Skittish is a Mike Doughty album recorded with indie rock producer Kramer (Low, Galaxie 500, Bongwater, B.A.L.L., Daniel Johnston) in one day, July 5, 1996, and mixed on July 6. Frustrated by the acrimonious sessions for Soul Coughing's Irresistible Bliss, and attracted to Kramer's signature minimal, reverby sound, Doughty took a batch of songs--some rejected by, some withheld from Soul Coughing--and crossed the river to bang the disc out at Kramer's studio, Noise New Jersey, a gigantic, shag-carpeted room built as an addition to a house by a would-be Disco musician in the 70s, to which Kramer added huge echo plates running down either side of his garage--the source of his trademark haunting sound.
Though Kramer built up some songs in Doughty's absence, with strings and organ, the disc is mostly a stark affair. Doughty's riffs--often using a guitar rhythm Doughty calls the "gangadank"--punctuate emotional lyrics on songs such as "The Only Answer" and "The Pink Life". It was extremely different from Soul Coughing, and confused by the sonic departure, his label, Warner Bros., rejected it.
But the album found its own life. Versions of the songs, often featuring extra instruments as experimental mixes, ended up on Napster as The Skittish Sessions. When Doughty quit Soul Coughing in 2000 and hit the road as a one-man act, he was astonished to find audiences lip-synching to these tunes. He quickly printed up white label versions of the CD and sold them himself at the gigs, selling 20,000, mostly by hand at the front of the stage after the shows.