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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

Sian Plummer of Circa Waves: “We’re a bit sketchy on the details – can you fill me in?”

circa waves

THERE are bands who have had meteoric rises, and then are English indie-rock quartet Circa Waves, who are set to play Splendour In The Grass and four sideshows.

When they wrote, recorded and uploaded their single ‘Young Chasers’ to Soundcloud in a single day, they didn’t expect much to happen. That very night it was picked up and played on the biggest radio station in the UK, and the young band haven’t looked back since.

“It was definitely a freak occurrence,” says drummer Sian Plummer. “That’s not the norm for us by any means. I think it was just knowing the right person at the right time at Radio 1 that helped it get played that evening. It really helped that Radio 1 was so keen to help champion young, new music, and they were quite eager to give us a push. But [getting it played on] the first day was quite an achievement [laughs].”

Sudden national exposure led to a flurry of song-writing and touring for the band, before a deal was inked with Dew Process.

“We all met at a festival in Liverpool called Sound City,” Plummer says. “We were all there, and we were all bored with our respective bands and whatever. So we decided we’ll start a band with the aim of playing Sound City next year, and instead of doing that we ended up getting signed and touring the world. To celebrate we just went out and had massive steak dinners in this really posh restaurant. We basically gorged ourselves on quality meat.”

They’ve existed for barely a year, in which they’ve toured incessantly, so it’s understandable that not all the members of the band have had a chance to reflect and plan for the gigs ahead. When asked how much he knows about Splendour In The Grass, Plummer laughs.

“We’re a bit sketchy on the details – can you fill me in?” he says. “Australia: the idea that people are listening to our music on the other side of the world is an unreal scenario to think about. I don’t even know what’s happening over there. I can’t quite process the idea that people are hearing our music and are sort of down with it, so we’re looking forward to coming over and seeing first-hand. It’s really exciting. To be honest, we’re just pretty stoked to be going to Australia, so we haven’t thought far enough ahead to be considering festivals and club shows. I guess I’m excited to see what an Australian club show is like; how you guys react and whether it goes off. Festivals are amazing as well; there’s this whole other side of playing to a crowd in a tent that is just a unique feeling, so we’re looking forward to both.”

The band have just released their debut, self-titled EP in time for an airing at Splendour and a run of shows supporting Metronomy.

“We’re just about there right now,” Plummer says. “We’ve got enough material for at least a 45-minute set now. We’re sort of still perfecting our set and have been over the past six months, so I think we’ve got a good set-list together now and we can fill that time. Then obviously Kieran [Shudall, guitar/vocals] does loads of stand-up comedy between each song, so that takes about ten minutes between each song in the set [laughs].”

Despite being praised by British music press and hailed as a “buzz” band and ones-to-watch, Circa Waves are keen on winning fans the old-fashioned way, Plummer insists.

“We did the NME tour, and that was a strange one,” he says. “It didn’t sell as well as it could have done, but they’ve been really supportive and we really appreciate having anyone like that championing us and getting our name out there. In terms of getting us out there, it’s invaluable. Being played on Radio 1 is the best place to get heard. But from our point of view, it’s all about the live shows; going to people’s towns and playing is the important thing. That’s the way we’ve always got out there and got known. If people haven’t seen us play and don’t know what we’re about live, they’re not going to know what it is we’re about. We’re keen to spread that message.”

While their touring schedule appears unending, a band that does things as quickly as Circa Waves isn’t going to wait years to put out an album.

“We’ve just finished recording our album a couple of weeks ago,” Plummer says. “We went into a studio for about five weeks and laid down quite a lot of tracks. Bit by bit we’re going to start mixing them in and showcasing them live. We’ve amassed quite a bit of material in the last six months. Ideally we’re looking at an early next year release, and before then play live in as many places as we can. It’s a pretty raw sounding album in many ways. It’s not an overly-produced record; we’ve tried to keep post-production to a minimum, and it’s got quite a live feel to it in places as well, as some of the takes were done completely live. It’s about capturing and conveying a lot of the energy of us live. I think we’ve managed to get something that sounds pretty cool as well. We get a lot of comparisons to the Strokes and that’s a great comparison to have, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. We’re influenced by the Strokes, but I don’t think we sound like the Strokes, and what we’ve tried to do on this record is to convey who Circa Waves are and how we sound, and I think that’s massively important. We’re looking forward to getting it out there and showing everybody what we’re about.”

When & Where:

Friday 25th July Forum Theatre, Melbourne (supporting Metronomy)
Saturday 26th July Splendour In The Grass, Byron Parklands

CIRCA WAVES’ DEBUT EP IS OUT NOW.

For Forte

Interview: Vinnie Fiorello of Less Than Jake

Less Than Jake. Vinnie Fiorello, second right.
Less Than Jake. Vinnie Fiorello, second right.

