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Fatboy Slim: Stormin’ Norman Heads Down Under

Longevity in the entertainment business is an elusive concept. Slippery as an eel. Statistically pretty bloody unlikely.

fatboy slim 2018-1

Evidence shows that lengthy success requires an artist to either (a) regularly reinvent their showbiz persona and take a punt (see: Bowie, Madonna, Prince), or (b) find something they do particularly well and just keep hammering away (see: AC/DC, The Rolling Stones).

For every rule there are exceptions, however, and it could be argued that Fatboy Slim is pretty unique in that he has done a bit of both.

On one hand, the Englishman has spent over 20 years honing an instantly-recognisable DJ-ing style and hasn’t put out a studio album since 2004. On the other, he’s the guy with an armful of aliases, a continually-evolving method of effecting euphoria, and a back story as interesting and varied as most.

With appearances locked in at the third Electric Gardens festival in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide through January, the bonafide EDM legend is bringing his unique party-starting style (and trademark Hawaiian shirts) back to Australia just two years after his last shows here.

It’s safe to assume he’ll be bringing his A game, as always.

“Australian crowds, they’re not shy,” he told Red Bull last year.

“And that’s always my favourite kind of crowd. It’s also a beautiful country to visit.”

While music-lovers now have a pretty good idea of what to expect from a Fatboy Slim show, it’s been a long journey for the 54 year-old to get to where he is today.

The man also known as Norman Cook has come a long way, baby, since being a skinny, pale Housemartin singing a cover of Isley-Jasper-Isley’s ‘Caravan of Love’ on Britain’s Top of the Pops in 1986 or reinventing The Clash’s basslines for Beats International’s smash ‘Dub Be Good to Me’ at the turn of the ’90s (and the coming of ecstasy).

In 1996, his world changed. The Fatboy Slim moniker was born (a name plucked from “thin air” he told NPR in 2001), he released the triple-platinum-selling You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby album a couple of years later, and a swag of awards and international recognition in the process.

A superstar DJ was born.

The transition required a new persona, meaning he became “like James Brown without the band,” he told The Guardian recently.

“I started cheerleading the crowd and showing off. Whenever I play, I kick off my shoes, put on my Hawaiian shirt and revert to being a 17-year-old who’s had one too many ciders.”

More hit records and a never-ending whirlwind of parties, festivals, gigs, travelling and even more festivals, gigs and parties lead to him not only becoming one of the biggest names in dance music worldwide, but also alcohol-dependent – a situation he didn’t address until 2009.

Sobriety called for further transition so the Fatboy Slim party didn’t suffer. He says a genuine love of the music and his audience keeps him as keen as ever.

“The people I play the music to … keep me inspired and amused,” he told Time Out this year.

“Last year was fun and I fully intend to deliver more of the same. I just try and makes sure there’s a little bit of everything for everyone.

“If you wanna party, age doesn’t matter!”

“It’s strange, especially when you travel around, [but] I always have a look at the crowd before I go on to see roughly how I’m going to approach it,” he told Noisey.

Naturally the transition to a sober life was a more serious affair than simply adjusting his approach to a show.

“I kind of lived the life of Fatboy Slim 24 hours a day for about a decade, and it nearly killed me,” he said in an interview with Digital DJ Tips.

“It’s untenable to try and live like that all the time, you’re not a responsible citizen, and you shouldn’t be left in control of children.

“So I kind of figured that the only way I’d do it was quit drinking, for starters, just to give me a bit more longevity, and also just to separate the onstage person from the offstage persona.”

Fans old and new are benefiting from the change too.

“[Sobriety has] prolonged my DJing life,” he told Noisey.

“And my actual life. It’s nice to be 54 and able to jump around at 5am. A lot of that is through being fit. But seriously, the whole thing is just vanity; self-preservation.”

Now a veteran of EDM and a stalwart of the music business, he’s in a good position to assess the scene – with the help of a clear head.

“A lot of the old school DJs are properly weird characters, whereas the new school are young, good-looking, but not hugely interesting,” he told Noisey.

“A lot of them are interchangeable.”

With fire still clearly in his belly and a desire for playing shows stronger than ever, Fatboy Slim is not in the mood to hang up his headphones just yet.

Retirement is an impossibility when he’s only just successfully learned how to separate his onstage and offstage personae, he recently told The Guardian.

“For me, Pete Tong, Carl Cox, we are the first wave of big DJs so there’s no precedent [to retirement],” he said.

