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How did you come up with the name Soul Coughing, a name that you didn't like?
I just threw a few words together. I thought it was a good idea at the time and then I thought what a stupid idea. It had the word "soul" in it.
After you signed to Warner Bros. in 1993, you say that the A&R guy tried to "make Soul Coughing feel too guilty to break up." What did he do?
He was this incredible passive-aggressive monster. He clearly knew how miserable I was but his thing was sending bad vibes.
Was it that you were never going to be able to do anything else if you left the band?
Yeah, pretty much. That was the message I was getting.
So from the beginning the other band members didn't like you? You didn't talk?
It was a super fucked-up marriage, essentially.
That's interesting to read because I think that people assume that if you're in a band you hang out and are friends.
I had just turned 22 when we did our first gig and they were all in their thirties. They were in a very different place in their lives and I think they were bitter about not having had more success up to that point and they were extremely bitter that this 22-year-old kid had the answers. Somewhat of a wunderkind.
Was there a good part to being in the band?
Initially. The fact that I was putting a record out and doing everything I'd dreamed of doing. But it wasn't even that great. There was this constant sense of loathing. It was fucking miserable. The things you'd dreamed of your whole life. It's such an empty shell.
What was the worst part?
Being loathed by my bandmates.
Do you have a really good memory or did you use journals to write The Book of Drugs?
It was just stuff I remembered. Everybody's memories are selective. I was talking to an ex-girlfriend about all these stories in the books and she said, "I don't remember those." She named a few stories and I said, "I don't remember those." And later I saw this woman that we'd hung out with and told her both stories my girlfriend had told me and my stories. She didn't remember any of them but remembered things that I didn't remember.
How did you organize the writing?
I wrote what was on my mind on that particular day. Then at the end of the process I kinda stacked them together chronologically and had to write the connective tissue.
When you talk about addiction in your memoir, you suggest that most people think smoking pot is pretty benign and not really a major addiction. What is your definition of addiction?
It's just doing something you don't want to do over and over again. It totally fucks you up but you think that you still have to do it. Very few people are addicts. I'm not saying that if you smoke weed you're en route to Hell. But there is such a thing as being addicted to weed.
Why did you detox on your own?
I just didn't look into other options even though I had decent insurance through the musician's union at the time.
Do you have any drug-related regrets?
No. I regret that I didn't fire the band in 1994 and go make a record with the Dust Brothers. I regret being in that band.
What do you hope people will get out of reading this?
I'm not a message carrier at heart. I tell stories.