An Interview with Huey Morgan from Fun Lovin’ Criminals
By Victoria Holdsworth
For me, a conversation with the The Fun Lovin’ Criminals frontman and DJ is something of a dream assignment – and Huey Morgan doesn’t let me down. A gentle man and a gentleman, who exudes charm and intelligence, as well as possessing a level of unrivalled suaveness.
After a quick intro and a dressing room invasion from a drunken member of one of the Leeds Wardrobe’s supporting bands – who saw himself quickly dismissed, very civilly and politely by the man of the hour – I am finally sat face to face with one of my heroes…
Ready if you are Huey? I know you are pushed for time, so I won’t keep you long.
Would you like a bottle of wine? If you don’t drink it, then I’m gonna have to. [laughs] Don’t worry about the time. The guy who is DJ’ing right now seems to be doing a pretty good job without me being there, right? Besides, they can’t do Huey’s Bloc Party without me, so take your time.
Huey, there is something I have always wanted to know. What is your favourite Franks & Knishes combo?
I’m a purist, when it comes down to it. I just go with a little bit of mustard. Real easy going, because I only ever have knishes at Katz’s Deli, on Houston Street. I think it’s still there. That property must be worth about fifty million now, but they’re still slopping out pastrami. It’s always good to go there and ask to taste stuff. If it’s your first time there, the guys will just be putting stuff out for you to taste to find out what you’d like in your sandwich. You can split a sandwich though between two flavours.
“I’m used to settling personal disputes face to face”
I was planning a trip to New York next year, so will have to pay it a visit, maybe get over to see New Jersey too.
You don’t plan to go to Jersey! Only when the fucking cops are chasing you! [laughs] Why the fuck do you wanna go to Jersey?
I am a Kevin Smith devotee and want to visit The Secret Stash.
Oh Kevin Smith! I really like him. He’s great! I love that guy! You have to find that mall and try and get someone to sell you a nickel bag right? [laughs] One of the things that I love about Kevin Smith is, and I think this is true of all good artists that are so self-conscious, like he is, it’s like, I’m an older guy so social media is one of those things that I’m not, erm, I’m not good at it. [laughs] I’m used to settling personal disputes face to face. People yelling at me from a keyboard, I don’t get it man. But there is that scene, when Silent Bob and Jay are out looking people up that had said shit about them on the internet, saying: “Are you such and such handle 77 that said this shit about me?” I saw that, and I thought you know what? I need to get off this Twitter. I have someone who does it for me. [laughs] They tell me: “Hey what dya wanna say?” and I’m like: ‘No I’m good!’ [laughs] and they hit back with: ‘Well what dya think about this Huey? You need to have an opinion on this’ and again, I’m like: ‘No thanks, I’m good. I don’t need to have an opinion about that.’
Formed back in 1993/1994 Fun Lovin’ Criminals have always been a cult status band. Do you prefer being under the radar?
More ’94 I’d say. Fast always says it’s 1993, but that’s because I don’t think he really knew what year it was. [laughs] We were lucky when we first got signed. We signed with a major label and had a hit record. It was crazy! We had everything a musician could want, man. We had artistic freedom, financial freedom, and then we did a tour with U2, and I think we popped off. I think we sold like five hundred thousand records in America. It went gold in America and then, almost immediately after that, it started picking up in Europe. We then started touring Europe more than we did America. We headlined at Reading and Leeds Festival, then we went to do a van tour of the East Coast for like three grand, which had to be split three ways! [laughs]
We did that, because as a working musician, then you wanna do cool shit like that. The by-product of that was coming back to New York and being completely anonymous, and I could still hear the same stories that I heard the year before, and not be like, you know, not be changed by the situation. It was also really good for my head, ‘cause I wasn’t living in a situation where people were blowing smoke up my ass.
Look at Damon Albarn right! He lived in a situation where people blew smoke up his ass. I don’t know the guy that well, but what I do know of him, I think that he’s affected. That is all because of the environment. I just used him as an example. I don’t even like him; it’s just a popular example because people know of him. So I was lucky enough not to have all that. It really benefitted me.
“We all started hitting it off again”
The band have been working on their 7th studio album of new original material, can you tell us anything about it and when we can expect it to be released?
Well it’s gonna be called, Another Mimosa. I will show you the track listing if you want. [Huey gets on his phone and shows me the tracklist, art work and plays me a few tunes from the new album, which naturally is top secret]. We did a bunch of covers and some originals, and some reworking’s of our own stuff. We did a really cool version of some of the stuff off of 100% Columbian, as it’s the 20th anniversary of that, and let me just play you a version of Ice Cube, ‘This Is How We Do It’. You’ll love it if you’re a weed smoker. [laughs and starts playing me the clip – which is amazing!]
