Hail To The Fatboy

Fatboy Slim Ð pop tart or dance music legend? 'The Hits' are out this month, and he's coming to Loch Ness for a monster gig: The Skinny takes a look at some of his achievements and misdemeanours.<br/><br/>PULL QUOTE: Arms aloft behind the decks, face split with a grin, ready with the next massive break. That, ladies and gentleman, is Fatboy Slim.

Feature by Bram Gieben | 15 Jun 2006
How will you remember Fatboy Slim? Will it be Paparazzi Fatboy, his cheesy mug grinning from the redtops as he is needlessly snapped for the millionth time with that tedious Ball woman? Perhaps even as Eighties Fatboy (or Norman, as he was then), playing keyboards in AOR haircut-mongers The Housemartins? Or will you simply groan when The Rockefeller Skank rolls out over another pointless car advert, hoping that maybe, just maybe, this will be the last time you hear it?

Despite being one of the Dance Acts for People Who Don't Go Clubbing (alongside The Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers, and fucking Moby), Norman Cook deserves better than this. Back in the early nineties, his association with Brighton's Big Beat Boutique and Damian Harris' Skint label arguably shaped the course of dance music for the next few years, and did more to insinuate break and balearic beats into the public consciousness than any other artist. While Skint put out some breakbeat classics from acts like the Lo-Fi Allstars, Bentley Rhythm Ace and Bassbin Twins, Fatboy Slim captured the nation's dancefloors with the fantastic LP 'Better Living Through Chemistry'. Featuring the deliriously bouncy Everybody Needs A 303 (sadly missed from 'The Hits'), and the fuzzed out, psychedelic funk of Santa Cruz, the album's pace and sense of fun was a breath of fresh air into a dance culture that needed an alternative to trance, house and techno, and was a seminal point of reference for the breaks renaissance which brought acts like The Plump DJs to the fore.

One hell of a DJ, Cook regularly ripped up Brighton's Big Beat Boutique, and travelled up and down the country spreading the gospel of the music then being called Big Beat (his mix album from this era, 'On The Floor At The Boutique,' is absolute genius). The success of '...Chemistry' gained the Fatboy his underground fanbase, but it was with sophomore LP 'You've Come A Long Way Baby' that he began to achieve international acclaim and attention. The ubiquitous Rockefeller Skank was a worldwide smash, followed by the blues-sampling Praise You, an MTV favourite thanks to a bizarre Spike Jonze video. In the meantime, Cook turned out a couple of classic remixes, including a poptastic hip-hop take on Cornershop's otherwise pedestrian Brimful of Asha (proof that a remix can really work!), and an unforgettable retouch of Wildchild's Renegade Master, with the vocal cut to say "Back for the E / For the power of the reefer." That kind of genius does not come from pop tarts. Cook is a DJ first, a pop star second.

Arms aloft behind the decks, face split with a grin, ready with the next massive break. That, ladies and gentleman, is Fatboy Slim. Never mind the questionable collaborations and the even more questionable advertising deals: his best music is a homage to the spirit of acid house, set to the rhythms of hip-hop, filtered through the controls of a producer who has spent three decades in the charts. Yes, his star has waned, but 'Better Living Through Chemistry' is up there with 'Exit Planet Dust' and 'The Prodigy Experience' beyond a shadow of a doubt – if you don't own it, you should. If you're one of the lucky thousands joining him at his sold out gig in Loch Ness on the 24th of June, get ready for the time of your life. Hail to the Fatboy - the uncrowned King of Dance. There, I said it – now pass me The Rockefeller Skank and a noose. [Bram Gieben]
Fatboy Slim's 'Greatest Hits: Why Try Harder' is out on June 19 on Skint Records. He plays Loch Ness on June 24. The gig is sold out. http://www.fatboyslim.net, www.skint.net