All explanations written by M. Doughty unless otherwise noted
I was listening to Craig Mack a lot and had managed to approximate his mushmouthed, offbeat kind of lyrical flow, and basically I spent a whole day walking around, like for instance if I went to the Thai Food place in my neighborhood, I'd be going "I'm gonna get Pad Thai! I'm...gonna...GET...Pad Thai! I'm gonna! Get Pad Thai!" and so on. I took the C train into Manhattan, got off at the Chambers St. station, and there was a sign reading "Take Elevator to Mezzanine."
Try singing the chorus in a Craig Mack imitation. Uncanny, huh? There's this song on his new record where he goes "MC's quit jockin my style...M...C's...quit...jockin' my style..." and I was stunned to realize it was me he was talking about.
The Super Bon Bon bit was this Italian candy bar that I saw at a truckstop on a European tour. I was a little high at the time. I just kept repeating Super Bon Bon, Super Bon Bon, amazed at the number of possible variations in a candy bar name. Super Bon Bon became a pet name for a woman I was seeing at the time, and thus the gap between the terrified-of-the-phone verse and the seemingly light chorus.
Saw a girl in Georgia, but I lived in Brooklyn; she couldn't deal with the mileage, she ditched me. I actually yelped at her "You dumped me!" and she replied, rolling her eyes, "'Dumped' (sigh) That word is so 80's."
It was late August, humid and awful in New York, my apartment in Fort Greene was practically a steambath.
The guitar part comes from an attempt to emulate the way the guitar slithers around the accents in Snoop Dogg's "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thing", whereas the melody is more or less failed attempts at variants of the line "...and I slowly came to see all of the things that you are made of...." in the Mary J. Blige song "Real Love."
Saw a girl in New York, she moved to San Francisco, went out to visit her, realized she was perhaps not the sanest person I had ever met in my life. I told her she was like those children raised by wolves, only she was raised by the aliens. She had this sort of sweet and wholesome thing to her, and this huge despairing darkness beneath the surface. I believe she is a schoolteacher now.
The White Girl part came from reading a newspaper and realizing that whenever a news item involved a black girl, she was described as a Black Girl, but when there was an item about a White Girl, she was described simply as a Girl.
Soundtrack to Mary
Actually begun as an attempt to write my own Low song. Wrote the riff on a bass guitar, and the one line "easy places to get away to," and then just let it sit there for weeks, playing that one riff and singing that one line over and over again. The damn thing grew on its own. Oh, and when it was done we realized it needed a bridge, so I lifted it from this old folk number I used to play called "Sweethearts of the Empire Loisaida."
This song, in my estimation, is Yuval and Sebastian's finest hour. When the bass and drums kick in after the first verse--damn, that kills me softly. Just bought these huge speakers, too--my roommate Jason calls 'em The Big Ass Biscuits--and that kick-in is monstrous, massive, on them. Basically it's this wan lil' pop song powered by a low end twice the size of the biggest jeep beat you could think of. I am proud to be the geek that gets to surf the Rhythm Section of Doom.
I played a two-note thing on the gee-tar at the rehearsal studios--back when we used to do room 5 at Context on Avenue A, that's where most of these songs became Soul Coughing songs--and Yuval had that weird jungle tango beat suddenly, and then Sebastian had the bassline. I went home that night and came up with a melody and the lyrics--a story about a drunk who loves a junkie, and even though he knows that their conflict of drug-loves dooms their relationship, he finds her charming when she's high and has nodded out--and then we didn't rehearse again for months. I played it for my friend Cat Catstein, two-note gee-tar and melody stylee, but that was its only semi-public airing.
Then we rehearse again, and I go; where's the tape of the last day of the last rehearsal period? No-one knows. I'm all bummed, thinking no-one will remember what we were doing--it's a common hazard in this band--but then Yuval goes, wait a minute, is it this beat? And he plays the beat. I played that beat for a week, tried to fit it into everything, he says.
4 Out Of 5
We were soundchecking in Jacksonville, Florida, and Mark was playing that sample at the top that sort of ticks back and forth, and I started singing "War Pigs", and everybody else started playing. That was the genesis. For some reason, I can't remember the further development of the song.
The lyrics came from this exercise I do sometimes--usually when we're on tour in Europe and I'm jetlagged and up at like seven in the morning and have time to go to museums--where I walk around with a notebook and write down single lines describing every single painting. There was some painting that apparently depicted some very geometrical woman (I can never remember which painting is which after I do this, I'm really embarrassingly unvisual) about which I scribbled "A woman with legs like a greater-than sign." The rest of the story--if you can call it that--evolved from there.
