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Original publisher: Muzik Magazine
Norman: Everybody needs a filter (tip)
"Hey look, it's that bird off the telly!"
"I just can't believe it's not butter"
"I wanna 1-2-1 with you"
FATBOY SLIM PETE TONG & PAUL OAKENFOLD
On Ibiza, Trance, Gatecrasher and the madness that was 1999
Meet Norman Cook, Pete Tong and Paul Oakenfold. A pop star DJ, a radio 1 DJ and Britain's most famous resident DJ. What have you got? The biggest stars in British dance music on lightsticks, 'Tune' cards, trance, Ibiza and why 1999 rocked like no other year
words Emma Warren pics Rankin, Jamie Baker
PAUL Oakenfold is on the top deck of an open air bus with a punnet of strawberries in his hand. Instead of eating them, as his nutritionist probably advised, he is lobbing them at three girls in a car. "Bus Wars!" he shouts. Oakey and fellow travellers Pete Tong and Norman Cook are in high spirits. Earlier, two speakers fail to make it under a low bridge, hitting Muzik's photographer and only just staying on board. "Ha ha ha!" laughs Oakey. "What if that had gone through a fucking windscreen!"
The trio are on board to promote their new 'Essential Millennium' album, blaring the sounds of Fatboy Slim's disc (Major Force, The Chemical Brothers, Mr Spring) outside Radio 1 and down the length of London's Oxford Street. Grannies dance. Four kiddie girls with horns on their heads roll their eyes and say "Fatboy Slim's not really on there". Clubby peeps look up knowingly and duck the posters and stickers flying out from the bus top. It's part impromptu bus rave, part football victory ride, part ironic tourist trek. And three of the biggest DJs this side of the moon are, well, having fun. Muzik asked them: what did you think of 1999?
Muzik: Will trance continue to dominate 2000 like it dominated 1999?
Paul: Possibly not, to be honest. Trance has been with us for many years and it will be for many years. It just won't be flavour of the month. The reason trance has been so massive this year is because the media dissed it for so long, so the undercurrent had time to develop. You've got to leave things alone to develop. The media said breakbeat was the big new thing, but people don't want it. The way people dance in the UK – it just doesn't work with punching your hands in the air.
Pete: I don't think it will be as uniform. Jules and Seb can't all be playing the same records. We won't be here next summer listening to ATB. North of house and south of progressive, maybe. It's got to have some blackness back.
Muzik: What's your view on lightsticks?
Paul: I think they're alright actually. I did this club in Chicago and they turned all the lights out and got these long lightsticks. It looked incredible!
Norman: I'm half and half. I really like lightsticks, but that whole dressing up, over the top thing might detract from the music and the DJ a bit. But if Jules has got a problem with it, he shouldn't be playing Gatecrasher. I think they're alright, apart from getting twatted with one at Glastonbury. It hit me with force between the eyes.
Paul: The Gatecrasher kids are the modern day punks. Years ago, you used to walk down Carnaby Street and everyone would be staring at the punks. I like them. It's good for the scene to have individuals and characters.
Muzik: Had any good 'Tune' cards recently?
Pete: I had a funny thing in Brighton recently. I was making signs and showing them back to the crowd. That worked really well. The first tune signs went up and I got a bit of card and wrote back 'I know, I bought it'.
Norman: At the Boutique, you're more likely to get 'NUT E'. Or 'E NUT'. The best one said 'Harder, faster, louder' which I really liked.
Muzik: It was something of a bumper year for events in the UK – Creamfields, Homelands Armand versus Fatboy Slim. Has club culture superseded the club space?
Norman: Glastonbury was a high point for us. Zoe was doing a show, so we did the whole four days. It was a bit difficult because we couldn't go out, apart from when it was raining on Sunday morning, when we put big hoods and hats on. We were just about to get married and if we weren't in our private end we got pounced on. So we spent most of Friday and Saturday on the roof of our camper van, shouting and soaking up the atmosphere.
