How We Met: Ami James & Huey Morgan
‘He’s too nice, unfortunately, and a lot of people took advantage of that’
Huey Morgan, 44
After a stint as a US Marine, New York-born Morgan (right in picture) went on to front Fun Lovin' Criminals in 1993, scoring a string of hits including 'Scooby Snacks'. He lives in London with his wife and children, hosting music shows on BBC Radio 2 and 6
Ami was an up-and-coming tattoo artist at the time, in 1993, and I'd already heard his name when I met him in the Village [Greenwich Village, New York]. He was going to go tattoo a friend of mine, and we hit it off. Both of us came from a military background – we knew what it was to serve in uniform – and had this appreciation of art. He said, "Why don't you let me ink you up some time?"
I finally went down to his [tattoo] place about six years later and I had this cool idea of a dragon, so he drew it on my arm and chest – but it was a big job and we never finished it.
We've became close over the years, to the extent that we're like brothers from other mothers. He's a no-bullshit guy who says what he thinks – and I'm like that, too. He's solid.
I remember going out drinking about the time Miami Ink [a reality TV show based in James's tattoo shop] first hit, in 2005. He's a rock-star kind– an extrovert – it's what made the show so watchable, which also helped break down the stigma of tattoos being only for sailors, hobos and rock'n'roll musicians. So there were all these people going up to him and one night he goes, "I hate this shit!" And we all were just laughing, saying, "Dude, you know, you're going to get a lot of love. People are going to be all over you!"
He'd spend part of the year in Miami, but when he came up to New York and I was on tour with the Criminals, he'd stay in my house and take care of my dog. They had a long and great relationship; he used to sleep in bed with her – she liked the guys, that's how she rolled.
Recently we were talking on the phone about when we'd next hang out and he said, "I got to come over [to London] and finish up that tattoo." And then he was like, "I've got an idea to open a [tattoo] shop in London – want to get down with that and be partners?" We found a spot in Notting Hill and he came over the other day to finish my tattoo. Did he finish it? No. He actually did a tattoo of my dog Sugar, instead.
Ami James, 40
The Israeli-born tattoo artist moved to the United States at 11 years of age and his Love Hate Tattoo Studio was catapulted into the limelight in 2005 with the reality-TV show 'Miami Ink'. He lives in New York with his wife and children.
I met Huey at the peak of his career, while I was a nobody who was just beginning mine. I was walking down a street in New York, almost 20 years ago, when I bumped into a mutual friend who Huey was walking with. We hit it off right away as we were both ex-soldiers – I was fresh out [of the Israeli Army] and Huey had been in the Marines, so we started talking about what we'd both been through and it rolled into friendship.
It was the early 1990s and we'd go partying all night together and hang out five days a week – it was a good time. We never had to fight over "the prey", as we went for different women.
When you're famous, people want something from you all the time, and when I met him he was peaking: the Fun Lovin' Criminals had become a big name and he was playing to audiences of 50,000. At that point, trust is hard to come by, but I'd always taken care of myself so I never had to ask Huey for money and we respected each other. But so many [other] guys used him – he's a good guy and, unfortunately, too nice, so a lot of people took advantage of that.
When Huey went on tour I would stay in his house and look after his dog, Sugar. I loved looking after that little pit-bull mutt. She was a funny, cool dog and the whole neighbourhood knew her.
I think he's had to work harder at being successful than me – there are millions of guitar-playing singers out there, while I was definitely lucky as I created something new [with Miami Ink], but I never claimed be the best [tattoo] artist. With Huey, he never had a Robert Plant voice, but he has this cool raspy sound that people loved to listen to, and his band started a new blues-ish, hip-hop-ish guitar style that was something new, which isn't easy to do.
He finally asked me for a tattoo 14 years ago. I knew he didn't want some rinky-dink tattoo but when he asked for a dragon I was like, "Listen, you don't have to get a dragon, just get something cool!" But he wanted it so I did this big outline and a bit of shading on his arm and chest. But then he started travelling again so we never got to finish it. Huey's always trying to blame it on me, but he wasn't exactly knocking on my door to finish it.
Love Hate Social Club is in London W11, lovehatesocialclub.com. Morgan's album 'Say it to My Face' (Naim Edge) is out now
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