Big Norm looks back at another astonishing year for a true dance superstar
Welcome to DMC towers young man. A couple of weeks ago, Simon Cowell ditched his plans for a DJ X Factor show in the States – a project he announced he was going to “discover the greatest DJ in the world”. Thoughts on this whole fiasco?
“I was equally appalled and fascinated by the idea. Obviously Simon Cowell wanted to launch himself on the EDM bandwagon with his usual lack of tact or understanding. What excited me most was what criteria the DJs would be judged on….how much bling on their headphones perhaps? How many facebook followers they could buy in 3 minutes? Best outfit?”
You are in the middle of your Another Five Night Stand Autumn/Winter DJ tour with Sankeys and Cream both out of the way. You were one of the early stars at both clubs back in the day – what are the major changes, if any, you notice when DJing at places like this today?
“Nothing has really changed, thank god. No VIP areas round the DJ booths, no bottles of champagne with sparklers drifting round the dancefloor. Just honest to goodness timeless raving. It’s always good to get back to my roots after gallivanting my way through the summer season….”
You once said, “you can experience the download but you can never download the experience of going to see a band live.” What was the last great band you went to see?
“I was actually talking about DJs as well as bands. Nothing beats being there. The last truly great performance I saw was Elton John at Ibiza 123. A truly magic moment.. Everybody should also see Major Lazer live before they die.”
Love your insight into having a famous father in law Johnny Ball, you didn’t watch his science shows when you were a kid because you’d had enough of being taught stuff at school. So instead, you chat with him about football and you say he has a wicked sense of humour – Butlins Redcoats usually have! What does he think about your music?
“To be honest, when we met I don’t think johnny understood the concept of modern DJing any more than I understand mathematics. That was until he came to watch me at the first Big Beach Boutique on Brighton Beach. After that he came and gave me a special chat saying he understood what power the collective euphoria of us ‘drunken youngsters’ had and I think I earned his respect!”
Your parents followed the Kosmon faith, a faith that one of it’s aims is to bring mankind into harmony and unity. Exactly what acid house first set out to do. So perhaps their beliefs rubbed off on you in the end?
“Absolutely! Same vibe, slightly different approach!”
What has been your anthem of the summer?
“Chocolate Puma & Firebeatz – ‘Just One More Time, Baby’.”
Where is the strangest place you have ever heard one of your records played?
“In an episode of ‘Friends’…though the first time I was on the jukebox in the Queen Vic on Eastenders was pretty surreal.”
Tell us about the whole London Olympics experience. You don’t get to DJ in a giant inflatable octopus every day, what are your favourite memories from that little gig?
“Being up close and personal with Russell Brand’s bum crack wedged into that bus will be burnt into my memory for many a year. My favourite moment was when I realised that the hydraulics had worked and I was on top of the bus and the bloody octopus had inflated (it had been a bit temperamental during rehearsals….) if not I was going to be standing on a bus with no decks wishing I was in Spinal Tap…”
We come back to the lodgings of Mr Cook after the club, what is the Norman Cook Back To Mine Top 10 you spin us?
1. Mickey Moonlight – Come On Humans!
“A bizarre and bizarrely infectious message from planet moonlight. Works as well in the sunshine of ibiza as it does in the darkness of 4am.”
2. Django Django – ‘Zumm Zumm’
“Current Cook household favourites. This sounds like The Beach Boys would if they did acid house. The only sad bit is it fades out just when it’s getting proper squelchy, I yearn to hear the dubwise part 2…”
3. Trolle Siebenhaar – ‘Sweet Dogs’
“Sultry late night bluesey groove with just the right amount of sass and breakbeats. Sweet.”
4. infinity Ink – ‘Infinity’
“God bless Damien Lazarus for giving us this late night night anthem. A rally call to heads everywhere, so simple, so deep.”
5. Dan Reeder – ‘Pussy Heaven’
“Someone put this on a mixtape for me years ago and I just re-discovered it. Thoughtful close harmony blues which affirms that age old truth…..there just ain’t enough pussy in heaven to go round…”
6. Little Penguin – ‘Puce Moment’
“Just the film score side of new age. I’d rather hear this in a great movie than having a massage. Blissful strings and piano and a huge amount of space in between…”
7. Major Lazer – ‘Get Free’
“I still can’t get this out of my head after listening to it all summer. It’s one drop reggae, it’s trippy, it’s pop. One drop trip pop anyone? Diplo still manages to astound and confound all comers!
