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'I sometimes find Fatboy irritating'
The high-flying, barefoot DJ is here to pump up India's heartbeats per minute.
His back slants to the right. He's deaf in the left ear and colour-blind. His every move is under constant paparazzi scrutiny, yet Norman 'Quentin' Cook aka Fatboy Slim loves his job. He loves the thrill that comes from playing to thousands of people at Brighton, his hometown, or at the Rio carnival, or at packed stadiums and festival venues.
When you're a DJ that big, your job doesn't end with producing music. "It's exciting that so many people come to see me and half fear that they'll get hurt, " Cook confesses. "But I work very closely with the police, just watching all the time to see if, you know, a lot of drunk people in a very confined state. It is probably the hardest work, in terms of trying to entertain a crowd that big, but also really hoping that we can control a crowd that big. "
Known around the world as Fatboy Slim, Cook, along with The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers, was responsible for spinning the big beat genre - a voluminous mixture that draws from house-style synthesiser lines and loops from '60s- '70s funk, jazz, rock and pop - and helped it hit the mainstream. Cook works under a bewildering array of aliases, but Fatboy Slim is the undisputed headline hog.
"I was always hiding behind different names so I could have more than one record out with more than one style of music, " he says. "The anonymity worked fine until Fatboy Slim came along and engulfed all the other personas, taking up all my time and creativity. Also, for the first time, it was my face selling the music and now everyone knows who I am and what I look like. "
He wasn't exactly pleased by the outing. He even pretended that he wasn't Fatboy. "Fatboy is like a cartoon exaggeration of Norman. They have the same traits but Fatboy is more full-on and irresponsible. I must confess I sometimes find Fatboy a little irritating but bless him he means well and he does pay the bills, " he says, with typical British humour.
The man who created dancefloor anthems like Right Here, Right Now, Rockafeller Skank, Praise You, Weapon of Choice and backed them with equally spunky and funny videos, is notorious for wearing gaudy printed shirts that make him stand out just as much as his beats. "I'm not into fancy clothes, " the 48-year-old says. "I'm actually colour blind, so Zoe (Ball) tends to buy my clothes. If I went shopping, I'd end up looking like a dog's dinner (awful). "
True to the style of a '90s DJ, no Fatboy Slim gig ever began without Cook consuming a bottle of vodka. He told journalists how he'd selfmedicated himself out of a bout of depression by taking Ecstasy and how he once snorted cocaine from the railway lines near his back garden. Today, Cook claims to be sober - "for three years now" - and has given up smoking to be a better role model for his son. He's even run a marathon. But in true Fatboy style also, he worried about how he would DJ sober, but those doubts have been burnt off on the console.
"My energy levels are as high as they've ever been, " says Cook, who counts his neighbour Paul McCartney among his closest friends. "I still feel 16 years old as soon as I go on stage and act like it. I quit drinking three years ago and got fit, running marathons etc. , which means I'm a lot fresher every night. I'm all about innovation and creativity. My industry demands a breakthrough in routine. "
But routine is something Cook adheres to strictly, especially when it comes to playing music. He always performs barefoot, often refusing to step on stage unless he is shoe-less and the set list organised in a precise way. "I sort them by beats per minute (BPM). They start slow and get faster!"
His India tour - many fans thought he's one artiste they would never ever get to watch in India - is a definite thumbs up for a country where electronic dance music is making a comfortable home. But if fans coming for the gigs expect to hear his most famous tunes, they might be disappointed. "When I'm DJ-ing I'm not promoting my records, just playing my favourites and I don't want to bore people with my old songs all the time. If you want to hear them you can buy the records. "
Fatboy Slim performs in New Delhi on May 5 and in Bangalore on May 6.
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