Norman Cook: “Nobody knows the retirement age for a DJ. I’ll step down when either the crowds or I stop enjoying it”

Norman Cook with his smiley face collection, at home in Brighton. Photograph: Alex Lake for the Observer

It’s essential for me to know when I’m Norman and when I’m Fatboy Slim. For years the distinction was blurred. As I get older, Norman’s increasingly obsessed with fridge management and being a responsible dad and husband. He only lets Fatboy out of the box on stage now ” Fatboy’s still a lunatic hedonist.

It was seeing Donny Osmond on the telly that made me want to be a pop star. He wore a leather jacket with his name in studs across the back and had a piano that lit up when he played. I was eight and thought: I want a piece of that.

My wife [presenter Zoév« Ball] is my worst critic. Having gone through the fame thing together, we’re good at keeping each other’s egos in check. If one of us starts getting a little big headed, the other one slaps them back down.

A DJ’s job used to be to make people dance. It’s been elevated to orchestrating a collective euphoria now. I think I injected a lot of showmanship into DJing. I decided I had to be like James Brown without the band. I started cheerleading the crowd and showing off. Whenever I play, I kick off my shoes, put on my Hawaiian shirt and revert to being a 17-year-old who’s had one too many ciders.

Going into rehab [in 2009] was a short, sharp shock. I left no stone unturned during my 30 years of drinking “ I’d developed a dependency. Being the sober one at the centre of the party seemed daunting, but life’s been much more manageable since. It was beginning to hurt and it wasn’t fun any more.

I cringe at Caravan of Love“ people sing it at me in the street. The tune I’m most proud of is Right Here, Right Now. I still get goose bumps on the back of my neck when I hear it in a stadium.

Zoé« and I were once called the Posh and Becks of the E Generation. We were pretty fruity “ the happiest moment of my life was drag racing around a Mexican golf course in stolen golf buggies, singing at the top of our voices. That was the week we conceived our son, Woody [now 14]. My only regret of that time is not being able to remember more.

I’m a liberal parent up to a point. There are certain ground rules: no food in bed, no going on the computer until you’re dressed. Woody wasn’t allowed to play with toy guns, but I’ve lapsed a bit and he does now sneak in a few video games where he’s blowing people to smithereens. My daughter, Nelly [five], is infinitely more passive.

Nobody knows the retirement age for a DJ. For me, Pete Tong, Carl Cox, we are the first wave of big DJs so there’s no precedent. I’ll step down when either the crowds or I stop enjoying it “ neither of which has happened thus far.

The smiley face icon is like my emblem. Nelly calls them daddy’s faces. I’ve got one as a tattoo – it’s timeless. Goofy but positive – which is probably how I’d like to be remembered.

The Fatboy Slim Collection is out on 25 May on Sony Records


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