February 11 2014
Fatboy Slim aka Norman Cook is up for playing almost anywhere. From major music festivals to funerals, a gig at the House of Commons for the Pollies to emerging from an gigantic inflatable octopus at the 2012 Olympic closing ceremony – you name it, Slim’s played it.
'Right Here Right Now', Fatboy Slim’s influence stretches to all corners of the globe. With his infectious beats, innovative music videos and crowd-pleasing DJ sets - even folks with zero interest in electronic music have danced to his instantly recognisable floor fillers. After 30+ years in the often-fickle music game, Pulse Radio sit down with the maestro to talk about his most recent success, 'Eat Sleep Rave Repeat’, and what makes this true pioneer of dance music tick.
What do you remember as your first interaction with performing?
I always played in bands when I was at school, in punk bands. But the most eye-opening moment was the first time I DJ’ed. Over the years I’ve always played bass averagely and guitar OK. But the first time I DJ’d, there was some kind of magic there. It was just at a house party when I was about 15 or 16 years old, and something kind of gelled - which I should have realized in those days meant that I should probably abandon my guitar and bass playing.
What made you want to pursue a career in production and DJing post alternative punk band life?
Dance music has always been my first love. However, back in the 70's when I was growing up it was called ‘black music’ and being a white suburban kid I didn’t really feel like it was my place to play that kind of music. I always listened to soul and funk music but felt as a white suburban kid I should play indie pop or rock. Then we had the drum machine and sampler and all of a sudden white kids could make this music and not have to pretend to be black.
What was the most epic or strangest party you’ve spun at – apart from your House of Commons gig?
I once played a funeral. Which was, yeah...that was a strange one. It was actually quite a good gig in the end, once everyone got very, very drunk at the wake. It wasn’t somebody I knew. When they asked me, they said - I know this request is slightly awkward but we’re here to celebrate his life so just play like you would at a party. But obviously every record you play you go through the lyrics in your head and think umm...is there anything about death in this I shouldn't play?
Is that the most unusual crowd you’ve entertained?
Or could we put politicians up there high on the list? [Laughs] Yeah, the funeral crowd was easier than the politicians. Obviously, the most epic gig I’ve ever done is the 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony.
So we have the strangest being the funeral and the most epic being the Olympic Closing Ceremony.
No, I think that goes in the strange box. It was epic in terms of scale. The surreal nature and setting of miming from the top of a bus emerging from a gigantic inflatable octopus.
Your music videos are iconic – such as 'Weapon of Choice’ with classic dance-moves by Christopher Walken and 'Praise You,' both directed by Spike Jonze, which cost a mere $800 to produce. Do you tend to work closely with the director and have a particular vision that you want to achieve?
I tend to work closely with the directors, but I don’t tend to have a huge creative input. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the best music video directors and invariably come up with the idea. What normally happens is that we get ten ideas and I just pick the one that’s stupidest. I don’t write them I just pick the one I think is going to work. But like you’ve said, I’ve been very luck to work with awesome people, especially Spike Jonze. Who is just a genius and also pulls it off because people will write lengthy treatments and he’ll just send a scrap of paper saying, “Christoper Walken tap dancing in a hotel lobby” and you just have to trust his vision that it’s going to work as a piece of pop culture.
Your videos are inventive and definitely seem to stand the test of time.
I actually saw the 'Praise You' video accidentally the other day and I was thinking it really reminds me of what ‘virals’ are like now. As opposed to your kinda glitzy 80s or 90s pop videos where there are very high production values. The 'Praise You' video is a kinda flash mob and it has that anarchic feel that virals do nowadays with the same budget.
You used the words, “I take off my hat and trousers to everyone who competed. It was brutal, it was emotional and no-one died” to describe your most recent video. Could you tell us a bit about the concept behind your track 'Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat' with Riva Starr and beat boxer Beardyman?
Going back to the viral thing – the idea of making the video about a marathon dance competition wouldn’t be that interesting unless we actually really put people through that pain. We could’ve just faked it, but we decided it would be even better if we just made them dance until they dropped. Which would probably be in my top ten weirdest DJing endeavors - that you’re trying to clear the dance floor and your trying to piss people off and hurt them. There wasn’t this collective euphoria – you actually really wanted to put people out of their misery.
How long was this marathon exactly?
It lasted about nine hours. In the end there was three people who refused to drop. I was playing the most horrible records. We also drug tested everyone – no not really [laughs]. They had to properly dance, no mucking about. Every 15 minutes they had to drop and give us a series of press-ups, push-ups and headstands. We made them dance to “Cotton Eye Joe”. We were not there to entertain them and enjoy a dance-floor experience, we were there to wear them out.
In terms of a more relaxing pastime, Iʼm a yachting enthusiast – well I like the idea of it anyways! I believe you own a classic luxury wooden boat called the Barracuda – do you spend much time ʻyachting in heavenʼ and is it still available to hire?
[Laughs] No and no. It was a friend of mine’s business venture, that I kinda got involved with and it didn’t quite work as a business venture and if anyone wants to buy a classic 1944 German built luxury wooden yacht, with soft furnishings and hand- picked retro trinkets, then you’re more than welcome to. [Laughs] I’m actually not the yachting type.
Hmm...sailing on boutique chic off the Emerald Coast on its sparkling waters, sounds tempting. Just need a dedicated sailor onboard. Norman, before I wrap up the questioning, I wanted to throw you a few curve balls. Letʼs call it a Freudian angled “first-thing-that-pops-into- your-head”, exercise.
Please, if you will, finish these sentences.
Are these what psychologists use? Righty-o’, then shoot! I’ll try not to give too much away [laughs].
Every time before I go on stage I... Get slapped around the face by my tour manager.
Riva Starr, Beardyman and I... Made a very interesting record last year.
Right now, my favorite “guilty pleasure” song is... 'Royals' by Lorde.
Dear my 16 year-old self... Boy, you’ve got an interesting, varied and exciting life ahead of you. Try not to drink so much, cause that way you’ll remember more of it.
The most surreal moment of my career so far is... Performing at the Olympic Closing Ceremony on top of a bus surrounded by an 80-foot inflatable luminescent octopus.
What's up your sleeve for this year?
I’ve got very exciting plans but not telling anyone yet...ha! It’s something to do with the World Cup.
Norman, itʼs been great chatting with you. Maybe weʼll see each other in Brazil?
You’ll definitely see me in Brazil. Football fever with the apex of Brazilians at their best! I love it there, it’s a fantastic country!
[Fatboy Slim will be back in Brazil at the end of February for the ʻA Caminho Da Copaʼ tour. You can tune in to his warm up mix at FatboySlim.net and be sure to watch him claim the decks at Coachella Festival 2014, from April 12 and 19.]
Via Pulse Radio.