INTERVIEW: Fatboy Slim is STILL F**king in Heaven…
From the opening bars of Right Here, Right Now to the closing vocal refrain of Acid 8000 – “if this don’t make your booty move, your booty must be dead!” – there was no escaping Fatboy Slim’s You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby at the tail end of the 90s.
The album, released 20 years ago today, represented the zenith of the ‘big beat’ movement, and helped the artist otherwise known as Norman Cook to forge a two decade long career.
909originals caught up with the funk soul brother himself, to recall the heady days in which the album was released, in October 1998.
909originals: How long after ‘Better Living Through Chemistry’ did you start putting ‘You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby’ together?
Norman Cook: At that time I was having a kind of ‘stream of consciousness’ output of Mighty Dub Katz / Freak Power / Pizzaman / Fatboy tunes which spewed forth from me almost daily! So I was pretty much into the next chapter immediately.
Better Living… had been pretty much a collection of the previous 12-inches on one record, whereas the challenge was to make an album that sounded like an actual album.
What was the first track you completed for the album, and at what point did you think ‘f**k me, I’ve got something good here’?
I think probably Gangster Tripping was the first one I did. I knew something significant was happening with the ‘holy trilogy that was Renegade Master, Brimful of Asha and Rockafeller Skank, which all came out whilst I was writing and recording the album.
There’s a video circulating on YouTube around the time Blame It On The Bassline came out, when you discuss the ‘politics of sampling’. When You’ve Come… came out and your career took off, did you ever stop to think ‘I’m amazed nobody has thought of doing this before’?
I was aware that we were treading new ground with the new boundaries of sampling and copyright. It was a bit like the wild west, no one sure who was in charge. It was kind of exciting to be honest!
Skint’s Damian Harris once described big beat as “just a change from a house scene that wasn’t particularly inspiring at the time”. Was big beat really a genre in your eyes, or was it just one big long mashup, with You’ve Come… the high-water mark?
For me it was about finally realising I was more a DJ and producer than a musician, and, more importantly, deciding that there was no point in being a purist about the sanctity of different kinds of music. During my life I had loved pop, punk, hip hop and house music so why not throw them in the same pot, using a sampler as a blender..?
How long had you been aware of Camille Yarbrough’s Take Yo Praise before turning it into Praise You?
About three minutes. It went straight into the Akai S950…
It’s often said that authors don’t go back to their old works, as they will inevitably run into parts they loathe. What track (or tracks) on the album would you love to have done a different way, and what would you have done?
I think on the whole, it is a nice snapshot of where I was at the time, I think it still sounds ok. Maybe with the benefit of hindsight, I would have cleared a few more of the samples.
Given the era when it came out, You’ve Come… is lumped in with Oasis, Elastica, Catatonia et al as ‘essential Britpop albums’ – what did that whole ‘Britpop’ thing mean to you?
I don’t remember much about Britpop. I think I was too busy in nightclubs and the studio to notice what was going on outside.
Did you ever get to meet (or try to seek out) the ‘Fatboy’ from the album cover?
We did try and seek him out. We publicly asked him to get in touch, and we asked the photographer who took the shot. But we never found him.
[Thanks to Norman for the interview. Photos taken from Fatboy Slim’s website, http://www.fatboyslim.net, as well as WikimediaCommons, thanks to dmnyc and Shokophoto]
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