English DJ and electronic music producer Norman Quentin Cook was a pioneer of the ’90s big beat movement, issuing a handful of era-hits like “The Rockafeller Skank” and “Praise You” under the moniker Fatboy Slim. Formerly the bassist for the Housemartins and one-third of acid house hitmakers Pizzaman, Cook started by releasing his Fatboy material through club staple Skint, with his raucous blend of house, acid, funk, hip-hop, electro, and techno adding to his already formidable reputation as one of the foremost all-around producers on the U.K. club scene. Born Quentin Leo Cook in Bromley on July 31, 1963, he joined the Hull-based pop group the Housemartins in 1986, replacing founding member Ted Key. After the group split the following year, Cook became involved with the burgeoning acid house scene, pairing with producers Tim Jeffrey and J.C. Reid toward the end of the decade to form Pizzaman. The trio issued three Top 40 hits together (“Trippin’ on Sunshine,” “Sex on the Streets,” and “Happiness”) before Cook splintered off to record with similarly styled outfits Freak Power and Beats International in the early ’90s.
So what should we call you Fatboy Slim or Norman Cook?
Norman is the nicer person but can be slightly dull at times. But Fatboy is never boring. Sort of irresponsible, yes, but dull? Never.
You’ve had a long a varied career how did you get your start in DJing?
Well, I was the only person where I lived who had a load of records so I always used to get invited to all the parties. One day someone hired a double deck console, which I had a go on. I loved controlling the party and everyone seemed to dig my musical selection.
Who has been a source of continuous inspiration for you?
Initially it was Grandmaster Flash, then Carl Cox, then The Chemical Brothers, but nowadays it is Ian Waite from Strictly Come Dancing.
How long after ‘Better Living Through Chemistry’ did you start putting ‘You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby’ together?
At that time I was having a kind of ‘stream of consciousness’ output of Mighty Dub Katz / Freak Power / Pizzaman / Fatboy tunes which spewed forth from me almost daily! So I was pretty much into the next chapter immediately.
Better Living… had been pretty much a collection of the previous 12-inches on one record, whereas the challenge was to make an album that sounded like an actual album.
What was the first track you completed for the album, and at what point did you think ‘I’ve got something good here’?
I think probably Gangster Tripping was the first one I did. I knew something significant was happening with the ‘holy trilogy that was Renegade Master, Brimful of Asha and Rockafeller Skank, which all came out whilst I was writing and recording the album.
There’s a video circulating on YouTube around the time Blame It On The Bassline came out, when you discuss the ‘politics of sampling’. When You’ve Come… came out and your career took off, did you ever stop to think ‘I’m amazed nobody has thought of doing this before’?
I was aware that we were treading new ground with the new boundaries of sampling and copyright. It was a bit like the wild west, no one sure who was in charge. It was kind of exciting to be honest!
Skint’s Damian Harris once described big beat as “just a change from a house scene that wasn’t particularly inspiring at the time”. Was big beat really a genre in your eyes, or was it just one big long mashup, with You’ve Come… the high-water mark?
For me it was about finally realising I was more a DJ and producer than a musician, and, more importantly, deciding that there was no point in being a purist about the sanctity of different kinds of music. During my life I had loved pop, punk, hip hop and house music so why not throw them in the same pot, using a sampler as a blender..?
How long had you been aware of Camille Yarbrough’s Take Yo Praise before turning it into Praise You?
About three minutes. It went straight into the Akai S950…
It’s often said that authors don’t go back to their old works, as they will inevitably run into parts they loathe. What track (or tracks) on the album would you love to have done a different way, and what would you have done?
I think on the whole, it is a nice snapshot of where I was at the time, I think it still sounds ok. Maybe with the benefit of hindsight, I would have cleared a few more of the samples.
Given the era when it came out, You’ve Come… is lumped in with Oasis, Elastica, Catatonia et al as ‘essential Britpop albums’ – what did that whole ‘Britpop’ thing mean to you?
I don’t remember much about Britpop. I think I was too busy in nightclubs and the studio to notice what was going on outside.
Did you ever get to meet (or try to seek out) the ‘Fatboy’ from the album cover?
We did try and seek him out. We publicly asked him to get in touch, and we asked the photographer who took the shot. But we never found him.