I caught up with Brian ‘Fast’ Leiser from the Fun Lovin’ Criminals to talk about their upcoming tour in 2017, new music and… soup.
How you doing Fast?
Yeah I’m good; I’m just in Buckinghamshire right now celebrating my Mother-In-Law’s 70th birthday, so it’s all good.
Are you looking forward to returning to Southampton?
Yeah we’ve been there many times. It’s always a good party. It’s on the water isn’t it? We love that, that’s life. Water is life.
It’s been a busy year for FLC right?
Yeah we’ve been pretty busy, can’t complain. All of us have other projects, it’s not just Fun Lovin’ Criminals. Obviously we prioritise FLC but we all have other things we all get into. So yeah it’s been pretty busy, we could always get more work, but we can always get less so yeah we’re not complaining.
How did it feel playing your landmark album all over again earlier this year?
Yeah it was awesome! We never played that album before from start to finish, but whenever we tour we always play at least ¾’s of that record at every show. It was our first record; we’ve had our whole lives preparing for that record so it tends to be not just because it’s the fans favourite but also because it’s our favourite as well. So I don’t think there’s been a show we’ve done where we haven’t played at least 7 or 8 songs off of that record so to play all the other ones, yeah it was cool.
I don’t think that’s what we are doing this February, but we don’t really know what we are doing this February, but we know we are going to play our music but we want to try and do something fresh and something new for people. There’s nothing more boring than when you go to see a band play and they play the same shit that you heard them play when you saw them a couple years previous, you know. We like to switch things up, throw a couple new songs, throw a couple unheard songs in, throw in a couple covers. We just want people to come out, have a good time, forget about their problems and get the party on with the Fun Lovin’ Criminals.
How were fans responding to hearing the album again?
I think it was great. I think playing the album from start to finish was cool because by the time we got our third song, ‘The Grave and The Constant’, all the fans knew that the next song coming was ‘Scooby Snacks‘ so the audience was getting pumped up. Then we played it and it was great and then the fans were like “oh that was my favourite, they’ve just played 4 songs of my favourite songs of theirs” so when we played the rest of the record, it was when they got into the musical side of the band, not just the pop side they were used to listening to the radio when they were young, and so I think it was really cool, and for us, its hard as with a set list, you don’t want to blow your load as they say, too early, you want to spread your music out so the fact that the track ‘Son of a criminal’ was the first one and ‘Scooby Snacks’ was the fourth one, it was like that was two of our five most popular songs to play.
It didn’t bother me because it’s just like two of our kids, our two oldest kids, and we have loads of kids, we have like 60 plus kids, so we love them all like children, so when we play our music we love playing no matter what song it is, but for myself I could go out and play that album every night from start to finish because there was something really special about it. But generally, we don’t like going out and playing the same shit, so when we were talking about playing ‘Come Find Yourself Again’, the other two were like “Nah, let’s do something different.” I was like “Great, what do you want to do?” And they were like “Umm, we’ll figure something out.” and at first it kind of annoyed me, but then I appreciated the spontaneity of it, the idea of just deciding on the night what we want to do, like one night we might decide to play the whole of ‘Come Find Yourself’ and then the next night we might do something completely different. So that’s what I like about our band, is that we mix things up, we try to anyway.
So this new tour is going to be very impromptu and you are winging it in some ways?
Well, we know we have over 60 songs to choose from, we know there’s like a dozen we ‘have’ to play, we play roughly between 20-25 songs a night and we know there’s ten that we ‘should’ play every night, so who knows what we will do with the other ones, we’ll just see how it goes you know. We know the crowd will be up for it because we’ll only really be playing on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday and so everyone is going to be in the mood for a party, so we’ll see what happens. We’re excited, like I said we are very lucky to be able to do what we do, to be musicians as our professionals so we are lucky.
What made you want to carry on in 2017, from where you left off in 2016?
We just know any opportunity to play, we have to. It’s technically our jobs, it’s what puts food on the table so if we are not touring we are not making money. We also understand how the game is played. With agents and promoters, they always have to have a product, so we filmed the concert in Berlin in March, playing the whole of ‘Come Find yourself’ from start to finish and so of course the managers were like “Ooo that’s great, we have a our product, so it’s cool.” They have a DVD they can sell in February and we are looking forward to that and we are working on a new record at the moment and that’s what we do, music is our lives so if we are not making music then we’re not living. It’s what we do.
You are very fan orientated, am I right?
It’s got to be. We are of the people, we are the people you know what I mean and that’s the thing, we’re not some fucking uptight, you know, band that goes up there and are like “Bow before us.” I just cannot stand people who think they are better than other people, any form of supremacy, go fuck yourself. I got no time for that. We are all the same, we all bleed red, and that’s what pisses me off so much about how everyone lives these days, it seems so much more important what’s on the outside than what’s on the inside and its all red blood. If only I could stop eating meat, I would stop being such a fucking hypocrite, it’s not easy, but one day I will.
