Chris Corner of IAMX
Chris Corner a.k.a. IAMX welcomed us stylish-atmospheric at candle light in the Matrix. Starting off with a few dead-end questions, we manage to get into talking terms in one of the most interesting and most intensive conversations I've ever had. Some may distantly consider him a diva, a crazy bird, a contradictive character or whatever, but today he is very open, spontaneous - always thinking of the right words to express his thoughts. Seeming coquettish-shy he talks about IAMX' birth, his new life in Berlin, songs und styles, but also messages and his vision of his mission as an artist.
IAMX: "I feel that it's my responsibility… to allow people to lose control of themselves."
Reflections of Darkness (RoD): How did you spend this lovely autumn's day?
Chris: How did I spend it? Apart from travelling?
RoD: Yeah, I guess you always have to travel a lot. What else have you been doing?
Chris: Not much… I've been thinking, it's been one of those thinking days. Why? I guess, when the autumn comes, I get this - uhm - … Contemplative? … Yeah! But travelling is perfect for that ‘cause you have a lot of time. Travelling, you know, and moving objects - you can't really settle on anything. So it's quite good for thought flow. But in terms of anything spectacular or interesting… What's the last spectacularly interesting thing that I did? (thinking hard)…
RoD: Last concert maybe?
Chris: (relieved, much more invigorated) Maybe last concert!
RoD: Well, you were or are still the mastermind of the Sneaker Pimps…
Chris: (hesitating) I would say… were. That doesn't mean that things couldn't change… (grinning)
RoD: Can you describe the moment when IAMX was born or maybe I could say set free?
Chris: Yeah, I can describe the time. When I was in London, I was a bit over the city, and a bit over the lifestyle I was leading. There were lots of complications with opinions in the band and the music and I was putting a lot of input into Sneakers. The songs became much more personal because I was taking more of a driving role in the band. It didn't really fit and I was really precious about the material, so I started IAMX in London but I didn't really do anything with it until I moved to Berlin. I think Berlin was a sort of excuse for me to do it. Even though I started a different project in Berlin - I was doing a soundtrack for a French movie, it gave me the excuse to move away and focus on myself.
RoD: There are certain ways of explaining the name IAMX. I thought of "X" as also meaning to leave something behind. So, on your way, what have you left behind?
Chris: Lots of things! Think you've hit the nail on the head. I think I'm a person that needs to move on, and I think it's important in life to look forward or to look onto the now at least, and not dwell on the past. If you get to bad habits, I don't just leave them - kind of hedonism or drugs or sex - but psychological patterns that are destructive. If you can… I left behind a lot of friends I guess, I left my family behind when I left. I just wanted to get out of the city.
RoD: Finally growing up…
Chris: Yeah! (enthusiastic) Yes, it's true actually. You feel like finally becoming a man.
RoD: You also said about IAMX that the character changes. What is it like now?
Chris: Brooding… It feels like a kind of poignant, broody, nasty character. I think when I made ‘Kingdom of Welcome Addiction’ I was much more emotional and quite fragile I guess - or sensitive, maybe the word sensitive. And now I feel like angry again. I don't really know why.
RoD: You don't look angry now…
Chris: No, I'm not. I think it's more an undercurrent or a wave of something coming up… I would say subconsciously…
RoD: What would you say are the dangers of having an alternative such as IAMX?
Chris: Well, the dangers are that you become that character. That's one danger - anyway, I guess, I have, but I think I've taken the strengths of that character rather than the weaknesses.
RoD: You mean you have to kind of tame that character?
Chris: You do! Yeah! I think that's still going on. But I think there are more positive things in that character than negative things. There is some destructive stuff that I still need to lose, working on it.
RoD: What for example?
Chris: Uhm… That's too personal. (laughing shyly)
RoD: Some questions about some older songs. ‘President’ has got a nice video with it. Where did the idea come from?
Chris: It started as a very different thing. The idea was just room with light bulbs in it, this was the director's idea, but when we got into the flow of things, and they had all these styles and all of this industry crap they brought in - they thought it would help, and it didn't. So we ended up just dressing ourselves, you know, and wrapping ourselves in Gaffa tape and trying to sort of take over the feeling, the style of the whole thing.