Mark played a riff that everybody seized upon. We were rehearsing at Yuval's basement in Fort Greene--everybody in the neighborhood could hear us, like every time we took a break and I went out for pizza the local homeless guy would go Hey, you in that reggae band down on South Oxford Street?--and suddenly the groove was there. Happens a lot like that.
So I went to the notebook and got the few discernable lyrics and laid them on top. As for the rest, it's genuinely nonsense. I decided I would accumulate the lyrics by freestyling as we played the song at gigs, but rather than freestyling I ended up kinda making up fake words, and eventually I figured out I liked it better like that.
I used to go over to Mark's house, sometimes, with CD's that I wanted him to loop from. I had a big thing for Raymond Scott loops--"Bus to Beelzebub" is also Raymond Scott--hell, if Soul Coughing ended tommorrow I'd probably eke out a living producing hiphop records, using nothing but breakbeats, Raymond Scott, and Carl Stalling's Warner Bros. orchestra playing Raymond Scott compositions.
The loop itself is from the tune "The Penguin". The lyrics are not my proudest. Don't get me wrong, I'm pro-nonsense, but at the time we were sequencing the record I dismissed the song as "harmelodic vaudeville." Democracy won out, the song made the record, and it ended up being the only damn song on the record that Robert Christgau liked, when he reviewed it in Spin. And as you well know, every record we make is based almost entirely on how the last record was reviewed in Spin.
It's actually quite an old song. We played it initially when we were still doing Slaw at 313--back in the proverbial day. We even recorded a version with Tchad Blake for Ruby Vroom, but it didn't make the final cut. (the one on I.B. is rerecorded, with David Kahne)
Actually, began as me trying to rip off a Future Sound of London song (under their pseudonym Amorphous Androgynous) called "Auto Pimp." A bluesy spy kinda guitar riff over a four-on-the-floor menacing techno groove. But Yuval wasn't having it. We did it live and half-heartedly a couple times, but it wasn't working. Then, suddenly in San Francisco, at soundcheck at the Great American Music Hall, Yuval mentions it--we hadn't thought of it in months--he's got this quasijungly beat for it, and boom, there's the song.
The lyrics were written after reading a guy named Denisoff's doctoral thesis, "Inside MTV," about the channel's creation and it's mid-eighties heyday and late-eighties decline. Turns out that what was then Warner Amex threw money into this piddling idea for a channel--the Warner Amex executives considered it laughable--for fear that having too many liquid assets--"cash-heaviness" in corporate parlance--left them vulnerable to hostile takeovers. That's correct, folks, the reason Gavin Rossdale is a homeowner is that a now-nonexistant corporation had too much money.
The murder story woven into the song was done to contrast corporate bloodthirst with lustful bloodthirst. It's not--as it's often rumoured to be--the story of murdered A&M promo guy Charlie Minor.
Wrote the lyrics on vacation in Jamaica. Was very, very stoned. Met this really nice girl in Vancouver and sat with her on our tour bus and she asked me line by line how I came up with the song and I invariably shrugged. No idea.
The music started with Sebastian beating out that thing on the side of his upright.
The Idiot Kings
Very old song, actually--something I played acoustically in my apartment for years, changing the lyrics from time to time to suit whatever shitty predicament I was in. Occasionally I'd try and interest my band in it, but it failed to capture their imagination. The initial title was "Luv Gangsters." "The Idiot Kings" was the prospective title for a novel about a band I used to want to write--that would've been the name of the band.
I don't know, we were rehearsing before the last tour before we went in to make I.B. and suddenly everybody liked the song and there it was. And then, while we were on tour and playing it live nightly, fucking Alanis came out with that "everything is fine, fine, fine" song, I saw the video standing in the lobby of the Phoenix hotel in S.F. and starting saying No, no, dear Lord, no...That's when we started devoting time in the set to explaining how Alanis and the C.I.A. were stealing ideas from my mind.
I hated the Luv Gangsters part, so I actually wrote the batting in the light/reptile-lidded eyes part while we were at the Power Station with David Kahne. Like, desperately, in two minutes, just blurted out this verse. Kinda dig it, actually.
How Many Cans?
Astounded that I wrote this. Don't know where the fuck it came from. Well, I there was this thirteen year old kid in Jamaica named Dervin--he played snare drum and sang, his father played upright bass, they'd wander the beach --and they did this old Jamaican standard called "When I Fall In Love", and it had this incredibly spooky vibe to it. I guess that was the seed.
But where did the words come from? Couldn't say. They scare me.