New Yorkers Fun Lovin’ Criminals first burst onto the music scene back in 1996, with their hit multi-genre spanning ‘Come Find Yourself’ release. Spawning a number of hit singles, including the Pulp Fiction sampling ‘Scooby Snacks’, this year sees it reach its twentieth-anniversary milestone. In celebration, as well as reissuing the album as a 3 CD set, the band are taking to the road to play it in its entirety, with a series of special ‘An Evening With’ events. We caught up with ever upbeat, uber-cool frontman Huey Morgan to discuss the album and tour, as well as his mixed feelings about his role on Sky Arts’ ‘Guitar Star’ series.
Hi Huey. How are you today?
I’m good, I’m cooking Chinese food. I’m in my house in the English countryside. I live in the county of Somerset. It’s great place to have a country house, man.
It can’t be 20 years since the release of ‘Come Find Yourself’, can it?!
Well according to my iPhone it is. It’s not passed that quickly; everybody asks; “does it seem it was a minute ago?” It does sometimes, but then I think about the last twenty years and how much I enjoyed myself. I had a great old time – I met my wife, got married, had some kids, and started living in big old houses. Going back twenty years, I was broke! I love being a millionaire; it’s great.
Listening to the album in 2016, it still sounds fresh, due to its diverse mix of sounds and influences. It still holds up today, doesn’t it?
Thank you man, thanks for saying that. I mean, I definitely think that me and Fast [Brian Leiser, instrumentalist] were ahead of our time. We had the production styles that a lot of people were just getting up on when we first started, so I guess we were ahead of the curve. I mean, if you have a look around now a lot of music is kind of multi-genre stuff, so we were blazing a path.
Did you make a conscious decision to go down that multi-genre path, or was it just a case of your influences manifesting?
I think we were shamelessly influenced by New York City and all the different diversity that lives in that city. I think we were just doing what we felt, and doing it from our heart, and I think that’s why people can listen to it to decades later and go; “yeah, that’s a good record”. A lot of people around the world liked it too. It spent a lot of time in the U.S. Billboard Chart, and it spent almost two years in the U.K. chart. It did pretty good, man.
The album contains its fair share of samples. Was it difficult to get clearance to use them?
Let me let you in on a little secret; most of those samples, or what sound like samples, we didn’t get permission to put in the record, so we had to go in the studio and recreate them. That was hard to do when you’re doing your debut record on a major label, and we’re producing it ourselves.
‘Bombin The L’ samples Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the Water’, doesn’t it?
Yeah, but we didn’t actually sample it because Richie Blackmore didn’t like where we were coming from. He said; “no, you can’t use that riff”, so we went in the studio, and we got all of the old equipment that we thought they would have been using at that time. Blackmore played the Strat through a Marshall, so you’ve got to get the right tone on that on like pick-up settings, and just try to get all the other stuff like the Hammond organ going through the Marshall and drum sets. It took a long time to redo a lot of the samples.
That’s a real labour of love right there.
Well, you gotta do what you gotta do. And it’s a New York thing; if someone says; “f**k you”, we say: “well F**K YOU!” We just redid it and used it anyway.
Did you have any idea that the album would be received so well?
No, to be honest with you we had no idea. We tracked most of it in five days because we thought the record company was going to change their minds. It was too perfect of a scenario; we had tried to get a record producer by the name of Bob Power who had worked on A Tribe Called Quest records, along with many other bands. We did a meeting with him, and he said; “no, these guys don’t need a producer”, with the head of our label there, our A&R guy and everybody. So we went in the studio with this great engineer Tim Latham, and he went; “let’s get this out in five days so we can always have the record that we want to make”.
So you got to make the album you wanted, and it took off.
Well, it went Gold in America, which is pretty substantial for a United States debut. It went Gold all over the world really, in most of the places it came out in. And yeah it went triple, quadruple something, crazy platinum in the U.K. We went worldwide with that record. That’s why we’re doing a world tour, and it should be interesting to play for all these people, the record that they’ve been listening to for the last twenty years.
You’re playing the entire album live on your tour. Are you looking forward to those dates?
When we started off talking I said; “I’ve been a millionaire for a while, and I like it”, and one of the reasons that I am is because people are fans of the music that we made. So I love playing that music for the people who love it. We’re going to be playing the first record from start to finish, take a little bit of a break, and come back and play the rest of the music that people love as well. People enjoyed where we were coming from, so to see those people face-to-face and be able to share some love with them; that’s dope man, that’s great. That’s what musicians do stuff for.
Your second album was titled ‘100% Columbian’. I seem to remember a little controversy was stirred by this title. It was a reference to coffee, right?
Well yeah, it was actually! Because there was a place that we always used to go and hang out at; this deli called ‘Poppy’s’. I was there with a friend of mine, and it was late at night, and we were just getting a bacon and cheese sandwich, and he was like; “your new record is dope”. And I was like; “yeah it is”, and we looked up and there’s this ‘100% Columbian’ sign, and he said, “it’s that!”. So it was a no-brainer for us.
It’s just been announced that Sky Arts’ ‘Guitar Star’ is returning to screens for another series. Are you returning too?
No, hell no. I don’t think it would be professional for me to elaborate on that. I won’t be doing that kind of thing again.
Didn’t you enjoy being a mentor on the series?
Well, I don’t think I did much mentoring, to be honest with you. I wasn’t allowed to do much, and that was kind of the problem with the show. A lot of the people that were producing didn’t really have a clear idea about what they wanted to do, and they were kind of just asking the network what they wanted. And what’s the network going to know about guitar playing? They should have asked guitar players, but they never got around to doing that. The direction of the show wasn’t really the way it should be.
Finally, going back to the U.K. tour; have you any message for fans that are coming to a show?
For people that have come to one of our shows before, expect a lot of the same. We always bring it when we play live. For people who haven’t seen us before, remember that we know that the band is a small part of the equation; it’s all about the audience, and that’s how we always approach our shows.