RoD: I think it worked out…
Chris: Yeah, in that point it worked! And the performance - I think it was a nice time for me to experiment with this character because this stuff was there. Even though I really relay to that character a lot, you know, it's always an extension of me.
RoD: Sure. How did it come to that remix of ‘Spit it out’?
Chris: I did three different versions, I had two different mixes. I ended up hating this song in one point, thinking 'It's never gonna be right'. I liked the writing and I was really happy with the song, sitting down with the guitar… But sometimes you get yourself into a position where you have a really nice song and you're trying to dress it up in a way that fits the album, and maybe the song didn't fit the album and I sort of waited or whatever. But in the end I knew it had to be used and it was important past he album.
RoD: People are dancing, they love it around here!
Chris: Really? Wow!
RoD: You made some acoustic songs also, played acoustic sets. Do you play all the instruments yourself - the piano and so on - if you compose songs?
Chris: Yeah, originally that's how I started, because I was so interested in production. Sort of to be in control as a producer, and I needed at least to play a few different instruments. So I just kind of taught myself and it's something that I would like to explore a bit more. Now that I've done a lot of aggressive stage performance, I'd like to go back.
RoD: Something about ‘Kingdom of Welcome Addiction’: what's the meaning of the title for you?
Chris: I never really have a snappy answer. It's an extension of ‘The Alternative’. I think it's quite a natural place for me, but there's also a sophisticated interest, people can lose themselves. I think that the whole album - even though it's not that necessarily highbrow in terms of intellectual - it's still quite a sinful pop album in some ways. It's another world, a fantasy. And addiction is, I guess, always related to negative stuff and I don't think it should be. I think it can be positive if you use it in the right way.
RoD: One song is ‘Teargarden’ and in the video you have all this animals. What do you associate with those animals?
Chris: It was the director's idea. Well, I mean, we sat there and talked about it together and I really liked the idea, and I thought because of the original word play with Tiergarten in Berlin, where I live. I originally thought that that's what it meant when I didn't know any German. I loved this idea, playing with this emotional stuff but also bringing a bit of this kind of, almost like a mistake that I made. It shows the path of me going to Berlin, making mistakes sometimes.
RoD: In ‘Think of England’ there's something about Berlin streets…
Chris: It's probably most openly autobiographical and it tells the story of me needing to get away from this place. I've been completely in some way free from my old life but also concerned about what I'm doing and where I'm going, you know. I never really liked to go too specific into details of what I've written, it's impossible. Actually it was quite literal at the time. It wasn't necessarily painful to think of England, but I thought it was healthier for me not to. When I first came to Berlin I was really attracted to this. I came in the winter and it was always really dark in the streets. You have these sort of, you know, the old buildings of a specific height, and the street's quite dark, and it's safe, there's something really comforting in that. It's really low-lit, and you pass all these bars and there's little candles in the windows - I lust felt really safe in Berlin - I mean psychologically safe. It still gives me goose pimples to think of that feeling.
RoD: You once said that a concert is like going to war…
Chris: I think it's two things: it's like going to war and it's also like having sex with lots of people. It really depends on the mood, they're related, the aggression is related to that sort of attraction.
RoD: It develops?
RoD: You can't plan that…
Chris: No, you can't. It's very unpredictable. I think what is predictable is that I go on the offensive. I guess that's what I mean about war, whatever comes out, whether it's negative or even positive. I feel that it's my responsibility or my duty to control the situation or to allow people to lose control of themselves. I think that's what they're there for, and sometimes they can't do it without me.
RoD: Can you say anything about the costumes that are going to wear?
Chris: No, it's all random shit (laughing) that I find everywhere. That's the attitude of the whole project - there has to be a sort of fucked up spontaneity about it and dirt that is real. I think if we dress up, it's dressing up for the sake of being able to rip ourselves apart on stage. It just means that you get to a point, where it's related again to this sort of therapy idea: 'OK, I'm dressed up - whether this is ridiculous or amazing - it's a good place to start rather than coming on in a T-shirt.' I feel the music needs that or I need that in my life, and it's also quite playful… since I was dressed up by my sister as a girl when I was little.
RoD: Well, nevertheless, I would say you're kind of an expert of style…
Chris: Really? Oh, god!
RoD: Could you style this character in an IAMX style?
Chris: Wow, see what happens… (after some time) This is the most fun I've had for five years…