Norman Quentin Cook (born Quentin Leo Cook), also known by his stage name Fatboy Slim, is an English DJ, musician and record producer/mixer.
As a solo electronic act, he has won ten MTV Video Music Awards and two Brit Awards. His records as Fatboy Slim also helped to popularise the big beat genre, which achieved mainstream popularity in the 1990s.
Cook first rose to fame in the 1980s as the bassist of the indie rock band The Housemartins who scored a UK number-one single with their a cappella cover of Isley-Jasper-Isley’s “Caravan of Love”. After the band split, Cook formed Beats International whose début album spawned their signature hit, “Dub Be Good to Me” which was another UK number-one as well as going on to become the seventh best-selling single of 1990 in the UK. Cook then went on to join numerous other acts including Freak Power, Pizzaman and The Mighty Dub Katz to moderate success.
Cook adopted the Fatboy Slim moniker in 1996 and released Better Living Through Chemistry to critical acclaim. Follow-ups You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby, Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars, and Palookaville, as well as their associated singles, including “The Rockafeller Skank”, “Praise You”, “Right Here, Right Now”, “Weapon of Choice”, and “Wonderful Night”, were also met with positive reviews and commercial success.
In 2008, Cook founded a project called The Brighton Port Authority. Cook has been responsible for successful remixes for Cornershop, Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest, Groove Armada, and Wildchild.
Life and career
1963–1984: Early life and career beginnings
Quentin Leo Cook was born in Bromley, raised in Reigate, Surrey, England, and educated at Reigate Grammar School. He played drums in Disque Attack, a British new wave-influenced rock band. When frontman Charlie Alcock was told by his parents that he had to give up the band to concentrate on his O levels, Cook took over as lead vocalist. At The Railway Tavern in Reigate, Cook met Paul Heaton with whom he formed the Stomping Pondfrogs.
At 18, Cook went to Brighton Polytechnic to read a B.A. in English, politics, and sociology, where he achieved a 2(1) in the British Studies honors course. Although he had begun DJing some years before, it was at this time that he began to develop his skills on the thriving Brighton club scene, regularly appearing at the Brighton Belle and the students’ favorite The Basement, where known as DJ Quentox he began laying the base for Brighton’s hip hop scene.
1985–1995: The Housemartins to The Mighty Dub Katz
In 1985, Cook’s friend Paul Heaton had formed a guitar band called The Housemartins. Their bassist left on the eve of their first national tour, so Cook agreed to move to Hull to join them. The band soon had a hit single with “Happy Hour”, and their two albums, London 0 Hull 4 and The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death, peaked in the Top 10 of the UK Albums Chart. They also reached number one just before Christmas 1986 with a version of “Caravan of Love”, originally a hit the year before for Isley-Jasper-Isley. However, by 1988 they had split up. Heaton and the band’s drummer Dave Hemingway went on to form The Beautiful South, while Cook moved back to Brighton to pursue his interest in the style of music he preferred. It was at this time that he first started working with young studio engineer Simon Thornton, with whom he continues to make records. All of Cook’s records released from that point onwards have involved both of them to varying degrees (Thornton is credited in 2004 as “Executive Producer”, for example).
Cook achieved his first solo hit in 1989, featuring his future Beats International member MC Wildski, called “Blame It on the Bassline”. Credited to “Norman Cook feat. MC Wildski”, the song followed the basic template of what was to come in the style of the music of Beats International. It became a modest hit in the UK Singles Chart, reaching number 29.
Cook formed Beats International, a loose confederation of studio musicians including vocalists Lindy Layton, Lester Noel, D.J. Baptiste, rapper MC Wildski, and keyboardist Andy Boucher. Their first album, Let Them Eat Bingo, included the number one single “Dub Be Good to Me”, which caused a legal dispute revolving around allegations of infringement of copyright through the liberal use of unauthorised samples: the bassline was a note-for-note lift from “The Guns of Brixton” by The Clash and the lyrics borrowed heavily from “Just Be Good to Me” by The S.O.S. Band. This bankrupted Cook as he lost the case and was ordered to pay back twice the royalties made on the record. The 1991 follow-up album Excursion on the Version, an exploration of dub and reggae music, failed to repeat the success of its predecessor, as it did not chart.
Cook then formed Freak Power with horn player Ashley Slater and singer Jesse Graham. They released their debut album Drive-Thru Booty in 1994, which contained the single “Turn On, Tune In, Cop Out”. The cut was picked up by the Levi’s company for use in a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign. In 1996, Cook re-joined Freak Power for their second album, More of Everything for Everybody.
