Norman Cook: "The partying? I left no stone unturned"
Norman Cook aka Fatboy Slim, aged 48, on girls, punk rock, his wildest dreams, and why it's wise to be discreet on the telephone
At 16 I was preoccupied with girls, punk rock and cider. I wasn’t too angsty but I did worry about whether I would ever reach puberty. I was quite a late developer, which was a bit stressful, but I think that might have helped my music. I was small, not very good at sports, my voice hadn’t broken – I had to explore other ways of being accepted, and being a show-off in a band got you respect. If you’re in a band you get laid whether or not you’ve got big muscles.
I think I’d find the 16-year-old me an arrogant gobshite. Every now and then I get flashbacks of things I said or did and I think, ‘Oh my God, you little wanker’. Even my clothes – you would definitely know I was trying to be noticed and accepted, trying too hard. As soon as I got my band together I felt I was in with the team. Growing up in quite a small town like Reigate in Surrey, it was easy to make your mark. Everyone knew who I was.
I’d love to go back and tell my young self, take your wildest dreams and double them. That’s how your life is going to go. The trophy wife, the trophy career [in 1980s indie pop band The Housemartins, then as dance artist Fatboy Slim], the house on the beach – you’ll have it all. I was always more comfortable as a DJ than I was in a band, but in those days DJs didn’t go much further than their local pub. The young me wouldn’t believe that DJs could travel the world, be treated like rock stars and play to hundreds of thousands of people.
I’d go back and warn my younger self, if you have a Top 10 hit the tabloids will want stories on you, and if you don’t give them one they’ll make one up. If you upset them, they’ll make up a nasty one. I’d tell myself now, don’t try and argue with them, just shut up. And watch what you say on the telephone, that’s for sure. There was quite a lot of press intrusion at what was a pretty difficult time in both our lives [Cook was front-page news in 2003 when his wife Zoë Ball had an affair and they briefly split]. But I’m not one to moan about the press. Me and Zoë have always said, if you court publicity you can’t get angry if it bites you on the arse.
When I think over it all, I don’t think I’d have had it any other way. It was a few years before I achieved the kind of pop-star status the younger me wanted, but if I’d had that at 21 I’d have gone mad and ended up like Slash. I’d probably have been a total smackhead. I don’t regret partying, trying everything – I feel like I went to the mountain top and left no stone unturned. Possibly in my latter years I might have said, slow down, go easier on the booze now. I’ve definitely had a new lease of life since I gave up drinking.
There was a week in 1998 when I got engaged to Zoë, my album knocked Robbie Williams off Number One and I won a Brit. That on paper is a pretty good week. But in reality, it was mental. And a bit ‘welcome to the world of the tabloids’. Maybe my happiest memory is the first Big Beach Bootique party in Brighton in 2001. I just kept thinking, it doesn’t get any better than this – throwing an open-air party for 65,000 of your closest friends, who all worship you because you’re their local hero, doing exactly what you always wanted to do as a kid… I thought, 'If it all ends today, at least I’ll always be remembered for this.'
Fatboy Slim’s Big Beach Bootique is at Brighton Amex Stadium on June 1 & 2