This week I caught up with Fast, Fun Lovin Criminals’ co-founder and co-writer, to find out about their upcoming tour and their beginnings in New York.
Thank you so much for giving up your time to talk to me. I listened to Come Find Yourself as a teenager and I immediately felt ten times cooler for having listened to it. That album exudes character and attitude.
Well thank you, we’re so proud we can still be talking about it and playing those songs 20 years later!
The album was immensely popular in the UK on its release. Why do you think an album, so far removed from the strumming angst of Brit-pop youth culture, proved so popular?
We just did our own thing and they used to call it New York City alternative which still isn’t really accurate but Huey and I grew up loving English music- me the electronic stuff and he loved rock. We had a common ground with hip-hop but we’d have songs with screaming guitar solos in too. We weren’t confined to rules. People were more open to different genres of music mixed together whereas in America it was harder because you needed Radio to get your music out there so having a hip-hop song with a guitar solo in was like ‘What? you can’t have a rock song with rapping in it! How do we market that?!’ Well we had more success overseas -in particular with Radio 1 during its last days of being station that played new music, not that same old shit and commercial stuff you hear there now. It’s so great that 20 years later we’re still out playing these songs to the fans, we’re super lucky and grateful that the fans are still willing to fork out.
We weren’t confined to rules. People were more open to different genres of music mixed together whereas in America it was harder because you needed Radio to get your music out there
For me it captures the sound of New York. The laid back chilled vibe, the brass and wah guitar and Huey’s distinctive accent and delivery. What aspects of the music are you most proud of?
Well with Fun Lovin Criminals we think of the music like a puzzle you know and you get all these influences coming in from music and film. For me it’s the sampling- I really grew as a musician looking at sampling as an art form- distorting the waves, using effects and sampling, pitch-bending and putting turntables out of phase so you just get the drum tracks or whatever. It used to be about finding some really interesting obscure sounds but these days guys are just doing stuff in 5 minutes on a laptop on the beach and some of that stuff’s cool but I can TELL it’s been rushed- there’s no real thought into it. For me, amazing timeless creation takes time whether it’s the birth of a baby or the production of a film. Interstellar struck a nerve- so much thought and time went into that. Hateful 8, a great film- as much as I might have some issues with the language for a younger audience, you can tell he’s been working on that for years and as much as I love Ridley Scott and Bladerunner, I think the turnaround for the Martian was like a year and it shows. Whatever it is… it takes time. You have to slow down, stay in the moment and be creative.
I read somewhere that you’ve opened for Korn? That seems like an odd match! Starting out, how hard was it finding audiences and mainstream exposure when musically you didn’t really fall into any specific musical genre. Or did that work to your advantage?
We’ve always been really lucky with EMI Chrysalis, who spent a shit load of money on us, and a great agent so we’ve we played with some great acts like Wu Tang Clan, Pinkpop with The Fugees, played infront of 100,00 people at Glastonbury it’s been incredible- we’re just guys from New York playing our own thing. It was awesome and we were loving it! We got very very lucky. That’s why now, no offense to support bands- we’re not playing with one on this tour- we wanted to show clips from old tour footage and films that inspired us- which unfortunately due to copyright issues we’ve had to change. So now we’re gonna play two sets- play the album from start to finish- have a 10 minute break do some tequila shots then get back out there.
we’re gonna play two sets- play the album from start to finish- have a 10 minute break do some tequila shots then get back out there
That’s great there are so many songs on 100% Columbian which I’d love to hear.
Ah thank you I feel like that’s the album where I grew as a musician.
Well, you play keyboards, trumpet and bass- I love the bass grooves on this album, they have a great tempo and hypnotic repetition to them- I love the riff on I Can’t Get With That. Everything seems to come from the hips with that line.
I play a lot of the bass on keyboards with pedals for that deep bass thump. I love the bass sounds from British electro bands like Depeche Mode, Huey was into British bands like Zeppelin but for me I loved the electronic music. When recording we just kind of looked at each other to see who would record bass so Huey taught me bass guitar. That’s why the lines are so simple!
But they really work- they’re great- they really serve the track.
Thank you man –it’s not about technique with me it’s the sound, the feeling of the bass that deep thump.
You’ve lived in London for a while now how’s that going?
Well I hear New York is expecting a lot of snow and my daughter has missed that- we don’t really get it in London so we have to snowboard over in Milton Keynes. But, you know, snow is snow! I bet it’s cold in Newcastle, our first merchandise manager was a Geordie, he made us T-Shirts to wear saying Fun Lovin’ Geordies! We’ve had some great times up in Newcastle.
The album is full of narrative and story can you give us a little insight into the track Grave and the Constant- I have memories of house parties singing ‘we’re up to no good with no place to go but down’ What a line!
Lots of songs are fun and you know they’re tongue in cheek but some tracks really deal with some serious issues. Huey had to grow up fast man- I was blessed when I was young I could act like a kid- I STILL act like a kid and my wife hates that but Huey had it hard and has some real shit to deal with- he’s a story teller but it’s all real.
Finally, we’ve lost some incredible artists recently- If you could pick a front-man for your heavenly super-group line-up who would it be and why?
It has to be Bob Marley man, because Bob’s THE man!
Good luck on your tour. I’ll see you in Newcastle on the 5th Feb. I’ll be at the front up to no good!
Thanks for your time man it’s been a pleasure!