Huey Morgan: "There's good music and there's bad music. And I bring good music."

Reporter:

Jamie Bowman

New Yorker Huey Morgan is known for being the wise cracking, fast talking lead singer of the infamous hip hop group Fun Lovin’ Criminals, so when I ask him about his plans for Christmas I fully expect it to involve pizzas, dive bars and a bottle of Jack Daniels.

“We’re moving to Bath soon,” comes the surprising reply.

“It’s my favourite city in England and me and my wife have found a really nice place so it’s the last Christmas at the big country house, so my mom and everyone is coming over and we’ll be looking forward to the green pastures of 2018.”

While moving from Frome to Bath might not be the most expected of adventures for this one-time US Marine who has also lived in Hawaii, Dublin and London, it comes clear from talking to Huey that forward planning isn’t top of his agenda.

“I go with an open mind and I try things,” he says.

“If they go somewhere I keep going. When you go to a great party or a great event was it really planned down to the letter? If a great vibe happens, it just happens.”

Born to Puerto Rican-American and Irish-American parents, Huey committed petty crimes and dealt cocaine as a youth before he was arrested and given a stark choice of the army or jail.

By 1993, he was fronting the Fun Lovin’ Criminals alongside Brian ‘Fast’ Leiser and Steve Borgovini and the band’s blend of hip hop, rock, funk and jazz, soon found success with hits such as Scooby Snacks, Love Unlimited and Korean Bodega making them household names in the UK.

In 2008, he began hosting his own programme, The Huey Show, on BBC Radio 6 Music and since then he has also started presenting two shows on BBC Radio 2.

It’s in his guise as a DJ that he’ll be making an appearance in Chester next month.

“I remember 22 years ago when we first started making music in this country it was Steve Lamacq and Jo Whiley on the Radio One Evening Session who first started playing us,” he says as he gets ready to stand in for Lamacq on 6 Music’s Drivetime slot over the festive period.

“I saw Jo the other day and I was laughing because I always thought she was a guy back then!

“When I started DJing Steve was one of the guys I went to who gave me a few tips – it was really good and civil of him to do because not everyone in the broadcasting business wants to share.

“Steve is a just a really nice guy and I’m just keeping his seat warm.”

“I’m a real fan of radio and I know what an intimate medium it is.

“It’s not like a TV where the screen is the barrier. You can put it on and it really soundtracks your day and I know what the listeners expect from me on a Saturday morning.”

What they’ve come to expect is a freewheeling mix taken from Huey’s famous record collection, which can encompass everything from disco to Led Zeppelin, the Beastie Boys to Alicia Keys and Kraftwerk to Elvis.

“When I’m DJing I roll into the place with about 5,000 songs,” says Huey. “My ethos has always been ‘don’t plan something’.

“If you get a bunch of human beings together and you try and fit a square peg in a round hole it’s never going to work.

“It’s like Louis Armstrong said: ‘There’s good music and bad music.’

“And I bring good music.”

As a result, Huey assures me a DJ booth with him in charge will never put a reputation before a good tune.

“You want something to have a familiar ring to it,” he says.

“I don’t want to freak people out by throwing a load of crazy polyrthyms at them on the dancefloor.

“I want it to be an inclusive vibe where I’m having as much fun as they are – that’s why I always say on my radio show, it’s their weekend – I’m just playing the music.

“I don’t want people to even look at the DJ booth – when they set it up on the stage like I’m a superstar I always think that’s kind of stupid.

“I’m just one of the crowd playing the music that’s getting them vibing.”

After the wild days of his band, Huey, 47, is now settled in Somerset with his wife Rebecca and their son and he admits his current circumstances also influences his DJ sets.

“I’m of an age where if I want to go out I don’t want it to be a risk,” he chuckles.

“If I have to get a babysitter and pay a lot of money for an expensive dinner I don’t want any problems. I don’t want to roll into a club and they’re playing techno or grime or some crazy s***. If it’s a night when I want to go out with my girl or my guys I don’t want it to be screwy.

“That’s the idea behind Huey’s Block Party. When I used to go to parties in New York it wasn’t about the style of a place, it was about the attitude.

“You wouldn’t hear music that was annoying or crass – it was a celebration.

“Ever since I was a kid I’ve been going to block parties and everyone has a good time and it’s positive vibes.

“For me and the people who appreciate what I do I thought bringing this to the UK might be attractive!”

Last year saw Fun Lovin’ Criminals celebrate the 20th anniversary of their debut album with a world tour, but Huey assures me the band are far from over.

“We just got back from Bulgaria,” he says. “A lot of people don’t realise we sold 10 million records around the world so there are places we go to where we are huge.

“We probably couldn’t get arrested in Chicago, but in Sofia we’re playing in a basketball stadium. Life is funny like that.

“We’re putting out a new record in the new year will have different covers and reworkings and a few originals. Then hopefully this summer we’re going out to LA to do a whole new original record.”

In 2015, Huey wrote his first book Rebel Heroes: The Renegades of Music & Why We Still Need Them and it’s a topic he returns to when I ask if there’s anything out there he likes listening to at the moment.

“Collectively as music consumers I don’t think what we’re doing is going to give us the music we want,” he says.

“The personalities who’ve made that music for the last 50 years aren’t getting into the business any more,” adds Huey.

“I used to think rock n’ roll equalled freedom, but there are musicians now who are scared to voice an opinion in case they lose their audience. That never used to be a problem.”

l Huey Morgan’s NYC Block Party is at Chester’s Live Rooms on Saturday, January 27 2018. For more information go to: www.theliverooms.com

Email:

jamie.bowman@nwn.co.uk

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