SKA-PUNK legends Less Than Jake will head to Australia in 2014 to play Soundwave Festival, bringing with them over twenty years of finely-honed gigging experience. Drummer and lyricist Vinnie Fiorello tells me why the Gainesville, Florida band’s hunger for making music and performing is stronger than ever.

Hi Vinnie, what’s been happening in the Less Than Jake camp of late?

We were just on the Fat Wreck Chords tour around the United States; that was a five-week tour with Anti-Flag and a few other bands. A few weeks back we released our ninth studio record called See The Light, and that was on Fat Wreck Chords. Generally speaking reviews have been good, and we had a great time writing and recording it, and there you go; you’re caught up, man.

Tell me a bit about See The Light. How does it sound compared to your previous material?

Well, I think it’s most definitely the sum of all its parts. We took our time in writing and crafting the songs, and it progressed naturally as we let it kind of percolate at its own pace. We wrote and recorded it at our bass player’s studio in Gainesville, and from that point we had friends of ours mix it, and frankly, because of those parts it sounds like Less Than Jake, or a very refined version of the band that people have come to know for the last twenty years. There’s parts of very gruff point rock, there’s some minor punk in there, there’s classic ska-punk, and there’s some third wave ska. It’s very much influenced by ourselves and only by ourselves. It’s a very weird and crazy thing to be able to say that, but it’s true.

How much do you enjoy the recording process? Some bands find it a chore.

Not to fuck around, but there’s been times in the studio when it’s been a chore, and times when it’s been way too dramatic or silly. This time around we did it in Gainesville, and it was a very relaxed atmosphere and fun. It was cool to do it where I could go home at night as well.

I saw an interview you did a couple of years ago in which you said the album format is dead. Why change your mind now?

For the last five years we’ve mainly been doing EPs, and firmly I think that the album format is limping along. In the case of our album, when we started writing songs, we wanted a collection of songs that were similar thematically, and not only musically but lyrically too. You can’t really get that with EPs, so we went back to the full-length format. When we started to write it it fell together naturally and it was cool.

Do you still think albums have a future?

I guess it depends on the genre. I mean, the album format for pop music is already dead. If you take Katy Perry; she can sell one million singles, but only 100,000 copies of her album, and while those numbers are nothing to sneeze at, they are definitely not what they were three, five, eight, ten years ago. It’s insane how much it’s down. Punk rock has never been about the single, it’s been much more about the album format, and I think that might be the last stand, so to speak, for the album format. I had a great time doing the EPs, and I think it’s good for fans to be able to get music every eight or nine months instead of waiting three years.

What have you got planned for Soundwave Festival?

I think we’re prepared to have a good time like we always are. We’re going to show up, we’re going to play some songs, take some requests, rile the crowd, and have fun playing. It’s twenty-one years in, man, and if you’re not having fun being in a band and playing live there’s a serious issue, so we’re going to do what we do best; have fun and make the crowd have fun with us.

An outdoor gig in Australian summer. How do you deal with the heat?

Dude, I’m from Florida, and Australian summer has nothing on Florida. So to answer your question, I’m going to feel exactly like I feel when I’m at home, so therefore it’s going to feel good. It’s funny that you should mention it, because every time we’ve been in Australia prior to this, it’s always been Australia summer, it’s always been a great time, and it always feels like Florida to me. When I’m there it always feels like home, so it’s a great place to be. The crowds always love music and are always there to have a good time. They’re always passionate about the music they’re paying to see, and that’s exciting for anyone in a band, and certainly exciting to me.

Is there ever any trepidation playing new material live?

There’s always nerves. We sort of had a trial by fire this tour just finished. We would come straight out and do a new song, and people would look at us like they had no idea what it was. Later, when the record came out, you could see the slow surge of people knowing the songs.

What are your plans for 2014?

We’re just back from tour four days ago, so we’re off for a few weeks. Starting next year, we have an eighteen-date tour in the U.K.. Then we have three days off, then we come over for Soundwave Festival, then we come home. I can’t say what tour it is, but we just confirmed a summer tour for the United States, so we’re just working for the rest of the year. I’m sure there’ll be Europe in there for late 2014, and there’ll be South America in there somewhere. We have a new record out, so we have to put our feet as many places as possible.

SOUNDWAVE FESTIVAL DATES & VENUES – FEBRUARY/MARCH 2014

SATURDAY 22 FEBRUARY – BRISBANE, RNA SHOWGROUNDS
SUNDAY 23 FEBRUARY – SYDNEY, OLYMPIC PARK
FRIDAY 28 FEBRUARY – MELBOURNE, FLEMINGTON RACECOURSE
SATURDAY 1 MARCH – ADELAIDE, BONYTHON PARK
MONDAY 3 MARCH – PERTH, CLAREMONT SHOWGROUNDS

TICKETS ON SALE NOW: http://soundwavefestival.com/