FOR NORMAN COOK, life's a beach. Sitting in his seafront home on the southeast coast of England watching the sun set over Brighton beach, the superstar DJ better known as Fatboy Slim sounds as upbeat as one of his stomping dancefloor anthems. 'Things are going very well at the moment,' enthuses the entertainer. It was on Brighton beach this summer that tens of thousands of Cook's disciples crammed so they could dance in the sunshine as Stormin' Norman, the town's adopted hero, stood proudly at the decks spinning in the inimitable style which has made him one of Britain's hottest musical exports. 'It was brilliant. Forty thousand people who totally approved of what I do came out to support me and thank me for putting Brighton on the map,' says Cook. Cook, 37, put himself on the musical map too. The pop star-turned-DJ is a multimillionaire who has had more No 1 hits in Britain than any other DJ, turned down offers of work from Madonna and U2, conquered America, counts Brad Pitt and wife Jennifer Aniston among his celebrity fans, scooped countless awards for his music and videos and broke the hearts of millions of males by marrying Radio One DJ Zoe Ball. They have a son, Woody, who turns one next month. That's an impressive list of achievements for a man whose reputation as a party animal precedes him; he thanks the drug ecstasy for turning his life around after depression and bankruptcy, has admitted to drug and booze benders which lasted days and, famously, snorted a line of cocaine off a railway track. This explains why he titled his last album Halfway Between The Gutter And The Stars. 'I was suddenly transported from being a DJ and producer to being a superstar,' says Cook. 'I'm not very good at being a pop star staying in flash hotels. Rather than order champagne on room service, I'm the type of guy who goes to the nearest liquor store to buy a bottle of vodka 'cos it's cheaper. I'll always have one foot in the gutter.' However, his marriage to media darling Ball and role as father have slightly mellowed him. Their relationship, which began in the late 1990s, catapulted them to celebrity couple status. 'We're the antidote to Posh and Becks,' says Cook, referring to Britain's 'first couple' David Beckham and Victoria Adams. While the English soccer star and Spice Girl sold their wedding pictures to Hello for $12 million, Cook and Ball refused to cash in on their matrimony. 'We don't flaunt things or seek publicity,' says Cook. 'The tabloids seem to like us. We're straight with them and hopefully they treat us the same in return, although we do have them camped outside the house and stuff.' It's a generous assessment of the press pack given that Ball was once snapped topless while they were on holiday. Unlike squeaky-clean Beckham, it's harder to sully Cook's reputation since he is as upfront about his lifestyle as his penchant for stealing riffs and samples to create new hits. 'If I get caught going to the supermarket or doing normal things, that's more of a story than me rolling out of a club drunk at 3am,' he says. Fame doesn't bother him. 'For 12 years, people didn't know what I looked like or even know my name. Now everybody does. People who come up in the day and shake your hand are OK,' he says. 'The only problem is at night when drunks hassle you, when you just want to enjoy yourself and dance. But it's not that great a hardship. It's better than being stuck in a factory plucking chickens all day.' Cook says he understands, however, why there are so many celebrity couples. 'If I have to go on the road for two weeks, or Zoe has to do the same for filming, we understand the demands of each other's work. And there's no jealousy about success or anything. Zoe and I work well together.' Ball also understands her husband's need to carry on partying. Cook took three months off work when Woody was born, but by the end was itching to get out playing again. 'Now, when I'm out I go more wild. I have to pack everything into a shorter time. From Monday to Thursday I'm Dad and then on Friday and Saturday I'm out and condense all my partying into those two nights.' Cook's wife and son are the only subjects that elicit the same enthusiasm as music and partying. Christened Quentin Cook, a name which led to him being bullied at school because of the famous homosexual Quentin Crisp, he grew up in suburbia in Reigate, near London. His father, an environmentalist, was given a Member of the British Empire medal by Queen Elizabeth because he introduced bottle banks to Britain. But he rebelled against his middle-class upbringing by becoming a punk, DJing and joining bands. In the mid-1980s, his friend Paul Heaton invited him to replace the bassist who had quit his rising pop band, The Housemartins. Cook joined just as the foursome notched a string of hits. He enjoyed being a pop star but insists he was always a DJ at heart. 