Backstage with Fatboy Slim
British DJ, producer & EDM veteran Norman Cook on the subtle differences between being Norman Cook & Fatboy Slim
Minutes before the mild-mannered Norman Cook slipped into an Aloha shirt and his night-time alter ego Fatboy Slim for a gig in Bangalore, the DJ, producer and big beat pioneer sat down for a brief and closely-supervised chat on a plush couch in a makeshift tent backstage. Unmindful of the overlooking PR executive’s frequently raised eyebrows, Cook was in a freewheeling mood as he jocularly dispelled rumors about his busted spine and held forth on the advantages of Astroturf flooring.
At one point, the difference between Norman Cook and Fatboy Slim used to be one bottle of vodka. Of course you’ve been sober for a while. What would you say is the difference now?
The difference now is mainly the shirt. It’s like a uniform. When I take my civilian uniform off and put my gig shirt on, something happens in my head. And I take off my shoes as well before going up on stage.
You famously had disco lights in your bathroom and Astroturf on the floor in your apartment in Brighton. Do you still have all of that lying around?
No, no. After many years of living that life for seven days a week, I have separated the Norman Cook life, which is a father of two and a husband, from Fatboy Slim. Fatboy Slim is still seventeen in his head.
I get the disco lights, but the Astroturf?
When you spill drinks on it, it’s easier to clean.
15 years after you first recorded “Rockafeller Skank” and “Praise You”, I’m sure you still get requests to play those tracks. Do you oblige?
Actually, I don’t often get requests. With the distance between me and the crowd, I couldn’t hear with all the shouting. But, yeah… they are my biggest hits, so obviously people would like to hear it in some form. I don’t say “I can’t just play it”. I work little bits of them into my set. You will hear references.
You’ve had a difficult relationship with your records. With your initial albums, you even refused to take credit and later even dismissed them as “cheap knob gags”. And then you made a really serious record with Palookaville in 2004. How do you feel about the recording
I was only ever being modest. I never did think I would make records. When dance music first started crossing over to the charts and we were playing at festivals, some DJs were like, “Oh! We deserve to be here.” But when I looked at what we were doing compared to rock bands, I was thinking, “Actually, now… Let’s not get too big headed and believe that we can save the world.” We were only making records for people to dance to. So, that was just me being modest.
You had your first chart topper a decade and a half ago. When you tune in to the top-of- the-pops now, how do you feel about what you’re listening to?
I occasionally feel a little old. When I hear things like dub step, I don’t actually dance to that. Sometimes I think, “Phew that just flew over my head,” which didn’t used to happen. But as a DJ you always have to keep your ears open and you’re listening out for references. I kind of learnt a lot of my ideas about DJing from Grandmaster Flash. And he always played the top ten records, and he would chop them up or make references.
There is a rumor going around about your spine – that it’s permanently tilted to one side from cocking your head, while working the turntables?
That’s just an internet rumour. It’s actually an old war wound from a car accident. There is general wear and tear in my body, but nothing DJing related. I train hard and exercise a lot. When you see me on stage you’ll know. I’m not like an old man, stooping over.
Fatboy Slim was interviewed by Darshan Manakkal