Mike Doughty Vrooms Back Into The Room
Originally conspired as a Soul Coughing dub project, Ghost of Vroom echoes the feel of the beloved New York City band
Since his humble beginnings working the door at the original Knitting Factory, Mike Doughty has been one of the key faces in New York City rock and its evolution in the 90s.
“There was a period of maybe a year where Charles Gayle did a free-improv night with his quartet every Sunday,” he tells Rock & Roll Globe. “The same fifteen people showed up every time, so I could close out the ticket desk and watch the shows. It was just incredible. Blasts of crazy majesty.”
As the frontman for the genre-busting downtown quartet Soul Coughing alongside keyboardist/sampler Mark Degli Antoni, bassist Sebastian Steinberg and drummer Yuval Gabay, Doughty helped set the table for a super distinctive approach to singing in a rock band with a spoken word approach that’s equal parts Q-Tip and Lou Reed.
Or, as the man himself calls it, “Tom Waits and Phife Dawg. Both oddball and on the money.”
And after spending much of the 21st century recording as a solo artist, Doughty and his longtime collaborator Andrew Livingston have revisited the concept of Soul Coughing as Ghost of Vroom, whose debut full-length Ghost of Vroom I (co-produced by Mario Calistoga, Jr., no less) will do doubt please longtime fans.
“I was slowly turning back to Soul-Coughing-esque sounds–the samples, the upright bass, the chanting,” Doughty tells Rock & Roll Globe. “And so I named the band after a proposed dub version of SC’s Ruby Vroom, Ghost of Vroom, that we never made (it was titled after Burning Spear’s dub version of their album Marcus Garvey: Garvey’s Ghost).”
One key aspect that sets Ghost of Vroom from Soul Coughing is how deep duality of hip-hop and the blues that exists in Ghost of Vroom, namely the duo’s stirring riff on the Son House standard “John The Revelator”.
It’s the scariness, the psychedelic weirdness of the book of Revelation,” Doughty explains about what drew him to the song. “The beauty of old-time preachers.”
Was that a conscious thing or was it just a natural output of the two sides of your songwriting brain these days, I asked Mr. Doughty.
“Very natural,” he replied. “Everything I do that’s good is a unpremeditated fusion of things. I listen to an odd assortment of stuff. There’s a lot of Sun Ra and Katy Perry in the mix of GoV, too.”
Meanwhile, Soul Coughing’s overlooked and excellent second album Irresistible Bliss turns 25 this fall. Where does that album sit with you all these years later, I ask Doughty.
“Andrew and I did a very spare version of it for some shows–Chicago and Minneapolis,” he recalls. “As a sequence of tunes I think it holds up pretty well.”
Doughty has been working with Andrew Livingston for a long time now. What is it in your view that makes you and him such kindred spirits creatively?
“We both managed to get sober and retain our taste for the weird,” he answers. “I think that’s the heart of it.”
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