Mike Doughty – Circles Super Bon Bon Sleepless How Many Cans? True Dreams of Wichita Monster Man Mr. Bitterness Maybe I’ll Come Down St. Louise Is Listening I Miss the Girl Unmarked Helicopters The Idiot Kings So Far I Have Not Found the Science

pic: ericmpearson

pic: ericmpearson

It is well documented and proclaimed by Mike Doughty himself that Soul Coughing was one of the darkest and painful periods in his life, one which has been an ‘out of bounds’ subject musically really ever since his departure from the band at the start of this century and becoming clean from the drugs which stalked that time. The publishing of his The Book of Drugs earlier this year saw Doughty address that darkness but in many ways the fact he has gone on further to look back and revisit Soul Coughing songs for his new album is a striking surprise. In many ways book and new album Circles Super Bon Bon Sleepless How Many Cans? True Dreams of Wichita Monster Man Mr. Bitterness Maybe I’ll Come Down St. Louise Is Listening I Miss the Girl Unmarked Helicopters The Idiot Kings So Far I Have Not Found the Science, a title made up by listing all the song titles within it, is a ‘cleansing’ of the shadows and demons bred in that moment of his life. Revisiting and re-interpreting some of his favourite songs, his intent he states of wanting “to separate the songs — not the recordings, but the songs — from the darkness” and “wanting to figure out what I meant, who I was, where I was when I wrote the songs “, Doughty has created an album of classic tracks stripped and in most cases given a new irresistible aspect in which Soul Coughing fans and those new to the man will eagerly devour.

Admittedly our introduction to Mike Doughty came post Soul Coughing, awareness of the band solid but direct knowledge of their sounds restricted to two or three well-trodden songs recognition wise. This made Circles Super Bon Bon… an album which is more than a re-interpretation for our imagination, a release which for its majority is a uniquely new endeavour to contemplate. This is a plus in many ways though it means any comparison between the originals and what Doughty originally visualised and is explored by him now is for a future discussion. From those which can be compared, Doughty has thinned them down yet built them up with a funk bred energy and a lighter vitality; it is a touch which works a treat though arguably relinquishes some of the potency of the dark spawned lyrics and their provocative impact. The PledgeMusic financed album is an enthralling and invigorating encounter all the same, one which bridges Doughty’s recent solo exploration and Soul Coughing whilst showing the distinct differences.

The album opens with Sleepless, an evocative gentle caress of keys teasing the ear as electronic beats build a cage for music and 539618_10152183023660200_1861384510_nthe unique tones of Doughty to court and at times prowl. The song walks with intent and a slim intensity but one which still offers a shadowed intrigue clad clime around which a reserved yet eager funk seeded swagger adds its adventure. It is an absorbing clarified and tantalising persuasion which ignites a sturdy appetite in those new to the songs and those one suspects well acquainted with the tracks.

Both How Many Cans? and True Dreams of Wichita place a contagious grip upon the senses and emotions, the first with a pulsating lure aligned to another funk kissed dance. Keys and especially the excellent emotive dark tones of the upright bass of Catherine Popper, who stirs up a mystique and compelling resonance across the whole release, enslave the imagination whilst the rhythms with a near metronomic tempting drive the track perfectly. To be honest the drum programming is the one limiting and less successful element of the album, though not enough to make any ruinous contribution as shown here but for personal preferences a live percussionist at least would have added even greater depth to the invention. The second of the pair instantly seduces with the bass again a temptress which cannot be denied from its opening breath whilst Doughty with his eager croon pulls the song into a keen and enthusiastic stroll which is pure infection. Samples also make their small stabs throughout to add further unpredictability to a song which revitalises and improves strikingly on the original.

Super Bon Bon is one of the loftiest pinnacles on the album, the addiction sparking low key magnetic stomp fusing jazz blazes and funk romping to a kinetic compulsion which hot steps across the senses for the fullest temptation. Its might is not quite matched but impressively supported by the likes of the soul flamed Mr. Bitterness, the almost bedlamic virulently contagious Monster Man, and the melancholic beauty that is Maybe I’ll Come Down, a darkly hued enticement which seduces from first note to last. To be fair every song upon Circles Super Bon Bon… is a masterful reflection and unleashing of what Doughty intended initially for the songs, some with more potency and temptation than others as shown by the excellent sinewed stomp of Unmarked Helicopters and the evolving electronic frenzy of So Far I Have Not Found the Science, both two more passion igniting enterprises.

