by Mark Guarino
“I’m stoned on cheese!” Mike Doughty tells a capacity crowd in Chicago. Hours earlier, the former Soul Coughing frontman prowled the city to find the perfect Windy City wiener dog/cheese fry combo. During a break he found time to listen to music and talk about his current life as a solo artist on Dave Matthews’ label. After taste-testing different red hots the city is famous for — “my gut is indignant that I’m wasting space on some inferior frank” — his fans will embrace the witty and beat happy new tunes from his current album, Haughty Melodic.
Dave Matthews Band,
“American Baby” from Stand Up (RCA, 2005)
This is great. When I was down in Charlottesville, meeting people at my record company, they took me by his studio and they played me this song. “I hope you stay American baby,” that’s great (laughs). They have a much more fancy hookup than I do in the studio. We walked in and there were hippie women preparing Indian hor’dourves, pouring wine and (each band member) had a goblet and they were being poured red wine. And it was like, this is the way to make a record! This is classic Dave as far as I’m concerned. He’s been into what I’ve been doing for a lot of years. And I, him. That song has that haunted thing. He’s such a dark guy. He doesn’t get credit. He is a dark cat. He is one of the darkest, I swear to god.
“Lookin’ For a Love” from Zuma (Reprise, 1975)
Soul Coughing opened for him on a H.O.R.D.E. tour in ‘97. The night before in Philly, he was on the side of the stage by the monitors, which totally freaked me out. The next day the show was rained out. It was this weird ski lodge. We were playing a stage that had been set up at the bottom of a ski slope. It was totally rained out, the stage was covered in plastic, total disaster and I was walking down this sort of mildewed ski lodge hallway and I hear this voice: “hey, I sure do like that Soul Coughing.” Oh Mr. Young!
“Bitches Ain’t S**t” from iTunes
Is it Ben? The thing about hip-hop lyrics is, they lend themselves as a form so perfectly to anything. You can do anything with a well-written hip-hop lyric. I just don’t think it’s naturally funny to just be white anymore. When did Faith No More put out “Epic?” 1990? We’re 15 years past it and it’s not funny anymore. It’s like, “oh look, we’re white!” It would actually be interesting to hear Dr. Dre do a Ben Folds tune.
“Ain’t that Loving You Baby” from Blues Masters: The Very Best of Jimmy Reed (Rhino, 2000)
Jimmy Reed! Just that beautiful dashed off quality. The beats: that weird, either sort of going too fast or going too slow. The guitar is just precisely out of tune. He does that stop and he adds a little extra syllable by mistake. That dashed off quality is just beautiful. I don’t know a thing about him but a guy got me his greatest hits in college and I’ve been listening to it ever since.
“Candy Shop” from The Massacre (Interscope, 2005)
You know it’s interesting: the first thing is I listened for is whether or not it’s the cleaned up version. I learned that when I download a hip-hop single, I always get the clean version because it’s always better. They do really innovative ways of cleaning up curses. Like that Jay-Z song, “Can I Get a What-What?” is so much better than the real song, “Can I Get a Fuck You?” Just rhythmically, it works better. It’s so interesting because they’re using these Middle Eastern flavors right now in hip-hop. The thing that I like to look at is how you can make something interesting when there’s only one hook in the song and everything else is bubbling along like a stream. The way he says, “I’m the luuuuuve doctor.” The way he sort of phrases it, he leans back on the beat. This guy is so fucking talented, I wish I could listen to him but I just can’t. I got Get Rich Or Die Trying and I was like, “oh my god this is so great.” But it’s so negative, I have to take a nap afterwards. I need a little something more.