I talk to Huey Morgan in mid-December. He is at home in Somerset; his wife has just gone to pick up his sons from school; and he tells me he’s looking forward to Christmas. It’s almost hard to imagine that this chatty down-to-earth bloke is soon to embark on a world tour as part of the Fun Lovin’ Criminals, as the band celebrates the 20th anniversary of their ground-breaking debut Come Find Yourself with tours and re-issues galore.
Morgan is excited about the tour (which comes to Oxford’s O2 Academy on 11th February), but from the outset it is clear that he sees it not as a business venture, but as a “thank you” to fans who have been there since the release of the self-produced rock/hip-hop/ jazz/funk record that came out of urban New York in 1996. He thinks an anniversary tour is “kinda cool” and “humbling in a real way”, enforcing the idea that it was thousands of fans who grouped together to ask the band for a re-issue.
It is clear that Morgan feels he owes so much to the audiences he has played to over the years, though he’d rather say that he plays “for” the fans, saying “the audience are the most important part of the equation – we play for them, not ‘at’ them or ‘to’ them – it’s been the same for 20 years.”
And much has changed since 1996. The original line-up included Huey Morgan on vocals and guitar, multi-instrumentalist Brian Leiser on bass and keys amongst other things, and Steve Borgovini on drums. This time around, the Come Find Yourself 20th anniversary tour – which includes dates up and down the country and in Europe – will see current Fun Lovin’ Criminal Frank Benbini take to the kit instead of Borgovini.
The album was bold at the time of release; Morgan does not shy away from basking in this glory, telling me how it changed people’s perspectives, with that kaleidoscope mishmash of genres, the punk-rock aggression and politicised lyrics reverberating around an urban population. Reading about Morgan, every writer seems keen to make the point that he really is a Fun Lovin’ Criminal, infamously having had the choice to serve time in prison or join the US Marines after thieving and drug-related crimes in his youth. Of course he chose the Marines. Another article describes his nonchalance at lighting a cigarette in a London bar during an interview in 2012. Morgan is evidently a bold character.
But this was not an expected success. As he is keen to reiterate, at the time they were just young guys who had big ideas they wanted to put onto a record. This brute youth is evident on the album. Even 20 years on, the ferocity of Come Find Yourself’s sound will be at the forefront of the gigs, as Morgan tells me the songs will be played in full, in order, before an interval, and a second half of the “other songs everyone will want to hear” – which sounds like any fan’s dream. And, as Morgan says himself, “10 million people can’t be wrong”