Pete: Going to festivals that are organised by our friends, our people, our colleagues, is fantastic. In many ways, they are all great, but they're never going to replace the week-in week-out club experience. At the end of the day, a tent's a tent.
Norman: I had a really bad Homelands though. It was just one of those days. My Dad had got married at my house that day, and it just didn't happen. So I'd like to apologise for that one.
Muzik: How was the Armand versus Fatboy event for you?
Norman: The Armand thing was as far as we could push the showbiz without it being pantomime. When we started, at Stoke, I put the dressing gown on, and I started to feel really stupid, and I started to think "what if everyone just laughs?" So I went into Armand's room and he said "What if everyone laughs at us?". So we just kept our heads high and as soon as we walked out I could tell that everyone had got the joke. They didn't think I was Gary Glitter.
Muzik: Did it seem weird that your wedding became the clubland event of the year?
Norman: Not really. We hadn't thought about it. I'd spent all day before plucking up the courage to propose, and then we spent all evening phoning our family and friends. Zoe said, "can I tell everyone?" and I was like "I know what you're like – you won't be able not to" and within 20 minutes of her announcing it, there were journalists at my door. It's quite funny, the interest, but quite nice. A couple of months ago, we were in the car with the top down, having a little kiss when this guy leaned out of his truck and said "Oi, you two are married now – you're not supposed to be doing that."
Muzik: Pete, you were accused (then cleared) by a newspaper of manipulating your playlist to include too many of your London Records releases. How did that affect you?
Pete: It wasted a lot of time and energy. It's the dark side of being a "personality". The most annoying thing was it came from someone who didn't understand the nuances of what I did. I can't help feeling that it was... how can I put it... inspired. I don't think that journalist just woke up one morning and thought "let's have a go at Pete Tong". It taught me a lesson. There was no question that if someone actually says you are the most powerful person in dance music, it makes some people look for some dastardly reason to explain your so-called power. In some ways I'm surprised it took so long.
Muzik: Paul, you said that you wanted Home to have a northern club vibe, but in London. Have you done it yet?
Paul: We're getting there. We are finding our feet. We have got regular faces who come every week and people from Cream who come down. I take time out after every show to talk to them, see what they think. I think that's really important, to have that direct link with the crowd.
Muzik: How did you feel about the criticism?
Paul: I expected it. It's London. It's Leicester Square. It was obvious that it was going to come. We just keep our heads down, just do our best and get on with it. The tourist thing has never been a problem in our eyes, because you can't get into the club unless you know who's playing. But we want an international club, so if a good looking Italian girl walks by, we'll let her in...
Pete: So Eva Herzigova, you're okay...
Paul: When I used to do Spectrum, we had Europeans flying in for it. Ibiza has always had European clubs, and that's what we're trying to do at Home.
Muzik: The old cliché is that the drugs aren't as good as they used to be. The opposite seems to be true now. Have Mitsubishis given clubs a kick?
Paul: I really don't know the answer to that. How can you tell?
[very long pause]
Pete: Errr, they're illegal.
Paul: I don't know. I think you need to ask a drug dealer that one.
Norman: I remember having a family meal and someone got a dance magazine out which had a big pill on the cover. My sister works for Mitsubishi and she said "why's that pill got a Mitsubishi logo on it?" and my mum went "well, there's this new kind of E and it's much better because they're been getting pretty lax recently and everyone's taking pills again cos Mitsubishi's are really good".
Pete: Your mum said that?
Norman: I just put my head down and said "yeah, I read that too".
Pete: With clubs like Gatecrasher, it's as much an influx of new people. It's not just to do with a drug.
Norman: Come on. It can't be that the drugs in Sheffield are that much better than anywhere else in the country. It's got to be that Gatecrasher are doing something right. It's not just one good batch, is it?
Muzik: What's the most ridiculous thing you've read about yourself?
Norman: That me and Zoe have taken up golf.
