as if they have emerged from an aural journey to a new plateau they were destined to build. There is still a place for their power ballads within this new direction as in The Lost Elysian and A Thousand Letters, but with an iron intent now guiding their flight.

It is when the band really crank up their metallic side the album really excites. The rampant energy of the heroic sounding Euphoria, the glorious imposing might of Soulcrusher, and the wonderfully chaotic aggression of the excellent Cursed, are magnificent tracks that fuse monumental beauty and grand melodies into a colossal potent metallic grip and attack. Drummer Gerit Lamm holds authority with his impressive demanding rhythms whilst bassist Nils Middelhauve casts grumbling and growling basslines into the ear with the utmost skill. He is a highlight in every song; his prowling attitude drenched playing masterful.

Neverworlds End is a total delight and announces the return of Xandria as an event to immerse oneself into. The band has evolved into a mighty handsome animal and with a hope they continue in this new intense and mighty vein, symphonic metal has never seemed so attractive.

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