Circles is another track which is more dramatic in its new vision whilst retaining the essence which made it an insatiable tempter of hearts. Losing its discord lilt for a sturdier folk voice but still retaining the hypnotic impossibly addictive bait of the original, the track is a major triumph and opening into the original intent of Doughty. In this instance being able to make the comparison to the first version, a track which has gripped our psyche from its first unveiling, the impression of the dark clouds around him and song back then is pronounced, though you always have to bear in mind the input and creative design of the rest of the band in the creation of the songs which purposely impacted on its shadows too.

Completed by the radiant yet raw shine of St. Louise Is Listening, the album is a captivating insight and though for personal tastes Doughty has achieved greater potency with his recent solo releases, the Good Goose produced Circles Super Bon Bon… makes for one intriguing and with some real gems within it, thoroughly satisfying release.



RingMaster 25/11/2013

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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Mike Doughty: The Flip Is Another Honey

Mike Doughty

    Though admittedly ours was a late introduction to the solo mastery of former Soul Coughing frontman Mike Doughty it has brewed a heightened excitement every time something new emerges from the unique talent. His previous albums, Yes And Also Yes and live extravaganza The Question Jar Show only went to increase anticipation for any future releases as well as probably expectations of those unveilings. The Flip Is Another Honey is the new album from the Brooklyn master of the unpredictable and inspirational, a release which admittedly we had whispers of doubt about before entering its intriguing content. Of course to even question this man and his ideas even in merely glancing thoughts was plain stupidity as the album of cover songs which one assumes have inspired him in some way or simply ignited his own personal passions, is quite sensational.

Released via Snack Bar/Hornblow Recordings, The Flip Is Another Honey, this wonderful title taken from a 1956 review in Variety in regard to the Jerry Lee Lewis release Crazy Arms and meaning “the b-side is also really good”, consists of tracks reinterpreted by Doughty in his own inimitable style. Some are ‘straight’ versions in his unique way whilst others have been teased and seduced by the imagination of the man into little irresistible jewels which ripple with mischief, invention, and inspired vision. It is fair to say despite the ardour brewed by his previous albums the pure joy and impressiveness of this album was unexpected from looking at the chosen songs, so we hang our heads in shame at not having faith as The Flip Is Another Honey is just wonderful.

Apart from the version of Randy Newman song God’s Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind), the brief instrumental  slice of flipStephen Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns, and an irrepressible take of Guys and Dolls song Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat by Frank Loesser with a great havoc ending, all three having the assistance of long time collaborators pianist “Cashmere” Dan Chen and cellist Andrew “Scrap” Livingston, every sound on the album is played by Doughty starting with the irresistible opener Sunshine. Sampling the voice of John Denver throughout the track sees Doughty rapping verses in between, his grizzled baritone narrative entwining deliciously with the harmonies of the songs author. It is an inspired interpretation which is as riveting as it is provocative, and at all moments a respectful homage to the original song.

The bulging sinews of Jimmy Bell, a blues song originally written by Cat Iron with Doughty basing his version on the 15 60 75 the Numbers Band recording, is a pulsating heavy boned rampant beat feast of a song. The track consumes the senses with a compelling potency and vibrant breath which openly shows the blues influences which have cast their inspiration over his previous work.

Take Me Home, Country Roads is a straight forward version of the Denver classic and features the distinct vocal caresses of Rosanne Cash alongside Doughty. To be honest from an already in place dislike of the song the album for one of only a couple of times does not moves the passions something the following Cheap Trick song Southern Girls manages with ease. Again it is a relatively true version to the original which ticks all the boxes and with the smouldering intensity and resonance which weaves across much of the album is a track to hungrily engage with.

To avoid drooling over every subsequent track on the album further personal highlights come firstly with Tightrope. It is a song which Doughty builds around a chorus by The Stone Roses, his raps adding infectious flesh to the addictive chorus as does the fascinating entrancement by the keys. Then there is Running Back a great version of a less known Thin Lizzy track and Reach Out another Cheap Trick track which was originally from the Heavy Metal Motion Picture Soundtrack. Both songs just lead the senses and emotions into a fuller rapture with their uncomplicated but stylishly sculpted presences, the second of the two stunningly merging into acoustic tease Higher State of Consciousness, the Josh Wink techno anthem.

The pinnacle of the album is Doughty’s version of the Camille song Ta Douleur. Sung in French the song is a thrilling seduction with eager tempo and a delicious discord soaked piano wantonness to infect and send the listener into fiery ardour. The greatest triumph in an album of continual peaks, the song is ingenuity at its best.

