Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – Fatboy Slim

In Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz an artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: Norman Cook, AKA dance legend Fatboy Slim, takes the ultimate test

Which indie band covered your song ‘The Rockafeller Skank’ at their first ever gig at The Grapes in Sheffield in 2003?

“I know Kasabian regularly covered ‘Praise You’ in their sets, but I don’t know the answer to this one. Enlighten me.”

WRONG. It was Arctic Monkeys.

“Get out of the pool! Really?! I hung out with them and had some interesting times when they played Ibiza Rocks, but didn’t know that. And what happens in Ibiza stays in Ibiza!”

In 2012, which comedian won Sports Relief by recreating Christopher Walken’s famous choreography from your ‘Weapon of Choice’ video?

“I remember the BBC newsreaders did it once, but I’ll have to pass on this one.”

WRONG. It was Rowland Rivron.

“Bless him! [Laughs] That video was all Spike Jonze’s idea. He was having dinner with Christopher Walken, who was dropping hints about wanting to get his dancing down on tape while he was still young enough to do it, so Spike rung me and said: ‘Shall we have him in the next video?’ Fuck yeah! I was supposed to cameo in it as the bellhop hoovering at the beginning but my darling [ex] wife Zoe [Ball, presenter] decided to give birth to my firstborn [Woody Cook, DJ and Celebrity Gogglebox star] that weekend so I missed the shooting of it. I’ve never forgiven him! I hold it against him and whenever I’m in a bad mood, I bring it up!”

You worked with Spike Jonze numerous times…

“My favourite memory was when we were invited to do a performance of ‘Praise You’ in the style of Spike Jonze’s video at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards. Spike stayed in character as Richard Koufey, his alter-ego from The Torrance Community Dance Group from the video, for the whole two days of rehearsal. From the moment he got up and had breakfast, I had to call him Richard! He took ridiculousness so seriously and that inspired me.”

Which Canadian band break into a rendition of The Housemartins’ (your pre-Fatboy Slim band) ‘Happy Hour’ on their 1992 album ‘Gordon’?

“Got me again on this one! Not Arcade Fire?

WRONG. Barenaked Ladies pay tribute to the track on their song ‘Hello City’.

“If it had happened during the internet age, I might have found out about that! Being in The Housemartins was fabulous because we thought we were going to change the world and bring Thatcher down. We were a hardcore unit and gave our whole lives to the band. Recently I’ve been thinking about the lyrics to [Housemartins’ anti-monarchy song] ‘The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death’: ‘And even when their kids were starving/They all thought the Queen was charming’ [Laughs]”

Do you think ‘The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death’ would be even more controversial if it was released now?

“I don’t know. We got pasted by The Sun and Daily Mail for being anti-royalist, and they called for us to be banned from radio, but now we’re living in an age where you can get arrested for holding up a blank piece of paper. In those days, we enjoyed the reaction from the right-wing people we were attacking. When we were recording in London, we had skinheads with crosses shaved in the side of them. Coming home on tube from the studio one day, we said: ‘We’re going to get the shit kicked out of us for this’. But we didn’t care. If one of us had gotten beaten up for our political beliefs, it would have been a badge of honour! Sadly, the political stuffing’s been knocked out of me over the years, and it’s depressing what we were trying to change hasn’t changed much in our lifetimes.”


Your band Beats International were nominated for Best British Newcomber at the 1991 BRIT Awards. Who beat you?

[Laughs] Was it Sinéad O’Connor?”

WRONG. Betty Boo.

“She’s a friend of mine. I worked with her around then so I’d have wished her well – and still will now! I didn’t go to that awards ceremony; or if I did, it was a very good night! I call Beats International my Prince period. I’d had a taste of success with The Housemartins. When that finished, I thought the dream was over, but I fell on my feet because my hobby had been DJ-ing and dance music and I’d bought a sampler and started experimenting, so within six months, I was back out there again. It went to my head. I became a workaholic and having a hit with ‘Dub Be Good to Me’ made me believe that I was talented and it consumed me. I got into Prince mode of churning everything out and trying to constantly reinvent myself. I was trying to live up my own imposter syndrome and prove The Housemartins wasn’t a flash in the pan. I disappeared up my own arse and it all came crashing down.”

What mask did you wear when you became the first ever DJ to play at the House of Commons in 2013?

“Guy Fawkes!”


“I had a big smile on my face underneath that mask – it tickled me that they’d invite me. They obviously hadn’t read The Sun or Daily Mail in the 1980s or about my partying and drug taking experiences later! [Former Liberal Democrat MP] Lembit Öpik was probably the worst dancer there, and a few politicians had their ties around their heads, but most of the heavy-hitters weren’t there. It was a momentous gig, but the atmosphere was like a wedding where no-one knew each other and hadn’t got drunk long enough!”

Talking of the House of Commons, apparently you once took violin lessons with Labour leader Keir Starmer …

“That’s true! But I only briefly studied the violin. We were in the same class together at school for five years. Bizarrely, we had another classmate who always claimed they were going to be Prime Minister of England and we believed him because they were the biggest swot in the class. They didn’t go on to manage it, but Keir most likely will. But he didn’t show any political ambitions at the time.”

Have you got any good stories you can blackmail Sir Keir with?

“No, I left in sixth form which is when I started playing in bands, so we probably spared each others’ blushes!”

Name the three released tracks you’ve produced that feature the vocals of Damon Albarn.

“Er…I might be able to do this! ‘Put It Back Together’, ‘Crazy Beat’ and…oh no! There’s another Blur one off ‘Think Tank’, but I can’t remember what it’s called.”

WRONG. You missed ‘Gene by Gene’ – which is indeed off ‘their 2003 album Think Tank’.