Is the UK a significant location to you?
In the UK we got very lucky because it seems they enjoy our music more so than anywhere else on the planet. We never thought we would have people outside New York liking our music, so to be able to do a two week tour in the UK, it’s pretty amazing, like it really says a lot about the open mindedness of the people who like music here. In America, it’s so pigeon-holed, like if you are a rap group you can’t possibly have guitar solo in the middle of your songs and if you’re a rock group you can’t possibly have rapping.
In England they don’t seem to care, it’s like a good song’s a good song. Moving over here made a lot of sense for Huey and Myself, our drummer, Frank, is from the midlands, born and raised in Leicester, but me and Huey were doing so much travelling back and forth travelling to New York, we found that because we had spent so much time in the UK we would go back to New York and just be jet lagged and sleeping all the time, so it just made more sense to move here, and these days now we’re older, we’re married, we have kids, our wives are British and so this is home now.
How does performing here feel different to performing at other European Locations?
Pretty much everywhere we have good shows; different places have different quirks about them. In Italy & France you have people, not judging you, but it’s just harder for them to let their hair down, but there ain’t no stopping the people in the UK having a good time. The same in Ireland or Holland, for example, people enjoy their personal freedom, whether it’s smoking weed, drinking lots of booze or whatever their crutch is, we play everywhere and we always have good times. There was a period in the early 2000’s, we were touring in Eastern Europe all the time and were having great shows because people there were never exposed to International bands, and so when we came to town we would be playing in Venues of 10,000 people and out of the 10,000 there is only 50 who have our music. The others were just starved music fans that love hearing live music and so some of the greatest gigs we ever done were in Bulgaria or Slovakia or in Lithuania or Romania, all these “Anias” you know, good times, as a long as we have electricity we will Rock and Roll. I think the fans know that their ain’t no bullshit with our music, we’re normal people who are just very lucky and play music that we enjoy and these other people are like minded people who like hearing it.
Do you have a favourite city to perform in?
Well, I think we love doing shows in New York, because if we play in a venue of 1000 people, 600 of them will be friends of ours on the guest list, so it’s just like we are having a party. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to get back to New York for a while which is a shame because it’s much harder to tour in America, like our first tour in America was for U2 for 3 weeks in Stadiums, so we’ve never really felt like we paid our dues touring in the states, but being able to get back to New York to do a show every year or 2 is very difficult and it’s just not possible for us to do it. We haven’t played their now in so long that promoters aren’t willing to take any kind of a risk and we can’t do a show for $500, that can’t happen, that don’t even cover the air fare, so as much as we love New York, and as much as we love our fans and stuff, we aint paying out our own pocket to go play there, no way, that can’t happen.
So does your fan base change from city to city?
No, generally they are like us, all people that are like you know, a bit crazy, that’s what we love about them, we don’t like uptight people who like to judge other people, they are people that want to come out and forget about their problems and have a good time. We find them no matter if we are playing in Japan, Australia, England, Holland or Canada or wherever. People who like FLC are people who don’t like what they hear on the radio, they are more fans of classic music, people who think “I like Adele, but if I like Adele, I may as well listen to Nina Simone”. I mean I like Kings of Leon but I might as well listen to Zeppelin, that’s what great about old music, people like Zeppelin put out four or five albums, that’s awesome, that enough music I need to listen to hard rock. I don’t need a Kings of Leon record because personally I just don’t find it original.
Huey, a lot of times being on the BBC Radio will be like “Hey Fast, listen to this, you’ll really like it, it’s original.” and I won’t hear it. I’m not forced to listen to it and so it’s not going to get under my skin. I have plenty of music I love, that I’m always learning about. I have Funk tracks, Disco Tracks, Reggae tracks, it goes on forever, that’s what I love, I don’t need to be just listening to what’s new. The thing is, there is some new music that I really like, but the thing is there’s no longevity to these acts, they put out one song and that one album and then you never hear from them again. Like, Remember Keane? They were so fucking huge and where are they now!?! Even Kasabian, were so fucking huge internationally and they actually had a couple songs I like, but where are they now? I could name so many bands, and they could be like FLC, people could easily say “Remember that song Scooby Snacks? Where are they now?”, but hey, Keane could still be touring around and more power to them, I respect that, so much more than being blown up on the radio and then having to live up to the thing. I mean, look at Coldplay, their first two albums are great and now everything just sounds like something else, it just produced by Avicci or Skrillex or some other fucking guy.
