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Fatboy Slim Scores at MTV Awards, Takes DJ Art to Masses

Click to start multimedia slideshow View a multimedia slideshow of a recent Fatboy Slim performance

Listen to Lisa Simeone's report Listen to Lisa Simeone's interview with Fatboy Slim

Sept. 8, 2001 -- It's something of a "dream team" music video: Spike Jonze, one of the hottest young directors on the scene, directing the imposing Christopher Walken in a whimsical dance routine set to the Fatboy Slim tune Weapon of Choice.

Fatboy Slim
Fatboy Slim plays for a sold-out crowd in Washington, D.C.
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Photo: David Banks, NPR

Click to start multimedia slideshow View the multimedia slideshow

Click to start multimedia slideshow Watch the Weapon of Choice video.

The video won six awards in Thursday's MTV Video Music Awards and heralded the mainstream arrival of Fatboy Slim, who last year was the biggest British artist in America and remains the hottest ticket on the international dance-music circuit.

But Fatboy Slim -- whose real name is actually Norman Cook -- has a decidedly low-key weapon of choice: two professional-quality turntables, a mixing board and an Atari computer that was obsolete a decade ago.

Cook splits his time between jetting to exotic locales to play for standing-room-only crowds of beautiful people and helping care for his infant son at his home in the resort beach town of Brighton, England. Like the title of his breakthrough album You've Come a Long Way Baby Cook remembers playing for house parties two decades ago.

He recently found some time in his whirlwind schedule to sit for an interview with Lisa Simeone of Weekend All Things Considered. Fresh off the plane from Europe and only hours until his gig that night at a Washington, D.C., venue called the 9:30 Club, Cook was surprisingly talkative and full of energy.

"It doesn't mean anything. I've told so many different lies over the years about it I can't actually remember the truth. It's just an oxymoron -- a word that can't exist."

Norman Cook, on the origin of his moniker Fatboy Slim

First question: Where did the name come from?

"Thin air, really," he told Simeone. "It doesn't mean anything. I've told so many different lies over the years about it I can't actually remember the truth. It's just an oxymoron -- a word that can't exist.

"It kind of suits me -- it's kind of goofy and ironic," he says with a laugh.

Cook got his start in music playing for a pioneering English band called the Housemartins, and worked with other live bands for a dozen years. In the Housemartins, he played a bass guitar -- but he says that on his DJ albums he never plays an actual instrument.

"I play the bass badly, and there's no real live bass on the records," he says. "It has more to do with the nature of the music, because it's made up of chopped-up sound holes. And if a band played it, it would sound like a wedding band doing cover versions."

Fatboy Slim
Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim, says his music is "for the hips, not the head."
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Photo: David Banks, NPR

Cook was a local hero in the Brighton club circuit for years before his first hit, the 1995 track Santa Cruz. He became an international club star and You've Come a Long Way Baby eventually sold more than 1.5 million copies. He met his wife Zoe Bard, a BBC talk show host and radio personality, on the resort island of Ibiza, the figurative ground zero of dance club culture.

He says his latest album, Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars, is an acknowledgement of his attempt to reconcile his dance club past with his current celebrity status. He adds that his favorite thing to do is dive into used record bins at thrift stores "and buy boxes and boxes full of rubbish old albums, and just troll them to find one little noises that I like."

And how does he make those best-selling sounds?

"It's like learning to drive a stick shift," he says. "Once you've learned how to do it, it's quite easy. It's like listening to one record through one ear, and another through another.... It's like patting your head and rubbing your stomach."

Other Resources:

Astralwerks record label Web site

GutterAndStars.com -- Fatboy Slim's official Web site

Skint.com record label Web site