Fatboy Slim: Las Vegas’ EDM Scene ‘Really Isn’t for Me’
Norman Cook, better known to dance music fans as Fatboy Slim, has been a frequent visitor to the United States in the last few years; by his own estimate, he plays “10 shows a year” across the pond from his native England. “I didn’t play in America for ages because I didn’t have any hits on the radio and other places like Brazil, Japan and Australia just seemed more attractive and I was getting invited over,” he tells Rolling Stone.
In the last few years, though, Cook has had no shortage of offers. “When EDM kind of blew up about four years ago, they started calling me and said, ‘You kind of started this, you should be on the vanguard of it,'” he says. He is currently doing just that at the Ultra Music Festival in Miami, where he played both the main stage and in the tent of fellow iconic DJ Carl Cox last weekend. Next weekend, to close the two-week festival, he will play the same stage as Deadmau5 and Calvin Harris.
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“I’m very proud I’ve got my foot in both camps. I’m there playing for Carl, which I’ve done for years, but I’m on the main stage, too,” Cook says.
Fatboy Slim has only released two albums in the last decade; his mainstage placement is a testament to the enduring popularity of his hits “Praise You,” “The Rockafeller Skank” and “Weapon of Choice.” That history has helped him develop a mutual admiration society with some of the biggest EDM stars of the moment. “I get on with both Skrillex and Deadmau5 and I’ve done shows with both of them, Skrillex especially,” he notes. “[Skrillex] said, ‘You’re one of the reasons I started DJing.'” He’s also a fan of Diplo and Major Lazer: “Every now and then, you bump into someone like Major Lazer and it just reaffirms my faith. Every time I’ve watched some dreadful Dutch DJ be really bland and dull, then I see Major Lazer and it all makes sense again.”
Cook admits that despite the exploding mainstream popularity of EDM, he’s happiest in the underground side of the genre. “I feel more at home at Detroit Movement than I do at EDC,” he says. “I did a residency in Vegas two years ago, and to be honest, the Vegas side of it really isn’t for me – that whole VIP, table, bottles of Cristal, girls with pneumatic tits. That’s not my vibe.”
Cook has no plans to record an album soon – and considers the medium somewhat outdated. “If you make a record, why make an album?” he asks. “Before, the length of the album was dictated by how much you could get on two sides of vinyl, and then it was how much you could get in a CD. Now you put an album out and people just buy the three tracks they want, so what’s the point of doing the rest of the album?”
His last all-new material came in 2010, when he collaborated with David Byrne on Here Lies Love, a conceptual piece about the life of former Philippines First Lady Imelda Marcos and the woman who raised her, Estrella Cumpas. That completed the trifecta of working with his dream collaborators. “Once you’ve worked with David Byrne, Iggy Pop or Bootsy Collins, where is there else to go? [Those are] my big three heroes in all walks of music,” he says.
However, Cook has been around long enough to know there are more challenges in the future. “Doing the Olympics in England last year, that was one I never would’ve seen coming,” he says. “So there are higher mountains to climb; you just don’t know [what] they are yet.”