The funk-soul brother known as Norman Cook has come a long way, indeed -- from Eighties pop star (he was once one-quarter of the Housemartins) to early-Nineties house-music maven, now reborn as Fatboy Slim.
Slim's second album, You've Come a Long Way, Baby, solidifies his title as the baron of big beat, serving up eleven tracks of rump-shakin', vodka-soaked, throw-your-hands-in-the-air grooves, including the year's super-size party anthem, "Rockafeller Skank." Yes, it's silly; yes, it's hedonistic. Don't think about it. Just shut up and get down.
Since starting out with raucous DJ gigs at the Big Beat Boutique, in his hometown of Brighton, England, the thirty-four-year-old Cook -- known as Naughty Uncle Norman to his young niece and nephew -- has become one of the world's best-known party starters and has helped put Brighton on the dance-music map. The city recently returned the favor when it gave Cook a star on its walk of fame -- right next to some guy named Winston Churchill.
A star on a walk of fame is quite an honor.
I was very proud, because I'm quite pro-Brighton. My mom cried when I told her. In America, you have walks of fame and halls of fame for everything -- it's more of a big deal here.
Do you go through a certain ritual before you DJ?
Yes! It's called drinking vast amounts of vodka. I've got to get into the party spirit.
What's the weirdest gig you've ever done?
I DJ'd a funeral once. When I was starting off, my partner and I would do anything. For every record, we had to think, "Does this mention death in it?" The people were squirming a bit because they knew we were uncomfortable. They kept thanking us, saying, "He would have loved this."
Everyone and their sister wants you to remix their songs. Who have you turned down?
Do you want the whole list? It's more than a hundred for this year. But half the time the track is already brilliant and I'd just fuck it up. Notable turndowns were Madonna, Paula Abdul, U2, Aerosmith. I thought that was particularly amusing. I'm assuming they've never heard of me. Someone at the label was probably, "Get Fatboy, he's cool." Let's see . . . oh, yes, Meat Loaf. He wanted me to co-write and produce a whole album with him. Can you believe it?
Oh, my God.
That's exactly what I said. Well, I think it was, "Oh, my fucking God," actually. Can you imagine the bastard offspring of us two? It's as if a rabbit had sex with a giraffe.
What's your dream remix?
I just did the Beastie Boys' "Body Movin'." That was quite an honor. Rap songs are the best ones to do. You work off their vocals and make the tune 'round what their voices are doing. I've got a lot in common with the Beastie Boys. We've both been around for a long time and have blown our credibility and worked doggedly for years to get it back.
Some dance purists hate big beat -- what's the worst thing someone has ever called you?
Someone in an interview said that big beat was frat-guy music. That kind of hurt.
But it seems to attract a beer-brawlin' crowd.
It does get quite unruly, but not in a beer-guy mentality; it's more hedonistic. I think I'll start DJ'ing in a dress, just to upset those guys. That would fuck 'em off: "Dude's in a dress, whatta I do?"
What's your typical day?
Get up at about two, talk on the phone till four or five -- mostly saying no to people. Six to ten, it's normal-people things: get the wash done, take the dog for a walk. After that, it's work.
Do you think you're a star?
No. I can still get drunk, fall down and put my face in vomit without it ending up in the papers the next day. If you look at other DJs, none of us is an oil painting. It's an outlet for not very attractive people.
Ladies don't crawl up to the booth and throw their undies?
No, they all say, "I love your music." They never say they love me. I say, "Great -- you can go home with my music." I've had some premium lunatics, though. One girl insisted on fanning me with a record sleeve the whole set. I think she had a bit too much to drink.
Doesn't your girl get jealous?
She got jealous and left me. We've been breaking up for a year and a half. I'm always going to do this for a living, and she's always going to hate me when I go off for weeks at a time. Maybe when my career goes downhill, we'll get it together again. I don't blame her.
Music consumes your life. What do you do for a break?
Sleep. That was one of the things my girlfriend didn't like. She said, "We could do other things." I said, "There isn't time." But lately I've been having trouble sleeping because I'm constantly thinking of new tunes, and if it's half good, I get all excited and can't get to sleep.
Norman, you have to learn to shut the brain off.
That's where the alcohol comes in.