Photo: Press (Fatboy Slim)
Do you remember how you spent the year 1998? A British group called Faithless proclaimed that God was a DJ while a German group called Scooter just simply asked how much the fish was. In other parts of the world a company called Google was founded, Great Britain and the IRA signed a peace-treaty and Bill Clinton had a lot to answer for. What else happened? Don´t ask Norman Quentin Cook, because he was very busy that year, producing the album You’ve Come a Long Way Baby, which is still ranked in every top 50 list of the most important electronic albums. He himself describes it today as “a nice capsule and some of it still makes sense today”, while the British music magazine NME named him “the Noel Gallagher of 90s dance music” when that album was released. Cook is a man of many names and projects: The Housemartins, Beats International, Freakpower, The Mighty Dub Katz, Stomping Pond Frogs, Pizzaman and of course Fatboy Slim. Gregor Wildermann spoke with Cook about the re-release of the iconic album and its equally iconic music videos, repetition as a tool and what destiny his son has.
Mr. Cook, what do you remember about the year 1998?
Not much… I struggle to remember anything from that year. I was completely focused on music and I was in my musical zone for the whole year. Everything else seemed to dissapear.
Not even the world football championship in France with David Beckham in the lead?
Yeah, I know, but it didn’t appear on my radar. I was locked inside the studio and that was it.
You mentioned in several older interviews that it´s hard for you to judge music by yourself and that this kills the fun of living in that moment. Has that changend?
Obviously, as you get older, you reflect where you have been before. At that time it was very exciting, because I had the feeling that everything was happening now. And there was no time to start thinking about it. For me it was a kind of musical Berlin wall coming down. So much was changing musically at that time of my life. It was one of these moments where you don´t think about it, you just do it.
Why was it so groundbreaking for you?
It was that feeling that everything I’d done and learned before and everything I endured before all came to one. The timing was right to take my record collection and the machines I used, the state of DJ culture… Everything I learned from being in a pop-band like the Housemartins, being a DJ and a producer… It all came to one.
Video: Fatboy Slim: Right Here, Right Now
Did you have to struggle with any limitations in regards to technology?
Around 1998 I was up to 47 seconds of memory. So every tune on the album has these 47 seconds of samples. Somehow that was enough to be not too limited even not one of the samples where in stereo. The basic difference between the first and my second album that is that I had two Akai samplers in comparison to just one.
I asked because building up a track on one phrase or loop seemed to be a kind of trademark of many tracks. An artistic decision or just based on technical limitations?
It was a bit of both. Sometimes I had to rely just on one phrase, sometime I was trying to create a sort of pop structure like verse-chorus… But actually I found that repetition was a good tool for me. While DJing, I found out that the more I repeated things the more it got into people’s heads and the more intense it became. Yes, I must confess that this was one of my main tools.
While listening to tracks like “Fucking in Heaven” the word eternity would not be my first choice.
At that time I thought people would hear the album once or twice and it would be fine. I never dreamed that people would still listen to it twenty years later. That was never the plan.