Right about now, Fatboy Slim, AKA Norman Cook, is preparing his computer playlists (records are finally a thing of the past for him) and getting on a plane as he flies to Macau ahead of this Friday night’s gig at Pacha in Studio City.
He’s a frequent visitor to these parts lately, as he’s one of the more recognizable DJs who transcends generations. Those who are his age (early 50s) remember him from his multiple award winning late 90s videos. Other generations have seen him at massive EDM festivals where a good time is always had by all.
These days, Cook claims he enjoys playing in clubs – and in person, the former rabble-rouser is friendly, thoughtful and frank.
It’s worth taking the trip on the ferry to see him, as he knows how to play the tunes that get people on their feet for the duration.
So you’re a club guy then…
Fatboy Slim: Well that’s how I started. DJs didn’t play in arenas when I was a kid. I sort of bridge the gap between enormous gigs and the clubs. I do both.
Let’s talk about what you’ve contributed to the EDM scene of today. How do you feel about it?
I feel kind of like a proud uncle who comes home at Christmas and goes ‘My, how you’ve grown!” I’m quite proud of my role in the story of how DJs started in nightclubs and then how they progressed from the radio to the idea of a superstar DJ. I think over the years I’ve contributed to building things and I took a few risks. Over a decade ago, I was the first to play at big festivals. Now, I just feel like I’m part of the scene and am very proud at how it has grown. And, I’m quite chuffed that in terms of the new DJs that I meet, they say ‘Oh yeah, I grew up with your music!” So yes, I’m proud of how this industry has developed.
What can you do now with your studio set up and with electronics and taking everything around the world that you couldn’t do before?
I’ll be honest with you. I’m quite baffled at times. When I started DJing, you had two turntables and records, and your job was to use them to entertain the crowd. Now, the possibilities of what you can do are so infinite that I find it a big disconcerting. I suppose that’s the bad thing about being from the old school.
The good thing is that I’ve watched this grow and I’ve been there for all the sort of major milestones. But sometimes, I’m a little confounded by this. There’s too much choice and you can do anything you want with it. And sometimes I just feel ‘Aaagh!’ So I gravitate towards keeping it as simple as possible. It’s good that I can use the visuals when I do a big production show. But the basis for a show, really, is young, drunk people. They are trying to hook up and trying to get happy and my job is to provide the soundtrack for that.
You’re quite content with that…
Yeah! That’s the one constant where I always know what I’m doing. You don’t need an awful lot of buttons and machinery to do that.
If we were to talk about a few albums or tracks that are mainstays or favorites of your set, what are they?
My mind goes blank if I have to name tunes…for me, I come back to disco and acid house. I think of all the genres of up-tempo dance music. They are the constants for me and they always push the buttons. Whenever you think people have wandered too far off the path, just come back with either disco-acid house or acid house-disco. And a tune for that? “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer.
Let’s talk about some of your achievements. You collaborated with some musicians in Cuba. Great experience?
Very great experience. Probably not my best achievement, and the end result wasn’t hugely successful, but a very interesting thing to have done.
You also played at the Olympics, recorded with Iggy Pop…
Yeah! Recording with Iggy Pop…that goes down as a great achievement. The Olympics is a very proud moment. Because I was the only DJ at the closing ceremony, I felt that I was representing dance culture for Team GB and I think it was a fantastic thing to be a part of.
Did you get chills up your spine or get nervous?
Oh, it was a very single emotion. I think I got beyond nerves by the end of it. Because we were all thinking that this thing is so much bigger than any of us. But in terms of nerve wracking, standing wedged inside a van with Russell Brand’s ass right above me, waiting to go up in a hydraulic that might not work, to perform in front of the biggest audience of my life, inside an inflatable eight foot octopus which may or may not work…it was so nerve wracking that you just couldn’t be nervous.
About Iggy Pop. Was he in the studio with you or did you transfer tracks?
No, we hung out! He came and stayed at my house. Having worked with David Byrne, Bootsy Collins and Iggy Pop, I can retire a happy guy after that. That’s all boxes ticked.
That’s great! How do you know when a track is working for you?
The studio has always been in my house. And if my female housemates, be they spouses or just flatmates – after hearing it for a day and a half – say ‘I really like that one’, then – especially if the bassline has been coming through the wall and they say ‘I found myself humming that bassline all day’, then you know you’re onto a good thing. Girls only like music for the most innocent of reasons.
What’s the song that you’re proudest of? And what’s the song that you feel could have been a hit but got away?
I’m probably proudest of “Right Here, Right Now”, just because it probably sums up so many experiences; when you see a big football team come on the field while that’s playing, you get the same kind of goosebumps. Yes, it does have that epic quality. “(The BPA) Toe Jam” is the song that I thought should have been a hit.”
Have there been moments where your music appeared in a films and you thought ‘Wow, this is a real surprise!’?
I’ve always loved film and the way that the soundtrack works with film. Take “Born Slippy” in Trainspotting. Whenever you hear that song, you’re back in the film. For a bad example, take Ghost, where Demi Moore is doing the pottery and you hear “Unchained Melody”—same mechanics. I don’t think I’ve ever had a moment like that with my music. That’s probably one of the ambitions that I have yet to fulfil. I’ve done stuff for films, but I never really thought it reached that synergy. So that’s one thing I’ve yet to achieve. There’s a couple of commercials that I’m quite proud of, like the “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out” Levi’s ad. That was good. UK commercials are kind of famous for their soundtracks, and to do one there is quite an honor.
What ambitions do you still have?
Just the film, I think, as I pretty much ticked off all the other boxes. To work with a director. You know when you see a film like Paris, Texas and you think of Ry Cooder, Midnight Express and you think of Giorgio Moroder. It’s like little bits of tunes from all over the place but scoring a whole film. That’s my ambition.
But have you been approached in that way?
I’ve been approached to do lots of films, but never something that I felt I wanted to focus eight months of my life on. If halfway through the film, you realize that it was a turkey, that would be dreadful. I’m waiting to do a good one.
How do you feel the scene has changed in Asia over the last few years?
The scene is fine, because of the worldwide phenomenon of EDM. There are lot more kids getting into it. People are seeing a certain bit of it, which is the commercial end…bottle service and stuff like that. So my role is to drag them into other aspects of it, which isn’t about glamour and money. There are other scenes you can be involved in!
Fatboy Slim will be performing on Friday, April 28th at Pacha Macau, which is located in Studio City. For more details, visit www.pachamacau.com