Fatboy Slim Talks Las Vegas, Detroit, Quitting Drinking, and How Cool Americans Think They Are

Categories: Interview
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Norman Cook, a.k.a. Fatboy Slim, has been rocking beats hard since the late '70s, when he played in bands like Disque Attack and the Housemartins. He achieved mainstream popularity in the '90s, when "Praise You" blew up as a radio staple.

In recent years, Cook has focused on production, stepping away from the DJ role. His upcoming residency at Vegas' Marquee Dayclub at the Cosmopolitan will find Fatboy Slim stepping back into the DJ booth.

We don't normally feature interviews with folks who aren't playing our fair town, but considering how easy the drive is to Glitter Town, we figured it wouldn't hurt to hear a few words from the man, who was charming and hilarious when we spoke with him about Las Vegas, Detroit, and how he's no longer "scraping himself off the floors."

UOTS: I wanted to talk to you about your upcoming Las Vegas residency. Have you played Las Vegas before?

FBS: I have played it before, yes. Always kind of flying visits, and I've spent a couple of lost weekend visits there on my own time...I played Woodstock, and there've been so many pinnacles -- but I haven't done the Vegas residency.

UOTS: It's interesting that you are going to be joining such rarefied company as Celine Dion and the Rat Pack.

FBS: And Siegfried and Roy, of course [laughs].

UOTS: What do you feel like your music brings to Vegas that those performers have? How do you feel like it's different?

FBS: Um, I don't know, I've been told there's a cool, younger scene in Las Vegas, which isn't just built around aging families and Midwesterners gambling 24 hours a day [anymore]. A lot of DJ friends of mine have said it's kind of like the Ibiza of the West. I thought I would come and check it out. Honestly, there are going to be no tigers in the show.

UOTS: Right [laughs].

FBS: One thing is, my crew has been out there kind of getting ready, and we realized that because we'll be playing the daytime, you get that kind of lovely beach, sun-going-down kind of vibe. But we won't have all the lights and the lasers I use, so you've got to kind of revamp the show. We've got a few gags up our sleeves.

UOTS: The past couple records you've made haven't been traditional dance records, like the Brighton Port Authority collaboration and Here Lies Love with David Byrne. Getting back into doing the dance thing, what's exciting you about the current dance scene? What's exciting to you about electronic dance music right now?

FBS: The most exciting thing for me has been the turmoil in the last 10 years in the music industry. We don't sell records [anymore], or have the kind of traditional rock and roll values we've grown up with. Everyone is shitting themselves about what's going on, but the one constant through it all -- the one thing the Internet can't replace -- is people going out getting drunk and getting laid and needing a soundtrack to that.

So I've just really enjoyed the innocent pleasure of having a career as a DJ outside of producing, where I'll always be wanted and we never feel like I can be replaced by the Internet. Giving away music feels strange, and no one has figured out quite how it's all going to work, and there are these different philosophies going on, but ultimately, it doesn't pay the rent. The one thing that has been constant throughout is that people want to go out and dance.

UOTS: One of the things I enjoy about your work is that there's always been an element of straight pop values in your music. Your Late Night Sessions mix is one of my favorites. You had my favorite Nick Lowe song on there, and Vince Guaraldi, Taj Mahal, the Velvets, and that pop sensibility is really --

FBS: Well that's probably were the Vegas connection really kicks in. 'Cause aside from playing fucked up acid-house style music, there's always a kind of pop element to what I do. Which is one of the reasons I've survived as long as a DJ: that accessibility. Naughty but accessible. Which is totally Vegas, innit?

UOTS: This is your first time back in the states after a few years, correct?

FBS: It's my first kind of consistent [stay]. I've done a few one-offs and play Miami fairly regularly, but it just feels like there's this kind of movement going on, a stirring in the underbelly of dance music. Whereas before, ten years ago, it was this British invasion of selling dance music as rock music. [They were] putting DJs in rock clubs, and Red Rocks and Woodstock, in a way, that cut off the roots of what we did. It was great being on the radio, but it feels like dance music had to go back underground in America, and now it's got a very firm footing now.

UOTS: Are there any dance artists now you are particularly interested in?

FBS: It's the same kind of hodgepodge of crazy Italian producers, and...I really respect what David Guetta is doing, and Deadmau5 for his live show, um, on the pop side. There's always crazy Italian stuff like the Crookers, or this guy, His Majesty Andre, who I've just done a collaboration with. He kind of turns me on the most.

UOTS: How do parties in America differ from the rest of the world?

FBS: There's a different kind of abandon. I don't know. I'm trying to think of a way of putting it that might not sound condescending. America isn't that hung up on trying to be cool. They kind of think they are cool, but when it comes down to it, there's just rockers inside them, and they get very silly. Which is how I've always operated.

UOTS: I think Americans really like a sense of melody, which we talked about, and sort of traditional pop values, in addition to beats and --

FBS: Yeah, I think people kind of pretend to be cool, and pretend to be into the next new genre of electronica, but when it comes down to it, everyone just wants to party like everyone else.

UOTS: After your time in Vegas, you're heading to Detroit, a city with a lot of techno roots.

FBS: Which will be a slightly different vibe. I'm a little bit daunted by the fantastic legacy of music that has come out of Detroit, from soul and blues music right up to techno. I come with my cap in hand, knowing that I'm kind of awestruck.

UOTS: Detroit is interesting. Despite everything the city has contributed to the arts and economy, it's a struggling place right now.

FBS: That's one of the reasons it's generated such good music. It's come out of the social diversity, and it's decayed by the industry, and the social well-being of the place. That creates a sense of community. In England, we call it the "bunker experience."

UOTS: Are you planning another album?

FBS: There are no real plans for that. I've been doing things that are outside the sphere of straight up dance music, and to be honest, I haven't really got one in me right now. I quit drinking two years ago, and that makes the whole DJ thing so much more manageable, and my life. Whereas before, I was always just kind of dragging myself up from some hotel room floor, whereas now I fly around the globe and give good parties, and I'm not [focused] on scraping up bits of myself off the floor.

I just had a baby, it doesn't feel like a good time to be putting records out at the moment, until how everyone is sorted out how it's going to work with the Internet. I don't think I have a slamming Fatboy record in me. After 25 years, I don't feel the need to put a record out.

Curious to hear what a Fatboy Slim mix sounds like these days? He's made his new "Last Vegas Take Over" mix available for free download:









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