Interview: IAMX

By April 15, 2009 May 11th, 2013 Features
IAMX is the solo project from ex-Sneaker Pimps front man Chris Corner – performer, producer, thinker – who’s lyrics often focus on the darker side of human nature – sex, drugs, desires, pleasures and pains – combined with infectious beats and a true love of his fans and the community they have become, has made IAMX an electronic star about to go super nova. On the verge of releasing his new album, ‘Kingdom of Welcome Addiction’, and in the middle of a long European and US tour, Chris invited SPHERE into his world and to show us life through his eyes, his new home in Berlin and the state of the music industry today. He explained to us why he detests it and how he plans to change it all for the greater good.
“I am creative, I am healthy, I am surrounded by good people, I love and am loved”

S] As much as you can, can you tell us what event in your life inspired you to write the song ‘Think Of England’ as you have said previously that it’s about deconstructing your old home because of the freedom you have found in Berlin?
C] It seems to be my way of letting go, of destroying repetitive nasty habits and moving on. Berlin facilitates a sense of freedom but England stayed with me in many negative ways. I have always been and will continue to be running away. That’s part of this gypsy life. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to move through and not look back and I found it very easy to do this in my work, but not in my personal life. The writing of this song was unavoidable. I wrote the verse three years ago when the process started and the chorus three months ago when I had the confidence to look it in the face. Finding the chorus was like a diamond bullet. An orgasm that broke the ice.  It’s funny because the song is not a typical IAMX track and definitely doesn’t represent the record as a whole. It is a flirt with indie rock rather than electro but I like its naivety.  It is stating the obvious. I don’t want to think of home, of the people I left behind; of the nonsense I did, of the grubby nature of the music business. The pig-swill fashionable and mind numbing famous. I found calm on the streets of Berlin, in its bars, galleries, ping pong courts, in its openness and warmth. London is a draining, devilish place just like many other cities. It is has one per cent artistic success and 99 per cent artistic casualty. You could say getting out saved me.
I don’t care what people think anymore, what other musicians are doing, what the media forces upon me. I am no longer a product of the pressure of that machine. It allows me to write honestly. With sincerity and not with irony. That is precious to me now and I will do everything I can to nurture the way things are.
S] Even though this new material is more stripped down, what has always fuelled your passion for electronic music?
C] Convenience firstly, I am impatient and want unusual results quickly. I am also personally interested in all sounds and ways. Technology is human evolution so it is ‘organic’ it is ‘natural’. We created it. Computers are instruments. I love that I can play many different instruments alone without needing a huge budget and to deal with the social torment of musicians egos. The experimentation is also boundless. I think my main influence came from listening to early David Sylvian records. The way the electronic elements melted seamlessly into the acoustic ones astounded me. Such grace and subtlety. Painting beautiful musical pictures. I got lost in many of those songs and created my own worlds because, being a child, I couldn’t figure out what was what. It didn’t matter. I got the point.
I also respect of course the more obvious electronic masters, Kraftwerk, DAF, Moroder. Although, I am not interested in the purity of the form but in the projection of the song and the emotion behind it. It is amazing what a unique atmosphere one can create with just a drum machine, a few synthesizers and some effects. Stripped down dirty, sleazy late 70s early 80s bands like Suicide and Soft Cell are great examples of this. Often electronic music is seen as ‘not real’ or cold. I would like to help a little to get rid of that misconception.
S] You said at one time, that the X represented your subconscious, has that changed at all with this new record?
C] No. And I think it will continue to be so. My subconscious is powerful and unburdened in some ways. It guides me and I trust it. I fool myself sometimes that I am a stiff scientific thinker, held back by my concern for technicality and function. It is important that I have that because it helps me produce the records and be ‘professional.’ But it is not really true. I am feeling more and more lead by the heart and a deeper artistic drive. Some things always repeat themselves when I make a record.
The anxiety of being worthy and able are the main problems for me. I am always wondering ‘What is the point of the record?’ and asking ‘What does it mean?’ Why I am I doing it? Is it good or a piece of shit?’ These questions are part of the challenge I guess.This doubt is why I find it hard to ‘listen’ to my music when it is completed. I mean listen in the sense of analyse. I find it much more comfortable having a kind of blind faith. Throwing myself into it. Being overly emotional, sexual, complicated, and brutal. I suspect this is my subconscious in control.
Chris Corner photo by Janine Gebauer
S] You have mentioned previously that you are creating a venue (a kingdom if you like) for artists and painters to join you so that they can work, how far along are you with this now, have you had any more thoughts on how to make it happen?
C] It is something I have fantasised about for years. Bringing together a group of people that work for a higher purpose. Something like the Bauhaus movement that came out of Dessau in the early 20th century, but a little less structured. So many things concern me about the world. I want to find people to get involved. Being part of driven, independent concepts, art pieces, films, music. A collection of bright and open minds. I now occupy an old GDR water factory just outside Berlin. I already have two artists working there and a couple of studio rooms. I am also in the process of setting up a group of writers and thinkers in Berlin. As yet unnamed. Put the word out, I am open to input.
S] What do you think of this pay-as-you-like scheme championed by the like of Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead, as an independent artist (but someone who is very much for the fans) how do you feel about it at this point – we know you have said in the past that it lessens people’s appreciation of the art form?
C] It annoys me when bands like NIN and Radiohead get this kind of attention. Like they invented something new. No. This had been going on independently for years. They obviously can afford to do it. They have millions and are already famous. Why are they any different from the corporate business model of the existing industry?
The real interesting, revolutionary stuff is happening for bands with no money, no fame, no label. They are finding the clever ways to sell themselves and think outside the box, because they have no choice. With IAMX we have created a project that is self sufficient. We don’t have much backing, very little press, almost zero TV yet we manage to get half way across the world and play sold out tours in the US. What is happening here? I think it is about the intimacy and connection with the fans and offering them something valuable. It is almost more valuable because it is not on MTV. In fact I would be worried if it was.
When people get things for free or dirt cheap the perception of worth goes down.  I want to make music and products that people want to pay for. I also want them to know that it is up to them. If people stop supporting the project financially then it simply won’t exist for long. I have faith in the fans. I think they are smart, loyal and have a conscience.

