20 Questions

Mike Doughty

by PopMatters Staff

24 February 2008

Former Soul Coughing frontman Mike Doughty is a Renaissance Man of sorts, plying his trade as a musician, songwriter, poet, playwright, photographer, and blogger and he answers PopMatters' 20 questions.
cover art

Mike Doughty

Golden Delicious

US: 19 Feb 2008
UK: 3 Mar 2008

Review [27.Feb.2008]

Former Soul Coughing frontman Mike Doughty is a Renaissance Man of sorts, plying his trade as a musician, songwriter, poet, playwright, photographer, and blogger. Doughty’s new album, Golden Delicious, features a driven, organic sound crafted around his savvy, agile lyrical escapades. The lead song “Fort Hood” was inspired by Doughty’s visit to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
The Barack Obama “Yes We Can” video. But I must admit that I’m a Hillary guy.

2. The fictional character most like you?
Mersault from Albert Camus’ The Stranger in terms of his detachment. OK, but I wouldn’t shoot somebody on a beach.

3. The greatest album, ever?
Led Zeppelin IV. I’ve never been the kind of guy to listen to albums all the way through. This is pretty much the only one I can listen to for the full nine tracks and still be captivated.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Wars. Empire Strikes Back, which I saw for the first time dubbed in French. I went to the fifth grade in Belgium. What a torturous, tantalizing experience for a Star Wars obsessed ten-year-old.

5. Your ideal brain food?
Delicious notions. And some kind of pungent sheep’s milk cheese.

6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
Most Improved Camper plaque, West Point Youth Camp, Summer of 1981. Because I improved, man! I improved like crazy.

7. You want to be remembered for…?
Always following my muse, no matter the weird places it led me. Always listening to the song, and trying to figure out what it wanted to be, rather than trying to impose my will on it.

8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
John Coltrane. The spiritual giant, the force of nature. If you’re into 12-step programs, read the poem he wrote for the back cover of A Love Supreme. The language is taken directly from the 12 steps. He’s laying down the argot.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
Alan Dugan’s poem “This Morning Here.”

10. Your hidden talents…?
Eating cheese with astonishing speed. I mean, I can rock it like nobody’s business.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
Sekou Sundiata taught me that the title is an extremely important part of anything you make; you can’t shrug it off, or call it “Untitled.” He also taught me the thing above about listening to what you’re creating, and helping it be itself rather than what you want it to be.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
Stole: A cassette of Prince’s Sign O’ the Times from White Knight Records, Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Nineteen years later I was driving through Vermont, and I stopped in and paid the guy who runs the store back.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?
Oh, Levis. I grew up around the Army (dad taught at West Point), so I sort of absorbed the uniform concept. I’ll buy several versions of the same clothes and dress the same when I’m on tour.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
At first I thought this said “your dinner would be” and I would’ve answered “the cheese plate.” But, if I could have dinner with Eva Longoria, and she could have a gigantic poetic brain and talk for hours on a subject that would be fascinating. Yeah, that’d be the one.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?
1770 or so. I’d ask Thomas Jefferson to be in my band. Perhaps on the Farfisa organ?

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
I’m not crazy about Prozac, but enjoy other Selective Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors (aka crazy pills).

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or…?
Coffee coffee coffee. It’s a most agreeable vice.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
Berlin, in the Prenzlauer Berg area. Maybe around Kollwitzplatz. It’s so alive there, and despite the Euro, very cheap to live. I don’t know, I’m stuck on Brooklyn these days, but I feel like I should get there for six months or a year or so, at least just to dial in my German. I’ve been studying German for awhile.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
Some electronic music. I keep trying to come up with vocals, but I think it wants to be instrumental. Or maybe it requires spoken word on top. I don’t know, I haven’t done anything strictly performance-poetry-based in a very long time.

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