interview Written By Adam Vaughan
He’s not in Palookaville nor is he halfway between the gutters and the stars, he has come a long way, baby, to be classed in the small elite of people who can call themselves a worldwide superstar DJ, perhaps its living through chemistry but XpressDJs very own Adam and Adrian speak with the legend that is Norman Cook to find out.
AV: Right! First of all congratulations on Zoe being pregnant again..
FBS: Thank you
AV: When’s the baby due?
AV: Are you getting Nervous?
FBS: Not so nervous as the first time, Iâ€™ve done it before!
AV: Is it a baby girl this time?
AV: And what does Woody make of it all?
FBS: Heâ€™s good, heâ€™s said â€œit doesnâ€™t matter if its a girl Iâ€™ll make her a tomboy!â€
AV: Right, according to our information you’ve won nine MTV awards, an Ivor Novello…
FBS: And a Grammy!….
AV: …and a Grammy…..played in front millions of people from Australia to Brazil, hold the record for the most chart entries under different pseudonyms, sold millions of singles and albums, one of which went 3x platinum and you have a house in an exclusive part of Brighton complete with its own beach, how did it all begin?
FBS: Where did it all go wrong! Itâ€™s all been a gradual process; this is my 25th year since I gave up my day job. I started with the Housemartins playing in a pop band and that was great as it taught me about the musical side of it, but I have always been a DJ at heart. I was living in Brighton, DJing 5 nights a week when I joined the Housemartins, but in those days dance music wasnâ€™t really a career it was a hobby and you got paid a bit more than the glass collectors did. I was working full time at Rounder (records) and DJing 5 nights a week and that paid the rent. Itâ€™s been nice that DJs now can make a living out of it and that I donâ€™t have to pretend that I am a bass player or a guitarist because at heart Iâ€™m sure that I am a DJ. I seem to have an ear for a good tune and enthusiasm about it and over the years you just have to hone it. Over the years I have tried playing in bands and Iâ€™ve tried producing bands and I think purely just being a dance producer and a DJ seems to be what I am best at, so I donâ€™t bother with the other stuff any more. Over the years you hope to get better and you hope you get another crack at the whip because in the 25 years it hasnâ€™t all been plain sailing. Iâ€™ve been really lucky to get 4 cracks of the whip; Iâ€™ve been in the Housemartins, Beats International, Freak Power and then Fatboy Slim, so Iâ€™ve had four different careers. Itâ€™s nice that the most recent has been the most successful, I hit it with Fatboy Slim where I had got everything right it was exactly my personality I didnâ€™t have to pretend I was something that I wasnâ€™t and I worked out what I was good at which was â€˜dumbassâ€™ dance music and trying to party and making songs that sounded like a party was going on in your head. For about 5 years I was top of my game and for the last few years I am just enjoying but Iâ€™m not looking up anymore. Your big when you have had number one singles and albums, Iâ€™ve pretty much done all there is to do and I am not interested in doing it at that level because it was a bit mental! Ten years ago my life was really exciting but itâ€™s not something you can carry on at that momentum. Me and Zoe have both taken our feet off the accelerator a bit and we just amble along and get to live a life now.
AV: You were described as the pioneer of the big beat and electronic dance scene which achieved mainstream popularity in the 1990s, what’s it like to be labelled with such an accolade?
FBS: I wouldnâ€™t say I was the pioneer of the movement, because when I first started out the was the Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers and there was all sort of people and we were all doing a similar sort of thing and then we all met up at the social, there was John Carter, The Chemical Brothers, Damien Harris and we all had this thing that wasnâ€™t house music which then became known as Big Beat. I think I was the Pioneer at crossing it over to the charts. I donâ€™t think I was the pioneer of what we were doing musically; I was just part of a gang.
AV: The first time we saw you in action was on a warm summers day back in 2002 with 249,998 other people who flocked to Brighton beach for the Big Beach Boutique 2, how did it feel to put on such an event that brought Brighton to stand still and leaving some people stuck in traffic until the early hours of the morning, did you expect such a turn out?
