In a world where flash mobs have become synonymous with cringeworthy proposal videos or overly slick ad campaigns, revisiting Fatboy Slim’s Praise You feels like a breath of fresh air. In fact, the term ‘flash mob’ wasn’t even part of our cultural lexicon when the music video was first released in 1999.
Directed by a 30-year-old Spike Jonze, who also stars as his Richard Koufey alter ego, the promo centres on an impromptu performance by the fictional Torrance Community Dance Group outside a cinema in LA. The bemused crowd queuing for movie tickets become as much a part of the performance as the dancers themselves. As does the unsuspecting security guard who turns off the boombox halfway through, and is mounted by Koufey until he relents and the brilliantly chaotic dance routine can resume.
The team behind the promo includes John Hassay, who was originally Norman Cook’s (aka Fatboy Slim) tenant before he started working as a music video commissioner. Together they created a body of work that, aside from Praise You, includes Roman Coppola’s ‘blow shit up’ approach to Gangster Trippin’; Hammer and Tongs’ surreal take on evolution in Right Here, Right Now; Traktor’s Charlie’s Angels inspired promo for Ya Mama; and Jonze’s triumphant follow up Weapon of Choice, which stars a tap-dancing Christopher Walken.
Here, we speak to Hassay and Fatboy himself about why they hated the traditional pop music video; the madness of making Praise You with Jonze; and how the video helped usher in a new lo-fi approach to production that still resonates today.