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Fatboy Strikes Up the Band

Palookaville finds DJ/producer working with Bootsy, Blackalicious' Lateef

July 23, 2004 12:00 AM ET
Norman Cook doesn't always enjoy hearing his own work. But his new Palookaville has charmed even its creator. "Usually when I finish a record I think it's rubbish and never want to hear it again," he says. "Recently I took it on a long drive with a friend of mine, and it sounded comfortable. I'm very comfortable with this album."

Perhaps it's because Fatboy has lived with it, or parts of it, for so long. The album, due October 5th, is his first since Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars four years ago. "It took a little while, a few false starts," he says, "but I didn't want to repeat the formula, which is playing it safe in my book. I mean, it's not a Squarepusher record, but I think it's suitably different."

Part of the new sound can be traced to a rash of guest vocalists. The album also finds Fatboy picking up the bass, guitar and even harmonica. "It's a much more vocal record," he says. "It's not a club record, but more of a home listening record with proper songs and choruses and backing vocals and me playing these instruments."

The album's ear-catching cut is a cover of the Steve Miller Band's "The Joker," featuring Bootsy Collins. The song and collaboration were initiated by Levi's, who were hoping to put together a promotional CD of covers of songs from the denim purveyor's commercials. That project never materialized so "The Joker" found its home on Palookaville. "It's that very recognized art form of taking an oldie and putting it back on the charts again," says Slim. "I thought about doing [the Clash's] 'Should I Stay or Should I Go,' but I also loved 'The Joker.' It was always playing on the jukebox at the pub I used to go to. So I thought, 'How can I make it more funky? Need a vocalist, need a vocalist, need a vocalist. Ah Bootsy!'"

Fatboy cites his collaboration with fellow Brighton natives Johnny Quality as prompting his own instrumental input. "They came in and all of the sudden there's this live instrumentation and singing," he says. "I thought, 'Wait, I used to do this for a living . . . and I like it.' I remembered what it was like being in the studio [with the Housemartins] and goosing about and having fun. I know all of my own jokes, so every ten years, I need to be surrounded by musicians."

Fatboy and Blackalicious' Lateef collaborated on four songs, two of which ("Wonderful Night" and "The Journey") made the cut. Differing work ethics mean the two made their contributions apart from one another. "I don't get started until well into the day," Fatboy says. "Every day, Lateef would say, 'Let's do another. Give me a backing track.' So he'd go off and sit on the beach all day and by evening, he'd had written another track. It was turning into a Lateef project."

But just because Fatboy has rekindled an instrumental zeal, don't expect him to load the instruments onto a tour bus. He plans to line up a few DJ dates, but isn't likely to do a proper states tour. "I just don't see myself going out on tour with a group of musicians," he says. "I never want to repeat the misery that is the end of soundtrack. Sound checks still give me nightmares."

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