“Music for the heads rather than just the hips. Straight from the lounge of the funk soul brother”
It’s just before 8am, early to be calling anyone for an interview but I know Norman is an early riser and the phone is duly answered on the second ring.
“It’s lovely to hear the sound of a Brighton seagull in the background” I say, commenting on the squawking bird noise in the background.
“Haha, not quite Dan. That’s actually an Annie Lennox track I was listening to!”
It was a promising start.
This week sees the launch of the new Back To Mine album, an event that always sends tingles down collectors’ spines in anticipation of delving into another personal playlist from the world’s biggest artists. Let’s be honest, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of spotting a Back To Mine at someone’s house and realising that they too are in this special club; brilliant album covers such as the glowing Groove Armada lightbulb, Faithless nonchalantly lounging fireside or the unmistakable iconic graphics of illustrator Tommy Fenton on Everything But The Girl, Röyksopp and New Order.
It’s one thing dancing in a festival field to your favourite artist, but it’s another thing entirely being invited back to their house and letting them indulge us with the tunes that they play behind closed doors. And what a musical insight we’ve had over the years with the Back To Mine collection; we can now envisage Danny Tenaglia slipping into his rolltop bath with Roy Ayers in the background, Liam Howlett padding around his Essex country estate with Dolly Parton belting out, Carl Cox chilling by his Melbourne pool with The Style Council as his sunbathing soundtrack and the Pet Shop Boys, naturally, getting ready to disco with Queen as their accompaniment. Welcome to the magic of Back To Mine; a personal collection for after-hours grooving where an unexpected treasure is around every corner.
Which is why the new Fatboy Slim release has been so eagerly anticipated around the world. I mean, who’s house is on the top of EVERYONE’S list when you ask them where you would like to go for a bit of afters? Fatboy’s right? The tales of his all back to mine antics after DJing at The Boutique are legendary; three, four and five day marathon parties where only the strong survived, were disco lights throbbed in his Victorian terrace toilet, rave friendly Astroturf replaced carpets and where all neighbours should have received knighthoods for Services To Patience.
“The reason why we got away with it for so long was because our living room was in the basement” chuckles Norman. Our neighbours would always tell me ‘don’t worry Norman, we can’t hear any music from your parties. The only problem we’ve got is your bloody door knocker going off every five minutes through the night.” So we had to gaffer tape the door knocker and everyone then had to tap on the window to get in – we never heard a peep from them again.”
Fatboy’s Back To Mine album is a wonderful journey through his fifty seven years of music. Running through the tracklisting with him is a joyous thing; I feel like I am being taken backstage and through a beautiful sonic scrapbook of his life as he meanders from one musical memory to the next. “Only last week a stranger came up to me in the street and said ‘Norm you won’t remember me, but it was me who sold you a Rare Groove bootleg album from my market stall in Camden that I know you used to sample ‘Praise You’.” Lovely nuggets like that purr out of his mouth as he leaves the Camille Yarborough track behind and moves onto the next track on the album, Wind’s ‘Grooving With Mr. Bloe’. “Ahhh, a track that we nearly covered in The Housemartins but Paul Heaton couldn’t learn the bloody harmonica part. I used to play it a lot at the Boutique around the same time that I used to play ‘Sliced Tomatoes’ by Just Brothers… which later became my ‘Rockafeller Skank’.”
Born Quentin Cook on July 16, 1963, in Bromley, Kent, Norman is the son of an MBE holding environmental consultant father and a schoolteacher mum. “I suppose my very first adventures into the world of back to mine sessions were actually in the back of our family car, stuck in traffic on long journeys when we’d all sing together, each taking harmonies as the world slid by. My parents would play us The Beatles, The Carpenters or Peter, Paul & Mary and we’d be singing like idiots, but at the same time making a beautiful noise because my parents could really sing. We all had this sheer love of music and it was the first time in my life that I understood the sheer joy sharing music could bring to people.”