“As I get older, Norman’s increasingly obsessed with fridge management and being a responsible dad and husband. He only lets Fatboy out of the box on stage now – Fatboy’s still a lunatic hedonist.”

For someone who has been there from the start to still be at the top of his game more than 20 years later is more than unlikely; it’s almost impossible, and Fatboy Slim’s long and eclectic contribution to music has arguably earned him the right to dictate his own future.

“I’ll step down when either the crowds or I stop enjoying it,” he told The Guardian.

“Neither of which has happened thus far.”

Fatboy Slim plays Electic Gardens Festival:

Friday 19th January
Red Hill Auditorium, Perth

Thursday 25th January
The Marquee, Brisbane

Friday 26th January
Centennial Parklands, Sydney

For Scenestr

Interview: Uberjak’d

uberjak'd

BEN Grzywacz – a.k.a. Uberjak’d – is fast becoming one of the hottest names on the Australian DJ scene. He’ll be joining a stellar line-up for the national Future Music Festival tour.

Hi Ben, how’s life, and what have you been up to recently?

Great! I’ve just been moving house, which as anyone who has moved knows sucks, but [I’ve] almost moved into the new joint and loving the extra space and new studio. I’m also just about to start Future Music and Goodlife Festival tours, which I am amped for.

What can fans expect from the shows?

Well I’m going to be testing out a lot of new tunes which I have been working on for my EPs for Dim Mak and Mixmash; I am humbled to be a part of the national tour this year. I remember as a young kid it was the first festival I ever attended, so to be on the national tour is something never in a million years I would have thought would be possible.

Will you get a chance to check out any other artists? Is there anyone further down the bill you’d recommend?

Well, I can’t wait for Prydz; for me, he was one of the guys that really inspired me to write music. He was always able to bring the melody and feeling with an upbeat energy. It’s also his first time playing in Australia, which is a pretty big deal!

What releases or remixes do you have in the pipeline right now?

Okay, so literally once I finish this interview, I’m getting started on a remix for Deorro. I can’t say much more than that though. I have a heap of originals coming with my Dim Mak EP featuring four tracks; ‘The Moment’ with Sarah Bodle is coming out very soon, I have an EP with Mixmash coming later in the year, as well as collabs with Will Sparks, Deorro, Zoolanda, Slice n Dice, J-trick Kronic and Chardy.

You recently had your first international gig in New Zealand. How was it?

Yeah it was an awesome experience! Really hope I can go over there again some time, New Zealand is a beautiful place.

How do you rate the club scene in Australia right now? Are there too many government restrictions?

Ugh, don’t even get me started on the lock outs; I have been going out to clubs almost every weekend for four years and I am still in one piece. It’s not the clubs that are the problem, it’s the streets. Apart from that, the club scene is great; Australia is getting a great reputation worldwide for its sound, so it’s a great time to be an Aussie (when isn’t it!)

I read that you’re heading to America soon. What is the plan for the trip?

I can’t wait for America, I’m going to be doing my first international tour, which is 14 dates over a month. As well as that, it’s WMC which I can’t wait for, I’ve heard it gets crazy over there in Miami around that time.

How do you respond to people saying DJs aren’t really playing live music?

I guess people that don’t understand it will say that, but DJing is an art. It’s like showing a million dollar piece of artwork to some bogan down at Centrelink (for those non-Aussies, that’s a welfare office and a redneck); they will probably not understand it and say it’s just a piece of card with some paint on it. But to the educated, it’s a masterpiece and they can appreciate the art and what the artists was trying to make them feel, I think DJing is a lot like this. In saying that, there are good and bad artists, just like DJs.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?

Spend more time in the studio! I never get as much time to do it as I want. Thanks for the chat and hopefully catch you next time I’m in your hood.

FUTURE MUSIC FESTIVAL DATES

Saturday 1 March – RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane
Sunday 2 March – Arena Joondalup, Perth
Saturday 8 March – Royal Randwick Racecourse, Sydney
Sunday 9 March – Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne
Monday 10 March – Adelaide Showgrounds, Adelaide

Live review: Aviici + New World Sound + Joel Fletcher – Brisbane Riverstage – 24/1/14

One of the most in-demand DJs in the world right now, 24 year-old Tim Bergling – a.k.a. Aviici – brought his True album tour to Brisbane’s Riverstage on a nastily humid Friday evening for his first major Australian concert. Not since Future Music Festival have so many pairs of short shorts been on a single patch of grass at once, as an all-ages crowd collectively champed at the bit to have their eardrums assaulted by Sweden’s finest.