Cook enlisted help from producer friends Tim Jeffery and JC Reid to create a house music album under the name Pizzaman. The 1995 Pizzamania album spawned three UK Top 40 hits: “Trippin’ on Sunshine”, “Sex on the Streets”, and “Happiness”. “Happiness” was picked up by the Del Monte Foods corporation for use in a UK fruit juice ad. The music videos for the three singles were all directed by Michael Dominic.
Cook also formed the group The Mighty Dub Katz along with Gareth Hansome (aka GMoney), Cook’s former flatmate. Together they started the Boutique Nightclub in Brighton, formerly known as the Big Beat Boutique. Their biggest song together was “Magic Carpet Ride”.
1996–2008: Fatboy Slim
Cook adopted the new pseudonym Fatboy Slim in 1996. Cook says of the name: “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.”
The Fatboy Slim album and Cook’s second solo album, Better Living Through Chemistry (released through Skint Records), contained the Top 40 UK hit “Everybody Needs a 303”. Fatboy Slim’s next work was the single “The Rockafeller Skank”, released prior to the album You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby, both of which were released in 1998. “Praise You”, also from this album, was Cook’s first UK solo number one. Its music video, starring Spike Jonze, won numerous awards. On 9 September 1999, he performed “Praise You” at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards in New York City, and won three awards, including the award for Breakthrough Video. The 2000 album also included “Sunset (Bird of Prey),” whose socially significant video sampled the 1964 “Daisy Girl” campaign ad.
In 2000, Fatboy Slim released his third studio album, Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars, and featured two collaborations with Macy Gray and “Weapon of Choice”, which also was made into an award-winning music video, starring Christopher Walken. At the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards in New York, Fatboy Slim won six awards for “Weapon of Choice”, the most awards at the ceremony.
In 2003, he produced Crazy Beat and Gene by Gene from the Blur album Think Tank, and in 2004, Palookaville was Cook’s first studio album for four years.
Fatboy Slim’s greatest hits album, Why Try Harder, was released on 19 June 2006. It comprises eighteen tracks, including ten Top 40 singles, a couple of Number Ones and two exclusive new tracks – “Champion Sound” and “That Old Pair of Jeans”.
In 2006, Cook travelled to Cuba, and wrote and produced two original Cuban crossover tracks for the album The Revolution Presents: Revolution, which was released by Studio ! K7 and Rapster Records in 2009. The tracks were called “Shelter” (which featured long term collaborator Lateef); and “Siente Mi Ritmo”, featuring Cuba’s top female vocal group Sexto Sentido. The recordings took place in Cuba’s legendary EGREM Studios, home of the Buena Vista Social Club, and featured a band made up of Cuba’s top young musicians, including Harold Lopez Nussa. Another track recorded during these sessions entitled “Guaguanco” was released separately under the Mighty Dub Katz moniker in 2006.
2008–2012: The Brighton Port Authority
The Brighton Port Authority debuted in 2008 with a collaboration with David Byrne and Dizzee Rascal titled “Toe Jam”, along with a music video featuring nude dancers with censor bars on them, making pictures and words with them.
The soundtrack album for the TV series Heroes also includes The Brighton Port Authority’s track “He’s Frank (Slight Return)” (a cover of a song by The Monochrome Set), with Iggy Pop as vocalist. The video for this track features a near life size puppet of Iggy Pop. An alternative club version was released under the “He’s Frank (Washing Up)” title with the video featuring some footage of Iggy Pop acting and saying lyrics.
The band’s first album, I Think We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat, is the first to be co-produced by Cook’s longtime engineer Simon Thornton, who also sings on one track. The album was released 6 January 2009 exclusively at Amazon.com on CD, with downloadable format and other stores scheduled for a month later on 3 February.
Cook released a mix album in 2010 titled The Legend Returns as a covermount album in the June 2010 issue of Mixmag. Cook returned as Fatboy Slim when performing at Ultra Music Festival in Miami in March 2012.
On 12 August 2012 he performed at the 2012 Summer Olympics Closing Ceremony, and on 1 September Cook performed at Brighton Pride.
Cook produced the single “Mama Do the Hump” by fellow Brighton band Rizzle Kicks released in December 2011 which peaked at 2 in the charts.
Cook has been responsible for successful remixes for Cornershop, Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest, and Wildchild. In 2008, he did a remix of the track “Amazonas” for the charity Bottletop.
Cook has also achieved a Number 3 hit with “Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat”, in October 2013. It was aided by a remix from Calvin Harris, and Beardyman provides the vocals.