'At the time I joined the band, you could not make a living being a DJ,' reflects Cook. 'You couldn't be a professional, DJs didn't get treated as well as they do now.' That's certain. Cook's fee for his few-hour stint in Hong Kong tomorrow night is rumoured to be in excess of $250,000. 'Dance music has grown so much. In the early days it was underground and you were playing to 200 people. Now I play for up to 40,000,' he says. Cook's successes have been tinged with tough times. After The Housemartins disbanded in 1988, he began releasing songs - many of them hits - under aliases such as Beats International, best known for the classic track Dub Be Good To Me, and other aliases including Freakpower, Mighty Dub Katz and Pizzaman. He appeared to revel in the freedom of anonymity. But in the mid-1990s his career nosedived, he went bankrupt and suffered clinical depression after a messy divorce. It was a return to partying and the discovery of the drug ecstasy which Cook credits with turning around his fortunes (although he stresses he doesn't recommend it as a cure for all depressives). He rediscovered his musical Midas touch and so began a procession of hits under the name Fatboy Slim, a name he decided to stick to. As Fatboy Slim, Cook had three hit singles before his full-length debut Better Living Through Chemistry, full of samples, breaks and catchy hooks. Cook samples anyone and everyone rather than making his own music from scratch and although 'serious' DJs, especially in the United States, sometimes pour scorn on him, Cook's fun formula has mostly won him the respect of his peers and legions of fans. How has he turned himself into a one-man hit factory? 'I have an ear for a hook,' says Cook simply. He used to work in a record store and noted that customers would often ask staff to find a song by humming or singing the hook. Cook almost singlehandedly launched the big-beat genre which would take dancefloors by storm over the next two years, culminating in Fatboy Slim's second album You've Come A Long Way Baby (the title of all three albums being brazenly autobiographical). The platinum-seller contained such hits The Rockafeller Skankand Praise You. All the time, Cook was spinning the big-beat sound in Brighton and, increasingly, around the world. By his own admission, big beat - a cluttered sound of thumping beats, breaks, assorted noises and samples - is dead. 'The big-beat thing wore out,' he says. So for Halfway Between The Gutter And The Stars, Cook moved on. He kept pilfering, sampling Jim Morrison's poetic 'bird of prey' line for a song of the same name, but for the first time enlisted guest vocalists such as Bootsy Collins and Macy Gray. The songs have Cook's trademark hooks but are less commercial and more mature, pulling in everything from gospel to R&B. How has he turned himself into a one-man hit factory? 'I have an ear for a hook,' says Cook simply. He used to work in a record store and noted that customers would often ask staff to find a song by humming or singing the hook. Cook samples anyone and everyone rather than making his own music from scratch and, although 'serious' DJs, especially in the United States, sometimes pour scorn on him, Cook's fun formula has mostly won him the respect of his peers and legions of fans. He played Hong Kong in 1997 but it was a terrible experience. 'It wasn't good,' he says understatedly. The venue of Jimmy's Sports Bar at Hong Kong Stadium split the crowd on to two floors, gave barely room to dance and no stage on which the charismatic showman could perform. 'Showboating is part of my act. It's important to communicate with the audience. We learned from that. These days we take it a lot more seriously, look at venues and check the production before the night.' Cook says he still loves going on the road despite missing Ball and Woody (who won't be in Hong Kong) and an ever-growing list of new projects from film trailers to producing Blur's next album ('I asked them if they wanted me to make it dancey and they said no'). Marriage, fatherhood and maturity. Is Cook really a changed man at the age of 37. 'Well I still love a party,' he says. 'And DJing is the one thing I could never give up.' Fatboy Slim: Tomorrow, 10pm-6am, HITEC, 1 Trademart Drive, Kowloon Bay. Tickets $500 or $800 for VIP ticket (entry to free champagne room) available from HMV stores, ESD Life outlets and Ticketek (3128 8288/ www.ticketek.com.hk ).