He was a phenomenon in the 1990s, but often under a haze of booze. Now sober, the big beat master from Brighton tells Andrea Yu why he’s here to stay
Norman Cook is known in the music industry by many names, but of his dozen or so pseudonyms the one most prominent is undoubtedly Fatboy Slim – the British big beat DJ who rose to worldwide fame in the 1990s with the help of some memorable music videos (cue Christopher Walken) and an extraordinary ability to make people dance. He’s survived a stint in rehab, a very public break-up and make-up with his TV presenter wife Zoë Ball, and has since put his drinking days behind him as a sober DJ and father of two. Well into his 40s he still has what it takes to attract a quarter of a million people to his gigs. Before embarking on an Asia-wide tour we phoned Mr. Cook at his home on Brighton beach (Brighton, UK not Brooklyn, US) to talk about the next generation, the dangers of vodka and wanting to hear Imelda Marcos sing.
So tell me, how do Fatboy Slim and Norman Cook differ?
Fatboy Slim’s a cartoon caricature of me. My persona has more of a wild side, a more devil-may-care spirit. That’s how I get into character at the gigs. I put the Hawaiian shirts on. It used to be the difference between Norman and Fatboy was a bottle of vodka, but not anymore.
Your fans are mostly in their 20s. Do you think you’ve got a good grasp on this generation?
I’ve got a good grasp on what is timeless, which is young people wanting to go out and forget about the boring week they’ve had and feel glamorous and sexy and have fun.
When do you think you’ll hang up those headphones for good?
When I stop enjoying it, or when the crowd stops enjoying it. I’m very aware that I’m getting on a bit, especially when you look at my audience. I am technically old enough to be their father.
Think you’ll be DJing long enough for your kids to be a legitimate part of your audience?
My son is nine so he’s not that far off. It’s possible! [Laughs] That’d be a good thing to work towards. When people say “whats your target?” I would say for my son to be wanting to come out and bring his mates to see me legally.
What does your son think when he sees you on stage?
He just thinks it’s very loud and there are too many people and they’re all drunk and shouting at me. And he says “why is everybody drunk and shouting at you?”
What do you tell him?
I say: “shut up, it pays for your shoes.” He’s grown up with this warped idea that everybody knows Mummy and Daddy’s name. For the time being, he was brought up to know never to touch Daddy’s records or play with Daddy’s records because they are what pay for the shoes on his feet.
What’s your weapon of choice?
My weapon of choice is Serato Video SL. [Laughs] That’s the system I use. I play CDs and that triggers the audio from my laptop, which also triggers the visuals.
What’s right here in front of you, right now?
Brighton beach, where I live. And a cup of coffee.
What’s the most wonderful night you’ve had?
I like where you’re going with these questions.
Why thank you.
No one’s ever done that before, I like it. A wonderful night – I think it’d be a nice outdoor meal with my wife and my kids in a hot country where kids are allowed to run around in the restaurant. Ibiza perhaps?
Who’s your funk soul brother?
You recently did an album with him. How did that come about?
He had an idea that he wanted to do a musical about Imelda Marcos and he just phoned me up. Part of the story was that she was hanging out in Studio 54 while her country was starving. We found that the reason he digs what I do and I dig what he does is because we are funk soul brothers that just haven’t met yet.
Let’s turn the tables. If you were to meet Imelda Marcos, what would you ask her?
I would ask her to sing for me. In all the research that I did about her when we were writing it, one of the things that came out was that she has a fantastic singing voice.
What did she think of the album?
She wasn’t too pleased because I think she thought it was gonna be like Evita. The title is Here Lies Love, which is what she would like written on her gravestone. I think she thought it would be canonising her and it’s not so flattering.
If someone made a concept album about your life, what would you want it to be titled?
“You can’t make an omlette without breaking a few eggs”. That’s my favourite proverb.
I’ll try and keep that in mind.
When you’re doing the research, you won’t hear about my singing voice.
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