Photo by: Patrick Higgins

Brings soul to the machines

By: Johan Carlsson
Published: October 15, 2008

Most of you know about my IAMX obsession, and I have my two ten out of ten reviews to prove it if you don't. Understandable then, that I was exhilarated when I got to meet Chris Corner of IAMX. He looked every bit the pop star that he is, clad in black leather clothes and dark hair hanging down in front of his face. He was a very nice and easy going chap though, and we had a good long chat.


Good news
British born Chris Corner was only fifteen years old when he started Sneaker Pimps with his friends 1989. Three great albums later - going from trip hop to electronic pop - they disbanded, and Chris started making music under the moniker IAMX. His mix of emotional vocals, electronic beats and intriguing songwriting has made his two solo albums "Kiss & Swallow" and "The Alternative" some of the best reviewed albums ever. When I met him I was anxious to hear if we have some new music to look forward to, so let's start off with that.

– Fortunately I’m a bit of a tech-head - I always have my laptop, so I can always work. I’ve written many new songs on tour that I think would be worthy of an album. But we’ll see, I still have to go and record them.

What’s the style of the new material then? Is it like "The Alternative"?  

– Um, I’m still working on it, but I would say it is an extension of that. I like the foundations that I’ve laid. I often change things because I get bored with myself. And I think I’ll be building on it, maybe make it more intimate. I don’t know. Maybe a bit raw and kind of aggressive still, but not as messy. Quite simple.

After this interview, Chris has finished rebuilding his studio, and he's now working on more new material.

Do you do everything yourself?

– Yeah, I’m a bit of a dictator in the studio, and in life, Chris laughs. I think it’s my only chance to throw my weight around. Maybe negatively, you can say I’m obsessed, but I see it more as a sort of creative drive that I can’t control and I need to keep working. When I get in the studio, and if I don’t have anyone around to record a part, I need to learn it and record it myself. I’m desperate to keep things moving forward. I learned to play as many things as I could, on a basic level, so I could record. I do, I play the most that I can. One, you get things done more quickly, and two, you don’t blame people when things fuck up, you can only blame yourself.


Chris and Sue Denim.
Photo by: Radeq Brousil

This doesn't stop him from working with other people though. For example he's worked with The Strike Boys, Moonbootica as well as his girlfriend Sue Denim and her band Robots in Disguise. 

– Yeah, Sue of course. I think little bits of collaborations here and there keep me sane. Because if you work by yourself in the studio constantly, it’s not healthy. It’s healthy in the way of getting stuff out, but then the boring parts of piecing it together can be really stressful. So it’s a breath of fresh air when you get to work with somebody, and it’s also a good test of your production skills to be able to communicate and to work with a band, which I like to do, to keep it fresh.

IAMX has been touring almost constantly, travelling to USA twice to play and now he's playing around Europe. This is the good old fashioned approach for building your name, and it seems to work very well, although there's a fair bit of Internet marketing as well. I ask him about what he thinks about touring.

– It’s good! Touring is a bit like a war, you go out to battle, and you have to deal with boredom and stuff like that, but it’s very rewarding if you win. We usually have good shows, because my way of thinking is that if you’re not having a good show, then you’re not trying hard enough, and it’s my responsibility to move people and move myself. Otherwise, why am I there?


Chris' crayons goes berserk sometimes.

Spreading the word
Even after two albums and several singles, IAMX still don’t have distribution in several areas. Chris and the management are constantly working on making the album available. In an interesting move, Chris released a new version of "The Alternative" for the UK market, slightly reworking several of the tracks into somewhat rougher and harder versions.

But how do people find you?

– I don’t know. I’m a bit retarded when it comes to the Internet, I generally think that when you’re putting something out there that… I have to be careful how I say this… that is real, then I think people kind of smell it. Word of mouth is more powerful than any promotion you can do, and I think the small amount of attention that IAMX has had, have been through word of mouth, because we have no press here, or that kind of system. So thank god for the Internet! And the hardcore fans.


Everywhere I look there are glowing reviews for IAMX. Getting bad reviews could be pretty tough to receive I think, but I also have a feeling that too many good reviews might give you too much pressure. And it seems like Chris feels the same thing. But has he ever had a bad review?

