Mike Doughty has been through the ringer. The former lead vocalist for sample-heavy ’90s alternative-rock mainstays Soul Coughing (“Super Bon Bon,” “Circles”) has put a lot of distance between himself and that band in the post-120 Minutes era, releasing a steady stream of solo recordings, all of which retain his trademark acerbic wit and sometimes-dense wordplay while often venturing into more conventional acoustic arrangements. After 10 years, though, the Soul Coughing days are back to haunt Doughty with the 2012 release of his very entertaining, sometimes harrowing, memoir, The Book of Drugs (Da Capo Press), which will figure heavily in his concert Friday, March 30, at the Legacy Theatre.
“Soul Coughing was a dark, dark marriage,” Doughty says now, in a telephone interview. “A lot of emotional abuse, it was very toxic. And people just didn’t know.” Indeed, the anecdotes in Book of Drugs provide many examples of hostility and infighting between the group members, who are never mentioned by name, instead being identified only by their instrument (“The bass player had slipped my journal into his pocket when I wasn’t looking”). The story takes on a weird pathos as Doughty describes his disillusionment with the life of a “minor rock star” and increasing alienation from his bandmates, whom he depicts as consistently belittling his contributions to a band whose material and sound he personally envisioned, while they manage to parlay their arrangement contributions into equal songwriting credit. Even more upsetting, though often just as grimly funny, is the gradually devastating but eventually vanquished drug habit that gives the book its title. “I’m kind of stunned at myself for thinking people were going to know all that stuff without me actually telling it to them,” he says with self-deprecating wonder.
Doughty’s most recent release is The Question Jar Show, a live 2-CD set in which he alternates spirited renditions of some of his strongest material with a smattering of responses to absurd audience queries drawn from the record’s titular jar (Sample question: “F—-, marry, kill: Oprah, Janet Reno, Octomom.”) but his show at the Legacy will explore a different format. “This show is a bit more of a confessional,” he explains. “It’s just me solo, and there’s a Q & A section but it’s kind of code for ‘I will tell you gnarly things about Soul Coughing,’ as opposed to the more ludicrous aspects of Question Jar. So it’ll be songs and readings from the book. I was actually pretty severely anxious about doing a show that had readings in the middle of it, which is something that I’ve never done before and I was rather terrified, but it’s been good.”
The acclaimed lyricist’s first foray into “literature” has been garnering positive responses, somewhat to Doughty’s surprise. “The book has been received very favorably. I was sort of braced for – as I’m always braced for – being smacked in the face with negativity, because I’m just an insecure person. But it’s been really great.”
Mike Doughty will perform at the Legacy Theatre, 101 E. Lawrence, 8 p.m. Friday, March 30. Tickets are $25 advance, $30 day of show. Doors open at 7 p.m.
For Tickets check out http://www.atthelegacy.com/