We’ve produced our own music, we always have and will never not produce our own music because it’s our music, Leonardo Da Vinci didn’t have someone else pick out the fucking colours, you know what I mean?
Would you say you’ve seen the music industry change for the worse over your career then?
I think it’s been worse for people trying to get into bands or painting or artists of any shape, I mean it’s always been tough to get a record deal but now there is no one financing things. It’s like we were lucky, we got a record deal, BMI spent so much fucking money paying for us to travel the world which built us a fan base, we never made any money off our first three records because BMI spent so much but we’ve managed to get a career out of touring because of it. No bands have that, and if you get one of these 360 deals, your killing yourself already because any fans you get, the label is going to take a big chunk of your touring profits, and that’s just a shame, I mean it’s just so fucking greedy.
BMI made some good money off of our music, but they’ve also given us something that we could never thank them enough for and that’s a fan base. Take any new song, I’m a DJ as well so, I’ll download it because I don’t want people just asking me about some shit and never having anything for them, and so if I get asked to listen to some new Coldplay song or whatever the fuck it is, I’ll download it just so I have it. But these days people want just one song, heard eighty times on your way to the club, forget about getting educated anymore, you just want to listen to what you listened to getting ready, but at the same time there is so much other music out there and that’s the thing, like I don’t know man….
So you’re saying, it’s all about money nowadays and there’s no artistic spirit anymore?
I mean take Major Laser, everyone knows Major Laser, Diplo’s group right? The first album was great because he was with that other dude, the one that produces MIA’s music, but then Diplo wanted to sell out, and the other guy was like fuck that noise and left. Then Major Laser, blew the fuck up, put out that track ‘Lean on Me’ with the slow fucking Moombahton Beat, you know that “Boom Ba Boom Ka, Boom Ba Boom Ka” and that’s an old Jamaican rhythm that goes way back a long time over decades, and now every fucking song on the radio, is that same beat and the chances are everyone has Sean Paul on it. I mean talk about sell out, Sean Paul was putting out some remarkable music in the 90’s, he had some great jams but now it’s so fucking predictable, and I’m a huge fan of Jamaican rhythms but that’s the one that’s stuck in the Jamaican dancehall scene forever and now it’s so commercial. Now when I DJ at my restaurant, “The Rum Kitchen”, I play old Jamaican rhythms but that’s the only one I think of. I play ‘Murder She Wrote’ or any of these old jams that use this rhythm and everyone is asking for the SIA track or the new Rockabye (Clean Bandit) track and it’s just like “eurgh!”.
So the issue for you is there is too much stealing from old music and not enough originality?
It’s not just that, it’s like back in the 90’s when we got our record deal, Radio 1 was still relatively cool, they played everything, they played Manic Street Preachers, they played Fun Lovin’ Criminals, they played Massive Attack, they played Oasis, they played all these great different kinds of music, now everything is “Boom, Ba Boom Ka, Boom Ba Boom Ka” with fucking Sean Paul on it or some fucking house song by some fucking idiot. I mean I like House Music too, but House Music is a fucking joke, there’s no identity because everyone is using the same fucking 3 instruments to write that music, I mean I like it, in a club it’s great, forget about all your problems, it’s great, but forget anyone thinking about a tour.
In the 90’s you had groups like Orbital or Prodigy, these were touring bands, but you don’t have any of these anymore, you have DJ’s, like you have people like Calvin Harris making an obscene amount of money per year to play other peoples fucking music. That’s his world, he’s going out with Taylor Swift and all that other fucking nonsense, more power to you, but he’ll probably end up fucking killing himself not being able to handle it. He’s interesting, because he started his career as a singer and then sort of switched to a DJ half way through…
Yeah, it’s called selling out! He wanted to make the money and that’s what everyone does, he may as well be a politician. Calvin Harris could probably run for Prime Minister and win, take a big pay cheque, suck a corporate dick and let them just kill loads of people and make lots of money, disgusting but whatever, people are stupid man and that’s not even me being judgemental. If I was being judgemental I could really go off on him, but if people are not willing to think for themselves, then we are all fucked man.
Of course, I think that’s a big thing at the moment, like about originality and really what direction are we going? I mean I can defend the lack of a originality a bit, I’m sorry but some of the most original art was coming out at the last half of the 20th century, there was paintings and music and stuff, so it’s hard to write a big rock song without it sounding like The Stones or Zeppelin or something and that’s why it’s so easy for the radio to keep on plugging the same fucking thing. It just upsets me when everyone says that Major Laser are such a fresh and original approach to this music and it’s like nah, they’re not, if you could think for yourself or do any research you would realise that Jamaican rhythms like that have been going on for decades and they’re just ripping it off because it’s some pretty white boy whose fronting the group. But whatever, if kids are smart they’ll figure this out for themselves, but if not, fuck them, let them wind up like all the rest of the sheep.
