Interview: Fun Lovin’ Criminals’ Huey Morgan

Aug - 07 2012 | no comments

Kool Magazine: Issue 12, October 1998

The Album went straight in at number 3 and has achieved gold status, the first single went top 20, the first tour sold out weeks in advance. That’ll do for starters.

At the shows you played some material off the new album, which went down really well. It’s a lot mellower isn’t it?
Well some of it’s mellower some of it’s a little crazier. I think we’re just settling in to know what we do. On the first album there were a lot of crazy songs and there were a lot of mellow songs and I think it was just the producers getting their point across about us.

Was it a difficult thing to do making that slight change musically? It’s that second album thing isn’t it?
Yeah, luckily for us we really had very few moments of clarity. So, we recorded the album, finished it and by the time we realised we had made this really big mistake, It was way too late for us to change it. A mistake? I think you can live with that mistake. We were going to name the album “The Mistake”.

Right, but you did in fact call it “100% Colombian”. Does it refer to Colombian music, is that what gets you going?
Colombian is a term we use – it’s like a vernacular. If something’s good then it’s Colombian, if it’s really really good it’s 100% Colombian. I know that a lot of people mix that up and put drug references on the end of it but y’know people are going to do that. So as long as they don’t say I am sleeping with Webster (U.S. child actor) it’s fine!

I won’t say that. Now when you’re doing gigs is it the same show every night? I mean for me it’s really fresh and exciting but do you do the same thing every time?
Well, we’re a really strange band, we don’t really rehearse a lot and we don’t really put set lists together until the day of the show and stuff. So it’s really a wing and a prayer for us too and I think that’s what keeps it a little interesting, knowing that if you don’t pay attention you will fall. So that’s always fun.

And have you?
Oh yeah, many times.

Have you?
Yeah, we have a lot of different things that can go wrong and they do. You know I use an amplifier that’s older than I am! and Fast has a computer set up with all this different stuff running.

So has anything really bad ever gone wrong on the night?
Yeah, one time someone threw something and it hit a piece of equipment and we didn’t really know how to fix it at that point so,

So they were thrown out?
Er, no the Criminal wasn’t. We don’t really do that.

You don’t kick the guy out?
No, you try to do the other thing – “If you saw who did that, get em!”

I was talking to some of the fans at the recent London show and they said what they really love is your interaction with the crowd.
Well there are a lot of bands who refuse to accept the fact that they are in front of an audience and they try to keep their thing all together, but those people are there and they’re very important.

When you’re out on tour you must spend all of your time together. Does that work for you?
Well it’s cool like that. We’re lucky, we have like a big family going on the road. Of course, there’s the 3 guys In our band and then there’s the crew which are hand picked lunatics from around the world and we are very happy to have them in our family.

Do you have an initiation ceremony – to check that people are as nutty as you are? To see if they can handle it?
Well, just the fact that after meeting us they agree to go out on the road with us – after talking to the rest of the crew, then that shows some indication that they’re an insane person. But actually, two weeks into the tour you can really tell if they’re insane or not because it manifests itself in different ways. We were trying to think about what you did in your spare time while you’re going around and I thought you might be like a computer junky. You know Game Boy junky or something.

What are you into?
Well we play Frisbee a lot and ride BMX bikes, crashing and stuff, jump stuff we know what are the best hybrid bikes and we know how to soar in the air with them.

Can I just ask you what’s on your rider when you tour?
There’s a lot of stuff. Each guy in the band gets one thing he wants and then they give us like Deli trays which we don’t eat – it’s usually for the crew and stuff.

What’s your one thing that you go for? “Remy Martin”. Just one?
Yeah, I don’t drink the stuff either I just figured y’know I might as well get something. It looks good.

Have you got a big stash somewhere?
I’ve got 22 bottles of that stuff.

So is it normally just booze then that you go for?
Well you can’t ask the promoter for drugs out right.

You can’t?
Well you can, but he won’t put it on your rider. A lot of people ask for weird stuff like socks and T-shirts and things like that.

Do you know what Mariah Carey asked for?
The world?!

She asked for rose petals to be dropped on the floor and for a kitten to stroke.

Does that surprise you?
It really doesn’t surprise me. It’s funny though.

