Background

Becoming Sneaker Pimps...

Sneaker Pimps were formed in Hartlepool, United Kingdom in the early 1990's by Liam Howe and Chris Corner. The varying line-ups consisted of: Kelli Dayton (vocals and occasional lyrics), Chris Corner (guitars, keyboards, vocals and hair-dressing), Liam Howe (keyboards and programming), Joe Wilson (bass, guitar, programming, keyboards and vocals), David Westlake (drums and programming), Ian Pickering (lyrics and occasional vocals, bass and keyboards on later live gigs), Sue Denim (backing vocals and occasional lyrics), Zoe Durrant (backing vocals), Sarah McDonnell (backing vocals), Chris Tate (occasional keyboards on later live gigs), Emiliana Torrini (vocals on the ''Splinter'' demos) and Noel Fielding (Very occasional bass on later live gigs/''IAMX'' cross-over period). It all started in the 1980's, with Liam Howe and his brother Miles making alternative acid jazz cassettes, for a bit of fun. These were then promoted and sold by a girl called Deborah Corner, who distributed them at the school she was attending. Liam then started to date Deborah, which is how Chris entered the scene. Liam and Chris both having some aspect of musical talent lead them to join forces and create music together under the name ''Sleep Fuse''. Some years passed and they were signed to ''Clean-Up Records'', mainly making obscure dance music. Their name under this label as ''F.R.I.S.K.'' (Forever Reign In Self Knowledge). Due to their low budget, they didn't have access to a recording studio and mostly recorded in Liam's bedroom and at Chris' flat above a corner shop (strangely called ''The Corner Shop''). These small projects started to become quite popular and even spawned live performances, so this gave them the push to do what they always wanted to do: to record a long-playing album. Long-time friend and fellow college student of Liam and Chris, Ian Pickering was set on, to help with writing the bespoke and fantasy-like lyrics and before they knew it, a year had already elapsed and it was nearly complete. The only thing that was missing was a singer. Chris originally demoed the vocals for ''Becoming X'', but he felt that he wasn't up for the task of fronting a group at the time and so, whilst visiting a bar in Birmingham, they noticed a girl singing in a band called ''The Lumieres''. This happened to be Kelli Dayton (now known as Kelli Ali). After talking to her and mentioning that they needed someone to sing for an album they were working on, they managed to convince her into joining them and so they became a trio. They named themselves after the ''Beastie Boys'' story of sending someone from the band around America to hunt down old-school sneakers, due to not having any type of musical talent. 1996 saw the release of their first album: ''Becoming X'', on ''Clean-up Records''. It performed extremely well and contained five singles; Six Underground, Spin Spin Sugar, Roll On, Tesko Suicide and Post-Modern Sleaze. These singles performed so well that four of which had music videos. At the peak of it's sudden success (mainly due to the movie: ''The Saint'' containing ''Six Underground'' in its soundtrack), the band went onto perform a lengthy tour to promote it. To brace themselves for the ''Becoming X'' tour, they recruited best friends Joe Wilson and David Westlake to accompany them. As most of their material was sample based, they felt this to be a risk when playing, but soon they embraced this factor and stated it as an enjoyable risk. A one of their first live gigs was surrounded with controversy, as their own logo mysteriously appeared as a crop circle in a nearby field. This mystery crop circle even ended up in fully published books, but in 2015, it emerged that artist John Lundberg was responsible for this creative occurrence. Due to the immense success of ''Becoming X'', it was re-released in 1997, but with different artwork and tracks; as opposed to the album version of some songs, remixes were included instead. This was known as the limited edition and became the more wider-known version and in turn, it lead to some confusion, something the band even stated themselves. The ''Becoming X'' album had a multitude of remixes for the singles released from it, the most popular being Armand Van Helden's ''Dark Garage'' remix of ''Spin Spin Sugar''. This was featured, along with other remixes of various tracks from the ''Becoming X'' album, on the remix album: ''Becoming RemiXed'', released in 1998. Sneaker Pimps themselves were no strangers to remixing, among numerous remixes they supplied to others, some to note are their remixes of: ''Take Me Home'' for ''Sophie Ellis Bextor'', ''Permanent Tears'' for ''Eagle-Eye Cherry'' and ''Every You, Every Me'' for ''Placebo''. They also had a chance to work with ''Marilyn Manson'' in 1997 on his song ''Long Hard Road Out Of Hell'' for the movie: ''Spawn'', but due the final mix not going as the band had hoped, their time together was short-lived. There was to be a Sneaker