Celebration time for Fun Lovin' Criminals

Fun Lovin' Criminals are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their album Come Find Yourself with a tour that kicks off in Leeds. Duncan Seaman reports.
Fun Lovin' CriminalsFun Lovin' Criminals
Fun Lovin' Criminals

With its heady cocktail of hip-hop, rock, blues, jazz, funk and soul, Come Find Yourself was the album that introduced Fun Lovin’ Criminals to a British audience.

While the battle of Britpop raged around them, Huey Morgan, Brian ‘Fast’ Leiser and Co stole a march on the nation’s hearts with the insistent groove of Scooby Snacks and King of New York.

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Next month the band will mark Come Find Yourself’s 20th anniversary with a UK tour that opens in Leeds.

Huey Morgan, now 47 and an award-winning DJ for BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music, recalls the making of the album with fondness.

“I got all the memories, man,” he says. “I got the memory of the gig before we went in the studio, where the head of EMI came up and produced his business card that said ‘President CEO’ and asked if we wanted to make a record. I got the whole meeting minutes in my mind about how we went about getting full creative control and production of our first record on a major label – we had an eight-record deal. I got the memory of tracking the whole record in about five days so the record company wouldn’t change their minds. I got it all, man, how much do you want to hear?”

Come Find Yourself has been described as a love letter to New York, where Morgan was born and raised. The singer himself considers: “I think it was a love letter to the fact that we as musicians actually got to make an album.

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“It was something that kind of transcended a city, it was more of a feeling, like a snapshot of who we were at that particular point in time, our strong sense of self as people and I think that as a band we brought that to the table.

“We insisted on being producers and that’s not something that happens nowdays where a band gets signed on an eight-record deal to a major label and produces their debut record that goes on to sell millions of copies so I guess it’s a vindication in a certain way in hindsight but it was something that we knew that we could do if we were left alone to do it and it proved the test of time – when it first came out it was in the charts for a little bit over a year in the UK. If you look at those charts it was pretty much Britpop then whatever we were doing, I don’t even know how to describe the music we were making as Fun Lovin’ Criminals.

“Now you look at the charts and it’s easy to see how we’ve influenced a generation of musicians where having different ideas about genre is now commonplace.”

Before forming Fun Lovin’ Criminals in 1993, Morgan served as a US Marine. He says music wasn’t an obvious career choice after the Army.

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“To be honest with you I’d probably be doing something else if that guy from EMI didn’t pop by that night,” he says. “I’m not the kind of person that really would go out of their way to be popular, be it as a musician or just as a person. I had an idea of who I wanted to be and I think I achieved that, I definitely like who I am and I think that’s an idea that’s not really fostered in popular music or popular art. I was 27 when we eventually got a record deal so I was a grown man and I think now we see a lot of young people – very young – trying to reflect society to a certain degree and I don’t know if a lot of people who maybe have more life experience or have seen different things in their life can really emotionally invest in that. I think why people made a connection with our music was that it was honest and that it wasn’t something that was deluded by a lot of different things that it could have been deluded in.”

Morgan recently said he thought that being a rock star was a young man’s game. He thinks the concept has changed since he was that age. “People like Justin Bieber who came from Canada on YouTube and that’s a rock star. There’s nothing rock’n’roll about that kid but he’s a rock star and that has to do with the media’s perception of what we aspire to.

“I don’t think I aspired to being Justin Bieber, I don’t think a lot of people aspire to be Justin Bieber, but it’s just the way the cookie crumbles now is that it’s a young person’s game.

“It’s about how people who don’t really have a whole bunch of life experience are trying to contribute to the human condition. I have a two-month-old baby girl, it’s kind of like her trying to tell me about something, she doesn’t have the tools to do so, she can’t speak yet, it’s kind of like that. They don’t have a voice to actually contribute to the human condition so it doesn’t really matter - and that’s the sad state of affairs we find ourselves in nowadays.”

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Morgan now broadcasts regularly on BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music. He says he’s been a DJ “since I was a kid”.

When he was invited to DJ for 6 Music he leapt at the chance. “As far as I’m concerned, coming from the Lower East Side of New York City opportunity is something that doesn’t knock twice so if somebody asks me to do something I give it a shot and see if I have fun doing it, see if I enjoy myself and that’s the key – I have to enjoy myself doing something. It’s not for money, it’s not for fame or notoriety or notches on my belts, it’s if I personally enjoy it and that comes from maybe some old sense of sense and purpose.

“It’s been seven or eight years and I’m doing really good at it, I have fun doing it, I know a lot of people listen, everybody I run into nowadays who are from a younger generation don’t know that I’m a musician. They say, ‘How do you come up with that music?’ And I say ‘I’m given the opportunity to come up with it’ and it’s actually a direct linear line to how the band came out, I was given an opportunity to do something that takes a little bit of thought and I love doing that kind of stuff and people enjoy when somebody puts a little bit of time and effort into something.”

Fun Lovin’ Criminals play at O2 Academy Leeds on Thursday February 4. For details visit https://www.academymusicgroup.com/o2academyleeds/events/621531/evening-fun-lovin-criminals-tickets