So as you said you’re making new music, what angles are you taking with your music?
There’s a formula to our music that we have never broken, that’s why we’re not Coldplay or Madonna. We’ve stuck to our formula so that it pigeon-holes as much as people say “well, if you guys don’t want to get with the times then it’s going to be really hard to get you out there” but like there’s not going to be a Fun Lovin’ Criminals song with that Jamaican rhythm, it’s not going to happen, we have a formula we stick to. We will say nowadays it is much harder to get inspired lyrically without being very depressing, we take inspiration when writing our songs musically and lyrically from what’s going on around us, but truth be told we’re not in our twenties living in New York in the 90’s which was an amazing inspirational time to live, we are in our 40’s, living in South East London & Somerset & Midlands with our wives & kids, so unless we talk about our kids making fusses I don’t really see the point so it’s harder write these days.
Is it much harder now then to make music?
I just think we are in a much more different place than we were before to be writing like we were in our twenties and stuff so it just takes a lot longer to write stuff. Our third record was called ‘Mimosa’ and it’s a lot of alternative versions of our songs and some covers. We are sort of going along with that approach, which is something we think the fans will really like, but I can’t go too far into the concept because we haven’t recorded more than 4 or 5 songs but it’s something that we thought would be a great idea, because we didn’t want to rush an album. When Fun Lovin’ Criminals rush an album, it turns out to be an album we don’t like.
The last record we did ‘Classic Fantastic’, it wasn’t that we rushed it but it just wasn’t done organically, we were all living in different countries and so we were emailing different songs to each other. We realised when we mixed the record that yeah it was cool but there was no emotional attachment to it because we weren’t all in the same room and it’s one of the reasons we don’t play those songs live and we don’t want to make the same mistake again. There are a lot of tracks on that record that we like, but we just don’t perform them because it’s not a record we are that fond of. We were all hating on each other at the time too, which happens, it’s a love hate relationship being in a band.
I love this idea of emotion in making music, would you say it’s a pinnacle part of your creative process then?
Well, that’s why they call it soul music! We’ve had some really amazing years, some really amazing experiences touring and performing with Fun Lovin’ Criminals and nothing has really ever come close to that apart from the births of our children.
*Interruption from PR*
Do we still have time?
Yeah it’s all good, I still have time, I’m just sitting here with a soup that’s too freaking hot to eat. It’s supposed to be mixed vegetable but it just looks like cream. They don’t really get soup right in England. Mixed vegetable to me would be I look into it and there are chunks of mixed vegetables, this just looks like freaking squash. But yeah the chips here are good.
Last question then, your band is big on touring so what is your craziest tour story?
There’s so many, I’ve already had to tell the top 3 today during these phone ins but I’m trying to think of another one. Ok, here’s one, so we use to go to Hawaii quite a bit for a couple weeks at the start of the year, and this one time my parents came to visit me whilst I was there. When they flew from one part of the island from Oahu to Maui, my mother took a piece of volcanic rock. But no one had told her that to take any of the sacred rock off the Island is like really bad luck. So when she gets to Maui, she shows my friends and me the rock and all my surfer friends are like “Why did you take that? It’s really bad luck, you need to take it back.”, but my mother is like I’m not going back, but turns out one of my friends was about to windsurf the distance and so said he would take it. But it was him that took it back but not my mother and so they leave and I remain for a few more weeks, however, a couple days after returning, the same day my younger brother gets into a car accident, I shoot myself in the hand while filming a movie, thinking the gun was not loaded, it was only a pellet gun and at first it didn’t hurt. I end up going to an ultra sound for pregnant ladies to get an x-ray anyway and sure enough there’s the fucking pellet in my hand. I didn’t trust the doctor in Hawaii to do it as he’s looking at my hand saying “I’ve never seen those nerves before” so I go back to New York and by this time I’ve had this pellet in my hand for a couple months now but I’ve got festivals to play in July. I go the doctor and have to fill out this police report and had to classify it as a “Self Inflicted Gun Shot Wound”, even though it’s an accident. Anyway, this doctor looks at my hand and says well we have to postpone it because it’s right near the nerves and if we’re not really careful you might not be able to use that hand again, so there goes being a musicians. So I say fuck it, I’ll come back when you’re ready, so now I have to tour all summer with this pellet in my hand and it wasn’t until I was touring that I noticed how much this pellet fucking hurt. It’s not a specific story, but this was in the early 2000’s and I’m going out 16/18 weeks, playing 5 shows a night and I can barely feel my hand. Eventually, I get it out and everything fine apart from the “Lifeline” on my hand being cut in half, but I’m still here so the moral of that story is don’t take volcanic rocks out of Hawaii and definitely don’t tour afterwards….