When two legendary artists join forces to work on a track, the outcome will be what can only be described as designed for dance floor domination. On March 30, icons Carl Cox and Fatboy Slim united on “Speed Trails On Acid.”
The single delivers tons of old school flavor, featuring tempo acid-fueled techno. Indeed, the track proves to be an anthemic one that’s sure to light up the dance floor.
Here, Carl Cox and Fatboy Slim share with Forbes the inspiration behind the track, their friendship, the ‘90s dance music scene and more.
Lisa Kocay: What was the inspiration behind “Speed Trials on Acid”?
Carl Cox: “When I gave this track to [Fatboy Slim], I felt that he would be fitting to do something experimental, interesting, conceptual—something he’s not comfortable with normally doing because his sound is completely different to my sound. But we have this kind of energy, some synergy between ourselves, to be able to make something dance floor connected—make something that was a piece of who I am and a piece of who he is.
“It was his idea to get Dan Diamond on the track, because most of the tracks that I make are non-vocal tracks. So once I had done the original track, which was a non-vocal track…then it went over to Norman and then Dan Diamond wrote the vocals around that track….It’s a complete exchange of the minds when it came to how this record actually ended up at the end of the day.”
Fatboy Slim: “[Carl] sent me a track, and literally the day he’d sent me that track I started tinkering with it. I got sent this vocal by Dan Diamond, who’s a new friend, so it’s old friends and new friends for me. Carl’s a very old friend. Dan’s my new friend. Dan just sent me this vocal, and I just thought, ‘I wonder if the two would compliment each other.’
“As soon as I tried that vocal on Carl’s track, it just worked and it felt and sounded like magic….Sadly no kind of rock and roll stories because the three of us were never in the same studio at the same time, but that’s kind of how records are made these days. The stars aligned between Brighton, Melbourne and Detroit one day, and the track was born.”
Kocay: How did you two initially get connected?
Fatboy Slim: “When I moved to Brighton to go to college, at that point Carl was living in Brighton and he was the don—he was the deck king and he was like the biggest deejay in Brighton. I started going and watching him. And then we became friends and we were both deejays, [so] we played together….He lives half his life in Melbourne and half in Brighton. So I [would] kind of see him for half a year and not for the other half, but even at times when he moved away and lived somewhere else for a bit, we’d do gigs together. I was a very regular guest at his Space residency. No matter how far the distance that we wouldn’t see each other, we still pick up exactly where we left off, but [we] also see each other very, very regularly because we do so many shows together.
“[Our friendship is] all based around music. We’ve both been so into our music and into the art of deejaying for so long. He’s one of the few deejays that I play back-to-back with, because though it’s a much abused art form these days, for me playing back-to-back with another deejay…it’s kind of like getting into bed with someone. You have to trust them enough to take your clothes off in front of them. There’s a trust that goes deep when you’ll play with another deejay and you’ll know that you are complimenting each other rather than trying to put each other off. So I must have played back-to-back with Carl at least 10 times over the years. We are brothers in rhythm.”
Carl Cox: “I think we understand each other, [even] if we don’t get to speak to each other, in such a way that we actually value each other’s friendship….No matter what’s happened in my life up and down, and what ever happened to his life up and down, we still complement each other as people.”
Kocay: What was life like in the ‘90s dance scene?
Carl Cox: “Well, first and foremost, there was no internet. There were no mobile phones. There was no social media. All you had was the ability to make a phone call from a telephone box, and people basically connected with each other a lot more. And this was the difference between what was going on in the ‘90s and what’s happening now today. There was a lot more, I would say camaraderie with the deejays, because we were kind of growing up in the ‘90s with the rave scene of what it was at that particular time. And we’d always see each other and connect in that way, and back in the day, there were no digital files. You had something tangible, which is called a record. And if you made a record, you would hand that record over to the fellow deejay to play, if they liked it.”
Fatboy Slim: “It was a fabulous time because Carl and I have been deejaying since the early ‘80s. But in those days, deejaying was a hobby rather than a career. I would deejay five nights a week and I still had to do a day job to fund my habit. So it wasn’t until the ‘90 when deejays got respect, got paid properly and got elevated to this sort of superstar status that we have today. It was just really lovely to go through that process with people like Carl, where we’d started playing to like a hundred people in a dingy backroom and the owner of the club wouldn’t even give us monitors.
“It’s lovely to have someone that you’ve gone through that process with and where you can not see them for six months and then bump into them at some enormous gig backstage. And there’s tons of people who look at each other, knowing that we were there from day one.”
Kocay: Do you remember the first electronic music song you heard that made you fall in love with the genre?
Fatboy Slim: “There were two. There was the prequel, ‘I Feel Love’ by Donna Summer, which I heard back in 1977 when I was a punk rocker. And in those days, there was that whole kind of ‘disco sucks’ movement and we all hated disco music, but that one record just did something to me. That one record just made me think because it was an electronic record rather than a disco record. It just sounded like the future to me. And I’ve always loved that record, so that started me off. And then the most influential and seminal record for me was a record called ‘Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel,’ which is the first time I’d heard a sort of turntable on a record, and it was like a cut up of seven or eight different tunes made into another thing. ‘Grandmaster Flash’ has been an enormous influence on me as a deejay.”
Carl Cox: “Electronic goes way back into the late ‘60s into the early ‘70s, in the sense of its sound synthesizes. I would imagine the first…you probably heard it a million times, but it’s got to be Kraftwerk. Their sound is still very much used and sampled today, based on how forward thinking they were in that sense. And they’re still making electronic music as pioneers. I just loved them as soon as I heard drum machines.”
Kocay: If you didn’t go into making music, where would you be today?
Carl Cox: “If I wasn’t making music, at the end of the day I probably would be a chef. I love cooking. I wouldn’t say I’m very good at it. I will say if I cooked you a meal, I’m sure you’d be quite happy about it. But I do love that the ingredients aren’t the same. You have all these different ingredients, you put them all together, you mix them all up, you create something and you share the love of it.”
Fatboy Slim: “There was a time in my career when I thought I wasn’t doing well with music and I was going to get a proper job, and I thought fireman. I’ve always really respected firemen. I think they do a fabulous job and they’re unsung heroes who are always there for you. But they always just seem to have a very good attitude. I mean, occasionally policemen aren’t the nicest people in the world, or you question their motives of why they wanted the uniform, but firemen just seemed to be there to help people. And it’s a bit like being a musician: you sit around being bored, making up nicknames for you and your mates and bonding with them. And then you go off and do something really exciting and, and the chicks dig the uniform.”