S] Colours played a huge part in what you did with ‘The Alternative’, so if yellow and black represents madness, what do the red and white triangles with black used for ‘Kingdom’ represent?

C] I think the strong graphic shows a more self assured vision. I wanted to be very direct and quite clean with the front page. So that you pull away the layers and as you dig deeper it gets darker and heavier. The red and white have a symbolic touch. My original idea was to create an IAMX flag for our Kingdom. Something strong and almost propaganda like. I felt this was then a little over the top. Something more post-structuralist and connecting with the lyrics was then introduced. Red still represents the beast. The monster that runs around drinking too much, making a big noise and wants to be loved. The white represents the wise brother that sits in a room thinking too much.
IAMX photo by Janine Gebauer
S] We know that you enjoy the mediums of music and film so have you thought about a movie concept yet and what kind of themes would be present?
C] Film is my second love. Most of my creativity outside of music is put into the visual side of IAMX. I shoot and edit the live visuals which I see as small self-contained movies. Quite abstract but they really add another dimension to the music. It also can give a completely different angle on something you believe you know something about. With IAMX, anything with spirit and playfulness goes. There is a lot of hidden misunderstood humour. Many people get the project wrong if they don’t dig into the other stuff that comes with it. It is a package deal.
I would say I am probably more influenced by film-makers than musicians anyway.  Fellini, Tarkovsky, Bergmann, Svankmejer, Lynch and on and on. I have an idea for a small film based entirely on a Bertolt Brecht poem called ‘Kinderkreuzzug.’ Simple, elegant. There is an actor here in Germany called Ulrich Gebauer that I would like to work with. One actor, one camera. On the other side of that; I would also love to compose a less structured soundtrack. More based on sound design and less on songs and pop. I find it frustrating sometimes always working with verse, chorus but I also don’t want to alienate people or to crawl up my own arse. So this stuff I would like to make on the side to satisfy my avant garde lust.

S] Given that you are by all definitions successful, even though you don’t need success and even though you have been through some dark times. To come through and write a song about finding happiness (‘You Can Be Happy’) and to write a much more positive record, would you say that you are the happiest that you have ever been as a person now?

C] Yes and no. ‘You Can Be Happy’ is a reminder. A designed piece of self-deception. I figure that if I create a mantra for myself and others that I will eventually be brainwashed. The best happiness is always synthetic. We create our own destiny and we can choose what is pleasure and what is pain. It is tragic to believe that happiness is something that will happen to you sometime in the future. It can happen when you want if you can let go of the psychological baggage of the past. I am not rich, I am not famous, but you are right, I feel successful. I feel successful because I have sculpted my life to be how I want it to be. I am creative, I am healthy, I am surrounded by good people, I love and am loved. Money is not important. If I have it I spend it, if I don’t, I make it. But sometimes it is hard to be happy because the world is full of poison and one must fight hard to not be affected by it. Wake up, drag yourself out of the grind of the daily maze and witness the rapture of being alive.

S] What kind of imagery and architecture were you inspired by during the making of ‘Kingdom Of Welcome Addiction’?

C] I am in a baroque royal phase at the moment. I don’t know what that means but I feel attracted to gold decorative luxurious imagery. Combined with the 20s German expressionist vision. That turns me on. It is not the way I want to lead my life but somehow the grandness of the sound on the new record is connected with it. In the end it is just another record by just another artist with just another message about love, death, sex and the human condition. I think it the most straight forward and hopeful record I have made though. But then again I have no idea what I make, I have no idea really of how to explain it and I don’t even listen to it once it is done. I am often stabbing in the dark. Guessing. It is not my job to describe my work. It is yours. So I leave it to others now it is in the world.
For more information visit the band’s Myspace and website.
Watch a video preview for the band’s tour below: