|"...we're trying to write songs that exemplify the human condition."|
We spoke to him about the new album, Livin' in the City which can be heard full pelt in Cambridge when they perform live at The Junction on Thursday 2nd March. Think a male version of Mariella Frostrup but way, way deeper and you begin to get an idea of the incredible sound that reverberates through the album.
Rich as a Cuban cigar (we're thinking a Monte Cristo 'A' and then some) and gravelly as Lee Marvin under his wonderin' star, Huey's distinct low growl dripped with exhaustion claiming that "they've been working me pretty hard this morning" ('they' = his record company).
He's slap bang in the middle of promoting the UK tour and album and the novelty of talking to the press seems to be wearing a little thin… Helpfully suggested that he just did one interview then just passed it on to all the others, but he gently rebuked that as the press printed just what they wanted anyways, it would make no difference... (he then yakked on for hours about his gardening habit and his much publicised love for that Barry Manilow sound!?)...
|Fun Lovin' Criminals - Photo Tim Latham|
The album was put to bed on a boat anchored in New York’s Hudson River which gave rise to the main man gaining quite a fondness for the deep blue sea (although, at the time of interview, he was not wearing his yachting shoes or his corset…see fact file!). Luckily, it has nothing of the sea shanty sound about it, however, we can't help thinking that the whole onboard thing gave rise to some rather good late night drinking as reflected in the mellow yellow sounds of How it Be (listen to this late at night with a wee dram and you'll get that eye-closing moment of chill too!).
With soft Latin overtones pitted against the hard-nosed dirty sounds of a New York night, one can be forgiven for thinking this feels just like a gentle amble through the picture book memoirs of a tough, street-sharp city. There's lots of laid-back, lullaby stuff (Ballad of NY City / Girl with a Scar / Gave up on God) with gentle guitar strumming and those trademark Huey tones. But then, just as you're darn near asleep, a lyric or two catches in the back of your consciousness and prods an eye open - or is it the distant wail of a siren or carefully placed expletive that reminds you that there's an edge to the sound that saves it from being just another chill out album.
"Basically," Huey explains, "we're trying to write songs that exemplify the human condition." So, warts an' all, it seems to take you on the apple pie tour of New York, stopping off at the strip joints and crack houses on the way.
So, to the actual performance. What, we prodded, are his rituals for warming up that voice prior to going on stage? "Oh, I don't," he replies flatly. So, lots of fags and booze gets that effect? "Yep." So, how then, we wonder, does he keep the voice in shape? "We do our tequila shots and then we do our thing!" What about then, coming off stage… how do they 'come down' from the whole live performing thing? "Well, probably a bit more of the same."
So, in a nutshell, that's it. Secret to gravelly voice - the worm-filled warmth of tequilla. Mmmmm...