The flamboyant British
songwriter isn’t just a character.
BY GIL MACIAS
Some might call IAMX frontman (and erstwhile Sneaker Pimps
member) Chris Corner an interesting “character,” but to him, that word suggests
that he’s acting. While David Bowie had his Ziggy Stardust and Bono had The Fly
and Macphisto, those were just stage characters. Chris Corner is himself. His
ultra-glossy stage persona might seem like some sort of act, but it’s not. His
onstage appearance is the essence of IAMX, which is about art, theater and
creativity. He’s building a version of himself only to break it down and destroy
it onstage. In fact, his offstage appearance is not much different, just a bit
The band stopped by Los Angeles
while touring their masterful new album, Kingdom of Welcome
Addiction and we were able to have an
intimate chat with the mastermind himself. It was the night before his show, in
a cozy hotel room and many things were discussed including his very personal new
album, religion, what it’s like for him onstage, and the future direction of
BLURT: So a big
standout track on your new album is “Running.” It’s so bittersweet, moving and
there’s this sense of loss and abandonment in it. Is it about you or someone in
CORNER: I think every song is about me and everyone else.
Obviously, I am using me as the subject, and somebody else, but the conclusion
is always about me. I don’t want it to sound too much like I’m looking to be
saved. In some ways, it’s not necessarily about giving up, it’s just about
accepting where you are and who you are as a person. I wanted to leave it open.
I didn’t necessarily want it to be seen as a negative, like I need help or I
can only do this by myself. In fact, the acceptance of that can sometimes be
very therapeutic and just being lucky enough to write about that is sometimes
enough to get me through it.
BLURT: I have a similar question about “I am
Terrified.” It’s a very powerful and intense song about alcoholism. You get
very personal on this album. At first listen, one might think it’s about you.
CORNER: Yea, I think it’s probably the first time I’ve been
quite—I wouldn’t say brave, but—had the balls to really expose that
fragility or sensitivity. It is a combination of me and people in my life, the
relationships I have been in. I think I’m a bit of a magpie with these songs. I
take influences from many different things and wrap it up in this one song.
It’s partly autobiographical but it’s definitely maybe observational about a
general sort of malaise in the world or just a specific problem with myself. I
think I write about stuff quite confidently knowing that other people will have
the same problems. So in some sense, it’s kind of a global issue rather than
just my fight with hedonism [laughs].
BLURT: How did the
duet with Imogen Heap in “My Secret Friend” fall into place?
CORNER: It felt quite natural, actually. I’m not very
comfortable with collaboration. I don’t really like to lose my control, but with
Imogen, I was a fan and she was a
fan—which was kind of strange, I didn’t expect that—and she turned up at
shows when we were playing in England, and she would be all kind of into the
IAMX theme which didn’t seem to fit with her music so much. I found that quite
interesting. I think we kind of knew something would happen musically. I wrote
this song at the very end of the album actually. It was a bit of an
afterthought. I didn’t really think I would use it, I really didn’t know what I
was doing with it. I just experimented with it. I had this vision of this
incestuous brother and sister relationship. She would be the man and I imagine
I would be this dressed up, weird girl prostitute or something. I just had this
horrible vision of this weird relationship and she seemed to fit perfectly.
She’s really tall and physically she seemed to have that and obviously she has
very strong character in her music. So I asked if she would like to get
involved and she liked the idea, surprisingly. And we did it virtually over the
internet. She sent the stuff back to me, I mixed it, and it worked really well
I think. I’d like to make a video with her for that track. I think it can be
quite interesting. Dress her up as a man and do some weird things with her.
BLURT: Now that
you’ve collaborated with Imogen, do you see yourself collaborating with other
CORNER: Not really. All of the people I want to collaborate
with are dead [laughs]. That’s kind
of depressing because, I don’t know if it’s just some fantasy that I created in
my head because that they’re dead, they’re better. Also, I don’t think I want
to work with musicians. I think I’d like to do some film and maybe collaborate
with directors, do some music for some crazy films, or maybe make a film. I do
a lot of the visuals for IAMX so I’d like to get into making my own film as
well. In terms of stage performance, I also want to take it into theaters.
