“You have to play ‘The Birdie Song’ if that’s what people want…” Norman Cook on cutting his teeth as an up and coming DJ [October 1990]
Today, he is better known as Fatboy Slim, the all-conquering ‘Funk Soul Brother’ capable of selling out football stadiums… but in 1990, he was Norman Cook, founder of Beats International and an up and coming DJ on the party circuit.
Jocks magazine, the forerunner to DJ Mag, caught up with Cook for its October 1990 issue, in which he discussed his migration from ‘mobile DJ’ – “I even played a funeral once, which was quite interesting” – to a club regular during his time with The Housemartins.
“Working as a mobile [DJ], you have to play everything,” Cook says of his origins. “You’re a party DJ. You have to play all the requests and try and have the records covered, you know, down to the point of having to play The Birdie Song if that’s what people want. They tend to talk and do requests and dedications and that sort of stuff.
“As a club DJ, if someone come and asks me to play something that I don’t want to play or I haven’t got, I tell them so, and that’s the end of that.”
Cook also talks of the challenges of learning to mix without varispeed decks (such as Technics 1210’s), and how he was inspired by those that could achieve this near-impossible task.
“There is a real art to being able to mix without varispeed,” he explains. “You’d have to spin the record around with your finger to do a running mix. I used to watch this guy in Brighton called Barry Page when I was first learning to mix.
“He used to do running mixes on decks without varispeed – he’d use the acapella of Last Night a DJ Saved My Life over something else, and you could see him standing there, spinning the record around with his finger, getting it in beat and keeping it in time. It was incredible!”
And as for his DJ persona, circa 1990? “I’m totally self-indulgent… I mean, I’m indulgent in the music that I play, but obviously your first job is to entertain the crowd, rather than enlighten them,” he explains.
“For me, it’s about taking risks, whether I can play something totally new or something completely off the wall, that they’re not expecting, and get away with it. If I can, then I’ll reward them with something more well-known, something that’s popular, or a good oldie. It’s a bit of give and take really.”
Check out the article in full below. 🙂
[Article by Donna Snell, published in Jocks magazine, October 1990]