8. Jamie Graham – ‘Questions’
“Someone gave me this CD in Bali and I never got a chance to thank them once I’d listened to it. Check out the album (called ‘LMNOP’) if you want to hear what would happen if Al Green and the Isley Brothers had a Balinese lovechild. Please note, be careful when googling Jamie Graham because there is a porn starlet who shares the same name (apparently)…”
9. Harry Ray – ‘Ride Your Pony’
“Rare groove time. This is the rarest and grooviest. Sweet sexy soul from the 70’s for lovers and lotharios.”
10.Snoop Lion – ‘La La La’
“This has been the tune of the year in the our house and we’re still not bored of its old school rockers riddim. Snoop smokes too much of the righteous weed and has a unlikely rebirth as the son of Bob Marley. Class…”
Next week sees the release of the Big Beach Bootique 5 DVD, just in time for Christmas! What though do you want for Christmas?
“Oh the usual…world peace and socks.”
The event took place in your beloved Brighton FC’s football ground. What was your biggest thrill of that whole experience?
“Driving my sister’s ‘palookaville’ VW camper van right onto the middle of the pitch and parking it there to see the stage built. That’s when I realised it really was gonna happen and that it really was my home stadium. It’s every schoolboy’s dream to play in his team’s ground, mine came true!”
Are there plans for a return leg next summer?
“I think we will do it again but not every year. It’s a huge amount of work to pull it off and it wouldn’t be quite so special if we did it every year. Big Beach 5 in Tokyo next summer…”
One of the great thrills for a music lover used to be stumbling on that rare piece of vinyl they’d been looking for in some dusty old record shop. Today music is so accessible, cheap and the album is pretty much now defunct with people picking what songs they like and simply downloading them. Added to that the fact that it’s now down to the consumer to be in charge of quality control! So is there any light at the end of the tunnel for this crumbling industry…?
“It’s swings and roundabouts. Music is so accessible it is almost disposable, there is no concept of obscurity or rarity so nothing can be ‘cult’ anymore. On the upside though, you can create your own cult almost instantly worldwide and find and communicate with like minded people at the touch of a button. All hail the new trainspotters…”
If you had to grab one piece of vinyl to keep from your collection, what would it be?
“The original smiley picture cover 12” of ‘Psycho Killer’ by Talking Heads. Signed by David Byrne.”
You haven’t been in the studio for a while, not since Riva Starr, stating that you’re enjoying being a DJ animal and not a studio beast at the moment. So Mr Cook, how on earth do you fill your days these days?
“They seem to fill themselves without me having to do it! Two children and a nasty gym habit play their part. Playing 70+ shows a year means a lot of travelling. I’m not making excuses. As soon as I have a urge to make more records I will. I’m just between urges…”
You are now one of the healthiest DJs in the world, tea-total and drug free. The last two years has seen a hell of a lot of 15/16 year old producers emerge from Europe and America who have a proper management team, PR company, touring and arse licking people all controlling them before they have left school. When I interview them the mere mention of booze and gear gets them recoiling in horror at the mere thought of letting their hair down. What are your thoughts on the modern, teenage producer today and the fun they may never see in their careers…?
“You can’t talk the talk without walking the walk. I would advise all young DJs to explore getting as high as their audience to understand what the crowd want. Getting mashed in some shape or form is part and parcel of club culture and should be compulsory for all DJs before they get their public entertainment licence. For fuck’s sake let your hair down while you still have enough…”
Talk us through that first DJ gig you did sober. Looking back, how did you perform and do you think the crowd knew you were just getting off on the music and not a belly full of beer?
“I was pretty much rigid with fear, I couldn’t dance coz I was so stiff. I kinda knew that if I couldn’t still enjoy it sober I was fucked so there was a lot riding on it. I think I played fine if a little nervy. Luckily I was in Newcastle on a Friday night and hence everyone was so caned they neither noticed or cared whether I was drunk or not. This helped. I went home thinking, ‘thank you, Newcastle. I still have a career…..’
Who are the artists you are listening to at the moment at home or in the car?
“c.w. Stoneking, Django Django, anything by Chocolate Puma, Gregor Salto or Solomun…”
It’s your birthday, who are the five celebrities dead or alive you invite round for dinner and who plays at the after party?
“Eric Morecambe, Bill Hicks, Shepard Fairey, Meg Ryan (circa the 80’s) Jeff Lebowski. Music by Justin Robertson.”