We chatted to Brian FAST Leiser about 20 years of FUN LOVIN' CRIMINALS ahead of their re-release of 1996's classic album Come Find Yourself and 2016 tour:
It's 20 years on and Come Find Yourself is getting a well-deserved re-issue, any reasons why now? It's good to see you back!
Well thank you, we were talking to a friend of ours, the guy who signed us and we said we might do a 20th anniversary 'cause the label wants to re-release it and he was like "ooowwww, it's gotta be 25 years, it's always 25 years", his name is Mike - he has this deep voice and he looks like Rick Rubin .We said yeah, but there's a label now that wants to re-release it and they're willing to do all the work so we're going to go with the 20 year and he's like "yeeeaaah 20 years is good".
One of the reasons I think and it's actually worked out great is that a lot of people our age are now waxing nostalgic about the 90's, you know we're in our 40's, we have kids, we're married, we had this great time in the 90's and they're just being nostalgic so for this album to be re-released and have special things they've never heard like the instrumentals on the record which is amazing to me that it's actually being released. It's something different than just another label re-releasing all the same old shit.
Demon have really done a good job, they've been hunting for two years through 250 tapes at Abbey Road to find the instrumentals of Come Find Yourself and a lot of fans have said that and to us it's awesome because Huey and I wrote that album, we wrote all the music first, we put it all on CD Walkmans and cassette Walkmans to ride our BMX bikes around New York late at night and get inspired for the stories that Huey wrote.
It's also good because it's a good instrumental it's cool to put on in the background and not having words being thrown at you. Now people can play our album for their grandmothers and their mothers without them going *puts on New York Granny voice* "oh ... it's swearing" or "they're talking about pot smoking, smoking the weed, smoking the pot all the time", now you can just throw the instrumentals on which I really like.
I told Huey I said "pal, we can go out and do a karaoke tour where we don't even have to have our instruments, you play those instrumentals and you sing over it", he was like yeah I don’t wanna do that!
So there's a Vinyl picture disc being released with that which is real nice ...
Yeah that's the instrumental album. And then there's a 10'' that has some BBC live sessions that were cool at the time, we did it and we understand why they're putting it out to get it on a 10'' but the 12'' vinyl I love and I think Demon's goal ultimately, because what they're really good at, what they do is re-issues, they wanna re-issue every album and after they've re-issued every album they want to put all the albums, everything into one big box and yeah it's a bit corporate, they can make money but that for me is what I want to be able to say is this is my legacy, this is what I have contributed to music.
You know when we got signed to EMI they gave each of us - for some reason – they gave us a big box-set of all the James Bond themes and we were like "that's awesome!". They gave us this amazing looking 20 CD set of all of Frank Sinatra's music. I gave it to my mum and dad for Christmas I was like here's your Christmas gift and they were like "oh that’s – how did you get that, how did you pay for that", it was expensive but that's amazing to me that we can have that, where you can have the album and the CD with the instrumentals.
So everything is going to eventually be released and for people that have turntables, real turntables, not those Crosley ones. The Crosley ones are killing the resurgence of vinyl because kids are buying those things at Urban Outfitters, they're buying an album, they listen to the album and 2 months after they listen to the album and it sounds like shit because of the needles on those Crosleys.You know it's a shame because Crosley used to be good. Then they mass produced and sold them for cheap and they're cheap, they're not direct drive turntables they have rubber bands spinning them so that rubber band stretches, so if you have a proper turntable like a Technics 1200 that's what I listen to all my music on, apart from in the car. I listen to shit on vinyl because you have to get up, you have to put it on.
It's about that mystery, you know, back in the day people would have to hunt for music and when they found it, it was like "yessss". Nowadays all you have to do is Shazam the shit out of it for everything, you know what I do that, I'm a DJ so if I go and hear a song and it's like "oh shit I'll Shazam the shit out of that". If it's music that I don’t like that I have to play like House music or commercial stuff. But you know nowadays it's a lot easier to get your hands on everything I guess. But no-one can get their hands on these instrumentals.
So it's really a celebration of your classic release, is it maybe also a kick-start for some new material or are you not really going there? Also how have your tastes evolved since the original release?
