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Fatboy Slim (born Quentin Leo Cook on July 31, 1963, also known as Norman Cook) is an English musician in the dance music genre. His style is known as big beat, a combination of hip hop, breakbeat, rock, house and rhythm and blues. He stopped using "Quentin" and began calling himself "Norman" long before he adopted any other pseudonym.
Cook grew up in Reigate, Surrey, England and was educated at Reigate Grammar School. He started a punk fanzine as a teenager and at sixth-form college met Paul Heaton. At 18, Cook went to Brighton Polytechnic to study a BA in English, Politics and Sociology. Although he had begun DJing some years before, it was at this time that he began to develop his skills on the thriving Brighton club scene. In 1985, he was diverted by a call from his old friend, Paul Heaton. Heaton had moved to Hull and had formed a guitar band called The Housemartins.
The Housemartins' bassist had just quit on the eve of their first national tour and, although Cook had lost interest in the rock scene and could barely play a musical instrument, he agreed to move to Hull to join them. The band soon had a hit single with Happy Hour. They also reached number one just before Christmas 1986 with a version of Caravan of Love. However, by 1988 they had split up. Heaton and the band's drummer, Dave Hemingway, went on to form The Beautiful South, while Cook moved back to Brighton to pursue his interest in the style of music he preferred. It was at this time that he first started working with young studio engineer Simon Thornton, with whom he continues to make records. All Cook's records released from that point onwards have involved both of them to varying degrees (Thornton is credited in 2004 as "Executive Producer" for example).
Cook formed Beats International, a loose confederation of studio musicians including vocalists Lindy Layton, Lester Noel, DJ Baptiste, rapper MC Wildski, and keyboardist Andy Boucher. Their first album, Let Them Eat Bingo, included the number one single, Dub Be Good to Me. "Dub Be Good To Me" caused a legal dispute revolving around allegations of infringement of copyright through the liberal use of unauthorised samples: the bassline was a note-for-note lift from The Guns Of Brixton and the song also borrowed heavily from the Just Be Good To Me. The 1991 follow-up album Excursion on the Version, an exploration of dub and reggae rhythms, failed to repeat the success of its predecessor.
Cook then formed Freakpower, with horn player and singer Ashley Slater. The duo released their debut album, Drive Thru Booty, in 1994, which contained the single Turn On Tune In Cop Out. The cut was picked up by the Levi's company for use in a multimillion-dollar advertisement campaign. Freakpower also had several other releases under the name Fried Funk Food.
In 1995, Cook enlisted help from producer friends Tim Jeffery and JC Reid to create a solo house album under the Pizzaman pseudonym. The album featured one track, Happiness, that was picked up by the Del Monte Foods corporation for use in a UK fruit juice ad. Cook also experimented with other side projects, and enjoyed some underground success as The Mighty Dub Katz with Magic Carpet Ride.
In 1996, Cook re-joined Ashley Slater for the second Freakpower album, entitled Everything for Everybody.
Later that same year, Cook adopted the alter-ego pseudonym Fatboy Slim and began frequenting the Brighton club The Big Beat Boutique. While DJing at the club, Cook befriended The Chemical Brothers, who suggested that he work on his own material instead of merely DJing.
The Fatboy Slim album Better Living Through Chemistry (released through Skint Records) marked Cook's emergence into the big time. Filled with retro samples and funk-laden grooves, the album was among the first in the then-new big beat sound. It also spawned one top 40 UK hit, Everybody Needs a 303". After Cook's remix of Brimful of Asha topped the charts, such musical heavy hitters as Madonna and U2 asked him to produce for them.
Fatboy Slim's next work was the single The Rockafeller Skank which was released prior to the album You've Come a Long Way, Baby, both of which came out in 1998 to rave reviews. This album also produced the single Praise You, which also became a major dance hit, giving Cook his first UK solo number one. Its video, directed by Spike Jonze, won numerous awards. Further Fatboy Slim works have appeared in movies, television series and more ads and started a trend where Norman Cook appeared in each video in some shape or form.
Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars was released in 2000 and featured two collaborations with Macy Gray. It also included Sunset (Bird of Prey), a slower tempo piece based around a sample of Jim Morrison from The Doors, and Weapon of Choice, which also boasted an award-winning video starring Christopher Walken.
On 13 July 2002 Fatboy Slim performed the second of his free, open air concerts on Brighton beach. Despite expecting a crowd of around 60,000 people, the event instead attracted an estimated 250,000 who crammed the promenade and beach between Brighton's famous piers. Local police forced the event to finish slightly early amid safety concerns and overcrowding. After the music had finished and the massive crowd began to dissipate, traffic chaos ensued throughout the Brighton area with many revellers stuck in traffic jams until the early hours of the morning. Despite these problems, the event was hailed as a great success by most who attended, although there was to be no repeat in following years.