Maybe do some odd theatrical performance that isn’t just a standard
performance. What I’d like to do, which we’re planning for February, I don’t know
if it’s going to happen yet, is do an acoustic tour with just me and the guitar
and some loop pedals and interesting effects and stuff and present the songs in
a completely different way. Let’s see what happens.
BLURT: You raised a
question. If you can collaborate with someone dead, who would it be?
CORNER: At the moment it would be, the late and great
Federico Fellini, the fabulous Italian filmmaker. I’d like to do a soundtrack
to one of his insanely, out-of-control films.
BLURT: Your voice on
this album seems to be at its best. It’s noticeably stronger and more powerful
than before. Do you ever take vocal coaching or are you self-taught?
CORNER: Well, thank
you very much. I don’t really notice. I don’t have lessons, I never did. I
think I learned a lot from just doing it. One thing about touring is that you
constantly see what you’re doing wrong. You forget about the stuff you’re doing
right. Every night I go onstage and think, “fuck, that’s what I should be
doing.” And maybe the next night, I get it right, and I feel good about it.
There’s always something you can learn and I think when I get into the studio I
take it very seriously that I have to get better and get stronger and just
experiment with it a bit. The voice for me is really an instrument. I’m not
precious about how it should or should not sound. I think it should sound good, but I would rather experiment with
it and push it into places, if it can go there, to experiment with it in the
way I would with a guitar, piano, or drum machine or whatever. It’s the same
thing for me.
BLURT: What’s it like
for you moments before going on stage? How do you prepare for a show?
CORNER: Once the adrenaline kicks it, it sort of prepares it
for you. There is definitely a change of character; it’s a bit of a Jekyll and
Hyde thing. Obviously there’s a bit of an adrenaline pumping feeling combined
with, well obviously dressing up. The psychology of dressing up is quite
important for me, because it gives me a place, a character—character sounds
like I’m acting, that’s not the right word—and something to build up that I
can then destroy and that’s very important for me. So dressing up and
experimenting with style and fashion is important, drinking vodka is important,
talking with the band, pumping each other up and doing that kind of football
team thing is also quite important. But there’s no strict circle, hands tied
routine that we have—it’s quite free.
BLURT: On your new
album, in the song “The Stupid, The Proud” you sing, “God, is dead, we get to
sleep tonight.” On your previous album, in the song “This Will Make You Love
Again,” you sing, “your supermarket Jesus comes with smiles and lies.” And on
your blog you’ve been open about being an atheist. Do you have resentment
towards organized religion and where does this atheism stem from?
CORNER: I think it stems from my search for reason and
evidence in life. It’s not that I don’t think things don’t exist if I don’t
have proof. It’s just that if I say something exists, I think it should be
based on some kind of evidence. The problem with organized religion is that
most of it is not based on evidence. It’s just not enough for me to put my
whole confidence and faith in something that is not grounded on evidence. The
only thing that really is kind of my religion is being creative. I’m not
criticizing people for being religious, because it gives people a lot of hope.
I just think, for me, it has to be based on evidence.
BLURT: So would you
consider yourself a borderline agnostic?
CORNER: Well, the thing is, that is still based on something
that’s still unembraceable and untouchable. The evidence isn’t there yet, so I
don’t want to waste my time on actively hoping that something exists. In fact,
I think it helps me come to terms more with mortality if I don’t put hope in
something. I think it would be arrogant to think that I’m going to exist after
this life. I’m a bit of a scientist as well. I grew up on science, being in
college and going through that. I believe in that kind of evidence. I just
don’t waste my time, that’s the thing. I’d rather spend my time on the beauty
and awe of things that actually exist in the world, natural things like
creativity, sex, human interaction, all of these wonderful, visceral things
that you can touch and you can experience and not waste my time with things
that I can’t touch and don’t really mean anything to me.
