"We have a much longer shelf-life ... We're not limited by playing our own music or having to play our 'greatest hits'."
Norman Cook is one of dance music's serial self-reinventors. After playing bass in the '80s indie band The Housemartins, and then forming the sound system Beats International, Cook fully embraced club culture — his most famous guise Fatboy Slim. As such, the UK superstar DJ/producer has generations of fans. And Cook gives props to the late David Bowie for introducing that pop template. "I think about 80% of everyone who's mid-through his career has benefited in some way with what he's brought to the table," Cook says of Bowie. "There might be a similarity in me reinventing myself, but I would not put myself in the same room as him in terms of his influence on music and his talent!"
"I feel their youthful exuberance and I kind of absorb it. I've always said I'm a bit like a vampire."
While pop has its 'heritage' acts, the DJ world is more fluid. "We have a much longer shelf-life because we don't have to play our own songs all night," Cook says. "If you're The Rolling Stones or even David Bowie, people expect to hear the hits, which basically means you can't do anything new, whereas we are constantly playing new music. We're not limited by playing our own music or having to play our 'greatest hits'. More importantly, I think DJs, on the whole, we're playing to young people who just wanna go out and get high and get laid and have fun and escape. There's an endless supply of new blood. Our audience doesn't grow old with us. I look up and I see that the audience never gets any older... And I thrive off that, I feed off that, because I feel their youthful exuberance and I kind of absorb it. I've always said I'm a bit like a vampire — I just stay eternally young... So we can just follow the crowd and the crowd keeps evolving, so that makes us evolve."
The smiley face his symbol, the Southern Fried label boss still experiences "that innocent joy of discovering music and wanting to share it with people" — the foundation of his DJ career. Though associated with big beat in the '90s, today Cook "loves" any dance offshoot — "as long as it doesn't become commercial". "That's when it becomes ruined for me." Mind, now even Justin Bieber is making (deep) house. "I don't know if that's Justin Bieber becoming more cool or [his producers] Diplo and Skrillex becoming less cool," Cook quips. The DJ's stance is admittedly ironic considering his own crossover triumphs.
Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter
Cook has put album projects to the side since 2004's Palookaville. He's currently developing a soundtrack project with "good friend" Idris Elba, the acclaimed actor moonlighting as a DJ. Elba first lent his voice to a Fatboy Slim vs Jerome Robins dub version of Mark Ronson's Uptown Funk for last year's The Fatboy Slim Collection. "It's a lovely symbiotic relationship, because he's always wanted to be a DJ, and he thinks I'm really cool 'cause I'm a successful DJ, and I think he's really cool 'cause he's [The Wire's Russell] "Stringer" fucking Bell!" This month Cook is bringing his audiovisual show to Australia for four dates, headlining Sydney's Electric Gardens Festival. "The basic premise of it hasn't changed: I have a laptop full of hot tunes, [I] intend to make you smile and leap up and down, rather than be over-thoughtful or moody, and we all have a big party."