You know I think we always want to write a new record. Back in the 90's Huey and I lived together so it was easy to always be like "what do you wanna do, do you wanna just sit around and watch bullshit TV or do you wanna write some music", so we always were writing music.
Nowadays Huey lives out near Bath, Frank lives up in the Midlands and I’m South East London so it's like we have to get ideas and email them to each other which isn't the most creative way, but we do it every few months just to say here's some ideas. Huey sends me stuff, Frank sends stuff and it's good because when we decide to go actually into a studio to do some stuff for a few days we'll have a whole bunch of stuff to pick and choose from because we get inspiration from it. That's cool - we don't really set rules or limitations when we write our music.
They know that Huey's going to bring the rock and blues influence in, I'm gonna bring the Hip-Hop kind of Electronicky Soul vibe into it and Frank is just going to bring the power. Frank is also really good at melodies. Frank has a singer's background, you know Frank's favourite singers are Prince and Freddy Mercury ... the melodies those guys have written in their music is just next level so everyone's got a vital role.
Your music is a really infectious blend, a really good crossover of genres and it's great to have something like that which is so distinctive and completely your own sound – you know you can stick something on and go that's Fun Lovin Criminals...
That's what's so great for us, that's what I loved about bands like the Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest, you know I could list them all, I mean it's hard for me to list rock bands, I’m sure Huey could … bands, bands, books, movies, paintings, we look at it or hear it and go yeah, you know exactly who it is right from the start, that's what I tend to really like. With the exception of Reggae music, which I love. Reggae music, as long as it sounds like reggae, I don’t care who it is. I was just listening to the Nigerian Reggae artist called something like Ross Conolo, who I never heard ever, who has like 10 albums out in Nigeria and it's badass. I love it and that's the thing when it comes to Reggae, it's hard to find stuff that has its own sound like that.
Also with the use of samples, your DJ-ing background comes in there ...
Yeah we're big record collectors, always have been. With sampling nowadays there's not much point legally because if you sample something that you can easily recreate or just be inspired by and write your own thing – if you sample something they're going to own your whole song and publishing is a musician or a writer's pension because if someone else owns your song they're the ones who get paid for it.
Very few people get paid off of physical sales or digital sales of music these days, you know there's the touring, you get paid off the publishing. I think about 3 albums ago right on the album Livin' In The City we were very conscious to use samples as inspiration, but no we're not going to clear them, we just replay them and change them around and still have the same feeling but not necessarily have the same musical notes where then we can get sued.
When was the last time you all performed live together? Have you all kept in touch?
I went to DJ opening for a show Huey was doing with Frank on drums and a couple friends of ours from New York that was 2 months ago, the last FLC show was in August /September Grillstock in Walthamstow which is great. They're great, good food concerts, they've got a good sensibility about what a good festival is and you know get good music, good food, make it safe make it family friendly and everyone has a good time, so that was a really good time.
We're a band that doesn't ever really rehearse so we're going to do a one day rehearsal right on the day before the Dublin show on Friday the 29th January we'll rehearse we already know 90% of what we're playing because we've been playing it our whole lives just to refresh certain songs off Come Find Yourself like Crime & Punishment and Bear Hug - apart form that we're ready to go.
We spoke to a couple of bands last year who had just re-formed after 20 years and they said it very much just slides back into place, even after all those years even if you haven't been hanging out together that it's still there. That seems to be the case with you guys...
Yeah we've always been playing together really.
Do you have any plans for festivals this year?
We're definitely going to do as many festivals as we can. Every summer we try to do as many as we can. Promoters like to have products, and for doing our own tour it's great because we're celebrating the 20th anniversary. With festivals it's a bit more difficult, if it's up to us we'll be playing Glastonbury, we'll be playing T in The Park we'll be playing festivals throughout Europe.
We've played them all through the years and we understand we're not going to be on headlining or 2nd to headliner but we just love doing big festivals because we as fans of music can go check out other bands. So we're hoping to do as many as we can. I know we've got about 5 or 6 booked but they're not announced yet so we can't say. If they have electricity and they have food and they want us to play we'll be there.
