On the 9th November at Canary Wharf, East London, something special is taking place. Huey Morgan, from the Fun Lovin’ Criminals, is getting together with a great band, fully comprised of his musician friends, for a one-off show that includes music, laughter, story telling, and a Q&A from the man himself.
I caught up with Huey, via video call, to discuss the Fun Lovin’ Criminals, the music industry and what it has become and his family and life away from music.
The interview began with some slight software and internet issues on my part but a patient and positive Huey on the other end held tight and encouraged me over the finish line. When we finally, after many minutes, began to chat face to face or should that be screen to screen, the conversation was upbeat, Huey stating that at times he has had to talk his mum through the same process, which was no easy task. He also explained that the video calling service is an important method of communication to him, allowing him to check mixes with studio engineers across the globe at the exact same time. How the music industry has changed, from five sweaty band members packed into a studio control room, listening to a mix progress to everyone sat at home in their Georgian houses suggesting changes via video conference.
With 20 years in the business Huey definitely has seen some changes both musically and personally but it is the state of the industry we discuss first, with me asking him how he feels the industry has changed since that first FLC release back in 1996. He began by talking a little about how the FLC felt settled and were able to craft interesting music under their deal with EMI, stating,
“I remember we got an eight record deal with EMI. 100% creative control, we produced and mixed everything, and they just wanted us to have a home and feel creative and come together as a band and make a couple of good records.”
We discuss how the industry has moved, aided by the internet era into something more disposable:
“we used to actually take time and think, ok, what’s side a gonna be like? What’s side b gonna be like? It was a different mindset from a commercial point of view, the record companies were investing in artists and now because everyone wants that Warholian kinda fifteen minutes you have those on T.V that give people a crack at something but they’re not necessarily gonna get anywhere else and we just get so much music”.
For all that, technology and the internet appears to aid Huey in his current musical collaborations. It certainly appears that he feels it is at the heart of what is driving low record sales, with artists and labels having to look elsewhere for a source of income,
“Nowadays it’s publishing maybe and like syncing it up to a commercial on TV so that the artist or writer can get money. It’s hard to get money!”
We discuss how this has led to labels offering a different kind of deal to artists as they look to include publishing, merch, live and record sale income to try and tip the balance their favour.
Huey feels that this in turn makes labels much less likely to take risks or even find an artist to nurture longterm like EMI did with the FLC,
“labels who are actually controlling stuff are saying look, we need sure shots. So we’re gonna spend the least amount of money upfront with everything to gain, so if a band doesn’t chart in their first single, next!”
Asked whether if the FLC were just starting out now they would be doing what they did then Huey replies,
“no way man, nah it wouldn’t have worked. I don’t think I would have bought into it, I probably wouldn’t have been a musician either. I mean I’d just got out of the Marine Corps, so fuck this, I’m not doing anything anyone tells me. I was a walking, talking example of that Rage Against The Machine track. I don’t think I would have got into the music business, I would have done something else, something that would actually make me real money.”
Making real money is something that Huey has been lucky enough to do throughout his music career, however, that doesn’t stop him stressing the importance of making money outside of music. Over the years Huey has invested in business, once owning a pizza shop in Dublin as well as a New York waste disposal company. Huey suggests that his New York Hustler ways die hard, he’s basically a man who started with nothing and has built himself up through hard work and good decisions. The extra income however, does allow him a kind of musical freedom, especially in such an music industry as we discussed previously.
“With the different entities that play in the music business I feel that I have to be able to stand my ground so I deliberately went outside of music, I mean I’m from New York, I’m a hustler right. It actually helped me be a better musician because I didn’t have to depend on music as my sole income and now it’s paid me back in spades where I don’t do shit I don’t wanna do!”
Huey has definitely benefited from the opportunities that have arisen along his journey but it’s refreshing to hear that a musician of Huey’s calibre has the forethought to seek and manage opportunities in his life in a way that doesn’t look to confuse art and business as so many do. Maybe it is the New York hustler in him or maybe it’s derived from a desire to provide his wife and two children with a home and a life of opportunity and support. Huey, now a family man living in rural Somerset, has clear ideas of what his fatherhood role should entail and when asked how he would react to one of his children showing interest in the music business answered,
“my job is not to live vicariously, it’s not to pamper, it’s not to displace reality, it’s to build and produce good human beings that wanna go out and be productive in the world. If they wanna get involved in music I think that’s great, if they wanna do it professionally I think they’ll be smart enough to know the pitfalls and I’ll tell em the straight up truth. And if they wanna choose that then they’ll know that they’ll probably have to have something else working, like I did on the side to ensure that the music that they’re making is what they wanna make and not what they have to make.”
On that final point from Huey we wrap the interview up, say our goodbyes and thank each other for the time.
Huey, ready to approach his next interview, seems as upbeat and positive as he did when he began with me. I get the impression he could talk for hours on whatever subject you put in front of him, not bad for a man who has been up since the early hours securing business deals and running his son to school on his shoulders.
If you want to experience what the man himself has to offer then join him for a night of music, stories (including what really happened with the whole ‘mug-gate’ thing) and laughter at Canary Wharf, London 9th November 2015. For tickets click here.