After an opening set by Melbourne up-and-comer Joel Fletcher, Gold Coast duo New World Sound get the sold-out audience bouncing with their trademark high-energy dance tunes and calls to the audience to get excited for “our boy Aviici”.

By the time our boy arrives at the relatively early time of 7:55, there is a palpable sense of release among the diverse audience as chants of “Aviici, Aviici” reverberate around the natural amphitheatre of the Riverstage and the DJ opens with the country-house number ‘Hey Brother’, followed closely by the piano-led ‘Long Road To Hell’. When it’s time for ‘You Make Me’ several hundred people are bouncing in unison in front of the stage, as thousands of streamers, jets of smoke and retina-searing lasers engulf the audience, and the sound is probably loud enough to be heard in the DJ’s homeland. By the time his remix of Calvin Harris’s ‘Sweet Nothing’ rolls around, the Swede has the audience eating out of his hand; and this is the scene which plays out until the venue’s curfew of 10pm, when the audience file out of the exits a little drained, but very elated.

Interview: Paul Van Dyk

paul van dyk

If there ever was such a thing as a DJ royal family, German superstar Paul Van Dyk would probably be considered the king. Having sold over 4.5 million albums worldwide, consistently been voted the number one DJ of all time by industry magazines, and been in the business longer than most, he is a bona fide legend of the DJ-ing and electronic music world. An album of new material is in the works for early 2014, before he graces our shores to play Future Music Festival in March.

Hi Paul, what can fans expect from your show at Future Music Festival?

I have a new album in the pipeline, so there will be a lot of new music, but people always ask me to play some of my music that I’ve done in the past, so it’s going to be a very intense combination of both. The other thing is, of course, the way I perform and play my music is somewhat different because I use keyboards, computers, and custom-made mixers on-stage, and all sorts of different things that enable me to actually play very, very lively.

What can you tell us about your new album? What does it sound like?

Well, it’s electronic music and it consists of a lot of collaborations with people I really admire, as well as people that are up-and-coming and very talented. I can’t wait for it to be out and about. Some of the collaborations are in the early stages, so I can’t tell you yet!

How have you managed to stay at the top your game for such a long time?

Well I’m very passionate about it, and I’m not bending my back towards whatever is the latest trending sound whatsoever. That authenticity is what I believe people appreciate about it. The other thing as well is I’m not just pressing a button and raising my hand to the audience. I’m entertaining people in a much more intense way, by playing instruments and I believe that’s a very successful element of why I’m still around.

What’s more important to you, putting out albums or performing shows?

They come together; you can’t really take them apart. From the very beginning I have been a recording artist as much as a DJ or musician or performer or radio presenter. All these things always came naturally to me as one thing, so I can’t take these things apart at all.

How important has it for you to change and evolve throughout your career?

It’s always been a normal process for me. It’s not like I’m sitting down with a marketing team and saying I need to change this or that, or only wear green, or only wear red. To me, music and the art-form of electronic music comes in a very natural way. I’m always interested in something new, so my music and the way I perform always evolves. For me, electronic music always had something to do with breaking boundaries on the creative side, and on with people using new technologies as well. A lot of my production gear and stage set-up is always evolving as well, so it’s not something I strategically plan, but it’s more like an artistic progression.

How do you keep on top of all the new technology available to you?

Whenever there’s something new, I read about it and try it. In terms of production technology, there are so many possibilities these days, and I’ll find out about things and learn about them. What I do is never about resting on what I have achieved; it’s always about looking forward towards the next element that can enrich the performance or production. My set-up is like a mobile studio and everything is necessary, and I can actually construct a track completely live, going from channel to channel by first programming some drums, and adding a bass-line or some strings. That in itself is a very creative tool. I also have a custom-made controller that enables me to do all the levelling that is necessary completely organically, which is something that is very special. I also have a mixer, and there are only three of them in the world; it’s kind-of like very organic media mapping if I want to; if I feel like I need the top left corner button to do something, I can just quickly do it. That in itself makes it a very lively way to bring the music across, and that is what I enjoy about it.

Do you write a piece of music with a collaborator in mind, or finish the track and find a vocalist to suit?

It depends. If I’m actually working specifically with a vocalist from the beginning of the track, then of course it’s a planned thing. But it’s usually during the process that I develop or imagine a sound or feel of what the voice is like, and develop an idea that can bring that process to life.

What are you most looking forward to about coming to Australia?

The shows, of course. The audience in Australia is always very open and excited about new music. Whenever I come to Australia these are the memories I take back home. It’s very energetic, very powerful, and in a positive way, extremely crazy. I’m really looking forward to it.

