DJ Fatboy Slim plans Purim party for first Israel visit

‘I’m told it’s obligatory to be drunk’ and everybody is in costumes, says British musician, who is coming despite BDS pressure

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Fatboy Slim, aka Norman Cook, arrives in Israel this weekend ahead of his Sunday, March 12, 2017 Purim rave at Tel Aviv's Hangar 11 (Courtesy Fatboy Slim)
Fatboy Slim, aka Norman Cook, arrives in Israel this weekend ahead of his Sunday, March 12, 2017 Purim rave at Tel Aviv's Hangar 11 (Courtesy Fatboy Slim)

When the Purim rave gets going at Tel Aviv’s Hangar 11 on Sunday night, March 12, it will be DJ Fatboy Slim’s first time celebrating the Jewish costume party holiday.

“I’ve heard everybody’s in fancy dress, and I’m told it’s obligatory to be drunk, and I’ve never played a show where that was a condition,” said the British DJ, whose real name is Norman Cook. “I’m coming with an open mind and a large selection of tunes, so I can go in any direction the night dictates.”

And a Hawaiian shirt, which is Cook’s usual uniform for his nearly nightly shows.

Cook, 53, is an English DJ, musician and producer better known as Fatboy Slim, a moniker he adapted in the 1990s as he developed his electronic solo act and the big beat genre, known for its synthesizer-generated loops and patterns. He started out in the 1980s as a bassist of indie rock band The Housemartins, and then, as a solo electronic act, won 10 MTV Video Music Awards and two Brit Awards.

But Cook has never played in Israel, despite its popular and prevalent clubbing scene. It was not for any lack of desire, he told The Times of Israel over the phone.

“I’m sorry that I’m late,” said Cook. “It’s just fun to go to a new country and meet new people and know there’s a dance scene and club thing going on.”

Purim, said Cook, just heightens the anticipation. He’s aware how the holiday’s designation as a partying opportunity “ups the stakes in terms of hospitality, drinking and outrageous behavior.”

He’s never actually been at a Purim party, although he has, he emphasized, been “to many Jewish weddings.”

Partying on Purim 2016 at a Tel Aviv bar (Miriam Alster/Flash 90)
Partying on Purim 2016 at a Tel Aviv bar (Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

As for a Purim costume, he’s still deliberating about how to handle that.

“I’m of two minds,” said Cook. “On one side, I’d love to get involved and find something I can still DJ in, with all the headgear. It can’t be anything too hot.”

Worse case scenario, he’ll be wearing one of his familiar Hawaiian shirts, which “are what sets me apart as a sensible father of two,” said Cook, whose children are seven and 16.

Then again, he may a more substantial costume so he that doesn’t stick out in a room full of costumed partiers, said Cook.

“I always try and fit in to where I am,” he said. “Obviously the first time it’s difficult to do because I don’t know what to expect until I get there.”

It’s a part of his job that never gets boring, said Cook.

“It’s something that comes naturally to me,” he said. “I go on stage every night, I get to play my favorite records every night and then watch everyone get off on it and fall in love and dance and I get kind of intoxicated by it and that makes me perform more as a character. There’s almost a kind of vampire element to it, with a constant supply of 18- to 22-year-olds down in front.”

Still, at 53, Cook doesn’t drink or attend after-parties, generally goes to bed early, and hits the gym nearly every day.

That will serve him well on Sunday, when Cook plans to see the sights at the Dead Sea and elsewhere.

“It’s a rare treat for me,” said Cook, who will be touring around with his Jewish manager and some other friends. “I usually see nothing but the hotel lobby and airport.”

Cook was utterly undeterred by the BDS ambush he experienced last weekend from Artists for Palestine UK (APUK), which supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel and appealed to the DJ to cancel his Tel Aviv show.

Banksy, the graffiti artist turned hotelier who recently opened the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, invited Cook to perform at a street party outside the hotel, but reportedly withdrew his invitation after an appeal from Palestinians, according to the Artists for Palestine blog.

“What I told them is that this is totally apolitical,” he said. “I’m coming as a DJ to spread the gospel of music. They keep shouting the word apartheid at me and I said it’s not about politics, it’s about music.”

Cook said he was sure he’d continue to be bombarded by BDSers “until they start on Radiohead,” the alternative rock back scheduled to perform Tel Aviv in July.

“Music for me is about togetherness and having fun, and trying to get over religious or political boundaries,” he said. “Politics isn’t the reason I haven’t played Tel Aviv until now.”

Fatboy Slim at Purim Rave, Sunday, March 12, starting from 4 p.m., Hangar 11, Tel Aviv port.

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