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Fatboy Slim and an AWESOME DJ Book!

Welcome to WEEK 249 of MUSIC is not a GENRE (Video #75 & S4Ep7)

Fatboy Slim & Last Night a DJ Saved My Life – Are DJs Artists? (featuring my first BOOK REVIEW!)

There’s nothing that gets me going like a good Housemartins song. When you hear one of their mega hits on the radio, it takes you back to a time when…

Okay you get it. Practically no one has heard of the Housemartins, the 1980s British jangle pop band whose biggest hit was an a cappella cover of the Isley, Jasper, Isley song “Caravan of Love”. If you were into the Smiths, you should go check them out.

And while you’re listening, keep in mind that their bass player was Norman Cook. Another forgotten name, right? Sure, except that in 1996 he adopted the stage name Fatboy Slim and helped to change the face of dance music.

Like so many successful DJs, his roots were in music other than dance. In Cook’s case, punk & the aforementioned jangle pop. Throughout all that he was DJing – often as DJ Quentox, but it didn’t come to the forefront for him until the late 1980s when he formed the loose collective Beats International. This was back when sampling was becoming huge, but before any laws were passed to regulate it.

Naturally, sampling lawsuits were becoming huge too. And one hit Cook so hard he had to pivot, which in turn helped to infuse his music with even more original ideas & exploration beyond the recontextualizing of sampling & remixing he had mostly been doing. During this time, he worked under the band names Freak Power, Pizzaman & the Mighty Dub Katz, before finally settling on Fatboy Slim, a name he says is “goofy & ironic” like much of his music.

As Fatboy Slim, he blew up, particularly his second album, 1998’s You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby. With “Right Here, Right Now”, “The Rockafeller Skank” & “Praise You”, he broke through internationally and never looked back. Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars continued the success, particularly with “Weapon of Choice” & that awesome Christopher Walken video.

Since then Cook kept at it in various ways, as Fatboy Slim, the Brighton Port Authority, again as Mighty Dub Katz, and doing remixes for all kinds of artists including Cornershop, A Tribe Called Quest & the Beastie Boys. No matter what Cook does, he’s always exploring & expanding, never settling for rote dance music of ANY kind. He always infuses his music with a variety of sources – samples, funk, electronica, rock, glitch, world, ambient, spoken word – and structures his songs like SONGS and not just seven minutes of danceable music.

He’s a DJ. An artist. A musician. And to some that’s controversial. I’ve been a DJ off & on since I was a pre-teen. Even back then I understood that there are many kinds of DJs & many ways TO DJ. Play only the hits. Play the hits but throw in some surprises. Play obscure tunes altogether. Play a mix of genres or play all one kind of music. Play stand-alone songs, or crossfade & beat match. Create remixes of existing songs as new styles. Create entirely new mixes & remixes, both as recordings and completely on the spot live.

And so on. And it wasn’t until I read Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, by Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton, that I understood all this AND that no matter what kind of music I create, I’ve always had a DJ’s mind. There’s artistry of sorts in ALL kinds of DJing, but not all DJs are artists. It’s those DJs who create something new that carries beyond the moment who are true artists. They don’t just give people a good night. They enter people’s bodies & souls and often transform their nights and their lives. They breathe life into old, new, familiar & obscure music, and put it all together like no one else. This is just a tiny taste of the history, theory & philosophy that makes Last Night a DJ Saved My Life the most comprehensive DJ book out there.

You can hear the DJ influence throughout my career, from the proto-me “Reflections”, to my early-mid 1990s experiments in electronica, to my electro infused later solo albums, to the straight out electro power pop of REC. Every REC album has the DJ mind behind it. The flow, the breaks, the production, the sounds, the exploration, the momentum. Listen to any of REC’s latest and you will totally understand, especially the first song below. The SECOND song – listen through and right after the solo you’ll hear the “filter roll” that Fatboy Slim made so famous:

“The Power of Repetition (Everlasting)” – REC (from the album Syncopy for the Weird)

“If It Feels All Right” – REC (from the album Parts and Labour)

Do you know Fatboy Slim or any of Norman Cook’s other incarnations? Are you a fan of DJs, mixing, dance music, or anything of the kind? Have you heard of this week’s very first MUSIC is not a GENRE featured book? Discuss dammit!


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