Pete: That I'm the most powerful person in dance music, and manipulate Radio 1.
Paul: That I earn £15,000 a show!
Pete: [laughs] It's much more than that!
Paul: Exactly! Nowhere near enough!
Muzik: Who is the most powerful person in dance music?
Pete: The kids. I've rehearsed this one. I think we should say it's the people.
Muzik: There was a time when your music was considered underground. Do you need to rediscover an underground?
Paul: It still is! 95% of the stuff I play is not heard on Radio 1.
Pete: You wish it was though, don't you.
Paul: I don't hear nothing I'm playing on Radio 1! Apart from Pete's show and Jules, I don't hear nothing. To me, underground means it's not played on the radio.
Norman: It means something naughty and different.
Pete: And breaks the rules.
Muzik: It seemed like another watershed year for Ibiza. It seems really relevant again.
Paul: I thought it always was...
Pete: But the momentum this year was unquestionable. I think ATB was Number One before Ibiza started, yet it was the Ibiza tune of the year.
Paul: Bob Marley was the tune of the year. It was the biggest record that came out of the island.
Norman: You know what it is? It's the Spanish Tourist Authority bribing everyone, cos before there'd be a big hit in Ibiza that you'd release in September, and clean up, but now they're making them release them in May just to bump up the numbers, so everyone hears it and wants to go.
Muzik: You've unleashed a monster...
Paul: Ibiza is out of control.
Norman: To me, the Ibiza effect starts getting you stupid as soon as you get to the airport.
Pete: You start giggling...
Norman: You haven't had a drink or anything, and you can't help it. On the drive from the airport you're already hanging out of the windows. It's like school trips.
Muzik: What did you think of 1999's club films?
Paul: There are five gangster films next year.
Norman: So all the cack-handed copyists will be copying Lock Stock, not Human Traffic. That's good.
Paul: I know you [Pete] were involved with Human Traffic, but I thought it was just a drugs film. What was the club scene? It was two minutes! Did you ever see Flowered Up's 'Weekender'? I thought it was based on that. It puts a lot of pressure on young kids that when they become part of the scene they have to take drugs. It glorified drugs too much for me.
Muzik: Did you think it was accurate?
Paul: No. Where was the club scene? Where was the clubs?
Pete: I don't know if they'll ever be able to recreate that.
Paul: Have you seen Blade with Wesley Snipes? Check out the first 10 minutes. It's live in a club, and the energy is amazing. You can capture that. But the soundtrack was great.
Pete: I've said to Justin [Kerrigan, Human Traffic director] many times, the first half of that film will date, the back end is young people's experiences, like it nor not.
Paul: That Cockney character was brilliant.
Muzik: Can ISDN DJing really simulate being there?
Norman: Course not. It's better being there. Might as well send a CD. The whole point is that you're interacting with a DJ, waving at a crowd.
Paul: Yeah, but it's the way forward and it's happening already. It's demand. You can't get more people into a club, so there's demand for it.
Norman: They'll internet you a little sign going 'Tune'.
Paul: People want it!
Muzik: So what's the next step?
Norman: You'll have to have holograms.
Paul: We're doing live internet and satellite. The last gig on the Perfecto tour is going out to 37 venues. Because of the demand. We did a live broadcast on the net at Cream and we ended up with 35,000 people watching it globally. I'm going to do my own once-a-month live gig through satellite, the net and on radio. I'm embracing technology and moving forwards with it. I saw how big the internet was in the States three years ago and I thought "right. I've got to get on it."
Muzik: American interest in dance music seems to be snowballing.
Norman: It's just been stupid. It's weird because they think I'm a new artist, whereas here I'm some venerable old grandad. I'm on loads of film soundtracks, hundreds of ads. It's bemusing how well it's going.
Pete: The only problem is that everyone thinks Spike Jonze is Fatboy Slim.
Norman: He's better looking than me, so I don't mind.
