Mike Doughty Rediscovers "Circles," "Super Bon Bon" and Mike Doughty
Was that part of the mission: keeping it down to a few sets of hands so that you could do exactly what you wanted to do and get right with these songs?
Yeah … if there was any album where I wanted it to be clear that it was me, it’s this album. Plus, I could just sort of do everything, you know? My last album – The Flip Is Another Honey – I did everything; every note.
It’s where I’m at; the way I make records generally. In this case, I can’t play the upright bass and I didn’t want that to be samples … so that was the one thing I needed a Jedi for. (laughs)
Had you and Catherine played together before?
I’ve known her for a bunch of years and we’ve always just sort of alluded to a day when we’d play together, but not until now. I’m so stoked for the tour, because she’s so amazing.
What were your go-to guitars for this album?
All the electric stuff is done on a 10-year-old Mexican Strat. On the acoustic songs I used a Tacoma Chief and a Martin OMC, which is my usual guy.
Where did you record – what was the basic setting for these tracks?
Goose’s house. He’s this 24-year-old kid who has an apartment in Brooklin. We had a vocal mic in his bedroom – which is about the size of a closet with a window in it; we had a desk with a laptop and a couple of speakers; and we had a little bit of outboard gear in his living room.
Cool. There are so many rhythm textures that are woven together from samples. Was there anything in particular that you pursued; something specific that you were looking to sample?
Usually it’s a matter of what I find; what fascinates me; what’s interesting in context … that’s what I usually mess around with. I try and look for what interests me – rather than having an idea in my head.
One thing that did happen was we were playing back “Sleepless” and a cop drove by with the siren going. We looked at each other and said, “Wow – this is kind of amazing.” (laughter) So we actually went online, scrolling through sample after sample of sirens to put on there.
Revisiting these songs this many years later – there must’ve been a temptation for you to mess with the lyrics. Did you?
Yeah … there were a couple lines I cut from “Mr. Bitterness”; a couple lines I cut from “Sleepless” – but it was just editing, really. Other than that – I’m sure stuff has changed, seeing’s how I wrote them when I was 21 … (laughs)
I never go back and listen to records from any part of my professional life – be they three years old or ten years old. I mean, not with the intent of listening to how I did them then so I can do them the same way now. Presumably, there are differences that are not consciously done.
So you’re taking these things out live on tour. You mentioned Catherine on bass; who else will be in the lineup?
Pete Wilhoit will be on drums and I’ll be playing guitar and sampler. I’m also putting together a turntable part of the show – I’ll actually be deejaying. I’ve found somebody that can turn out single-edition vinyl of certain stuff I want to play live.
So you’re on the backside of this with an album of tunes … does it feel like “mission accomplished” at this point – or do you feel like you still have some more work to do with the older stuff?
Well, you know, the work of believing these songs in my heart is ever-proceeding … I don’t know if I’m ever going to get done with it.
Well, take “True Dreams Of Wichita”: that’s a song that I wrote on the roof of the building where I lived in 1991. It was sort of a signature heartbreak girl-leaving-me-for-my-best-friend song – and so intensely personal because of the memory of writing it and the context of it. It’s so fucked-up that when I play it, I can’t own it in my heart, you see?
I hear you.
I really want to own that song in my heart; I want to feel like that’s a part of me … and that’s the work I still need to do.
But at the same time, I’m tickled to death for you if perhaps you’ve reached a point where you can’t remember that kind of hurt, you know? Rather than it being so close to the surface that you can’t start into the chorus without your voice cracking.
When you live in these songs, it’s … it’s kind of a combination of things. It’s like a ghost living in your muscle memory – and it’s like driving around in an old neighborhood that you used to live in and you think you know where everything is … but you’re wrong.
You just sort of hit the button and the songs just sort of find themselves in your hands; in your throat; in your brain – and there’s an extent to which you’re like, “Where the hell am I?” That’s where I’m at.
Brian Robbins keeps his police siren over at www.brian-robbins.com