“We recorded some of it in Morocco and some in London. After a couple of days of recoding in their ‘13’ studio, which was Blur’s little den, I remember hesitantly saying: ‘Is…anyone going to come in and play guitar?’ and Damon replying: ‘It’s difficult’.

That was the Blur album that Graham Coxon left during…

“They weren’t sure what was going on, but Damon’s a genius so to work with him was an honour even though they were going through difficult things. And they were hazy times because of my alcohol intake in those days. I remember listening to the demo of ‘Out of Time’, which was just him and an acoustic guitar, and him asking: ‘What should be do with it?’ I said: ‘Nothing. It’s the most beautiful song you’ve ever written’.”

What are the main characters dressed as when you play the Halloween Festival in the Channel 4 sitcom Derry Girls?

“Christ, I’ve no idea!”

WRONG. Angels.

“That rings a bell now! That was those career moments where I felt I’d arrived. I first thought I was part of popular culture when I heard one of my tunes in the Queen Vic on EastEnders, and then my highest honour is having a sex toy [penis extender] named after me, but to be written into something as universally loved as Derry Girls takes it to the next level. When they sent me the script, I was like; ‘Fucking hell!’, because the whole episode revolved around them going to my gig. My only regret is that I was supposed to DJ there, but because of lockdown, I couldn’t film my cameo. They had to use a stand-in and I did a little promo piece to camera.”

Were you ever sent a free ‘Fatboy Thin’ penis extender?

“They never offered me a promotional freebie, but I bought one off Amazon. I’ve still got it in the plastic wrapping, like how people collect Star Wars toys. I hid it somewhere because my children were young at the time and can’t remember where it is. Maybe I should get it out and investigate it more fully! [Laughs]”


According to the fictional band biography you created, what was the original name of your 2009 Brighton Port Authority project?

“That was me using what I’d learned from [former Housemartins frontman] Paul Heaton and Spike Jonze and trying to invent a thing and stay in character. But I can’t remember what I said our original name was!”

WRONG. You claimed it was The Brighton Phonographic Society. Your BPA collaborations album ‘I Think We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat’ includes team-ups with Iggy Pop

“When I played Miami, Iggy Pop came into my dressing room and I went up and kissed him full on the lips! [Laughs] He told me he was a fan and that floored me. The next time he came to Europe, he stayed at my house for a few days and we did a track together, and it was fun.”

David Byrne is on the album as well, who you also did ‘Here Lies Love’ with – a concept album/rock musical about the former First Lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos…

“Do you notice a theme in my career of doing stupid things to see what it’s like? [Laughs] When David Byrne rings up and says: ‘Do you want to write a musical about Imelda Marcos?’, it’s like ‘Can you ride a horse?’. You just say yeah! I’d never even been to a musical, let alone co-written one, but David Byrne is my favourite artist in the world, so it was fun to wander down the path and see where it ended up. Imelda Marcos heard about the musical and thought it was going to be her Evita! She mistakenly assumed it was going to be a puff-piece about how beautiful and misunderstood she was.”

What was your opening track when you played the ill-fated Woodstock ’99 festival?

“An a capella of ‘Fucking in Heaven’?”

CORRECT. Infamously, a van drove into the crowd during your set.

“Now we’re getting to the bits I can remember! I’m on a roll! It’s been interesting re-living it thanks to Netflix’s Trainwreck docuseries. We weren’t around for the real crazy horror, but it was pretty hairy, and it’s something you just want to move on from. The real disappointment for me was the original Woodstock was a pivotal moment in rock ‘n’ roll culture and being invited to play the anniversary of it as an English artist, in my head I thought I was Joe Cocker! But it wasn’t the peace and love Woodstock I was expecting!”

Which train line did you once snort cocaine off?

“The London to Brighton line ‘cause it was at the end of my garden!”


“Can I add the caveat that it’s not something I’m proud of and glorifying! But when we were on the train tracks, somebody said something about ‘doing a line on the line’ and it felt like a good story to tell our grandchildren. We were aware it was hideously irresponsible, but in those days, hideously irresponsible was attractive rather than dangerous! When I got sober, people would ask: ‘Have you got any regrets?’ No – because I left no stone unturned. There are times where you’d think: ‘If only I did….’, then quickly release ‘Oh, I did!’.”

Bonus question! For an extra half-point: which Scottish band have a 2020 single called ‘Fatboy Slim’?

The Snuts.”


“They asked my permission to call it that. I asked if it was about me and they responded: ‘Not especially. It’s based around your gig on Brighton beach’. They played it to me and I loved it.”

Speaking of your 2002 Brighton Beach gig, where over 250,00 concert goers gathered, you’re releasing an anniversary album ‘Right Here, Right Then‘ looking back at it…

“I hadn’t thought about it since and the negative tabloid coverage tarnished it at the time, but through making a documentary on it, I’ve re-examined it with the benefit of 20 years and sobriety and allowed myself the opportunity to feel proud that it was a historic moment in dance music culture.”

Paul McCartney was your next-door-neighbour at the time and offered you advice in the tabloid aftermath…

“He told me to leave the country – that’s what he’d do when things got on top of him. It’s always bizarre having Paul McCartney as a neighbour, especially if you’re as much of a Beatles fan as me. Whenever he’d walk through the back door saying: ‘Only me! Just popped in for a cuppa!’, I’d be singing ‘Hey Jude’ in my head the whole way through! He’s a lovely man and like the dad I always wanted.”

The verdict: 3.5/10

“At least I didn’t totally bomb!”

-Fatboy Slim hosts the Butlin’s Weekender, All Back to Minehead, across the weekend of 18th-21st November. He tours the UK in March 2023. ‘Right Here, Right Then’, an album celebrating the Big Beach Boutique has recently been released.