Fun Lovin’ Criminal Huey Morgan’s New York state of mind

Huey Morgan of Huey and the New Yorkers

Huey Morgan of Huey and the New Yorkers

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Today, Fun Lovin’ Criminal Huey Morgan is pottering about his “mancave.”

Of course, being a Fun Lovin’ Criminal, godfather of the New York hiphop scene, DJ, TV presenter and all-round arbiter of cool, Huey’s mancave is the kind of supercharged affair that every music obsessed teenager dreams of.

His voice takes on a note of pride as he lists its delights: “The legendary mancave! It’s my garage that I’ve converted into a recording studio come guy hangout. I’m sitting at my desk right now in front of two monitors. I used one for the mix window and one for the edit window

“I have pictures of my family and friends and there’s an nice cream Chesterfield sofa with a 1970s perpex coffee table that I can’t have in the house because my kid’s too young. Behind me, Frank’s drums are all stacked in my way.

“There’s all my nice guitars and my amps. And then, against the wall, I have all the old FLC roadcases! It’s most definitely my space - to the point where my wife doesn’t have keys and doesn’t want them. She says, ‘You can go in there - I don’t need to go in there for anything.’

“I write my books, I do my radio shows from there. It’s good when you’re in a relationship that you have a place you can go - especially when I’m making noise, it’s not like I’m just a writer, I have to make a lot of noise. It’s a good thing for our relationship that I have a mancave.”

He’s spent a lot of last year in the mancave since he and Fun Lovin’ Criminals co-stars Brian “Fast” Leiser and Frank Benbini decided to step off the rollercoaster of their 20 year career which took them from worldwide success with smash hits like Scooby Snacks, to the crushing frustration of a five year legal battle with their former manager, during which they could not record or release anything.

In 2010, with their fight finally resolved, they returned with Classic Fantastic. But Huey admits now that the years had taken their toll on him and his brothers. He says; “I think the last good record we put out was Living in the City.

“But there was a lot of stuff going on and when you go through it, you come out the other end either stronger or broken - and I think we came out a little bit stronger.

“But I think we fell back on formula a little bit - our formula which is like nobody else’s! But in a lot of ways, we did on Classic Fantastic and to be honest, it wasn’t my favourite Fun Lovin’ Criminals record.

“It does tire individuals out to be constrained - not being able to be creative and doing things you don’t want to do like sitting in depositions for years and years. I think that’s probably why we decided to take a break because we realised our output wasn’t up to our standard.”

“We’re brothers so there’s always going to be love there, there’s always going to be music there, but we just have to take a break and actually live life and have something to write about.

“Fast and I, we lived with each other for almost the last 20 years. Everything he went through, I went through. We were pretty much connected at the hip for a long time. I still love him like a brother, don’t get me wrong.

“But it gets silly like that, like, I’m sick of looking at you, I’m sick of the way you smoke that cigarette, stuff like that. But you know deep down, you love the guy and you’re going to make music with him again and if it wasn’t for him, you wouldn’t be where you are.”

While Fast pursued his own projects, Huey, who these days is settled with his wife and their young son in North London, picked up the phone to his old New York pals. He grins: “King, Chris and Pete have been my friends for 20 years. We played in the Tangiers Blues Band together for, like, 15 years.

“That was the funniest thing about making this record because we weren’t going to make it for anybody but ourselves. We were just going to have Tim Latham (producer) help us with it and have a record that we could say, ‘Look, this chronicles our friendship.’”

The more he called, the more The New Yorkers took off. He says: “I called (photographer) Danny Clinch because I wanted him to play harmonica on New York Blues and he said, ‘Who’s taking your pictures?’ I said, ‘I haven’t gotten that far yet.’ He said, ‘I am, come to New York.’

“So he did the album cover, that was like the first shot. I said, ‘I got this alleyway I like.’ He’s like, ‘Right, walk down the alleyway,’ He’s just standing there, he says, ‘Turn around.’ Boom! ‘Take the cigarette out of your mouth.’ Boom! ‘I got the album cover!’

“Then he said, ‘Who’s doing the video?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’ He said, ‘I am, come to New York!’ I was like, I get all these free trips to New York, this is nice!”

When he needed a drummer, there was only one choice - FLC’s Frank. He laughs: “I needed the best drummer in the world - and he’s it. I think his words were, ‘Don’t think about doing this without me!’”

The result was Say It To My Face. But the project, put together mainly in the mancave, soon took on a new dimension. Huey says: “I was playing it, just me and a guitar, at the Slaughtered Lamb and my manager introduced me to Simon Brake at Naim Edge Records. And he says, ‘Do you wanna put this out?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, but I’m not going to do it the normal way.’

“‘Since it was done out of love, I’m not going to take any money. I’m going to take the money that I’m deserved and give it away to charity. And that’s the way it worked.”

Huey is an ex-Marine - although he interjects, “You’re never an ex-Marine, man!” - and knows who he wants to help. He says: “It’s a veterans charity and there are going to be many of them. It’s my cut, I should say, I’m not speaking for any of the other guys. But I felt it was the right thing to do.”

The other great joy making the New Yorkers album gave him, working in his mancave at home, was the chance to be around one year old son, Bo. He says: “Fast has a young child, so does Frank. So we wanted to be around to see the changes young kids go through, not come back two weeks later and he’s walking or he’s saying words he hasn’t said before.

“I just wanted to be there. I didn’t have a father growing up so I figured I might as well try to be a father to my child. He throws looks at me that I used to throw at my mom and I’m like, ‘Dude, I’m looking right through you.’ But I’m also looking at myself and that’s the epiphany point where you go, Wow, this is really a little me!

“He’s interested in a lot of different things which is cool. I think he does resemble me in that respect. There’s always something going on in Bo’s world.”

Huey and the New Yorkers play 53 Degrees on March 12 with Mike Marlin and The Templebys. Tickets are £15 on 01772 893000.