Cook was recently awarded a star on the city of Brighton's Walk of Fame, next to that of Winston Churchill. He married TV personality Zoë Ball in 1999; the couple have one son named Woody. Cook is also a 12% shareholder of the soccer club he has supported since moving to Brighton in the late 1980s, Brighton & Hove Albion F.C.
In 2002, Q magazine named Fatboy Slim in their "50 bands to see before you die" list.
In January 2003, Cook and his wife underwent a very public break-up, but three months later, they were back together.
In 2004, Cook released two remixes, based on Happy and Follow Me Follow Me (Quem Que Caguetou). The latter, a hip-hop hit from Brazil, became popular in Europe after having appeared on the Nissan X-Trail advert (portraying a more extreme type of marathon). Fatboy Slim's remix was then used in the advert itself.
His first album in four years, Palookaville, was also announced in July of 2004. Cook's next studio album was confirmed for release on 4 October in the UK (Skint records) and 5 October for the U.S. (Astralwerks). In the UK, BBC Radio 1 received an exclusive play of the first single Slash Dot Dash, while in the U.S. The Joker (a collaboration with Bootsy Collins) had been exclusively aired. The song was appearing on the radio and was made quickly available on iTunes months ahead of the album release.
Palookaville represented a significant shift in style for Cook, from loop and sample based compositions to more conventional song structures and many original recordings of real instruments (Cook himself plays bass on some of the album's tracks, with Simon Thornton playing various other instruments along with guest artists, e.g. Justin Robertson). This change in style also led to the use of new production techniques and studio technology. Until Palookaville, Cook had been using an Atari ST computer for sequencing and composition, a classic production tool favoured by many dance music producers for its stability, simplicity and rock solid timing. For the new album he made use of a Protools rig, a powerful digital audio workstation environment found in most modern recording studios. This, perhaps reluctant, move by Cook was ultimately necessary to deliver the polished production style evident in the recordings. The resulting body of work features "traditional" Fatboy Slim tracks such as Jin Go Lo Ba alongside full length vocal tracks including a suitably updated rendition of the The Joker. The music video for the latter consists entirely of kittens in the lead roles. The album also features many more vocal collaborations including tracks with rapper Lateef and Brighton-based band Johnny Quality.
In 2005, his 2004 hit single Wonderful Night was placed on Konami's Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2 for PlayStation 2.
In June of 2005 he filled the Friday night headline slot on the "Other Stage" at the prestigious Glastonbury Festival, a booking which actually generated a financial loss for Cook when he decided to stage a spectacular visual show involving banks of display screens at the rear of the stage with his DJ booth set in the middle and a sophisticated 3D light show with special glasses supplied to members of the audience. In a televised, post-gig interview Cook revealed how the cost of staging the show had outstripped the famously low appearance fees received by Glastonbury performers.
In October of the same year, Fatboy Slim and Talking Heads singer David Byrne revealed their plans for a musical about Imelda Marcos, the controversial former First Lady of the Philippines. It premiered at Australia's Adelaide Festival of Arts in March 2006.
On New Year's Eve 2005, Fatboy Slim performed live in front of a tremendous crowd on Bondi Beach in Australia. During this all night set, Fatboy Slim reverted back to his original style of music production and DJing with an emphasis on dance music.
Why Try Harder is Fatboy Slim's greatest hits album and was released on June 19th 2006. It comprises eighteen tracks, including ten top 40 singles, a couple of number ones and two exclusive new tracks - Champion Sound and That Old Pair Of Jeans. The title comes from the famous UK album cover for You've Come A Long Way Baby, which featured a large man with a T-shirt bearing the line "I'M #1 SO WHY TRY HARDER". Cook has repeatedly stated in 2006 interviews that the phrase "why try harder" is a statement, not a question.
On June 24th 2006, Fatboy Slim headlined The "Rock Ness Festival" at Loch Ness, Scotland. The following month he also filled the Saturday headline slot at the Global Gathering festival, Long Marston Airfield, Staffordshire, England. He played a two hour set containing most of his classics and also some of his new material. This is widely regarded as one of the highlights of the festival, perhaps just losing out to Daft Punk's once in a lifetime performance the previous evening. Once again Fatboy appeared in front of an impressive visual stage set comprising video screens and 3D lighting. A spectacular firework display rounded off the show.
After being banned by police from playing in Brighton since 2002 after of the deaths of two people at his 2002 gig, Fatboy Slim was given permission in 2006 to play again in his hometown. On 1st January 2007 he will play to 20,000 people on Brighton's Madeira Drive, opposite Brighton beach. Tickets to the event were made available only to Brighton residents.
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