Soul Coughing - 08/05/1999

Soul Coughing 1999

I never realized that Soul Coughing had become a well-known entity. I picked up on them around the time of "Super Bon-Bon" because that song was catchy as hell and because they had this interesting approach to pop music that was almost like a jazz quartet influenced by drum n bass who replaced the horns with a sampler. In fact, I was explaining how Soul Coughing worked to someone the other day and I was reminded of how amazing it was to see a group that relied on samples for a lot of the sound, but where the guy playing the samples was just a part of the band who had to be good at playing the samples and not just good at pressing the spacebar on a laptop. I liken what that guy was doing to someone like Kid Koala who takes pre-recorded sound and makes something entirely new with it right in front of your eyes. I perform electronic music all the time, but it's no secret that what I and what most people who perform with computers are doing is maniupulating the sounds, not triggering them in real time with the dexterity of an instrumentalist.

Of course someone with a laptop somewhere is throwing his hands up about to complain that I'm saying that there is no art to playing with a laptop, and no skill--that's not it at all. I take what I do very seriously, but at the same time I moved away from the 'how well can I trigger the sounds at the right times' model to the 'how well can I influence and mix and change the sounds in real time' model, which seems to work better for me.

The Soul Coughing guy though used his MIDI controller and his Akai sampler the same way some other person might have used a sax, guitar, or drumkit, and I found that really exciting. I wasn't sure why the Masquarade was so packed with people to see a band that I thought was my own little indulgence, but I was glad to see that a band doing something like that was getting some attention. They broke up not too long after that tour and Mike Doughty went on to make some solo records, but that configuration didn't have the same appeal for me.