Maybe you could do a tour with Mariah and then you would get a kitten to stroke in the evening!
Then Tommy Mottola would try to break my legs.

Oh, he will do.
Yeah, like “Don’t push up on my ex-wife yo”

So when do you finish the tour here?
I think, towards November, middle of November.

So you’re here all this time?
Well we’re going back to the States for a week. I have to practice for a BMX jump championship I might be doing. It’s my first one. I’m looking forward to it. I’m going to break my leg though, I’m really scared y’know.

Will the record company let you do it on insurance?
Well this is the first they have probably heard of it! So what do you do with your BMX, I mean I understand you kind of put your breaks on and you whizz it around and do back flips and stuff.

Is that what you do?
Yeah, I try too.

It goes well with your type of music doesn’t it?
I don’t know, beats me. I guess guys that wanna jump stuff on their bikes and risk life and limb are friends of mine.

I wanted to ask you about the Beastie Boys who are no.1 in the US album charts for the 3rd week running. What do you think that says now about American music?
How important is it for a band like the Beasties to be at No.1? Well, I think it’s real important. It’s cool too. Cos y’know Celine Dion and Puff Daddy were killing us for so long and it’s nice to see a band that people like for the sake of their uniqueness and not the fact that they sold Coke or Pepsi.

Do you think it says something about the music scene itself, in terms of, that even though they’ve been going for a very long time that there’s still that passion for their kind of music?
Yeah, I think everyone wants to hear something a little different and the fact that they can keep bringing something different to the arena is good and God bless em. Everybody’s featuring somebody else. It’s like everybody’s sitting around having dinner saying “Hey, you sing on my record and I’ll sing on your record and we could cash in” and it’s all about being paid now. It used to be a battle between Art and Commerce. The artist would always not wanna do certain things for the sake of making money. I mean now they’re just walking hand in hand into the bank and that’s that. Everybody’s got Rolexes.

We notice that a majority of the top ten albums are soundtrack albums as well. There doesn’t seem to be that many artists around. What with compilations albums as well.
Well I guess it’s also to do with the money that’s put into the promotion of a record. If you have a motion picture that’s cost 20, 30, 40, 50 million dollars, they’ve got a pretty big budget to promote the record and for the soundtrack they pay the bands $100,000 to give them a song. You give them a song and therefore you have all these big acts on one record. They do various artist releases over here and it’s kind of similar to that – they have the marketing power with all that money behind it.

So, can I take you back in time a little. Apparently the three of you met while you were working in a New York club?
Yes we did.

What were you all doing?
We all met at the Limelight. I was a bar back and Fast was answering the phones. Steve was an alcoholic hanging out by the bar. Actually Steve was a friend of Fast’s and we used to get him in on the guest list. But yeah, that’s how we met and we just kind of hit it off – had the same kind of sense of humour and we realised that we were both kinda musicians at some point. We started goofing around a little bit and it was really funny. Then a friend of ours had a birthday party, a promoter at the Limelight, and she said, “you guys should just play, you know it’s funny”. So we played and people thought it was funny and the guy who owned the place said y’know if anybody cancels gigs we’d love you guys to come and fill in because we don’t have to pay you cos you’re already on the clock. And we were like yeah sure, no problem. So we did like six shows and on our sixth show some guy came up to us with an EMI President CEO card and said “Boys you wanna make a record”. And we said yeah, great, and we made a record.

That simple?
Well I mean, yeah. It’s weird.

And you shared a house together is that right?
Yeah we all moved in together. We figured we all got along so well. This is before we had started the band. We figured we might as well.

And what was that like, 3 lads together?
Well there were actually 5 of us in the apartment and it was just that – 5 guys in an apartment going crazy, shooting cans of corn across the street with a catapult.

Did you practice in the house as well, was it like a kind of rehearsal house?
Yeah kinda, but we never really rehearse we just kind of listen to the stuff really loud.

So you didn’t have the neighbours complaining?
Oh yeah they complained. We eventually got evicted.