Pimps mix soon after, but the plans were scrapped and so only the Manson mix exists. The song can be found on the ''Spawn'' movie and soundtrack. After their tour for ''Becoming X'' was finally reaching it's end, pressures increased from their cabin fever-like tour conditions and so the band started to feel more and more uncomfortable with each other, mostly brought on by the stress of the lengthy tour and the upcoming talks of making a new album. One day, Liam decided he had had enough and so he got on a plane and flew back home, leaving the rest of the band in the middle of the American desert. Other tensions, such as their disillusionment of the USA had started to become more real and so they all felt down and wanted to return home. Soon after, things were given chance to simmer down and so the next album was to be prepared. A studio was booked in the beginning of 1998. Due to disagreements about song writing and how the band wanted to evolve its sound, Kelli Dayton (now known as Kelli Ali) was asked to leave the band, rendering Chris Corner the new lead vocalist. This choice didn't sit well with ''Virgin Records'' and so they dropped the band, ultimately stopping their next album, ''Splinter'', from being released in the USA. To this day, the vocal change still leaves a sour taste amongst some Sneaker Pimps fans, but a diary by Kelli from her own website states that she met up with Liam and Chris a few years later for a drink and all is well. The time to record a new album had come and in 1999, they released their second album: ''Splinter'', also on ''Clean-up Records''. It was a vast change from their previous style, sound and production, but still retained some elements of similarity from their first album. Vocal duties, this time being given to Chris Corner, it was supplied with a mixed reception. It had two singles upon release; ''Low Five'' (which was given a music video by band photographer Tom Gidley) and ''Ten To Twenty''. Shortly after the album was released, the band went on tour to promote it, exclusively at universities and venues of study, across the UK only. Once the ''Splinter'' tour had come to an end, the band set up their own record label called ''Splinter Recordings'' (which later merged into ''Splinter Industries''). They signed on 2 acts for this label; ''Robots In Disguise'' and ''The Servant''. This era of Sneaker Pimps had them focusing on other projects, rather than their own; the next album would be released three after ''Splinter''. During this time, the band were collaborating with artists such as ''Double 99'' and ''Maxim'' from ''The Prodigy''. Chris also worked a lot on his own, producing ''Robots In Disguise'', for his then girlfriend: Sue Denim and supplying remixes for artists such as Inoran and ''TETSU69''. 2002 swiftly arrived, the year that they put out their last, officially released album: ''Bloodsport''. It was released on ''Tommy Boy Records'', a highly popular hip-hop label, rather than the alternative pop label they were previously signed to. This again would be another change in colour from their earlier work, exploring new recording methods and utilising more sample-based music, from the likes of ''Iggy Pop'', ''Visage'' and ''Bill Withers''. It was given five singles upon release; Kiro TV, Sick, Loretta Young Silks, M'aidez and Bloodsport. ''Sick'' was given a music video and so was ''Loretta Young Silks'', which starred ''Honor Blackman'' from the ''Avengers'' and ''007: Goldfinger''. Due to the tragic events of 9/11 in New York, ''Tommy Boy Records'' offices were destroyed in the aftermath, forcing the band to release and fund the album themselves, due to a massive loss of revenue at ''Tommy Boy Records'' end. Even though all editions of the ''Bloodsport'' album contain ''Tommy Boy Records'' logos and branding, it was actually released via the band's own ''Splinter Recordings'' record label. The rumour is that all individual band members had lost around £10,000 each, having had to fund the release of it themselves. Nevertheless, they continued to tour and promote the album up until the end of 2003 - their last ever gig being the ''Live At Sixteen Tons Club'' concert in Russia. Soon after, they were voted the best band to visit Russia and were awarded a plaque. A lot of material from this set was fresh; around this time, they were working on an new album, merely dubbed as ''SP4'' (due to an album name not being provided at this point). It was apparently refused when shown to record labels and due to the majority of the songs being personal to Chris, it was shelved (although it was leaked online around 2004/2005). Ever the enthusiasts, the band had also wanted to make a film for some time and had a story and soundtrack already prepared and partially recorded. Due to funding and time issues, the project was subsequently cancelled. Supposedly, it was to be a detective-noir mystery, with a twisted, modern fairy-tale feel to it, called ''Blind Michael''. An actor who Liam knew, called