Pure Volume Interview (march 2013)


Interview by Rich Thomas, 15 March 2015

Its been 15 years since many a pint was spilled during the playing of The Rockefeller Skank in your local bar, but one could make the case that Norman Cookwho will celebrate his 50th birthday in Julyis having more fun today than hes ever had. His Big Beach parties have gone global, spreading to locales like Australia and Japan, and hes been given a star on his hometown of Brightons Walk of Fame right next to Winston Churchill. We caught up with the DJ and producer to talk about some of his more legendary gigs, his infamous party style, and how he finally got some street cred with his 12-year-old son.

It’s been so long since the heyday of big beat, and now there’s a whole different type of “superstar DJ,” but you’ve managed to catch a great ride on each wave. Compare a gig like your Sahara Tent set at Coachella 2008 to that massive gig at the Hollywood Palladium in 1999. What does it feel today as opposed to epic nights of yore?
Fatboy Slim: Its lovely to see how the scene has grown and matured over the years. I remember when it was a real big deal having a DJ headline at somewhere like the Palladium or Red Rocks. It felt like we were breaking new ground. I suppose nothing will ever match that frontier spirit when we were ripping up the rulebook. Epic shows are considered the norm these days! Its a bit like sex, your first time isnt necessarily the best but its always the most memorable!

Will there ever be another sound so connected with dance music than the 303 and the acid line? I went back and listened to my copy of On The Floor at the Boutique from 1997. It’s that same mix of acid house, funk, soul and breaks. Lots of DJs are about the journey, but for you, the party is the journey. Would you agree?
[Laughs] Well-put! Or the party is the destination at the end of the journey perhaps. I have always loved the party breaks from my hip-hop youth and the acid house from my coming of age. I learned my DJing theory from Grandmaster Flash, who would play a party set before he started tearing up the tunes. For me, a DJ should be about entertainment first, and if he can educate too, that is the bonus.

Big Beach Boutique is on no. five and still going strong. How does it feel to have that under your belt as an accomplishment, both as a musician and a citizen of Brighton?
Equal pride on both counts. We Brightonians are fiercely loyal and independent, so I love that my city is so proud of me and lets me do these parties. Each one feels like a triumphant homecoming parade! As a DJ, I am stoked that this has led to Big Beaches in Brazil, Japan and Australia. Our party on the shores of Loch Ness is now an established festival, and Big Beach in Tokyo has run for five years whether I play it or not. [Ed. The Chemical Brothers headline every other year.]

What’s it like having a star on the Brighton Walk of Fame next to Winston Churchill?
Its more about the placing of our surnames in the alphabet than our standings in history! I am very proud to be honored by the city, but Im careful not to hang around near it hoping to be recognized. My mum was very proud.

What’s the best submission you’ve gotten from the Ask Norm? section of your site?
I enjoy the most intense trainspotting of tunes or samples Ive used. One guy tracked down every tune Id played on New Years Eve 1999 and recreated my set because hed lost his bootleg CD of it!

You’ve headlined Movement in Detroit, Rockness, Glastonbury, Global Gathering; so many different locations and vibes. I mean, does it get any bigger than a spot in the Olympic Closing Ceremony? As long as you’ve got movement in your fingers and your ass and you can hear, you think you’ll be DJing?
As long as Ive got a pulse! Seriously, I think Ill carry on as long as I am enjoying it and the crowd is (as well). Who knows? There seems to be no age restriction for DJs like myself, Carl Cox, Oakey and Pete Tong. The Olympics will take some beating in terms of national pride and global TV audience, not to mention sheer spectacle, but I wasnt really DJing; just putting in an appearance to represent Britsh dance music. Shows like Movement and Glasto are much bigger in my heart.

A bit on the serious side here, but when did you realize you needed to put a stop to the booze? I remember those late 90s gigs were always about Norman, a smiley face, and a vodka orange juice. Was there a moment or a series of moments that promoted the commitment to wind down or stop?
There was no great epiphanic moment. It was just a slow realization that I wasnt enjoying it anymore, and it was beginning to affect my health and relationships. It took a while to actually get off the bus after having such a high old time for so long, but I have no regrets. I left no stone unturned in the pursuit of pleasure and went to a lot of mountain tops!

Your son should be about 12 now, I think. What do you think he appreciates most about your career?
Like all good children he wants to rebel against his parents, so he has always had a healthy disrespect for pop music. He prefers gaming and the YouTube world. As he approaches teenage years, girls and alchopops, he has started realizing that his dad is actually considered quite cool. Having my tunes on FIFA13 and The Simpsons doing a tribute to Right Here Right Now is the most Ive impressed him thus far. He is well versed in DJing technique and dance music because hes grown up around it, but maybe doesnt want to grow up like his dad!

source: Pure Volume

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