With further impressive covers of tracks from Doveman, Red House Painters, and Low, The Flip Is Another Honey is an engrossing slice of invention and musical passion from a man who is never lacking either trait in his own work. The fact that for us he has turned songs which previously left no telling imprint on the emotions into passion driven favourites tells all about the album and Mike Doughty.



RingMaster 23/02/2013

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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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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Mike Doughty – Yes And Also Yes

The time for presents and treats maybe over with the festive season a swiftly departing memory but Mike Doughty in the form of his brand new album has presented the heart with one of the biggest gifts possible. From start to finish Yes And Also Yes is a glowing joy, a release rippling with well crafted exciting songs to offer a feast for the senses. Consisting of fourteen vibrant, witty and mesmeric indie pop songs the album gives an engaging and diverse presentation of inspired quality song writing and its realisation.

Yes And Also Yes is Doughty’s fourth album and a natural continuation of the sound that blessed previous release Sad Man Happy Man of 2009. It has not taken a giant leap on from its predecessor sound wise but the songs within Yes And Also Yes have a rounder feel, a more defined sound, I guess the best word for it is maturity. The album is as ever from the former Soul Coughing frontman full of fun, the wealth of great songs carrying a mischief that can only endear the album further. The title of the release comes from the headline for his profile on an online dating site and just epitomises the wordplay and humour he instinctively graces his songs with.

For those new to the man, Doughty’s music is an imaginative meld of indie, pop, subtle rock, folk, Americana and plenty more. Each track has an individual life that gives a great variety to the album, but to be honest it is the extra little offbeat and unique unpredictable sounds and twists that he often employs as additives to spice songs up that make the man really stand out far ahead of the crowd. Unpredictable and sometimes darkly surprising these moments elevate songs far beyond the norm though no song could ever be called predictable. Slight discordance, heart twanging strings, and skilful slightly dark inserts are among the enterprising ideas unveiled throughout the album to wonderful effect; he even uses a capsule of the antidepressant duloxetine for percussion.

Opening track and single ‘Na Na Nothing’ immediately sets the upbeat tone that veins the album even within its more emotive subdued moments and has the juices of anticipation running long before its end for what is ahead. It is incessantly catchy and impossible to resist joining in on for its chorus, the song simply and eagerly leaping through the ear to play joyfully and warmly on the senses. The overall sound on the track and often elsewhere especially vocally in songs is like a heady exhilarating mix of Frank Black and Graham Parker with splashes of choice Elvis Costello essences.

Into The Un’ a song about goth kids on LSD in a train station, continues the wonderful start but then again every song does so that by the closing note of Yes And Also Yes one has the same feeling as going through the first. The high level is maintained impressively but a few songs really played the heart like an instrument to satisfy and impress thoroughly such as ‘Strike The Motion’ with its pulsating mesmeric keys behind the song’s front giving as does the following ‘Have At It’ a stirring sound that plays like the union of Costello and Rocket From The Crypt, and ‘Makelloser Mann’. Brief and sung in German, Doughty simply singing a bunch of random, peculiar phrases, the music has a lovely B52’s sounding riff and melodically teasing keyboard, more evidence of the variety and creativity within the album.

The great songs keep coming, ‘The Huffer and the Cutter’ brilliantly worded and full of dark additives, ‘Rational Man’ with its irresistible acidic strings over a metronomic eagerness, and ‘Weird Summer’ with its vastly varied landscape of sounds and flows bringing a Green Day riff, Doughty rapping, and more disturbed strings, all to play with the senses. The country lined ‘Holiday (What Do You Want?)’ featuring Rosanne Cash has to be mentioned too, and for one that has as much enthusiasm for Xmas songs as TV talent shows have for quality the song was rather pleasing.

Released on Doughty’s own label Snack Bar January 23rd, the album is a must hear. We have not really touched on the great lyrics throughout but that can be an extra undiscovered treat on investigation the release for you.  The album coincides with the release of Doughty’s autobiography ‘Book of Drugs’. Dealing mainly with drugs, music, and the “weirdness, and messed-up-ness, of life in Soul Coughing” the book is another highly anticipated discovery.  Treat yourself to at least one; even better spoil yourself with both.

For more on both check out Mike Doughty’s official website @ http://www.mikedoughty.com

RingMaster 14/01/2012


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