In May 2015, Cook compiled The Fatboy Slim Collection, an album of songs used throughout his sets over the years.
On 13 July 2002, Fatboy Slim performed the second of his free, open-air concerts on Brighton Beach, Brighton, named the Big Beach Boutique II. Although organisers expected a crowd of around 60,000 people, the event instead attracted an estimated 250,000 who crammed the promenade and beach between Brighton’s piers. Local police forced the event to end early amid safety concerns, overcrowding, and one death.
After the music had finished and the crowd began to dissipate, there was huge traffic congestion throughout the Brighton area with many caught in traffic jams until the morning.
In June 2005, Fatboy Slim filled the Friday night headline slot on the “Other Stage” at the Glastonbury Festival. In 2006, Fatboy Slim filled the Saturday headline slot at the Global Gathering festival at Long Marston Airfield in the English Midlands. He played a two-hour set, appearing in front of a visual stage set comprising video screens and 3D lighting. A firework display rounded off the show. Having been banned by police from playing in Brighton since 2002, Fatboy Slim was given permission in 2006 to play again in his home town. On 1 January 2007, he played to an audience of more than 20,000 fans along Brighton’s seafront. Tickets to the event, titled “Fatboy Slim’s Big Beach Boutique 3”, were made available only to Brighton residents. The concert was deemed a stunning success by Sussex police, Fatboy Slim, and the crowd. The Cuban Brothers and David Guetta opened the concert. The next similar event, ‘Big Beach Boutique 4’, was held on 27 September 2008.
In 2008, Fatboy Slim played at the Glastonbury Festival again and headlined the O2 Wireless Festival and Rockness Festival. According to an NME interview, this may have been one of the last times he performed as Fatboy Slim, as he may now be focussing on his new album, The Brighton Port Authority (BPA). Also in 2008, Fatboy Slim closed out the famed “Sahara” tent on Friday of the Coachella Valley Music Festival. His introduction included a Charlie and the Chocolate Factoryopening, that has been called by many one of the most memorable Sahara performances ever.
In 2009, he toured Australia in the Good Vibrations Festival. Also in 2009, he played in Marlay Park, Dublin alongside David Guetta, Dizzee Rascal, and Calvin Harris, as well as one huge performance at the Sziget Festival in Budapest. He also performed at V Festival 2009.
At Glastonbury 2009, he played an unadvertised concert in the “pinball-machine” stage at trash city.
In 2010, Fatboy Slim headlined the east dance at Glastonbury Festival. On 18 June 2010, he performed in Cape Town, South Africa as part of the Cool Britannia FIFA World Cup music festival at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. He also performed in Napoli on 15 July, at Neapolis Festival. On 30 May 2011, he performed as the headliner for Detroit’s Movement Electronic Music Festival in Detroit, Michigan, USA. On 25 September 2011, Fatboy Slim headlined the Terrace at Ibiza’s famed Space nightclub’s We Love Sundays closing party. On 29 October 2011, Fatboy Slim opened at the San Francisco Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, following up on the 30th, closing out the Red Bulletin/Le PLUR Stage at the Voodoo Music Experience in New Orleans, Louisiana. On Saturday, 24 March 2012, Fatboy Slim performed a live DJ set on the main stage at Ultra Music Festival in Miami, Florida. In addition to his other 2011 performances, Fatboy Slim also played a headline gig at the Bestival in the Isle of Wight on 11 September.
In March 2012, Cook hosted a one-hour radio programme, titled On The Road To Big Beach Bootique 5, on XFM. It consisted of 10 shows.
He performed his famous remix of The Rockafeller Skank, dubbed the ‘Funk Soul Brother’ at the closing ceremony for the 2012 Summer Olympics, on top of a giant inflatable octopus which emerged from the top of a party bus.
In 2013, Fatboy Slim played at Ultra Music Festival, Wavefront Music Festival, Exit Festival, Bestival, and Glastonbury Festival (as a special guest on the Wow! and Arcadia stages).
On 6 March 2013, Fatboy Slim played at the House of Commons in Westminster, London. This was the first time that a DJ had ever performed there, and was in aid of the Last Night A DJ Saved My Life Foundation, which is aimed at encouraging 16- to 25-year-olds to get more involved in their communities through grassroot initiatives and to raise awareness for community music projects.
In May 2014, Fatboy Slim played in Essex at the We Are FSTVL and was the biggest act on the bill, playing for nearly two hours.