A couple of years ago, we weren’t really getting along as brothers, ya know? I guess life just got in the way, and I was figuring that maybe we could get together and try and just do a couple of cover songs. I thought that we could go into the studio as producers, and not actually have to think about writing stuff, and just go in there and do some two dimensional kind of things, pick people’s music and just start messing with things, and it was great! We all started hitting it off again, and here we are a year and a half later, and we’ve got some great stuff, and we are ready to do a whole original record next year. We got a two record deal, so this one will come out this year at some point, as we gotta go to New York and mix it. So when that happens we’ll have to see as Frank has got back surgery coming up, and it’s gonna suck for him, plus I don’t know how long it’s gonna take for him to recuperate.
I’ve had the same surgery and it can be anything up to 18 weeks, and it’s not pleasant!
Jesus! Really? That must have been pretty painful man, good to see you walking round now though.
As long as they don’t stick him on any psychotropic medications, like morphine or oxytocin then he’ll be fine.
That’s the hillbilly heroin shit right? Fuck that!
In June 2015, you released your first book Rebel Heroes: The Renegades of Music & Why We Still Need Them. Who are your top three – alive or dead?
Well, they are in the book for those who haven’t read it.
Your opinions may have changed since then though.
I think Ruth Brown is the real personification of the freedom in those days to be a true rock star. Back in those days, to be a black woman, to be able to do whatever the fuck she wanted, and get paid more than the dudes, man… and Bessie Smith, the same thing. That was like the epitome of the freedom that these women had. I think it goes back to being compelled to do things, and it’s not motivated by money or fame. You had to either learn how to play the saxophone, or learn how to sing, learn how to write song lyrics, and I think that is where the rebellion in music really came from – rebelling against societies, especially when you were doing something with rock ‘n’ roll, right? Rock ‘n’ roll takes on a lot of aspects, and I think a lot of the last of these types of rock stars are some of these hip hop dudes, but even those guys are kinda swimming in the pool that pissed in, so it’s kinda weird in that respect.
I think in the book I said that Kurt Cobain might have been the last real ‘rock star’ because I think, that was the advent of the internet, where all these small little parochial biospheres, like the Sheffield scene, or the Bristol scene, – I’m talking about England obviously – but these things grew separately from everything else. Now, if you walk down the high street of Leeds, or you walk down the high street in Manchester, or Bath, wherever, the kids are all wearing the same shit! It’s because everything is so calibrated, where these tribes couldn’t grow and adapt.
I mean I always thought hip hop was great because it was a communication tool right across the boroughs, across bridges. Now, it’s more like professional wrestling, and I think that has to do with us all, not really having that much to struggle against, and then we do all get offended and scream about the man persecuting us. But ultimately, those people don’t really do anything about it. Everybody just plays along, so I think they’re kind of virtue signalling their rock ‘n’ roll day. They’re kinda saying ‘Hey look, I’m still rock and roll!’ when in fact they are not!
Who you interviewing next?
Skid Row, in Sheffield.
That’s those crazy rock n roll dudes from New Jersey, right? They’re pretty good. They seem like cool guys.
So Huey, you are a father, a musician, an award winning radio presenter, a successful businessman, a TV and film personality, and even a voice over artist for National Geographic. What do you see yourself as, first and foremost?
I think the most important thing is husband and father. If you ask me what I am, I’m dad! I’m Pappy! Being that wasn’t really something that I was aspiring to, however when it happened, it was what I was meant to do. I had a friend of mine, T-Bone who does my radio show with me, and he’s going to be a dad in three weeks, and he was asking if the anxiety ever stops, and I go: ‘No! But you learn to live with it, and live with it well because it’s what you were put on this earth to do. To teach your children in all of the things that you have done, and all the things you can teach them to do is good. I don’t displace reality with my kids. I understand that it’s a rough world and, you know, if you can give people tools to cope, I mean it’s like when we were talking earlier, and you told me that you had found some solace in something that I did, well I just want to say to you, thank you, and I am glad to be of service.
Professionally though, as you mentioned, I think that coming where I come from, I don’t know if opportunity was something that I could ever laugh at or take for granted. So I mean, I’ve tried a lot of things in my life, and I guess the things that I haven’t done twice, are the ones I didn’t really like doing. I do love doing my radio shows, and I mentioned on the radio, and it might have sounded corny, but I was calling people family. I was doing the New York show and I said: ‘Listen family’ and I’m not just saying that as lingo.
I have to think about people that listen to my radio show. I have to think of everybody really, essentially as family, because I can’t do what I do without loving everybody. You can’t share something that you don’t really care about, so you got to care. If you mirror what society is doing, then there is no emotional content in certain things, so I’m an old school guy, so I’m gonna roll old school.