FBS: We knew it was going to be big we just didnâ€™t think it would be that big and it was really exciting when you realised how big it was getting, and then it became quite scary because it became too big. It was a fantastic day and to do it in my home town was just fantastic, it was just a celebration of all things about dance music, about Fatboy Slim, about Brighton, and everything just came together at once. B ut it was a bit scary because there were too many people, me and my family where in the Grand Hotel just watching everyone arrive and we were thinking â€˜fucking hell..â€™, but as the evening wore on I was with the police as they were trying to shut it down, they were saying that they couldnâ€™t guarantee public safety and I was like â€œ…ok fine, but if you shut it down you got all these people drunk with nothing to do and theyâ€™re going to be pissed offâ€. So we had to do it under real duress knowing that if anything went wrong and so it was quite nerve wrecking and I got a bit of bad press and people were blaming me for the poor girl who died later that night. In a lot of peoples minds it went down as a disaster, but in my head it was a potential disaster that didnâ€™t happen. So there were very mixed emotions about it, we thought it was a triumph and were amazed that we got away with it and that there wasnâ€™t a major incident. At one point I stood with the fire safety officer and he said â€œIf we get this wrong you could two Hillsboroughâ€™s on your hands..â€. I was standing there thinking â€œRight, two Hillsboroughâ€™s thatâ€™s 250 people dead!?â€. Then it was like, now go on and play some records! It could have been a real distaster and we are just glad it wasnâ€™t. We just got some bad press in the tabloids because they donâ€™t like to see tons of people having fun. We did stretch Brightonâ€™s resources but everyone in Brighton seemed to enjoy it and wanted to know when we were going to do it again.
AV: With Big Beach Boutiques 3 and 4 out the way and 5 being cancelled, are we going to see another one in the near future?
FBS: 5 didnâ€™t get cancelled, 5 wasnâ€™t going to happen. We applied as a matter of course we applied for the licence every year because you have to do that a year in advance, so I applied for the licence. But then I went onto rehab and I was kind of rethinking and I thought it was the last thing I need right now. Itâ€™s a lot of work and stress and I just said that we should just take the year off because we had done it two years running and give Brighton a year off and give me a year off. So it wasnâ€™t because it was cancelled I just decided not to do it. We are kind of aiming to do it next year (2010), I have to apply for it in January and I have applied for the licence anyway. We will just see what the public are feeling and I donâ€™t want to force myself and I have to live here and you donâ€™t shit on your own doorstep!
AV: Having played in front of sell out crowds at countless clubs and festivals in the UK and then you go to Brazil, play for hundreds of thousands of people at Flamengo Beach in Rio and at the Salvador carnival and made a star appearance in the Brazilian version of Big Brother (complete with air horn) is there life for the Fatboy Slim brand outside the UK?
FBS: Oh yeah! This summer Iâ€™ve worked really hard, I was in Japan, America, Australia and pretty much every country in Europe to do with the festivals, so I think Iâ€™m actually bigger abroad than I am in England….
AV: …they do seem to go quite nuts for you in Brazil….
FBS: ….Yeah! in Brazil they love me, Australia Japan and Brazil are my biggest markets, and there lovely counties as well to spend time in.
AV: Of all the gigs you’ve played at around the globe, which ones stand out in particular and for what reasons?
FBS: Well the first two Brighton Beaches were really magic, the first time I played Salvador in Brazil that was fairly awesome, a couple of Glastonburyâ€™s, the first Rock Ness. The ones where you go somewhere where you shouldnâ€™t be and put on a party and it works! All the build up and thinking â€œis this going to work?â€ and â€œwhy has no-one done this before?â€ Things like Rock Ness Iâ€™m like â€œso no-one has put on a party or a gig at Loch Ness before?â€ and their like â€œNo.â€ And Iâ€™m like â€œwhy not?â€, â€œbecause everyoneâ€™s scared.â€ Iâ€™m like â€œwell what have we got to be scared of?â€ We did the maths and worked out that we had the room and when we did it everyone was like â€œThat was fucking fantastic!â€ So yeah, those ones are the ones that I feel best about….
AV: ..Werenâ€™t you in a suspended DJ booth at Glastonbury one time?
FBS: I was about 40 foot up in the air one time at Glastonbury. Thereâ€™s only so much you can do to DJ, when youâ€™re playing on the main stage you canâ€™t be running around doing guitar solos and jumping into the crowd. So we built this enormous 50ft by 50ft of LEDs and put me in the middle of it so depending on what we did with the lights it looked like I was just standing there with a pair of decks in mid-air, but it was a trick I was suspended in scaffolding.
