Fatboy Slim: Right Here Right now

Who Is: Fatboy Slim

Norman Cook, universally recognized as Fatboy Slim, is one of the undeniable titans of electronic music. A prolific and enduring artist, his influence spans several decades and genres. Though Cook’s journey into music began in the late 1970s, it was during the 1990s where he truly carved his niche, emerging as a key figure in the burgeoning big beat genre characterized by its heavy use of breakbeats and basslines that became synonymous with the era’s international dance music explosion.

Before Fatboy Slim became a household name, Norman Cook experimented with various musical styles and identities. His early career saw him as part of the indie rock band The Housemartins, where he played bass guitar. However, the advent of affordable synthesizers and samplers marked a turning point in Cook’s career, allowing him to delve into electronic music production. His first major success came with Beats International and the chart-topping single Dub Be Good to Me in 1989, which cleverly sampled The Clash’s The Guns of Brixton.

Cook’s restless creativity led him through a series of musical ventures and aliases, including Pizzaman and Freakpower, the latter of which scored a hit with Turn On, Tune In, Cop Out. Yet, these were merely the prelude to his most influential guise: Fatboy Slim.

The birth of Fatboy Slim coincided with the rise of the big beat scene in the UK. Cook’s knack for blending catchy samples with colossal beats quickly set him apart from the Acid and Progressive House crowd. His debut album as Fatboy Slim, Better Living Through Chemistry (1996), laid the groundwork for what was to become a groundbreaking career, and one of the most lucrative in all of electronic music.

Fatboy Slim’s follow-up album, You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby (1998), catapulted him to international fame. The album was a tour de force of big beat, featuring anthems such as The Rockafeller Skank and Praise You. These tracks weren’t just club hits; they became part of the cultural lexicon of the 90s, with Praise You, in particular, showcasing Cook’s innovative approach to music videos. The Spike Jonze and Roman Copolla-directed music video was shot guerilla style, featuring a flash mob in a busy Los Angeles Mall. This music video innovation would extend to 2001’s Weapon of Choice, featuring a dancing, flying Christopher Walken in one of the most iconic clips of the 2000s.

But Fatboy Slim’s music was not to be pigeonholed as a mere collection of dance tracks; it was a sonic collage that reflected the eclecticism of the late 90s music scene. His ability to sample diverse music—from rock to hip-hop to funk—while maintaining a cohesive and infectious beat saw few peers. This was further exemplified in his third album, Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars (2000), which featured collaborations with Macy Gray, Roger Sanchez, and Bootsy Collins. Aside from the aforementioned Weapon of Choice, the album would also yield the underground anthem, Star 69, and Roland Clark’s instantly identifiable refrain, “They Know What is What But They Don’t Know What is What / They Just Strut / What the Fuck.”

Of course, with such a career, Fatboy Slim has found himself gracing the world’s biggest stages, often transcending the nightclub and music festival booth for large-scale international events of cultural importance. One such performance was at the infamous Woodstock ’99, a festival that aimed to recapture the spirit of its 1969 predecessor but instead became infamous for its chaos. From this writer’s own firsthand experience at the event, even amidst the mayhem, Fatboy Slim would deliver a set that was a high point for many. Unfortunately, the set would ultimately be cut short due to the multitude of security concerns arising inside the venue’s rave airplane hangar. You can learn more about this event from Fatboy Slim himself through the 3-part Netflix series Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99. Further performances have seen Fatboy Slim at Glastonbury, Movement Detroit Electronic Music Festival, Global Gathering, and Miami’s Ultra Music Festival, where in 2010, he would play as Fatboy Slim again after a brief hiatus from the moniker.

Beyond his albums and live performances, Fatboy Slim was also instrumental in popularizing the Big Beat Boutique in Brighton, a club night that became a focal point for the Big Beat movement.

iew of the 2002 Big Beach Boutique II, Brighton, UK, 17th July 2002.
iew of the 2002 Big Beach Boutique II, Brighton, UK, 17th July 2002.

In the years that followed, Fatboy Slim continued to evolve, embracing new sounds and technologies. Yet, his fundamental approach to music—creating tracks that compel people to dance and smile—remained unchanged. His performances at major events worldwide, including the 2012 London Olympics Closing Ceremony and Big Beach Boutique II, which drew hundreds of thousands of attendees, continued to showcase his ability to connect with audiences on a massive scale. These events were not just concerts but cultural happenings and border-breaking.

Despite his success, Cook has remained grounded, often describing himself as a “happy, drunken idiot” who loves to throw parties. This humility and his genuine passion for music have endeared him to fans and peers alike. From chart-topping singles to groundbreaking live performances, Fatboy Slim’s contributions to electronic music are indelible; he not only defined the sound of a generation but also paved the way for future artists by demonstrating the commercial possibilities of electronic music. Learn all about the legend as we present Fatboy Slim: Right Here, Right Now on Saturday, April 13th.