IAMX's Chris Corner on Album Leaks, Art and A History of the Mind
In a few short years, IAMX, the dark, electronic pop project of Sneaker Pimps co-founder Chris Corner, has developed an intense cult following. Back in 2007, his shows at Safari Sam's sold out with little in the way of major press. At LA nightclubs, selectors like DJ Xian regularly spin such tunes as "Song of Imaginary Beings," "Your Joy is My Low," and "The Great Shipwreck of Life." With IAMX, it's a contained buzz centralized amongst a crowd who were perhaps goths at some point, who became enamored with electro earlier this decade when artists like Miss Kittin and Ladytron were all the rage and began looking towards Berlin, where IAMX is based, as a spiritual sister of Los Angeles.
It's not just the LA club crowd who has become smitten with IAMX. Corner's project, which he says is more influenced by the architecture of Bauhaus and Richard Neutra than music itself, has swept through digitally connected underground scenes across the globe. While this has been integral to IAMX's success, Corner felt the drawback of the digital world when his latest album, Kingdom of Welcome Addiction, leaked earlier this year. In response, he issued a letter that closed with the simple request, "If you care, then do everything in your power to help us continue making it."
IAMX "Think of England"
How did you find out about the leak?
My manager told me because he's always online. I think he has connections with some of the fans and it was pretty obvious that it had gotten out. I hated even giving it out. It's not that I'm against downloading. That would be stupid. I think in this case, it was more the lack of respect. We had given it to important journalists. Some journalists got a snippet, a small part. The important journalists got the full link. One of these guys put it online.
I think what it showed to me was the discussion that needs to be had about what the value of music and art is now in this culture of downloading. I have to talk to the audience and they have to talk to me about what they think they should get and what I think they should get. Just taking it, it's not going to help us survive as an independent artist.
What do you think the audience should get?
I think they need to understand, I will continue to make music, but I might not be able to reach people in the way I would want to reach or to present myself the way I want to present myself for people to get the real feeling of what it's about. It's just a very dangerous.
I can only talk about myself. I don't want to say about other artists. I think there are some people who deserve to be ripped off, some people really don't. The problem is that if you create this McDonald's style culture, devaluating everything, people grow up in a culture of taking. They're not conscious of what they are taking. It's not their fault, it's just how it is happening. The only way I can see it is by having a direct interaction between me and the fans. That's how it's working anyway with IAMX. We're trying to cut out all of the industry bullshit. They don't really give a fuck about us anyway, they just want to make money. I'm not into being rich and famous anyway. I think people can see that in the kind of music that I make, it's just not that kind of music. It's more about somehow engaging them, bringing them in and trying to get them to support the project in different ways. If they don't want to support it in that way, then they can support it in a different way.
One of the things that's of concern is that if you're an artist and putting something out, you're intending people to see it a certain way and if it leaks, it's not really complete.
That was the biggest disappointment. We didn't have the chance to put everything on the table. We had all of these different things prepared, a few remixes, created this website just to give an extra dimension to this project, to the music that they're buying. When you get this kind of skinny little shitty MP3 from the Internet, it doesn't have the weight, the flesh, of the project as a whole. That's one angle. On the other angle, many people get to hear it that wouldn't have been able to hear it. We're just going to have to find a way to work together. I'm not going to preach anymore because nobody has a solution. We just have to talk.
IAMX "Tear Garden"
Is there a philosophy that inspires what you do?
I don't want to get to into that because if you start to tell people your mental influences, it can turn people off, or on. I'm open to everything. There are certain things that I don't like in the world. Religion is one. Politics is another. They're all part of the same beast. I don't have a utopia. My way of dealing this is to create something like IAMX and keep running, to have my own little world.
I think what I'm trying to do with this album is to maybe create my own little philosophy, some manifesto of living. Maybe I'll publish that some time when it's clearer.
What was the last book you read?
A fabulous book by Nicholas Humphrey. It's called A History of the Mind. It's a very in-depth study of psychology, myth, biology of why we think certain ways, how we develop that, how we can change things, how we can learn a lot from what's already there.
Did it impact what you're doing now?
I think it did. Books like that inspire me to think about other things. I think the misconception is that IAMX is all music. It's not. I'm interested in many other things that have nothing to do with music. I just happen to be quite good at doing music. It's my tool to get to these other places and somehow bring these things into the music as well, maybe more philosophical or thoughtful things. I think it does inspire what I do. I'm more inspired by things like that than other music. I don't really listen to music that much. I listen to classical music in my spare time because it's from a different world. It doesn't suffocate me in terms of my production brain. I'm not constantly thinking about bass drums or snare drums. It's just something out there, melodic and pleasurable that I can enjoy. Things like that, classical music, architecture, philosophy, I want to bring and do in small ways bring it into my music. I like to combine it into one package.