– Oh God yeah, I mean everybody gets bad reviews. We haven’t got any bad reviews for this album though, but I don’t know if that’s because I just switched off… I don’t want to see them. I’ve had bad reviews in my musical history, but to be honest I don’t read them. I don’t read good reviews either. If stuff comes to me, I look at it very briefly and go “ah, that’s good”. In the same sense a bad review can destroy you, a good review can get you pressure and stress, and also a false sense of security.

You were only 15 when you started Sneaker Pimps, have you tried doing something else, or did you know by then that you wanted to be a musician?  

– When we started the band I was still studying, obviously. I was young when it was all happening, I didn’t really know what was going on. I think it was too early to get into that business, because of all the baggage that comes along with the music industry. The drugs, travelling, the psychology of it, it wasn’t great for me. But, I think it somehow made me into what I am now, and that’s really important. I was lucky that we got a deal, and things happened, and I had the opportunity to live a life with music. I’ve been very free. My second love was studying, and I was doing astrophysics later, and I’m still interested in that. But I’ve kind of forgotten everything now… The drugs took it away, haha! Sometimes I like to go back and dabble with that, but…


The cover for Chris' soundtrack.

Trying to not be interesting
Chris made the soundtrack for the small French flight-action movie "Les Chevaliers du Ciel". The sound of that album is a bit of a departure for him, as it's rockier and more straight forward. Can we expect something like that again?  

–Yes, I started another soundtrack actually which was for a Russian movie, but I found out they were all black market mafia, so decided not to continue with that. But the marriage of visuals and music I find fascinating. With a live show it’s a similar experience, how you present yourself, the visuals that you have, the lighting. It kind of explains the music. When you connect these two, it takes on another life. When I did this film, I had a really good working experience with the director. He had no sense of music, but kind of knew what he didn’t like, so I would give him these different things, and he would say “no, no, yes”. And it’s very interesting, because you learn very quickly how things work in the film world. It was an exercise that was very good for me to do. And also, I had to write pop songs. 

–The lyrics are very simple. It was something that I had to really try to do, try to not be too interesting, Chris says with a wink in his eye. That was a real test, to really break it down and go “I have to do a pop song”. And in that sense it was good.

A couple of years ago, he moved from England to Berlin, a city that seems pretty popular in electronic music circles.

– I love it. It’s my favourite city in the world.  


– Because it can be everything you want, and it can be transparent. You can exist there without pressure, and to have that in a city is very unique, because cities are about pressure, about trends, about drive, moving forward, progress. And Berlin is very relaxed. It has all these elements to it, it has decadence, it has drugs, all of this, it has all of these things, but if you don’t want it, you don’t have to have it, it’s not in your face. It’s full of artists, it’s full of musicians, full of liberal, interesting people.


I always feel like somebody's watching me...  

You have brought more sex and soul into electronic music. Does that come from living in Berlin?  

– No…  

I can’t really see it in Sneaker Pimps?

– No, IAMX is a much more personal project. Not that I’m sex obsessed, but it’s fascinating. The psychology of sex to me is very fascinating, I want to explore that, and continue to explore that, because it’s an endless subject, the way everything is related to it. I think Berlin opened me up a little bit, but it didn’t put the soul into the music. I’m really really concerned about making electronic music soulful, and by that I don't mean funk, but putting some depth into it. It can be quite hard to do; connecting traditional songs with electronic music can work out really badly. You have to be sensitive to that, and that’s my goal. It’s to put soul into electronic music.  

Surely living in Berlin would expose him to other electronic music then, perhaps some other soulful stuff? 

– I only listen to my own music, haha. It’s weird; I’ve created this little world that I find very difficult to get out of. I think it’s a protection, because if I allow too much in, it confuses me. I’m very strict, I know what I want, and I know how to do it. So I don’t want to hear too much, because it would fuck it up. I can listen to things that are completely far removed from IAMX: classical music, cabaret you know. Stuff from a different time that has no power over me. I get distracted very easily.

IAMX has only played in Sweden once, at the Arvika festival in 2007. And it seemed that word of mouth worked there as well, as there was a big and crazy crowd. Chris mentioned during the gig that "We really have to get back here". It was one of the best gigs I've ever seen, so I hope Chris fulfills those words soon. And release his third IAMX album of course.