The Rockafeller Prank: Meet Fatboy Tim


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The Rockafeller Prank: Meet Fatboy Tim

Right here, right now...wait, is that really him?

Timothy Davies has spent the last fifteen years or so pretending to be someone else. One could argue that given the multiplicity of the self in the fractured, fragmented post-post-modern world all of us are actors in our own lives but that'd make you sound like someone in a second year seminar. Tim lived it though, turning himself into someone else to please baying crowds of people willing to accept the subterfuge in order to have a banging night out. When he slipped on a Hawaiian shirt and stuffed his record bag with essential big beat cuts he became someone else, slid into the assumed identity of another. Timothy Davies became Fatboy Tim.


As the name suggests, Davies was the UK's foremost, and to be honest, only, Fatboy Slim tribute act. Norman Cook's heyday might have waned but you've got to remember at one point he could get a quarter of a million people to hang out on the beach in Brighton to listen to Bentley Rhythm Ace remixes and for that he'll always get a few pages in the annals of UK dance music history. An undocumented shadow, moving alongside Cook's stratospheric rise, Davies enjoyed his own honeymoon period - raking in booking after booking under his new moniker.

While he admits the gigs don't come as thick and fast as they once did, there was a period when Davies was an SU staple, a top draw at smaller clubs the land over looking for a friendly face at a reasonable price. He even got the nod from the original Fatboy and played at an awards ceremony as Cook when the real deal was unable to make the event. In that moment, you imagine, the boundary between fantasy and reality dissipated into a glorious nothingness. Timothy Davies was Norman Cook. Norman Cook was Timothy Davies.

We called Fatboy Tim in Newquay for a quick chat about a life spent living on stage as somebody else.

THUMP: Are you aware of any other dance tribute acts?
Fatboy Tim: I wasn't actually, no.

Were you a DJ before you did this?
I was yeah. I used to DJ in a club in Clapham and I'd wear really loud shirts. I had quite a few people who'd come up to me and say, "Oh, you look like Fatboy Slim!" I went back to my house with a mate after a gig once and we started talking about becoming the first tribute DJ. My initial reaction was no thanks but he asked me to do a mixtape - which shows how long ago it was - and said he'd be able to get me a few gigs. So I did this mixtape in the of Fatboy Slim and he managed to get me a gig at Dundee University. I got paid three or four times my usual fee to play so i thought why not.


Were you playing that big beat stuff in your sets?
I was, and am, primarily a house fan and house DJ, but I was into his mid-90s stuff, late 90s stuff. So I was playing bits of it anyway and it wasn't hugely difficult to change my slightly to big beat.

Do you still listen to it now?
I still enjoy that sort of stuff but tech-house is my real love and passion.

Was it a compromise you made…
I guess i did feel like that to be honest and did until I met Fatboy Slim himself at The Cross, which is a block of flats now, and he came up to me and gave me a hug and said, "You've made an old man very happy," which I found hysterical. He asked me to come up and support him at the Big Beat Boutique and that changed things for me. If he was that cool with it and into it…if it's good enough for him it was good enough for me too.

You got the nod. Where were you getting the shirts from?
I used to wear lairy shirts anyway and was always into surfing and the whole Hawaii thing. I used to keep an eye on what he was wearing obviously. I had to get this Playboy shirt of his imported. It was covered in Playboy covers. That's a good shirt. I've still got it.

This might be wanky but when you were playing as Fatboy Tim did you transition from being Timothy Davies to the man himself?
I always tell people that my best gigs and my worst gigs were as Fatboy Tim. I had a stage where I was quite big in Prague. I remember playing a warehouse in Prague on a Friday night to 2,000 people who were loving it, and to five people in a bowling alley in Borehamwood. The only person dancing was in their 80s. No one gave a toss about who I was or what was going on.


Was that liberating? Playing to smaller crowds? Is it fun?
No. There's no one to react to, no one to engage with. That's when it really does feel like work. You want to be vibing off the crowd - that's when it's great fun. Those are the gigs you want.

Did that level of fun transcend the tribute element?
Well, I've always liked a drink and having a laugh but I don't think I went as far as he did. I think he once snorted coke off a railway line.

Did he?!
That was a story I read a while ago. Google it! He's calmed down now though. I don't think he even drinks now but he was pretty wild in his day.

Would you have liked to have been that wild?
I don't think I would have liked it, no.

How did you feel when he asked you to play in his place at the Juice awards?
That felt great. It was brilliant when he asked. I said to him that I'd love to do it, and that I didn't mind not getting a fee to do it, but I didn't have the funds to get Brighton and he bought my flight for me which I couldn't believe. What an absolute gent, what a fantastic guy. That was a highlight for me.

What's your favourite Fatboy Slim tune?
"Rockerfeller Skank" was the one, especially the bootleg version he did that used "I Can't Get No (Satisfaction)" by the Rolling Stones. "Praise You" is another absolute classic that I'd play at every gig.

When did you stop doing these gigs?
I still DJ currently and I haven't officially retired the Fatboy Tim name it's just that I don't get the offers so much. I don't go looking for them really. The website is still there so if someone comes across it and they want me to do a gig then I'll do it. I live in Newquay now and DJ every weekend there as myself. I wouldn't say that I'd never do another one.


Did you make it to the Big Beach Boutiques?
I was there at the second one and had the shirt on and people would shout, "You're on soon, mate, get ready!" A promoter also made this cheeky flyer and put it through Norman's door. It had a picture of me and Norman together and said "Anything you can do…" I think Norman would have found it quite funny.

Is there another act you'd like to do a tribute to?
No. I think if you were ever going to do anyone it was him. He was as big as they got. Your mum knew who he was. If you mentioned Sasha, Digweed, Carl Cox, she wouldn't have a clue. Fatboy Slim was the guy.

More in this series

THUMP Meets Daft as Punk
That's Not Me: the Weird World of Dance Tribute Acts

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