Fantastic! So how does your rider differ nowadays? Or does it?!
It's a little bit less chocolate and sweets, you know for us with the rider it's not just for us … our crew is going to be there all day working their asses off and by the time the show actually happens they're probably pretty exhausted but they'd never show it. So they have food and sandwiches and drinks and stuff, they're not going to be drinking whiskey, those type of roadies don't stick around long, there's one or two of them, but we want them to be able to have their coffee, tea, sandwiches and stuff.
When we come in an hour before the show we're not eating big sandwiches, we tend to be drinking Tequila, having some beers, Frank likes his Jack and Coke but you know when we were in our 20's we could go tour for 8 weeks playing 5 shows a week and drinking so much booze, smoking so much weed and it didn't affect us, nowadays it just kills us we want to throw ourselves off buildings.
That's why we're only doing shows Thursday, Friday Saturday, because that way during the week we can be fathers and husbands and at the weekends we can go crazy a bit. I think any of the shows on Saturdays will probably be the most drunken shows - if we started getting wasted on Thursdays and Fridays by the time we get to Saturday's show we're going to be shit. That would be a disservice to the people who spent their hard earned money to come and check us out.
You clearly sound like you love what you're doing and that comes through whenever people play live anyway...
The thing is it's second nature to us now. The moment a song starts, we know the song, it's in our DNA. The actual performing is the easy part, it's the travelling all around, and staying in hotels and missing your loved ones stuff like that that makes it hard, but then again this is what we live for, this is the choice we made so we don't have any regrets.
If you were to write a song like Scooby Snacks for 2016 what would the content be – what would the story or message be?
Lyrically Huey has always come up with the lyrics, we've all worked together for as far as what a song is all about. Chances are a really heavy rock song isn't going to be about sitting round doing nothing on a Sunday, but at the same time, I mean I don't know because now I'm 100% in this mind-set of touring and re-releasing Come Find Yourself. So I'm not really in the creative head-space, but I know that we don't really think about it too much so that's what makes it hard on the spot now trying to think - what would Scooby Snacks sound like now?
It's not just the song or the Tarantino samples, it's the time it came out, it's where people were in their lives, so I think any band that writes any song hopes that they'll have that kind of luck where it'll strike a nerve with the times and be current. Musically our music sounds old so that's hard nowadays because everything sounds the same and it always did sound a lot alike on the radio, but now with electronic production and everybody - whether they're a musician or not - being able to buy a recording studio for 200 quid in an Apple store, it just makes it harder to come up with something new.
Musically we never wanted to do that, Huey's not in his 20's anymore he's in his late 40's so lyrically I'm sure he'll sing about what matters to him. He's not going to try and write stories as if he can relate to a 20 year old - that's not his thing - but most of our fans tend to be ageing like us anyway. They bring the kids to the shows and turn the kids on to it hopefully, the kids get embarrassed when the parents are up front dancing when they are at the back bar. So we're good man, we're just lucky to still be doing this.
You're quite vocal on social media about your political views ...
I've been advised not to go off on my political views - just because it would be a 10 hour conversation. But there's a lot of injustice in the world and I really strongly feel that without empathy there can never be peace so unless we can truly put ourselves in other people's shoes especially with all the things happening with children in wars there will never be peace, but everyone's gotta try and think for themselves.
Here is where you can catch Come Find Yourself - Live, in its entirety for the first time (re-issued on 19th February 2016):
Dublin Vicar Street – Friday 29th January
Leeds O2 Academy – Thursday 4th February
Newcastle O2 Academy – Friday 5th February
Nottingham Rock City – Saturday 6th February
Oxford O2 Academy – Thursday 11th February
Worthing Pavilion Theatre – Friday 12th February
Norwich UEA LCR – Saturday 13th February
Cardiff Y Plas (formerly Solus) – Thursday 18th February
Exeter Great Hall – Friday 19th February
London O2 Kentish Town Forum – Saturday 20th February
Birmingham Institute – Thursday 25th February
Manchester Cathedral – Friday 26th February
Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom – Saturday 27th February
Photo Credit: Tom Barnes (Main Image)