Huey Morgan, Fun Lovin’ Criminals. Flipside 1999

words: Dan Gennoe

 

It’s 10pm in Hawaii. The normally sharp suited Fun Lovin’ Huey, the guitar toting De Niro, is suitably dressed down in denim cut-offs and a long sleeved T-shirt, half reclined in an armchair, stroking his freshly shaven scalp, with a phone firmly attached to one ear. Over his right shoulder, the sea splashes against Maui’s golden sands. In an overloaded ashtray by his left foot, a masterfully hand-rolled smoke burns as he pauses between drags to talk. He’s been on the phone for the best part of two hours now, answering over and over the same questions about his trio’s new album, the lounge deluxe long player, Mimosa. He looks up, eyebrows arched, takes another drag on his smoke, covers the receiver’s mouthpiece and mouths, ‘Hey bro, I’ll be with you in 15, okay killa.’ But before the 15 is up, he’s vacated his chair, leaving nothing but a thick blue cloud behind him. When his Australian house mate, film director Joel Pront, wanders into the room, and the question of Huey’s whereabouts arises, his only comment is “Yeah, he’s gone out. But he’ll be back in a little while, he might be a little drunk and a little stoned, but he’ll probably be better to talk to.” It later transpires that the deep voiced singer, has momentarily escaped this latest round of interrogations, and found refuge in a bar five minutes from the beach house he’s calling home.

The 15 turns into an hour. The hour turns into two and the cable TV gets worse. Then just as stealthily as he disappeared, he’s back, with eyes like slits and a grin that speaks volumes. “Hey, how ya doin’?” he whispers, resuming his seat. “Sorry ‘bout that, I just had to get out, have a little fun.” From the female voices now emanating from the next room, it seems that his fun wasn’t had alone. “I went down to this bar, had a couple of beers, you know…it was nice.” Huey’s in Hawaii, mixing a little business with a lot of pleasure, which means that he’s enjoying the 80 degree days and satisfying the media’s need for quotes by night. It’s now 12:30am and the one man quote machine, is ready to roll, literally. “I try to do interviews at this time, I think I’m funny now, and actually better reading. I did like, three interviews already, but that was before I got drunk, so I’m considering this my first of the day.”  

It soon becomes apparent that tonight, Huey is on form. “We’re out here just gettin’ it together, recharging batteries, making a film, recording demos, surfin’…you know Macky (the drummer who earlier this year replaced original criminal Steve) was out here for almost four weeks and turned into like a great surfer.” He sniggers, rolling one of his speciality smokes. “I’m awful, I get out there and get hit in the head with the board all the time, but luckily I’m a good swimmer, especially while injured. My survival instinct kicks in and I just get right to shore no problem.” He reaches for a lighter. “We’re shooting a movie, a fifteen minute short film called Maui Five-O. It’s pretty much a spoof on all those seventies cop dramas. It’s a really funny slapstick kinda film. Me and Fast play two cops, Macky plays Captain Ho-Chi-Min, and we solve a murder. There’s a big gun fight and lots of cocaine and beer and smoke. It’s hilarious.” He lights his smoke, takes a healthy drag and exhales with a heart warming cough, banging his chest. “I’m sorry, the weed out here is really heavy, damn!!! (chokes some more). I love the ‘erbs out here, they’re fantastic, really.” 

The film, to be played before the FLC take to the stage on their imminent UK dates, replaces Huey’s Acting School, a mid-gig slot where Huey, Macky, Fast and DJ Mateo acted out scenes from Scarface, on their last tour. “We were thinking ‘bout doin’ a scene from Lock, Stock.., but my East London isn’t too good. I’m not convincing as…what’s the guy’s name, with the Afro in Lock, Stock?” Huey, searching for the name, starts reciting lines from the film in the dodgiest Eastend accent, “‘You’re scandalising my cannabis.’ …it wasn’t Winston, he’s the white kid who grows the ‘copious amounts of ‘GANJAAA’.” Huey nearly splits his sides. “I don’t remember people’s phone numbers, but I remember lines of dialogue, it’s terrible.” Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels has clearly touched his heart. “My friends from New York saw that film and were like ‘wow, those English guys have got that New York humour down’. There’s a lot of similarities between the two cities and the way people approach life,” he laughs to himself aware that he’s about to say something he shouldn’t. “Maybe you could have a tunnel coming over to New York, instead of going over to fuckin’ France. You got all those French people comin’ over to your country, I mean you guys must be appalled. We’re right near Canada and that’s about five minutes away from being French, and that’s pretty bad.” 

There’s a brief exchange of NYC stories, and how it was “bangin’ back in ‘82” and how it’s not the place it used to be. “I liked New York being the raw nerve, the biosphere, it’s own little ecosystem, but now instead of parochial politics, it’s playing to national politics.” New York is clean not mean, and Huey isn’t impressed. “Our mayor has this grand plan that he’s gonna be the new Führer of North America, so now he’s running for senate, and he’s starting to make New York the kinda place where you see fat couples from Ohio walking with matching jump suits in Times Square at one thirty in the morning, NOT in fear of their lives. I just can’t accept that. I actually have to pull street crime just to keep myself happy, you know, pinch a purse or somethin’.” 

