Fatboy Slim rocks out in ''She's All That'' -- The man behind ''The Rockafeller Skank'' is leaving his musical mark all over Hollywood

By David Browne
Updated March 26, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST

Hollywood wants him, ad agencies want him, even Brad Pitt wants him. But right about now, Britain’s least likely funk-soul brother wants to jam.

So on this drizzly, slate gray afternoon in the British seaside resort of Brighton, where he’s lived for 18 of his 35 years, Norman Cook does just that. He strides up the carpeted stairs of his white-walled condo and into his second-floor office, which is covered in AstroTurf and crammed with enough audio gear to stock an electronics store. Outside his window, the English Channel extends out past his private beach. Cook leans over his old Atari computer — so weathered that its ivory surfaces are filmy brown — and punches up a file. On the screen, he highlights ”guitar,” ”bass,” and ”drum 2” and clicks his mouse. Out comes a beat-heavy pulse, a cyberband. With his too-long khakis, plaid shirt, and five-o’clock shadow stretching across his balding pate, Cook seems less like a pop star than just a laddie computer geek.

But a star producer and remixer he is — for years in England and now in America. Even if you don’t recognize the name Fatboy Slim, Cook’s nom de studio, you’ve heard his spin-dizzy blend of dance, hip-hop and rock guitar, known as big beat. Fatboy Slim tracks have enlivened high-profile television ads (Adidas, Nike), sitcoms (Friends), and movies (Cruel Intentions; next up: Go). If you caught the Barbara Walters-Monica Lewinsky chat-fest, you heard Fatboy Slim in spots for Oldsmobile and She’s All That. If you actually saw the latter film, you recall the way ”The Rockafeller Skank” propelled the climactic prom scene. The sight of a ballroom full of teens robo-funking to the song’s big beats and surf guitar — and its instantly grabby vocal hook, a sample of rapper Lord Finesse commanding us to ”check it out now, the funk soul brother” — injected electronica into the American mainstream in a way that had never been done before.

Since then, Cook has been wooed for a spot on the soundtrack of the forthcoming Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, and Pitt wants him to DJ a private party. Because his label negotiates the placement of his tunes, Cook isn’t completely sure why his music is so in demand. ”It makes good sound bites,” he opines. But Amanda Scheer-Demme, music supervisor for She’s All That, knows: ”He’s tapped into a contemporary sound that still has the organic feel of familiar music. It doesn’t feel too electronic.” Actually, Scheer-Demme first refers to Fatboy Slim as ”they.” Informed that Fatboy is a he, she says: ”Really? I don’t know anything about the guy.”

”In England I’m a venerable old granddaddy,” Cook says bemusedly, his face widening into an elastic grin. ”But in America, it’s ‘this thrusting new talent!’ It’s all quite amusing.”

Amusing? Indeed. Intentional? Absolutely. There are, in fact, several Norman Cooks. One is the upper-middle-class kid, born to a glass manufacturer and raised in the London commuter town of Redhill. That Norman Cook moved to Brighton to attend college and in 1985 joined the guitar-pop band the Housemartins for the ”free beer and women.” And that Norman is also still very much the son of well-to-do suburbia, with his Brit-yup digs, set of Friends videotapes, and Everybloke demeanor. ”I got a box from Tiffany’s, and it’s bigger than the one you got!” he cackles to his fiancee, BBC Radio 1 DJ Zoe Ball, 28, when she calls.

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