AV: Your last album release was a collaboration with various artists under the name of the Brighton Port Authority, I’m sure lots of people are wondering what other projects you have in the pipeline?
FBS: Well I wrote a musical with David Byrne from the Talking Heads which is coming out in February and itâ€™s called Here Lies Love and we have been doing that on and off for the last two or three years doing it when we could and getting other singer to do it. Itâ€™s a musical even though he hasnâ€™t got the money to stage the musical yet. Itâ€™s a musical about Imelda Marcos but itâ€™s not about shoes itâ€™s about her being in studio 54 and hanging out, thatâ€™s finally finished and its got Tori Amos, Martha Wainwright and David Byrne singing on it. I co-wrote the music with David Byrne, so thats been my latest project
AV: Rumour has it that you are winding down the stage name Fatboy Slim, and concentrating on other projects such as the Brighton Port Authority, is this true?
FBS: Na! Youâ€™ve got the same rumours that you keep getting on the internet and they stick, that started 3 years ago when I was doing the BPA The Sun said â€œAre you not going to be Fatboy Slim any more?â€ just as I was about to go on stage as Fatboy Slim. I turned around to them and said that I was giving up the name Fatboy Slim and changing my name to Madonna and they printed it as if it wasnâ€™t a joke and that rumour stuck. Since then I have played for three years all around the World.
AV: Are you planning any more releases under the Fatboy name?
FBS: Yeah! Iâ€™ve just finished a tune with Herve, I donâ€™t know what name it will come out as, it might be Herve and Fatboy Slim or Fatboy Slim and Herve, it might be something like Duck Sauce. There are some other people that I am collaborating with but I am getting back to making Fatboy Slim records. The BPA was a great thing but it didnâ€™t set the World alight but it was something I wanted to get out of my system so now I am going back to making dance music, again, just going back to what I am good at! I think the BPA was a bit ambitious for me!
AV: When producing a track are there certain things you like to include or listen out for to get that killer hook?
FBS: I think killer hook and killer rhythm their the main things and once you nail that then the rest of it is the icing on the cake. When I worked in a record shop if someone wanted to buy a record they would have to say â€œI want the one that goes (sings) â€œIâ€™ll be your…. Iâ€™ll be your….Iâ€™ll be your..â€ or the one that goes â€œEerr err euerr eerr err euerr!â€ So yeah it has to have a hook, either musical or vocal one that they can actually sing otherwise it will never be a hit because people could never ask for it. Again this is pre Shazam and the Internet, but I always think that its a sign of a good pop record that you can sing it to someone and they will know what record it is. But also it has to have a good rhythm to make people dance, coming from being a bass player I can work on the rhythm section and then my pop head thinks of the hooks and the rest of it falls into place.
AV: Out of all the tracks you have produced and remixed which one is your favourite and why?
FBS: It sounds a bit synical but the ones that have been most successful because you get a feeling of satisfaction when youâ€™ve had a number one. I suppose a â€˜Brimful of Asherâ€™ was my favourite remix, it was a simple idea as I knew it was a good song, it just needed to be tweaked. I knew what I wanted to do with it, so I went in there and did it and I worked. Then obviously Praise You and Rockafella Skank just because when I am DJing if I drop just the piano riff or the vocal everyone just goes bananas. If youâ€™re in a band you get bored of playing your favourite tunes but if your a DJ it doesnâ€™t matter because you donâ€™t have to play them every night and you can play little samples or mash-ups where I have messed around with them. All of them are my fondest because they pay the rent!
AV: What about Woody, is he following on from his Dad at all? Is he showing signs of a mini Fatboy in the making?
FBS: Na! Heâ€™s got a band and a rehearsal studio next door! Heâ€™s a bit too young to understand dance music, he doesnâ€™t hear a lot of my music to be honest because around the house I tend to listen to The Beatles and thing like that because my head is so full of dance music from work. He hasnâ€™t asked for a pair of decks yet, heâ€™s got a mini Stratocaster! He actually plays bass in the band, so he is kind of following after me. They had three guitarists and no bass player so I persuaded him that you get more chicks playing bass because its sexier and you only have to play one note at a time!
AV: Now it’s time for some of our classic XpressDJs quick fire questions:
AV: Out of your entire Vinyl collection, what is your favourite record?
