When Norman Cook began making music as Fatboy Slim, one of his many sobriquets, he aimed to get away from the sometimes insular and obscure world of deejay music and create a popular, just-forget-your-troubles-and-have-a-good-time mix. It worked beyond his wildest imagination. After two decades of doing remixes and band work, Cook, whose Fatboy Slim plays Saturday night at Roseland, is on the verge of being a star.
As Fatboy Slim, Cook has created two highly acclaimed recordings, last year's "Better Living Through Chemistry" and the recently released "You've Come a Long Way Baby," (both on Astralwerks). In addition, the first single from the new disc, The Rockafeller Skank," was named Single of the Year by Spin magazine, and "Michael Jackson," one of the catchier tunes from the previous recording, is now part of a Coca Cola Super Bowl campaign. Cook acknowledged that in many ways, it has been too much of a good thing. "I feel like I've done an interview a day for almost six months," he said. Although there are many deejays that aspire to stardom, not Cook. He still contends that respect amongst his peers, a congratulatory note from Jason Nevins, the Queens-based turntablist, means more to him than his newfound fame.
Perhaps it's that he's worked so long in the shadows that's he is now nearly blinded by the bright lights. Cook, 35, began spinning records at funk clubs in his hometown of Brighton, England when he was 15. He also studied bass, and in 1985 he joined the socialist Brit-pop band, The Housemartins. However, his ideas for a more aggressive, synthetic rhythms were always turned down in favor of a folk-rock sound. When the group broke up, Cook formed Beats International, whose easygoing whimsical lyrics were contrasted by deep dub heavy basslines. They put out two albums in the early '90s, and since then he's worked under a variety of names, often using a different name to signify a different style: Pizzaman (energetic house), Freakpower (jazzy disco), and Mighty Dub Katz (a deep house-dub hybrid). In addition Cook has also remixed dozens of singles, including tracks by Beastie Boys, Cornershop and A Tribe Called Quest. In fact his discography of albums he's recorded, singles he's produced and songs he's remixed goes on for three pages. But the experience shows in his music. Cook deftly blends elements like twangy guitars and surf music elements into his mix. There is something for everyone.
Fatboy Slim is just a deejay, a one-man band, if you will, but Cook has played in several bands. Does he miss that element? "There are plusses and minuses," he said. "When you have a band, you're responsible for employing people; I want to take a break next year to work on a studio, but if I had a band, I'd be putting my mates out of work for a bit. I wouldn't feel good about that."
"But when you're onstage with a band and the music is really tight, there's a magical moment where you hear a sound that's better than anything you've ever heard. You wonder where is that coming from, and realize, 'hey, that's us.'"
Cook at present is turning down remixing gigs by the dozen; requests from Madonna, Aerosmith, U2 and Chumbawumba have all been politely declined this year. Is there one record that he's dying to remix? "Not really, there are a lot of tunes that I like, and if they're not broken why fix it?" Then he paused for a moment. "There is one, "1999," which has been re-released for the holiday. It sounds a little dated. I'd like to give it a kick in ass."