English music legend Fatboy Slim (aka Norman Cook) has produced some of the world’s most iconic hits, played to thousands at festivals and gigs throughout his career, but he admits this summer is lining up to be one of the most eagerly-anticipated of his life. With a samba-themed album on the way, he speaks exclusively to FIFA.com about the origins of his love for Brazil, his tips for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ title and his friendship with a famous Brazilian No9.
FIFA.com: How did your relationship with football start?Fatboy Slim: I had a stuttering start to football as I never really committed fully to watching the game until I moved to Brighton when I was 18. I’ve been Brighton all the way since then, going from being a fan to being a shirt sponsor to then being a shareholder and now I’m kind of the mascot of the team. My role has mainly been fundraising which, for a lot of years, was to do with the club’s very existence, and then helping to get the stadium. Now my work is done with that, I’m a lifelong season ticket holder, and they do let me play the odd gig and football match at the stadium, although I’m certainly a better DJ than I am a footballer.
What’s your earliest memory of the World Cup?I don’t remember watching 1966, but I was seven in 1970, thinking that England were probably going to win the World Cup again, and getting very over-excited. That was probably my first really bitter taste of defeat because, to me, it was odds on that we were going to win again. My life since has been me continually lowering my expectations of English football and life in general. I remember sobbing my heart out to my father because I couldn’t believe we had lost. It was a very painful experience, dominated by this certain South American team that played in yellow. It was then that I realised that people who played in yellow shirts were cooler and better at football than the England team. 1970 was many years before my real passion for Brazil came out, which was initially musically, although music and football go hand in hand in Brazil.
*Can you give us an example of that? *I started hanging out with Ronaldo a few years ago, he started coming to my shows and then I DJ’d at his wedding (in 2005). He was backstage at one of my gigs in Rio and he became a fan, he then called me up and asked me to come and play at his wedding. I haven’t spoken to him for a couple of years but I dare say he’ll show his good-looking self this summer.
What is your favourite World Cup moment?I think the one that stands out is the Beckham penalty in Japan (against Argentina in 2002), simply because that was the first time I’d ever been to a World Cup. To actually be there, watch our team and see us beat Argentina, after all the pain and anguish of watching us lose on television, it slightly made up for it by watching us win against the odds in person.
1970 was many years before my real passion for Brazil came out, which was initially musically, although music and football go hand in hand in Brazil.
The Rockafeller Skank was a song that was your first huge hit, coming out days before the France 1998 Opening Match. Do you think there is a relationship between that song and that tournament?I remember that summer we were in the studio working quite hard, we watched a lot of games in the studio. We were working on You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby at the time. To be honest, the tune that strikes a chord with football the most for me is Right Here, Right Now. Every now and then, you’re watching a big match and you see a team coming out to it. That for me is when the hairs go up on the back of your neck go up when you hear your own song. It seems to fit well with the excitement of a team running out on the pitch.
I imagine it could have been difficult to watch England when they’re playing in major tournaments due to playing festivals and touring during the summer. Did you still manage to find time?At the last few World Cups I was there. I was in South Africa and in Japan. The weirdest one I guess was in 1986 when I was with a band called the Housemartins. We would have a TV on the side of the stage and we were watching as we were playing. We timed the tour so we were never playing when an England game was on, but I do remember watching some vital matches and calling out the scores to the crowd.
How do you think England will do this summer?Expectations are at an all-time low, which is a good way to start any tournament. But then, everyone’s saying that because we’ve got such a young and inexperienced team they’ll not be scared of playing so they might just do it. I just hope that whatever happens the players come home with some shred of dignity. That’s all we can expect.
Who do you reckon will win Brazil 2014?I think a South American team, either Argentina or Brazil. I’ve got so many Brazilian friends though that Argentina are not an option. Brazil have the passion, the know-how and the home advantage.
This summer, you’re heading around the country, are you getting to any games?I’ve got nine shows and I’m going to five games. I’m seeing Brazil against Cameroon, a Spain game, Argentina-Bosnia and two of the England matches. On top of that I’m playing quite a few shows, including the Morumbi stadium in Sao Paulo. For me it’s an absolute feast of music and football, in my favourite country in the world. It’ll be party central.
Your son's 13 - will he be taking more of an interest in this World Cup as you did at Mexico 1970?Just towards the tail-end of this season there were a number of exciting matches in the Champions League and Brighton got into the play-offs [to get into the Premier League] which meant he did start watching and getting excited so, who knows? He’s not a massive football fan yet, but it only takes one gorgeous tournament to fall in love.