EDM might have exploded across the U.S., covering kids from New York and Miami to Las Vegas and Hollywood, but 2012 isn’t the first time dance music has hit critical mass. It’s been almost 15 years since Fatboy Slim (aka Norman Cook) hit the mainstream with his 1998 hit album, You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby, climbing to the top of the charts while hundreds of thousands of fans danced to “The Rockefeller Skank.”
Today, Cook is as active as ever, playing alongside next generation stars like Diplo and Skrillex at raves and festivals across the globe. And he’s even bringing back his legendary Big Beat Bootique event in his hometown of Brighton—a party that at it’s peak drew 250,000 fans. That’s TWO Electric Daisy Carnivals worth of attendees to hear one DJ. URB spoke with Cook about his upcoming headliner set at EDC New York, and realize that the more things change, the more they rave the same.
You’re headlining Electric Daisy Carnival in New York, the first EDC in NYC. You just played Ultra in Miami and did HARD Halloween last year. How do these U.S. EDM festivals compare to European festival raves? Or does it all look the same from up there on-stage? How do they compare to raves/festivals that you may have played five or ten years ago in the U.S.?
There seems to be a younger, very up for it crowd in America right now who are discovering the joys of raving for the first time. It’s refreshing to see kids all dressed up in fluro getting seriously over-excited. It’s much more mainstream than previously, before it was all coming from the underground. This time round it’s led by the charts and people aren’t so fussy about being cool, they just wanna let off steam!
You are playing your home-town of Brighton’s soccer stadium on two consecutive days. I think that’s 50,000 tickets. When did you decide you would do this? How long have you been preparing?
Well, we’ve been doing the Brighton beach parties for 10 years and our record was 250,000, so we’re not strangers to big numbers. We’ve kinda outgrown the beach and since Brighton are my team and the city is my home it seems the natural thing to do. Also, I wasn’t gonna let anyone else christen our brand new stadium! We’ve been planning to do for about 3 years but we had to wait for the stadium to be built!
I know your original night in Brighton was the Big Beat Bootique, which was held in a club venue. Could you ever have perceived how big it would become?
I had no idea when I started out that DJ would ever grow from nightclubs to festivals and arenas. That was never our plan. Things kinda snowballed as our music evolved from the underground to the radio to the pop charts (and this was before the social media!) I still have to pinch myself when I think of how the scene has grown and where we’ve ended up.
I know you’ve done a number of big shows where only Brighton residents were able to attend, but you haven’t always had a rosy relationship with the city. You didn’t play there for a while. How did that feel as an ardent fan of the city? And does it make these shows coming up even more emotionally significant?
My relationship with the city has always been cool. After the second big beach show drew so many people and jammed up the whole city, we had to have a long think (three years) before doing it outdoors again. I wasn’t banned, the police and the council just wanted us to find a way of limiting the numbers (all ticket, Brighton residents only) and to move the site from slap bang in the centre of town up the beach a bit and now to the stadium. The emotional significance is that the soccer team were without a permanent home for 13 years and now finally we have a stadium to be very proud of. Every school boy’s dream would be to play in his home stadium!
You’re rave shades in Miami were pretty classic at Ultra. It seemed a fun item for the crowd. Do you feel that when you play shows of this scale, to tens of thousands, that you need to do more than just stand-up there and play some records?
Definitely. As we progressed from nightclubs to bigger stages you want to make your show bigger, but as a DJ there’s only so much you can do (no drum solos). I always look for ways to make the party bigger, more of an event. The rave shades were a neat gag, eh?
It seems visuals are becoming increasingly important for artists like yourself. How do you go about choosing what images you play? It must be an entirely different skill-set from being a DJ, yet its so much part of a headlining DJs show that I presume you either have to learn it, or get someone you really trust to help?
I have worked with an old friend, Tim Fleming, for 10 years and we’re always looking for new ways to mess with people’s heads while I play. We spend quite a lot of time and money making/finding shit to complement the music. Me and Tim brainstorm ideas and then he films/generates/steals stuff and edits it to the tracks. The genius of it nowadays is that by DJing with Serato Video SL we burn the visuals into the tunes so no matter what order or speed I play them the visuals hit the cues night after night. That way my crew never have to guess what I’m gonna do next.
You played your own island this year during HARD Holy Ship and you just got back from a headlining tour of India. I’m sure there have been some pretty amazing settings that you’ve played over the years. How easy is it to go back and do a grimy club show after you’ve played these incredible places? Or do you actually miss playing the smaller venues that are a little more rough around the edges?
I actually really love playing clubs. It’s refreshing for me to get back to basics without the big show, try out new tunes and directions and play in a more relaxed environment. The big shows are exciting but you have to play only your biggest tunes and concentrate to the max. I do also love playing strange places like Holy Ship. That pirate boat on the island is an afternoon I’ll never forget!
You’ve topped charts, headlined festivals, played late night talk-shows, done the Oscars, and now you’re going to Broadway with your musical with David Byrne. What’s left for you to musically? What still gets you excited to continue?
Every week people bring out new tunes which I am just busting to play to new people round the world. It’s the best job in the world and watching young people dancing, smiling and getting high keeps me young! There’s always new places to party and new people to party with.