New York may not be the hub of vice that Huey once knew and loved, but he’s adamant that there’s no truth in the rumour that he’s looking to improve his East London, and become a full-time UK resident, despite his continued efforts to set up the latest instalment of his DiFontaine Empire, a restaurant in London’s Soho. “With the restaurant and stuff, it looks like I’ll probably be spending more time in London. But I can’t get a resident’s status because of my felony convictions. And you have to think practically too. Not to say that I don’t enjoy Great Britain, but there’s a tax situation that’s not favourable. And I think the music might even suffer, aren’t I supposed to be your cousin Huey that lives in New York and tells you stories?” He’s right, the King Of Peckham doesn’t have the same ring. “Biggin’ up Blackpool…Cornwall in the house…this song’s about Cornwall, love you people.” He takes another unfeasibly huge puff on yet another smoke. Moving to London would also mean leaving behind New York City’s water. “I mean not to disrespect the public waterworks of London, but there’s something in the water in New York City, the tap water, that makes the pizza that great, makes the pasta that great.” So great is the water that he’s importing it for the restaurant. “It’s something that you don’t have to be a scientist to figure out that if you can’t get it somewhere, bring it in.” This is expensive, no? “Naa, what you do is you freeze it, which makes it lighter air-freight. By the time you land it’s already melting, so you just bring it in, boom.” 

Huey didn’t get to be sitting in Hawaii today, without an ounce or two of savvy. Which is why, as soon as he got his first royalty cheque from the FLC’s debut, Come Find Yourself, he invested in three NYC garbage trucks following the theory that people will always need their waste disposing of. “Absolutely my friend, that, taxes and a mortician. And I can’t deal with numbers and I’m scared of dead bodies. There was this guy when I was growin’ up, this crazy dude, and we used to be on the same basketball team and used to practice in this gym in a medical school. And like one time, he says ‘come with me, come with me,’ so we go downstairs to the basement where they’ve got all the fuckin’ cadavers and shit, and we’re in the morgue with all the freezers that pull out, and he pulled out one of the bodies, sat it up and punched it ‘til it fell back down. Fuckin’ the illest shit ever, so ever since then I really can’t deal with dead bodies, which is why I didn’t get into the morticians business. That’s even better than garbage, because people are dying left and right now, I mean everybody’s just droppin’.” Even though New York is a nicer friendlier place? “Well, nicer, friendlier, but people are still droppin’ bro. You get a place in Brooklyn, and you can make some money. Embalming, DiFontaine Embalming, that’d be great.” He nearly falls off his chair laughing. So with DiFontaine Carting & Asbestos Removal and the restaurant, is this the beginning of a Puff Daddy style empire? “No, definitely not, I think the fact that a man owns a garbage company tells the world that he’s not aiming high. It’s just the logical choice for me to be in the waste management business. I don’t see myself signing rappers to ride the backs of my garbage trucks…although it wouldn’t be a bad idea, it’s about as good as these guys are lately.”

With the trio’s fame ever growing in the UK and Europe, it seems even more bizarre that they still can’t get arrested back home. “I just think it’s kinda funny you know. First of all that we’ve had any success, and it’s a blessing. But I think it’s good that I can go home. I can go somewhere where no one gives a fuck and I can get my head together. Home’s everything it should be. It’s anonymous, it’s warm and I can walk in the street and people aren’t buggin’ out and takin’ pictures of my dog.” 

If he thinks musical success is funny, what does he make of UK style mags turning him into a style guru? “Well we always presented ourselves nicely. When we go to the Copa on Fridays, we put suits on. If we’re gonna do somethin’ that we have respect for and we wanna be lookin’ good and chillin’, we put suits on. When people see me, I’m doin’ my thing, and when I do my thing, I try to present myself in a respectful manner. I mean I don’t wear smokin’ jackets when I’m chillin’ at home.” In between another serious bought of hacking, he reckons his laid back attitude has something to do with his perceived cool. “I try to relax and enjoy the moment, enjoy the days.” But he claims that style doesn’t have cost. “We used to go to the Salvation Army, buy a nice suit that some old guy died in, that kinda fits but is a little big, and get a good tailor to make it look like it was made for you.”

And as if to confirm his cool cache, he’s just been fitted for a wax work at the Rock Circus. “It’s completely funny. Me next to Lenny Kravitz. I had to pretend like I’m standing there holding a high ball glass like Dean Martin. I’m standing next to Lenny who’s mid ROCK pose, he’s like (does an implausibly good impersonation) ‘I’m rockin’, I’m rockin’, believe me when I say it, I’m rocking’ and I’m like ‘I’m drinkin’, I’m drinkin’.’ Who’s more rock’n’roll? It was really kinda embarrassing, though, they took all these weird measurements and I was looking in the mirror for five days afterwards thinking this is gonna be one ugly sculpture…I mean, make a candle, make a couple of candles, why waste it on my ass?” Will he get in free once he’s on display? “They’d recognise me right? I’ll go up to the guy on the door and he’ll be like ‘shit he’s moving!!! Oh, My God…he’s escaping!!!… bring out the Tazer gun, they’re coming to life. That’d be a good movie wouldn’t it? The fake Lenny Kravitz comes to life and wants to out rock the real Lenny and he writes original music…this could be a real big film, we could get Lenny to do half the score.”