Now, did you all come from New York originally?
I come from New York City originally. Fast, y’know, his dad was in the Navy, so he was born in Minneapolis, the Naval station in Maryland and Steve-o was from outside New York City a place called Rome, New York. Fast, I was told, was in jail for 15 years. He’s a tough hardened criminal, he spent all the money – cos you get like a dollar a day from the government – and anyway, so he took all his money and he got plastic surgery and he looks good, cos he’s 43 and he looks like a baby. But he came to New York when he was a young man before or after, I forget about the prison sentence and stuff, and then Steve-o came on. Steve-o was a forest ranger in Alaska for 10 years and after that he moved to New York and he said he wanted to be a drummer.

And you were found under a gooseberry bush with a Stork standing by, is that right? Have you heard this already? You actually ended up in the Marine Corp, is that right?
Yes.

So um, how, did you just get drafted in?
Well it’s a really really long story but if you get the feeling that I must have been a pain in the arse, wise arse kid – that’s exactly what I was and it got me into a lot of trouble. I was given kind of a choice between the Marines and working with people making big rocks into little rocks so I figured I would be a Marine.

Did you have anything in common with the people that you were with?
Yeah…Insanity. Can you just tell me about Echo and the Bunnymen, about recording with them.

What was that like?
…I forgot.

Was it that good?
No for real, it was that good. I mean we went down to Olympic studios one day and Fast played a little Horn and Steve-o played Marimba, I played a little lap steel guitar, a couple of songs. Very nice sounding songs, God bless’em. Great band.

So were you friends with them before?
Well, I met Ian in a bar in Los Angeles and I didn’t know who he was and he didn’t know who I was and we just hit it off. I mean I’d heard of the band obviously and when I heard who they were I thought it was really funny, and Fast loves them so he was like “Oh that dude’s cool”.

Great. You’ve collaborated with a few people on your album?
Y’know a funny thing is that Ian came into New York one time and we did a Frank Sinatra song together –Summer Winds – and it’s a great little rendition. It’s a duet he and I do, and the boys, Fast, Steve-o and myself we back it up on the music. It’s a wonderful, wonderful song that may actually be coming out as the B-side of the ‘Big Night Out’ single.

Now, you worked with BB King on your album. I mean that must have been amazing.
Well, BB King’s definitely a hero of mine and of course he’s a blues legend and one of the finest guitar players ever, and every time we meet him we cry. So he did play on the record and he’s a wonderful man, gracious for doing it, but we couldn’t have him in the studio with us because we’d have just been crying on the mixing console and shorting everything out. But yeah he did it in Chicago, we sent him a tape, he sent it back.

And which tracks did he play on?
He played on a song called “Mini Bar Blues”. Looking at some of the track names on your album, “Fistynuts” sounds very interesting doesn’t it? It’s actually a nickname for Fast, that we use when he goes insane and that’s kinda what the songs about – Fast going insane. Does that happen quite often then? Enough to write a song about it. Y’know it’s kinda like a funny ha ha song, he’s our boy and we’re like “Yo Fistynuts”.

Could you just give me a little anecdote about each song?
Sure, well “Love Unlimited” is about Huey becoming a man. I had this little baby sitter and she used to be icky and then one moment she ceased to be icky and she became fabulous. Okay, “Sugar” that’s a song about my dog, I love my dog and I figure the dog deserved a song. Everybody thinks it’s me being to some girl I know, but it’s just that my dog doesn’t lie because my dog doesn’t speak. Anyway.

What kind of dog is it?
She’s a mutt, like a pitbull mutt kind of thing, a very beautiful, sweet dog. Anyway, “Korean Bodega” that’s about the store around my corner, Bodega is kind of a slang word for store and Korean is a guy who owns a store, so it’s a Korean Bodaga. He’s a nice guy. I owed him 2 dollars and he said write a song about it and I’ll let you off, so I did. So I’m clear. “All For Self” is a song about us just kinda bugg in’ out, like, thinking to ourselves. Y’know you see people in the music business they have so much money but it doesn’t occur to them that they can help others out with that money. I mean how many Bentleys can you own, how many Rhinocerous’ can you have sex with. Anyway “Southside”, that’s kind of like a weird murder mystery song about this guy Jimmy the psycho who lives on my block. Jimmy automatically attaches any predicament or situation he comes into with a female icon. So for him, the demise of the neighbourhood is actually the murder of a girlfriend he had. Yeah, and so the story he told is so bizarre that I just had to write a song about it. “We Are All Very Worried About You” is a song that I tried to write about a composite bunch of friends of mine that actually I was worried about and I ended up doing something really stupid, writing a song about myself -which I had no intention of doing. But when we were recording it, I was asking Fast about the lyrics and he was like “Yeah man,