BLURT: You did a
gorgeous cover of “Silent Night” in French, “Douce Nuit.” In your blog you said
you did it because you love the melody and that it sounded romantic in French.
Was it hard for you to ignore the religious aspect of that song?
CORNER: I think I was just coming to terms with—not coming
to terms with, but you know how you go through life and you grow up just
accepting all of these things, and then at some point, if you have a wandering
mind, you start to question those things. “Silent Night,” I just loved that
song. Obviously, there are many things that have been created by religion, like
architecture, music and art that was always inspired and funded by religion. If
you take religion away, maybe it wouldn’t have happened. I think it would have
happened, but in a different way. Art will always be there. The desire to
create will always be there, it just happened to be that religion was powerful
enough to motivate it. Using a song like “Silent Night,” I just grew up on
loving that. It just appealed to my melodic sensibility. I almost overlooked
the religious connection. I wasn’t playing with it. I wanted to make sure it
wasn’t a sarcastic take on it.
BLURT: So are the
Sneaker Pimps behind you or will there more material in the future? Or is IAMX
your new permanent home?
CORNER: It’s my new permanent home. I think Sneaker Pimps
might be behind me. I’ve said many times, I passed on the responsibility to the
others to drive that project. When I found my home with IAMX, and I have some
much to do, so much to experiment and explore with that, I wasn’t going to
waste my time trying to kick their asses [laughs].
They have to kick their own asses and if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.
So, you should ask them.
BLURT: Do you still
talk to Kelli Ali?
CORNER: No, I don’t actually. Not that I wouldn’t, I would
be happy to do that. I have no idea what she’s doing. Do you know what she’s
BLURT: She put out a
new album not too long ago. It’s called Rocking
CORNER: How is it?
BLURT: Very mellow.
Complete change from her previous one that was more electronic. The new one is
very acoustic, very slow. I was shocked it was even her.
CORNER: Wow. Ok. I should check it out.
BLURT: If you had the
chance to have one song played all over the world, on every radio station at
the same time, and it was your chance to be heard or maybe to get a message across—what
song of yours would you pick and why?
CORNER: Aww, that’s a nasty one [laughs]. God, I don’t know. Maybe for shock value, “The Stupid, The
Proud.” I’m sure that a lot of people
wouldn’t be too happy about the anti-religious connotations. Maybe for fun, for
general dance spirit, “The Alternative.” “The Stupid, The Proud” and ‘The
Alternative.” I don’t why they come in to my head at the moment. Ask me
tomorrow, I’ll say completely different ones.
BLURT: I’d like to
add “You Stick It In Me” at that list.
CORNER: There you go! A bit of sex, a bit of fun. A little
bit of controversy and provocation.
BLURT: Your first two
albums are very electronic, the second one is especially darker and had more
prominent dance beats. This new album is more raw, passionate, and personal.
You seemed to favor acoustic guitars and piano over electronics and synths. So
what’s the next one going to be like?
CORNER: I can never really predict where I am going to go.
Because I get quite pissed off with myself quite quickly. I usually contradict
myself. So, what I’d like to do for the next 6 months is to drive this album
and to experiment. What’s great about doing this independent approach is that I
can experiment with the tracks a bit more. I can do some remixing; I can do
some different versions. I’d almost like to offer an alternative version of
this album, so you have the album and then you have these kind of weird
alternate versions. I don’t mean in terms of having people remix them, I mean
we’ll do that as well, but actually me, myself remixing them so you have this
more unusual version of the album. That’s what I’d like to do so I can get all
of the stuff out that I want to experiment with. Maybe some harder stuff, more
electronic stuff, more acoustic stuff and some completely string-oriented
stuff. I’m just full of all these things I want to get out. Maybe I should get
it all out now, in the next 6 months, and then I can actually do something
different in a year.
IAMX on the Web: