Today Fatboy Slim is one of the hottest pop stars and DJs on the
planet. One of the few dance acts to really crack America, he has
reached a level of success that most DJ/producers could never hope
for. Hes had several number one singles and albums, hes
remixed a string of anthems and holds the record for the most UK
chart entries under different recording pseudonyms.. And he owes
it all to an ear for unashamedly good-time party records, a lack
of respect for musical boundaries and a knack for infectious samples.
Norman Cook was born Quentin Cook in 1963 and grew up in Redhill,
near London. His parents record collection was mostly composed of
Beatles and Carpenters records, but he discovered funk and soul
in his mid-teens and hes had a passion for black and dance
music ever since. He began his DJing career by bringing records
to parties and after moving to Brighton to go to college, he supplemented
his meagre student income by DJing on the side.
In 1985 he was recruited as bassist for The Housemartins, a Hull-based
indie group with a nice line in sensitive, politically-aware lyrics
who went on to record two successful albums and score a number one
hit with Caravan Of Love. Yet Cooks heart was never really
in it and it came as something of a relief when the band split a
couple of years later. Lead singer Paul Heaton went on to form the
hugely successful group, The Beautiful South, another member spent
some time At Her Majestys Pleasure, but Norman began to indulge
his love of dance music.
He formed the dub pop band Beats International in the late eighties
and the band went on to record two albums, their biggest success
coming in the shape of a number one, Dub Be Good To Me, a cover
of Just Be Good To Me set to a bassline sampled from The Clashs
Guns Of Brixton. Yet the pressures of his failing marriage led to
a personal crisis for Norman and the band subsequently fell apart.
However his success launched a studio and remix career which has
continued to this day. Records like A Tribe Called Quests
I Left My Wallet In El Segundo, Shakataks Better Believe It
and Ruthless Rap Assassins And It Wasnt A Dream were
amongst his first mixes, and he scored another pop hit with Wont
Talk About It/Blame It On The Bassline, which featured Beats International
singer Lindy Layton on vocals.
A turning point came in 1992 when Cook attended a Junior Boys Own
party in Bognor Regis where, aided by his second ever dose of ecstasy,
he was converted to house music which he had hated up until
then - by classic tracks like Robert Owens Ill Be Your Friend
and Clivilles & Cole's Pride (A Deeper Love). Cook subsequently
formed funk group Freakpower with Ashley Slater, previously of Microgroove.
They released their debut album, Drive Thru Booty, in 1994, but
it wasnt until Levis chose Turn On, Tune In, Cop Out
for a multi-million pound advertising campaign that the group really
hit the big time, scoring a number two hit in 1995.
Whilst working on Freakpowers second album, Cook hooked up
with Tim Jeffrey and JC Reid from Brighton-based Loaded Records
and launched a series of side projects under a variety of pseudonyms,
such as Pizzaman and Mighty Dub Kats, with considerable success.
Pizzaman scored several club hits like TrippinOn Sunshine
which reached number 1 in Canada and went top 5 in Holland
- and Sex On The Streets, followed by the successful Pizzamania
LP. Another track, Happiness, was picked up for use in a Del Monte
advertising campaign. The Mighty Dub Kats, meanwhile, scored big
with Magic Carpet Ride in 1997.
It was around this time that Lindy Layton took Cook to a couple
of London club nights, Heavenly Social and Big Kahuna Burger, which
were pioneering a new club soundtrack. Cook found kindred spirits
in the shape of the Socials resident DJs, the Chemical Brothers,
who mixed up a raucous blend of rock, dance, indie and hip-hop for
a boozy party crowd hungry for an alternative to the tyranny of
house and techno. This approach dovetailed perfectly with Cooks
own kitchen-sink approach to DJing and, inspired by what hed
seen in London, Cook helped set up the Big Beat Boutique night in
Brighton where he became resident DJ. The term Big Beat
was soon adopted as a genre in its own right, describing a brand
of dance music which combined hip-hop-inspired beats with rock sounds
and acid house attitude.
Freakpower released another album and spent a year touring, but
failed to recapture their previous success, blaming a lack of record
company support. They switched to influential dance label Deconstruction,
but released just one single for the label in 1997 before Cooks
career entered its final and most successful phase.