Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Mike Doughty’s Ghost of Vroom + ‘I Die Each Time I Hear The Sound: A Memoir’

Since 2020 is mercifully winding down, I’m about to step a bit out of my comfort zone. Without checking, I think the BBP! masthead reads “An appreciation of pop culture” and that’s a pretty wide net to cast. I generally stay in my lane, but I’m here to tell you that I’m not just a comics guy/ an action figure guy/ a video game guy…I am also interested in music.

Music is such an essential part of my daily life that I find it to be a cruel joke that I lack the language to write effectively about it and have no musical talent myself (aside from having perfect pitch). A lot of my friends are musicians and I’ve sat through many a conversation about guitar riffs and chord progressions without being able to contribute more than something like, “Mm, yes… ‘arpeggio.’”

At any rate, I know what I like and would like to believe that I’ve got halfway decent taste in music so for this gift guide entry I’ve got a double dose of Doughty, Mike for you.

Ghost of Vroom 2 EP

The debut EP from Mike Doughty and Andrew “Scrap” Livingston’s new band Ghost of Vroom. 3 brand new songs, plus vinyl only exclusive instrumental track. 12” black 180 gram vinyl with audio on Side A and an etching of the cover artwork on Side B.

Like I mentioned above my interests are varied and many so of course that included collecting vinyl. My collection is a modest one due to the fact that I’ve deemed only records that are “essential” are to be added to its ranks. The Ghost of Vroom 2 EP is such a record and was one that I could not preorder fast enough.

There will be more of this below, but I’ve been a fan of Doughty’s for a long, long time. His post-Soul Coughing work has delivered some of my favorite records with Haughty Melodic being in my personal Top 10 of All Time (a tremendous honour for him, I’m sure). Ghost of Vroom is somewhat of a departure from his recent work and a semi-return to his Soul Coughing style, but I feel like I’m selling Vroom short by equating it to that.

Doughty’s flow is hypnotic and the band that he and Andrew “Scrap” Livingston have assembled for this is second to none. In the move that is indicative of the hack that I am, my only complaint with this record is that it’s too short.

I Die Each Time I Hear The Sound: A Memoir

Here’s the blurb:

In this highly original gathering of autobiographical stories, the musician and writer Mike Doughty, in his inimitable voice, sends dispatches from a touring musician’s peripatetic life, vividly recalling moments when profound musical experiences made him see the world anew.

I Die Each Time I Hear the Sound consists of sometimes-surreal tales, drawing from conflations of memory, especially formative moments in New York City in the 1990s. It looks at how the avid nostalgia of fans is both a boon and a burden for an artist working to stay vital, and what it is to age while touring, and prolifically releasing new music. He examines the struggle to keep relationships alive while living on the road, and the strangeness of the disconnect between performer and audience.

A unique narrative, unstuck in time, and an unforgettable examination of what it is to be an artist in this cultural moment, I Die Each Time I Hear the Sound is funny, vulnerable, and unsparing.

Practicing what I’ve been preaching over my last several columns this month, I preordered this book from Novel in Memphis, TN as soon as I was able to. I had previously read and loved Doughty’s first memoir The Book of Drugs and was looking forward to seeing what he had in store with this book. Happily, it’s my new personal gold standard for what memoirs should be like. As alluded to in the above blurb, the book functions very much like an actual memory, winding its way across the decades with truths and parallels being unveiled with every page.

Right now I’m going to double down on the hackiness in my own writing and say that I could not put this book down. The flow from entry to entry is akin to following golden thread and being anxious to see where it all leads.

A small section of the book deals with Doughty being approached by fans who shared their Soul Coughing “origin stories.” So in the spirit of that, I’ll share mine…

Growing up (way) outside of Detroit made for a bit of a chore in finding music in the 90’s that spoke to me. The local “alternative” station which broadcasted out of Windsor, Ontario offered a mix of whatever was popular on MTV along with Canadian artists such as The Tragically Hip. Not the worst thing in the world, but I had to do some digging to find something I connected with. Not that I was an iconoclast at the age of 13, I owned a Pearl Jam t-shirt that I used as camouflage but none of their actual records. My go-to band was R.E.M. but I got mercilessly dragged for wearing that t-shirt to school.

The first time I saw a Soul Coughing video (“Down to This”) was on Beavis and Butt-Head. As much as I’d like to have a story where I walked into the The Shelter under St. Andrew’s Hall to discover a cool unknown band playing to a handful of people… I don’t. For a moment I was able to see past the jokes of a couple of animated delinquents and connect with something I was interested in and, well, “The world was absolutely new.”

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