In December 2014, Fatboy Slim played 3 sold out shows including The Warehouse Project in Manchester & O2 Brixton Academy, with supporting acts such as VAS with Arthur Baker for Slam Dunk’d, and DJ Fresh.[
On May 15, 2016 he played a private two-hour set “Baby Loves Disco” for pre-school children and their parents during the festival Brighton Fringe holding.
At Glastonbury 2016, he played the John Peel stage for the first time.
Known as DJ Quentox (The OX that Rocks), Cook and DJ Baptiste started putting on youth club hip hop jams in Brighton, sowing the seeds of the city’s flourishing hip hop scene today. These primitive 1980s block parties are recalled in the music documentary South Coast, which documents Brighton’s cult hip hop scene from its grass roots to the present day. Cook was awarded a star on the city of Brighton’s Walk of Fame, next to that of Winston Churchill. Qmagazine named Fatboy Slim part of their “50 Bands to See Before You Die” list.[
He married TV personality Zoë Ball in 1999 at Babington House in Somerset; in January 2003, Cook broke up with Ball, but three months later they reconciled They have a son named Woody Fred Cook (born 15 December 2000) and a daughter named Nelly May Lois (born 14 January 2010), and live in Western Esplanade, Hove.[On 24 September 2016 they announced their separation after 18 years together.
Cook is a 12% shareholder of Brighton & Hove Albion, the football club he has supported since moving to Brighton in the late 1980s.
On 4 March 2009, Cook checked into a rehabilitation centre in Bournemouth to fight a “booze addiction” that he has been battling “for some time”. Due to an extended stay in rehab, his performance at Snowbombing, a week-long winter sports and music festival held in the Austrian ski resort of Mayrhofen, was cancelled – with the slot being filled by 2ManyDJs. Cook then left the clinic at the end of March.
Cook completed the inaugural Brighton Marathon on 18 April 2010 in a time of 4:53:10.
Bands and pseudonyms
- Norman Cook (name by deed poll)
- Beats International (1989–1992)
- The Brighton Port Authority (2008–present)
- Cheeky Boy
- Disque Attack
- DJ Delite (used in DJ Tools e.g. acapellas, for Fatboy Slim singles)
- DJ Quentox (The Ox that Rocks)
- Double Trouble
- Drunk Soul Brother (Glastonbury 2004)
- Fatboy Slim (1996–present)
- The Feelgood Factor
- Freak Power (1993–1996)
- Fried Funk Food
- The Housemartins (Bassist from 1985 to 1988)
- Mighty Dub Katz (“Magic Carpet Ride” dance song, 1995 and “Work it, Work it”)
- Pizzaman (1993–1997)
- Rockaway 3
- Son of a Cheeky Boy
- Son of Wilmot
- Stomping Pondfrogs
- Sunny Side Up
- Yum Yum Head Food
- Quinton Fortune (1996–2006)
- Arthur Chubb
- Margret Scratcher
- Grime Minister
- Asher D. Slim (2002)
- Hot Since 63
- Leo Sayer
- Mighty Gus Poyetz
- Biggie Slims
- Cook Da Bass
- Pierre Burner Down
- Slimboy Fat
- Brit Award for Best British Newcomer (1987): The Housemartins
- Brit Awards for Best British Dance Act (1999)
- MTV Award for Breakthrough Video: Praise You (1999)
- MTV Award for Best Direction in a Video: Praise You (Torrance Community Dance Group)(1999)
- MTV Award for Best Choreography in a Video: Praise You (Richard Koufey and Michael Rooney)(1999)
- Brit Award for Best British Dance Act (2001)
- MTV Award for Breakthrough Video: Weapon of Choice (2001)
- MTV Award for Best Direction in a Video: Weapon of Choice (Spike Jonze) (2001)
- MTV Award for Best Choreography in a Video: Weapon of Choice (Michael Rooney, Spike Jonze and Christopher Walken) (2001)
- MTV Award for Best Direction in a Video: Weapon of Choice (Val Wilt) (2001)
- MTV Award for Best Editing in a Video; Weapon of Choice (Eric Zumbrunnen) (2001)
- MTV Award for Best Cinematography in a Video: Weapon of Choice (Lance Acord) (2001)
- Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video Weapon of Choice (2002)
- Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music (2007)
Cook was a judge for the 6th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists’ careers.
In February 2015, Cook was given the University of Brighton’s Alumnus Award for his contribution to the music industry and his support for the institution where he studied in the 1980s.
- Better Living Through Chemistry (1996)
- You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby (1998)
- Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars (2000)
- Palookaville (2004)
- Here Lies Love (with David Byrne) (2010)