It may be one o’clock in the morning, but there’s no sign of his wit dulling. If anything, with each puff of his beloved ‘erb, he’s getting more and more feisty. “Damn, this ‘erb is…completely…wow… you can’t even smoke it after a while. It really is completely amazing. If anybody’s reading this, come to Maui, it’s different shit, completely different, and that’s comin’ from Huey too and I do my Cannabis smokin’. Winston, who works with us, used to work for Cypress Hill and he said that I smoke, me personally, more than the whole band. That’s an achievement. Why you laughin’? It’s not funny, I’m proud…”. 

The new album, Mimosa, named after a cocktail of Champaign and orange juice (Bucks Fizz in other words- Huey looks relieved they didn’t name the album that after a brief description of Eurovision winners), is a slightly humorous collection of old tunes done in a cheesy lounge style. “It’s not really a new album, it’s a compilation of things people were curious about. On our website a lot of people were asking if they could get different versions of songs, like the lounge version of ‘Scooby Snacks’. And we kinda like to make fun of what we do. We think it’s still kinda funny that we’re doin’ what we’re doin’. So because we didn’t want fans buying seven hundred singles and as we can totally exploit Christmas, we figured we’d put an album of the stuff out.” But Huey is omitting to mention a sensational samba version of Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Crazy Train’.  “Yeah, I like ‘Crazy Train’, I think that’s pretty funny. Ozzy rules, and his lyrics speak to me. Everybody dismisses Ozzy now because he’s on stabilisers, not biting things and reads his lyrics off a teleprompter, but you know, there was a point where Ozzy was pretty much on top of his game.” Has he heard their version? “I don’t think he has too many moments of clarity. I really don’t know what he’d think. I thought when we did ‘Love Unlimited’, Barry White would dismiss it, but he really likes it, and plays it before he goes on stage! I thought he was gonna sue. So you never really know what people are gonna think. Richie Blackmore wouldn’t let us sample ‘Smoke On The Water’ for ‘Bombin’ The L’, ‘cos he thought we were playin’ devil music. But then he lives like a gnome now out in the gardens of England or somethin’.” 

The King Of New York with a highly developed sense of humour, describes his life as a Criminal as “A gift from God” for a guy like him who’s “A schmuck just like everybody else.” But he’s acutely aware that it won’t last forever. “I’m not gonna be a Rod Stewart, some old jerk trynna fuckin’ pull it off. We got two maybe three good years left, and then we’re old and we can’t do it no more. It’s a young man’s game. I don’t see us playin’ ‘Scooby Snacks’ when we’re forty five years old.” In the mean time he’s got other things on his mind. “Hey bro, can you hold on one second…(he disappears next door to wave off more departing ladies ‘hey, girls, sorry I was workin’, take it easy,’) Mmmm, that girl’s fine. This friend of mine brings this Hawaiian girl by, she’s really pretty, she surfs and stuff and I didn’t even get a chance to talk to her because of you bro…” But surely he’s gettin’ offers from female fans all the time? Apparently not. “I gotta find a nice Puerto Rican girl from New York. But, man, they won’t even talk to me no more. ‘Where you been, were you in jail?’ ‘No I’m in a band. We were touring’, ‘No you went in jail, you fucked up, you always been fuckin’ weird, now you in jail on and off for years, I bet you killed somebody..’. People think cause I go away,  I’m in jail. I swear to God there’s this one guy who works at this club, I see him when I come into town, he’s like ‘Everything alright?’ I’m like ‘Yeah yeah, it was a great tour,’ and he’s like ‘Yeah, sure, whatever’, I’m like ‘No, I’m really in band,’ he’s like ‘Yeah, cool man, yeah, no problem.’ And that’s what he tells everyone, ‘Yeah, Huey’s back man, he was, ON TOUR’.” He lights another roll of his natural ‘erb and swigging from a can looks like he’s starting to drop. Exhaling another plume of blue smoke, he laughs and raises his drink, “God Bless Coors Lite, the Silver Bullet. This stuff is like the worst damn beer, but you get 400 cans for like 8 bucks…It’s 1:25am and I’m completely off my head. Cheers.”

Fun Lovin’ Criminals’ Mimosa is out November 29th through Chrysalis. Find out more on their website, http://www.funlovincriminals.com

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Dan Gennoe

Dan Gennoe is a London based freelance journalist & author. He's written features, interviews and reviews for the likes of Esquire, GQ, Arena, FHM, Q Magazine, Mojo, Red, Time Out, The Independent and The Mail On Sunday. Dan also writes books, both fiction and non-fiction, and has ghost written the odd celebrity biography.

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