Wednesday 13 December 2017

Only fun and games

It was a joke, says Huey Morgan. Just a joke. Why is everybody freaking out? Ed Power finds out the truth about Buzzcocks-gate

Huey Morgan of Fun Lovin' Criminals
Huey Morgan of Fun Lovin' Criminals
Fun Lovin' Criminals
Ed Power

Ed Power

We're discussing the Fun Lovin' Criminals frontman's controversial appearance on the 'zany' UK panel show last November. Visibly fed up throughout, by way of denouement Morgan violently smashed a cup (the flying chips could have gone anywhere) before stomping off, to the terror/bemusement of guest presenters Rizzle Kicks.

"Everything is so conformist now," says a thoroughly unapologetic Morgan. "William Burroughs said 'I hate people that are into conformity'. You know, there's another quote: 'we worship our outlaws when they are dead, our conformists when they are alive'. I'm not a conformist."

To crowbar a Burroughs reference into a conversation about a hokey panel quiz requires world-class gumption. You only have to spend a few minutes with Morgan to see this is a quality he possesses in abundance. To be absolutely clear, he feels he is the wronged party in Buzzcocks-gate. He did his best to enliven a flagging episode, only for selective editing to portray him as boor and an idiot. And he's the one who has to say sorry? Come on.

"We were four and a half hours into filming -- four and a half hours for a half-hour show. Phil Jupitus [one of the permanent team captains] says to me 'this is the longest it has ever taken to shoot... the longest ever.' So I was like 'do you want me to do something?' I picked up the cup and threw it down. It wasn't as if I was angry -- I wanted to get the fuck out of there. The crew said 'Huey, move so we can clean up the cup'. I walked to the edge -- I didn't know I was off camera. The next day it was all 'Huey has stormed off'. Nah."

He shrugs. "What of it? "Buzzcocks are happy -- they got their highest ratings of the year. All I had to do was toss a cup. People can say what they want about me. I don't care. I care what my family thinks, what my friends think. They know the real deal."

There wasn't a great deal of blowback, he reports. The worst was a social media fusillade from Rizzle Kicks fans. He shrugs. A former marine from New York's Lower East Side, it takes a little more than some online snark to spook Morgan.

"I had every Rizzle Kicks fan in the world on Twitter calling me a see you next tuesday, if you know what I mean. Well, we're talking about 17-year-olds who don't know what is going on in the world, I mean, you're a Rizzle Kicks fan."

In all honesty, Day & Night was a little nervous about interviewing Morgan. On Never Mind The Buzzcocks he came across as cranky and combative -- the kind of guy you might avoid sitting down for a beer with for fear he might take a throwaway comment the wrong way and break a glass over your head. Actually, he's pretty much the opposite of that, a jokey (he starts the interview with a pretty awful tilt at an Irish accent) and deprecating font of irreverence.

It helps to have caught him at a good moment. Several days previously, Morgan and his family moved to a sprawling manor house in the Cotswolds. It's so huge that he's not sure where his kids, who went upstairs a few minutes ago, have got to -- he can no longer hear them padding around. As is standard for rock star piles, there's a studio out back, though the luxury comes at a price in so far as he faces a one-hour commute to London where he has a gig as a late-night BBC radio presenter.

"A train ride's not so bad," he say. "I remember back in the day with the band, we'd have schedules where we'd get off stage at 11.30, get to bed around four and be up again at eight. We would do that for weeks at a time."

Though it's a while since they troubled the charts, the Fun Lovin' Criminals remain an institution -- a cheeky rap-rock crossover that gives you an idea of how the Beastie Boys might have sounded had they never grown up and started taking themselves seriously. In Ireland they remain especially beloved, their Tarantino sampling break-out hit Scooby Snacks a radio and dance-floor staple since its release in 1995 (FYI the 'snacks' in the title refer to valium).

"Quentin is a friend," says Morgan.

"We cleared all those samples. He actually called the other day, said he had to come up and see my new house. I was like 'you'll never find it!'"

As the Buzzcocks imbroglio attested, Huey's a live in the moment guy. However, the swagger vanishes when the subject of Fun Lovin' Criminals' legacy comes up. Aside from his family, you sense this is the one thing that truly matters to him.

"We never thought we'd make it," says Morgan.

"Our first record took five days to record. We spent that long 'cos we didn't think anyone would sign us. Until I'm 65 I'll always say I'm a Fun Lovin' Criminal. That is what made my life as interesting as it is. I lived in Ireland for a while -- in Temple Bar above a premises that shall remain nameless. I partied as much as five people during that part of my life. I'd never have done that if I hadn't been in the band. I've made lifelong friends in Ireland I never would have met without being in that group."

Fun Lovin' Criminals are an on/off affair nowadays. It's nearly four years since their last album, Classic Fantastic, and they don't tour very often. However, with a 20th anniversary approaching, Huey isn't ready to say goodbye quite yet and they are saddling up for a short new year jaunt, in support of an upcoming live DVD.

"I'm 45, I'm sitting in a mansion. I have a place in New York, a place in Italy. I don't need to do this. I don't have a crazy ego problem where I have to stand in front of a crowd and hear them chant my name. That isn't an issue for me. There are bands that play to the people and bands that play for the people. We play for the people. You go to see five Coldplay shows and they are exactly the same. Everything is time coded, the lights, the tracks behind them -- all of it. With us, it is different every time -- that's what is really cool."

  • Fun Lovin' Criminals play Academy, Dublin tonight.

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Irish Independent

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