Paul: Globally musical tastes are changing. When I used to do big rock gigs, I had to play rock and hip hop. I couldn't play any real dance records. Now I mix up The Chemicals, Basement Jaxx, Underworld. You can mix it up much more, and seeing 80,000 people go mad is a huge change in music.
Muzik: What do you think of New Labour?
Paul: I don't see myself as at all political. I don't know enough to comment.
Norman: I don't trust them but I'd vote for them to avoid another Tory government in my lifetime.
Pete: Hmm. Impressive marketing skills. And an awful lot of repackaged Tory policy.
Muzik: What concerns you about Britain today?
Norman: Making sure that Ken Livingstone becomes Mayor of London. I'm amazed no one has assassinated Jeffrey Archer yet.
Pete: The old issues like the health service. I had an ear operation two years ago and it never even crossed my mind to go through the system.
Paul: I feel strongly about social services, that nurses and firemen should be paid their dues. And that wheel. You can see it from Home, it's disgusting. It's three times the size of anything else and it ruins the skyline. Magnificent buildings like the Houses of Parliament and St Paul's, with a fucking big fair wheel three times bigger in front of it! It annoys me that we spend £7 million on something like that. That really makes my blood boil. I'm going off on one, aren't I?
Muzik: Should there be a statutory retirement age for DJs?
Pete: I don't think so. It's really simple. If people are still excited, and you haven't become your embarrassing uncle, it's not a problem. I still do it because I like it. Because we get older, and the crowd never stays the same, you have to be constantly excited by change. The red card – if it's going to come – is going to come from the crowd and not some other authority.
Norman: I hope not, cos I'd have been booted out about five years ago. It is hard for new people, but new DJs will come through. You've just got to be good.
Paul: I think that question should be answered by Junior Vasquez who is 50 and Frankie Knuckles who is 48. As long as you can deliver and the crowd are enjoying themselves the whole thing of age is irrelevant. Footballers used to be finished by 30, now they play to 38. Women don't have to get married by the age of 30. It's irrelevant now.
A year in the life of...
"It's been another cracker. Not quite as manic as last year, but with its equal share of pleasant surprises. Obviously on a personal level, getting married was the high point. Professionally, I'd have to say the high point was Woodstock, playing to 300,000 people. The riots were starting as we left, and the next thing I saw was my dressing room in flames. I thought it ruined it. It's supposed to be about love, not breaking things.
A year in the life of...
"It's been a very creative year for me. I've DJed in Havana, Ho Chi Minh, Bombay. In Havana I didn't go down as well with the older crowd because of the rhythm – they dance to 3/4, not 4/4. I did 34 shows in the US this year, and that's really important to me. I'm really happy with Home. But it can still be better and that's what I want.
A year in the life of...
"It's been hectic. There's a change in the air. There are a lot of things on the move, a lot of things to be excited about. It's a constant battle for the DJ, trying to carve out a niche, because we were getting to a situation where were were all falling over each other. So doing Bugged Out, the Space Terrace and not playing the main room at Dublin Homelands was brilliant. It's been a very ambitious year."
What's your favourite...
Norman Cook Record?
PAUL: "Right Here, Right Now'. I like the moody chords on it. I also like the bootleg of the Rolling Stones ('Satisfaction Skank') which I play a lot."
PETE: "I was going to try and be clever and say one of your tracks from when you were in The Housemartins. What was that one, 'Think For A Minute?' You weren't with them then were you?"
NORMAN: "No, I was."
PAUL: "'Dub Be Good To Me'. That's brilliant. That was a really clever idea."
The 'Essential Millennium' album brings together three of the biggest DJs in the world. But did they come to blows over who got to play Alice Deejay?
NORMAN: "We all wanted 'Born Slippy', so we armwrestled for it. I got it cos I'm the best armwrestler."
PAUL: "I really wanted Basement Jaxx, just because it's one of my favourite records."
PETE: "I've done loads of these albums and usually you're encouraged to play the year's hits. That wasn't the idea here. It was whatever we all wanted to do."
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