Michael, who had previous roles in film such as BBC's ''The Bill'', was to be the main star. Some tracks from ''SP4'' were to be used in it and the script was nearly completed, writing-wise. Ian Pickering describes spending long nights, to this day, where he still attempts to find the perfect ending. In 2004, a remix competition was announced, called ''Give It Another Angle'', where the stems for an unreleased ''Becoming X'' track were provided, so fans could remix it. Whoever won the best remix, chosen by the band themselves, had their version featured on an upcoming DVD, which was to contain live footage from various concerts, demos, remixes, b-sides and rarities. The song simply called: ''Angle'', was also reworked for the remix of ''Permanent Tears'', for ''Eagle-Eye Cherry''. After advertisement of the competition, a winner was never picked and the DVD was delayed several times until being forgotten about completely. Soon after, more plans flourished, the next one being a biography on the band. The book, intended to be called ''The Magnificent Radish!'' (working title), was to be a written history of Sneaker Pimps, but then it slowly evolved into a semi-fictional novel. Ian Pickering, in charge of writings and publishing expressed that money was running short, due to a record deal falling through and that the band were slowly leaving to follow different paths; Joe wasn't even present on the ''SP4'' demos, neither was Dave. Both left to chase further goals; Joe emigrating into Chris Tate's rock group ''Trash Money'' and Dave choosing to score TV and film. Chris also started to distance himself from Sneaker Pimps, since it was only really him with input from Liam (who had been absent since the last ''Bloodsport'' gigs, due to the birth of his daughter) and so he formed his own solo project; ''IAMX'', a derivative from the album name ''Becoming X''. Roughly, between 2005 and 2007, a music player was found in a Russian bar, with music stored on it thought to have been new Sneaker Pimps material. The seven tracks with the mysterious unnamed singer circulated the web for years with uncertainty (due to the lack of vocals by both Chris or Kelli), most people thinking the mystery singer was Paris Hampton, from the American pop group ''Samsara'', whom Sneaker Pimps remixed, but she later came forward and kindly dispelled the rumour. Again, these were never released officially and were leaked online soon after discovery. Around 2007, a rumour emerged regarding their first three albums being remastered in high resolution, 5.1 surround sound form, for free. This proved to be true; online folders were even created, presumably by either Liam or Chris, but nothing was ever uploaded to them. In 2016, 20 years after ''Becoming X'' was released, an account on Twitter called ''SneakerPimpsNow'' was created by Liam Howe, promising an official reunion and album, with the release of tracks from ''SP4''; the page stating that ''This is the year''. Soon after, Chris Tweeted from his ''IAMX'' Twitter page an image showing a PC screen with a folder called ''SNEAKERPIMPS4'', with a caption stating ''I just created a new folder''. In a recent interview with Chris, he spoke of his interest to take part in a Sneaker Pimps reprisal, providing that everyone had an equal amount of input. The ''SneakerPimpsNow'' Twitter account then went dark for three years, but a surprise statement from Chris, in May 2019 on his ''IAMX'' Patreon, revealed that Liam was going to be joining him in Los Angeles to recommence work on the fourth Sneaker Pimps album, with a new singer called Simonne Jones. After several weeks, the news came true, which led to full fledged recording sessions, with Liam temporarily moving to Los Angeles to join Chris in the making of the long-awaited fourth Sneaker Pimps album. A few weeks after this update, Liam appeared as a guest with Chris on a one of his ''IAMX'' mental health gatherings and also played live on a gig. Through Chris' ''IAMX'' updates, he posted regular news about the process and even small video snippets of the recording sessions, but again, it went quiet. Then came out the promised, 1 hour long, live video stream with both Liam and Chris, promising new material by the end of 2019, with hopes for Sneaker Pimps deluxe editions and box-sets to be released too, but the downside news delivered shortly after that Joe and Dave wouldn't likely be taking part. This went down like a storm and public anticipation shot through the roof, though more months went by, 2020 turned and nothing was released. Early 2020 showed some signs of life; Simone Jones' Instagram revealing recordings sessions of her and Liam in London and several social media pages for the official Sneakers Pimps changing their cover photos, unusually to images of ''Bloodsport''...

Pimps - Past/Present:

www.sneakerpimpslegacy.com

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Background Photo By Tom Gidley

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