Norman Cook talks to The Mancunion about feeling old, rocking weddings and bucket lists
It’s been an exciting summer for Fatboy Slim. The Brighton based DJ and producer has enjoyed some of the biggest audiences of his career, playing to over 40,000 people at Big Beach Boutique 5 at the Amex football stadium – home to his beloved Brighton and Hove Albion FC – and of course there’s “that little Olympic ceremony”. But Fatboy Slim AKA Norman Cook tells The Mancunion, that scaling back to more intimate venues is a labour of love.
“The autumn for me is all about getting back to grassroots and into clubs and I enjoy that equally. It was a big thrill playing at the Olympics, but I didn’t get to stretch my muscles as a DJ – in a club you have to really work hard to get the crowd going and it’s the time where you can try out new tunes for next summer.” Cook was the only DJ at the Olympic closing ceremony where he performed ‘Right Here, Right Now’ and ‘The Rockafeller Skank’ aloft a giant inflating octopus. Cook was paid just a token £1 for appearing, but expressed that money didn’t come into it: “It was such an honour, I was the only DJ involved, so I felt like I was representing team GB for DJing and British club culture”.
With two Manchester dates on his second annual 5 Night Stand tour, Cook seems excited to return to the North, “I’ve heard good things about Sankeys. I’d say it was in people’s top 5 clubs to play at so I’m looking forward to it.” Fatboy Slim will also perform at Warehouse Project “I’ve played there before, but I hear it’s moved venues – it was a car park before though wasn’t it? That was one of the reasons I loved it” he confesses. “The crew who run it have really got forward thinking ideas; there’s something exciting about how they’re putting stuff on in a new venue rather than the same old clubs that people have been going to for years.” The 49 year old will play alongside fellow veteran Pete Tong, but when asked if he feels old, the question is met with an incredulous laugh.
“I never feel old when I’m on the stage, when I’m playing I feel as if I’m about 17!” He professes. “The thing is, if you’re in a boy band, you’ve got a limited shelf life because you can only work while you’re still attractive looking, but people like myself – or David Rodigan for example – we were never oil paintings in the first place, it was never about our looks. So, as long as we can stay up late enough to do it and we still have the passion for music – who’s to say when we should stop.”
Belonging to the first generation of ‘Superstar DJs’, Cook seems content with the uncertainty which surrounds their retirement age, “no one actually knows what the right age is, and we are determined to push it as far as we can. I’ll carry on as long as the crowds are enjoying it. I’m loving it more than ever, and especially now that I’ve quit drinking – I can remember it all! There’ll be day when I feel too old to do it, but not yet.”
With outstanding success and a long career, Cook has undoubtedly gained the respect of the younger artists with whom he now shares the bill, but he confesses if they ask him for advice, his response could be a little dated. “I’m famously not hugely up with technology, social media or anything like that, so I can’t give much advice on how to get themselves heard, or how to promote themselves. Although, my main advice to DJs that are starting out is, get out of your bedroom, get out there and play in wine bars where people aren’t expected to dance. All the people that I came up with like Carl Cox and Pete Tong – we all used to do weddings, and if you can rock a wedding, you can rock a nightclub.”
It was during Cook’s time at the University of Brighton when weddings were rocked and impromptu wine-bar -dances encouraged, but there was no famous Fatboy Slim alias then. “At uni I was called DJ Quentin.” When asked why, he replies, “I was born with the name Quentin, but I decided to change it to Norman when I started working in the serious music business.”
Despite gaining at 2.1 in Combined Humanities, Quentin acknowledges that he was more interested in music. “I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t totally connect with the student experience, I was DJing and working at a record shop the whole time. I was way too into nightclubs, I didn’t live with students, and I didn’t hang out in student bars. I only went in for lectures.” But this lack of commitment hasn’t affected such a glittering career. A collection of admirable achievements can’t have left much on Fatboy Slim’s bucket list. “The only proper ambition I’ve got left is to score a film soundtrack. I worked on Moulin Rouge with Baz Lurman and I did stuff for Charlie’s Angels, but it’s usually just one tune or they use some of your work. But, I sort of feel like I’ve been to the mountain top and everything from now on is just a bonus.”
Catch Fatboy Slim @ Sankeys on Friday 12th October 2012.
£20 tickets available at www.sankeystickets.co.uk
See www.sankeys.info for further October line-ups including shows from Lauhaus, John Dahlback, Mass Prod, Jaguar Skills and Magda
Big Beach Boutique 5 DVD out 5th November