I think that’s really cool that you make it really introspective on the song”.
I didn’t notice up until that point that I had done it, so that’s cool, thank you Fast for bringing that up. And of course “Fistynuts” is that crazy song about Fast and they kind of came together while me and Steve-o were playing a little Rock-a-Billy thing. And we really didn’t know if Fast could play the Rock-a-Billy “dukadukaduka” bass line, and then all of a sudden he started playing it and that was it, so that’s that.

Could you tell me about “Big Night Out”?
Well there’s a song on our record called “Big Night Out”. Let me explain myself because people get the wrong idea. It’s a song about these two friends of ours. One of them works for our garbage company in Brooklyn and they always wanted to see Hollywood. So they saved up their money and they said “You guys know the guys at the Viper, you’ve played there, can you get us in there cos we’ve heard that’s the hot spot”. So I said sure and so we called up over there and said look let our boys in, you might not normally, but treat them like family. They did and they had this wild night and on their return they were telling us all about it. It was just making us laugh hysterically and we wrote a song about it. Cos y’know, when you hear a funny story you wanna tell your friends. So y’know that’s kind of what we’re doing on this one.

Obviously you had to change the title for radio.
Well the title was always “Big Night Out”. It’s just that when people hear the chorus they assume that that’s the name of the song. Which it is and it isn’t. It’s just with a lot of people media’s really important to them and when they meet someone who’s like a celebrity or supermodel, just for the fact that they’re iconic it makes their day and y’know I think that’s kind of funny and fucked up at the same time. But, y’know it happens and I guess the best thing you can do is just to explain a story without coming to judgement on it and we try to do that.

Any hints about which super model?
I’m really not sure. Out guy said he’d point her out to me but he never got around to it. I guess it’s just kind of his thing y’know and that’s cool.

Why is there swearing on the record?
We swear on our albums because like most people we don’t have a thousand word vocabulary, and it comes down to using adjectives and we like to use ones that are very familiar and easy to grasp.

Has anybody ever turned you down for using a sample?
Yes, Gary Wright – on the first record because he is a Hari-Krishna now and believed that we were playing the devil music. And funnily enough Richie Blackmore from Deep Purple declined us and said we were playing devil music. Which we thought was kind of good for him y’know, but apparently not. But on the whole people are quite happy for you to do it? On the new record we only use 2 samples. On the last record there were probably more. On this record we sampled Hall and Oates for that song “Sugar” and they were cool just cos they need some money. They were like, yeah whatever. Anyhow the next one was Tom Petty for “Big Night Out”. He was really hesitant, but I guess he thought the song was funny and that’s cool, because it is. And we did a kind of interpolation of a Marshall Tucker song and they really had no say in it, we just had to give him some cash and, of course, call the guy.

How would you say you’re coping with your fame?
I don’t really think about it y’know. I guess the opinion that you have of yourself is more important than the opinion other people have of you. That’s kind of how I was brought up, y’know, that’s how my mind’s set. You know a lot of people in the music business actually value other people’s opinions of them and that’s when you get into trouble. That’s when you start taking yourself seriously, you know acting like a goof ball and buying Rhinoceroses and shit.

You quite like your Rhinoceroses don’t you?
Well I just read something that was unbelievable. That dude from Jamiroquai, we met him and he seems like a cool guy, but what the fuck did he wanna go and buy a Rhinoceros for? Er, wasn’t it to save it, because they’re going to become extinct? HA HA HA.

Finally, what would you do if it all went wrong tomorrow?
Well, I have a garbage company that I own. So I’d probably concentrate more on the picking up of garbage than the production of it.

Did you have that before you started the band?
No, that’s what we did when we got a couple of bucks from the record contract.

For real?
Yeah.

How many people are on your payroll?
Well, right now we have 18. Because you dress so well,

do you give them nice suits?
Well they work on garbage trucks so it’s not really cost effective to, suit our people up. No, not suits but Well they do have Gucci jump suits with a big G on the zipper.

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