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Fatboy Slim - You've Come Along Way, Norm

Author: Sasha Perera
Tuesday, 7 October 2008

In the midst of fighting off rumours of demise, Fatboy Slim, real name Norman Cook, is heading our way in 2009 to play the good vibrations festival. He chats to Sasha Perera about lost collaborations, switching from vinyl and his LED spectacular.

Contrary to earlier reports this year, Fatboy Slim is not dead. Not only is he not dead, it has just been announced that he’s coming to Australia in February 2009 to headline the Good Vibrations Festival. From his home in Brighton, the cheery Norman Cook is perplexed about how the false rumours of his alter-ego’s demise started, but is firm that it’s definitely not the case. “That was as a result of some very, very odd journalism,” he muses. “I had something coming out under a different name, and they asked if I was killing off Fatboy Slim, and I said ‘no’, and they reported it as ‘yes’. It was then reported on the internet, and then it just took a life of its own right around the world. That was way back at the beginning of the season. I’ve done about thirty Fatboy Slim gigs since then, which I think proves that Fatboy Slim is still alive and kicking.”

At the centre of the blame surrounding the early-death reports of Fatboy Slim is the release of a single called Toe Jame by BPA (Brighton Port Authority), which was assumed to be the future of Norman Cook. Indeed, just like Freakpower, Pizzaman, The Mighty Dub Katz, and other such monikers and guises, BPA is just another project that Cook has worked on. He claims the forthcoming album is a collection of recordings from the past - although some might wonder exactly how far back the project stems, since the collaborations seem very current.

“It’s like the Beach Boys long-lost album; it’s like one of those long-lost albums that I never quite finished and never quite did. One day my engineer found the tapes in a box and suggested we release it. It’s sort of like a posthumous album – although no one’s dead,” he notes. “It’s just like a load of collaborations with people like Iggy Pop, David Byrne, Dizzee Rascal, Martha Wainwright, Jamie T, Jack Penate - just people I’ve met over the years. I recorded with them, but we never really finished anything off, and I kind of forgot about it.

“It comes out just around the time I come to Australia next year, but I’m not really at the helm,” he laughs cryptically. “Obviously I’m promoting it because it's music I’ve made, but it’s not like my next big project – it’s just something that my engineer decided should be released. I actually heard it the other day, for the first time in about five years. It’s my lost album where my tapes have been found.”

So what of Fatboy Slim; is there a new album on the horizon-

“It’s coming,” he admits. “It’s coming – don’t even attempt to ask me when. It’s on the distant horizon. After ten years and the last ‘Greatest Hits’ project I just thought it deserved a sabbatical. My son’s growing up, and I’ve just been a bit lazy and focusing on things at home for a while instead. Also, to be honest, I didn’t really have a great idea for the record – you should only make records when you have this great idea burning in your head”. The perfect answer from an obviously very savvy music producer - if only other people took his wise advice.

In the business for over twenty-five years, Norman Cook has had numerous successes and achieved major international success along the way. No doubt, with a happy bank manager behind him, one would wonder why he isn’t soaking up the sun on a beach in the Bahamas, knocking back cocktails, served to him by scantily clad waitresses.

“It appears that I love it,” he laughs, reflecting on his continuing career. “The thing is we’ve got a really good show with the visual stuff. I just love it. [Another] thing is I’m 45, so I’ve got to do it whilst I can. It still definitely excites me. This year I’ve been to Japan, Russia, and Ibiza – quite a lot. You can see in between all that, there wasn’t a huge time to go into the studio to record anything.”

Looking forward to playing down-under in summer 2009, Cook is planning on bringing the full production spectacle to Australian audiences, without having to scale down his appearance due to costly logistics. “Fuck yeh! We’re going to throw in as much LED, lasers and fireworks that we can find in Australia. It’s been a while since I went out to Australia, but in the good ol’ days I really loved the crowds because they really throw themselves into it.

“Wherever we go we try and hire as much LED as we can, and put on as big a show as we can. All I really need is a pair of decks, a mixer and a laptop – everything else we hire when we get there. So it’s also possible that I might end up doing a bigger show in Australia. This year [when] we played in Hungary, Estonia and Latvia, it was basically whatever amount of LED we could get for the show, we’d use. I suspect that in Australia there’ll be quite a lot we can play with. Rather than having to bus-in a crew of 20 people, or fly the equipment out, we just turn up with my equipment and hire the rest in. We definitely won’t be holding back for Australia.

“We’ve got this new show where I’m controlling the visuals from the decks. I’m not really playing vinyl anymore these days; I’m playing this thing called Serato, which is actually from New Zealand. Basically you play a record that feels like vinyl, but it’s a timecode, which then triggers your WAV files – ie. music – but it also plays the visuals.”

Does this mean our DJ-hero has turned his back on vinyl these days- “I haven’t turned my back on it - you’re making me sound like Judas! It’s just that no one was releasing enough vinyl for me to play, but I also didn’t want to play CDs or laptops. So I’m still playing it like its vinyl, but now I’m able to trigger all the music and the visuals, which has been really exciting.”

Excited about the prospect of Good Vibrations, Cook is momentarily thrown off guard when I tell him he’s following up previous headliner Kanye West as the main attraction, before bouncing back, cheerful as ever. “No pressure, then,” he chuckles nervously. “I’m probably not as hip and down as Kanye. There will be less bling, but more lights! The only other thing I’d say is, just make sure to bring your dancing shoes.”

WHO: Fatboy Slim
WHAT: Plays Good Vibrations, Centennial Park
WHEN: Saturday 14 February
MORE: goodvibrationsfestival.com.au

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