FBS: My favourite is probably a promo copy of the Patrick Cowley megamix of â€˜I feel loveâ€™ the full thirteen minute edit which for me kind of for me invented house music especially electronic dub house music. I donâ€™t know how I got the promo, I think it was when I started working at Rounder Records and there was this one promo of it. Years later on people go (positively)â€œwhat the hell is this record!?â€, its a disco record from 1977!
AV: What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you whilst you’ve been djing?
FBS: Eeerrrr… Vomiting into a bucket under the decks because I had food poisoning in Vegas….
AV:…ever knocked the power off?…
FBS:..Yeah Iâ€™ve done that! Iâ€™ve done everything really; Iâ€™ve put the wrong tune on, put it on at the wrong speed, taken the record off that has been playing. Over the year these things happen..
.AV:…How do you recover?….
FBS:…Put the record back on or turn around to the guy next to you and pretend to shout at him and quietly put it back on! But there have been no real disasters so far…….
AV: If you could have one superpower what would it be?
FBS: Being invisible I think, a lot of fun to be had with that!
AV: How did you come up with the name ‘Fatboy Slim’
FBS: At the time I was Pizzaman, Mighty Dub Kats and in Freak Power and I needed another name because it was a different label and style of music. I really like old 1930â€™s Blues records and they used to have really good names like Bo Weavil Jackson and Furry Lewis and if you were a Blues singer and you were fat you were called slim. So there was Pinetop Slim, Memphis Slim, Bumble Bee Slim, and I just thought Fatboy Slim as itâ€™s an oxymoron and had a good ring to it
AV: Have you ever set yourself on fire?
FBS: Yeah! Many times, mostly on purpose, we do a thing called flaming football which we invented at Loch Ness. You get two rolls of kitchen roll and you bind them together with wire in a ball, soak them with petrol, set them on fire and kick them about. At night its really good as it makes a roaring noise and looks like a meteor and its coming towards you, hopefully not on your head! I used to set my feet on fire at discos to impress girls. I used to put butane on my Dr Martins, light them and do a few moves (Norm shows us by doing a little dance in his chair).
AV: We are going to refer to you in the third person, can Norman cook?
FBS: I can yeah! I really like cooking, Iâ€™ve got interests in three restaurants, two in New York and one in Brighton called Oki-Nami. As I get older I am becoming more of a restaurateur. Rather than investing in a nightclub I invested in restaurants instead and I am glad I did!
AV: ..Whats your signature dish?..
FBS: I make a pretty good risotto!
AV: Before we leave you in peace, looking back on everything you’ve done and everything you have achieved in your glittering career, do you have any regrets?
FBS: Na not really!…
AV: Is there anything you would do differently?..
FBS: well if I had done anything differently it wouldnâ€™t have turned out like it did, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette, you have to make the journey so thereâ€™s nothing really I think that I have cocked up. If I had gone straight to being as popular as I was with Fatboy Slim when I was 22 I would be mad! It was quite good to gradually get used to the music business and fame. The fame thing never really happened until I met Zoe and then all of a sudden I went from being a C-list to A-list and just because of Fatboy Slim doing really well and meeting Zoe were like the Posh and Becks of the Acid House generation! All of a sudden you have the paparazzi after you and things written about you, if that had happened when I was 22 I would have been a basket case by now. Its been a great journey. I would have got a picture of me kissing Madonna when she first came to England. I was at the Hacienda and it was her first TV appearance and mates of mine where on the same bill and they were sharing the same dressing room as Madonna who no-one had heard of but I thought was quite cute and I was chatting to her. My mate had a camera with him and it was when she was doing holiday so it was the classic Madonna outfit, so not getting a picture of me and Madonna is my only regret.
AV: Thanks once again to Norman Cook, it’s been an honour and a pleasure to interview you do you have any famous last words to leave us with?
FBS: My motto in life is â€˜you canâ€™t make an omelette without breaking a few eggsâ€™; in my case it could be the wrong egg! Or one egg too many!
For your chance to win some signed Fatboy and Kidda goodies check out our exclusive competition on XpressDJs.net!
Since the interview took place, Norman Cook and Zoe Ball have welcomed their new arrival, Nelly May Lois Cook to the world. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Norman and congratulate both him and Zoe on their new arrival and wish them all the best
Article Published by adam_vaughan on 2010-02-04 13:30:42. Â© XpressDJs.net