“I loved that dog!”
It almost seems like you’re a part of the furniture these days. Were you surprised how much the British public took you into their hearts?
There was this guy, who worked at the BBC and he was a big Huey fan. Years ago he told me: ‘If you can just stick around, and not cause too much trouble, you’ll become a household name.’ I said: ‘I don’t know if I wanna be a household name,’ and he said: ‘Yeah but we want you to become a household name, and you’d be good at it, but you need a little bit of something.’
Was it the dog show (Liza and Huey’s Pet Nation) that cemented it for you?
[laughs] I loved that dog! I think a lot of what goes on nowadays, when you see how people that we see are really not how they seem, and they are just really empty, horrible people that take advantage of other people, using their fame, power and sexuality and stuff, and the one thing that I can always contest to, is that I was not raised like that. I would never conduct myself like that, so I’m seeing what is going on now, and I’m seeing people being really upset about it, and if someone asks me about politicians in the United States elections I say they’re scumbags, all of them! All famous people are jerk offs. If you believe in these weird constructs that have been created to facilitate wild behaviour, then you’re buying into the lie! And that is your fault for buying into their lie, so I’ve always been, how did you put it… counter culture. I’ve always been on the outside looking in, and I guess because I was in a band, and I was trying to talk about a place I lived, in New York, then you see all these things and you get affected by them, but you also realise that you gotta swim, and I don’t swim in the kid’s pool. Some people do.
You certainly know how to create a vibe when you spin your own tunes. What’s your favourite set to set your vibe?
Oh wow! I love doing this New York City Bloc party thing. I think it came about for a couple of reasons, but one of the reasons is being a dad, and a parent. If I wanna take my girl out, I gotta plan and make sure this isn’t a fucked up night! I gotta get a babysitter, I gotta get everything set, I gotta tell her weeks ahead of time, so I gotta make sure that all of a sudden, some dudes not playing techno music in front of me [laughs] and for her to be like, ‘What the hell is this!’
So, one of the things I know I love is, that I love New York music! I’m gonna say from the mid-seventies onward. The stuff that I grew up listening to, I like that kinda stuff, so I would like to go to a night like this. So I created it around that, and also people can understand, if they hear my radio shows, they know what kind of music I like, and it would be a cool night to come out to. It’s something that doesn’t happen a lot. It’s not like some mindless funk music that I’m just mixing. It’s a whole bunch of different things, and what I like about it is that if I have a good time, the by-product of that is that everybody else has a good time. It’s win, win! They even gave me a free bottle of white wine. [laughs] I’ve got my memory sticks with me, I’m good to go!
“The album stands the test of time”
Welcome to Poppy’s has to be one of my favourite FLC albums of all time. Which song, album or era of FLC do you think is the best of your work to date?
It’s weird that you ask me that because, like two years ago it was the 20th anniversary of our debut album. We re-released it and we were doing a lot of listening back, and we were like: ‘Wow! We were really good on record producing back in those days.’ The album stands the test of time, the drums really sound good, the tracks aren’t dated, and this year 2018 it’s the 20th anniversary of 100% Columbian, so we’ve been listening back to that, and what I think I like best about FLC, is that when we were given the keys to the library, we did some reading!
You can see where from the first record, we didn’t know much about multi-track recording. We went out and we bought manuals! We bought like SSL manuals so we knew how the channels worked [laughs] and we learnt how to work the 24-track machines. That was all using old tapes by the way. [laughs] We went out of our way to learn our craft right? So, when I was listening to the records, I think that the fact that we were allowed to do what we did, is kinda like a testament to the people that were facilitating us, like the record company, EMI. I’m not one to sing the praises of record companies, but these guys benefited me in the long run, but they did let us take as much rope as we could possibly carry out of that shop, and we didn’t hang ourselves. I think that just the fact that we, whatever was on our minds, whatever was in our hearts, we were able to track, so I think that I would like to say that, in every 20 years I’ll find a new favourite. Every couple of years, I’ll look back twenty years and be happy!
You will be playing quite a few festivals this year. If you could have shared a headline slot and performed at any of them in the past, which would it have been and why?
I would have liked to have played at Live Aid. Maybe like Run DMC did.
Asides from being very busy in 2018, what other things are on Huey Morgan’s horizon for the remainder of it?
Well, asides from the album, and doing my radio show stuff, and looking after two young kids, I’m actually trying to move house. So it’s a bit hard going right now to find time for anything else. I only want to move like 13 fucking miles away, and it’s just a complete nightmare trying to get everything sorted out. I never like to say never to anything that may be cool to do.