PAUL VAN DYK PLAYS FUTURE MUSIC FESTIVAL MAR 1-10. http://www.futuremusicfestival.com.au/

Interview: ill.Gates

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Canada-born, California-based EDM legend Ill.Gates will be at Island Vibe Festival later in the month for what promises to be one seriously bass-heavy party. From headlining festivals, to working with some of the best in the business and teaching up-and-comers, Gates has it covered.

What is the scene like for bass-heavy music in San Francisco right now?

San Francisco has an incredible scene for bass music. Period. Or maybe even exclamation mark. Yeah… I’ll go with exclamation mark! It’s awesome. People there are very forward-thinking and always want to hear whatever’s new and innovative. There are massive events and street festivals all the time and the people do not tolerate unoriginal music or poor sound systems. We are also lucky enough to have the American branch of PK Sound based in SF, so you can often find their sound systems bumping at special events.

The only thing you can complain about really is that the fetishism of new original music and high quality sound systems kind of ruins travel to much of the rest of the world. Trends move very fast, so whatever is new to the rest of the world is already old news in the Bay. Definitely a first world problem.

How do you keep up to speed on new technology and software as it emerges?

It has gotten to the point that many of the companies and innovators simply contact me directly as their gear is being developed and/ or send me demo units. I read a lot about new stuff online as well. Blogs like djtechtools.com are excellent sources of reviews and there’s always the ableton forum as well.

What’s your favourite piece of DJ equipment that you own?

I’d have to say my MIDI Fighters are the most fun. I love Ableton Push for melodic performances, but the MIDI Fighter just slays it. It’s like an MPC made of arcade buttons, and then suddenly all those hours logged on ‘Street Fighter II’ at the arcade are musically useful. Go order one now. Trust me.

Another string to your bow is the role of musical educator. What form does this take?

Lately it’s nearly all online. Since I signed on with Circle (agency) I have been gigging more than ever before so it is very difficult to financially justify the time it takes to do a workshop. When I have a workshop online it can eventually generate the residual income to justify it to my management but grinding it out doing physical workshops doesn’t really make sense any more.

I am, however, treating this Australian visit as more of a vacation than a business venture so I will take the time to teach for the love of it when I’m there.

What is the biggest misconception about DJing that you would like to see change?

I would like to see audiences appreciating actual live electronic music more. People like Mad Zach, Araab Musik, Sibot, Shake Beats, AmpLive etc. are absolutely epic when it comes to finger drumming live. It’s amazing. To make a whole song happen ACTUALLY LIVE with no quantise or looping or anything to fall back on is magic. Audiences don’t really understand that it actually takes years of practice to be able to truly do it live.

I’d like to see more appreciation for the art and craft of finger drumming, and I’d like to see more people doing it. DJing is great, but being able to actually play instruments live on a stage is pretty amazing too.

Do you have any plans for releasing new material any time soon?

I’m basically doing one track at a time these days because nobody has the attention span for a whole release any more. I’m planning to keep going like that, and then put out mixtapes of all the favourites every now and then. That seems to be the format people are responding to. You can get a new release every month or so at illgates.com or on my soundcloud. Bon appetit!

What drives you to continually find new sounds and styles?

Hack artists ruin every subgenre as soon as it gets popular, so if you like the feeling that music gives you then there is no other option but to constantly seek out new sounds and forms of expressing yourself. Music saved my life. Literally. I owe it to the world to return the favour. I’ve also got absolutely nothing else on my resume so I’d better give this thing my all if I want to support myself.

There really is something to be said for music as a full time profession. If you’ve got no safety net at all you really have to hustle to stay relevant. Artists and trends come and go so fast these days that it’s adapt or die.

You’ve played some huge festivals like Burning Man and Shambala, but what can fans expect from your show at Island Vibe?

I love Jamaican music. Love it. I have all kinds of remixes, dub versions, etc in my back pocket I’ve been dying to bust out for ages and I see Island Vibe as my best chance for it. In my previous trips to Australia I typically stayed away from playing tracks with vocals (Aussies tend to think it ‘commercial’, lol) so I’ll have a chance to explore some new territory this time around. I can’t wait!

And finally, what are your plans for dealing with the Queensland heat? Beer or water?

Coopers Pale Ale, obviously… cheers!

Ill.Gates plays Island Vibe October 25-27. He also plays the joint IV After Party/ Earth Frequency Launch Party at the Hi-Fi November 2.