Background

Becoming Sneaker Pimps...

Pimps - Past/Present:

The Story:

Sneaky Beginnings…

Sneaker Pimps were originally formed in the northern city of Hartlepool, in the United Kingdom. In around 1985, Liam Howe and his brother Miles, apart from the usual time-filling activities of hanging around school with friends or pedalling off to the sea-front, would make their own home-made music, in which they’d dub to a cassette tape to share amongst family and friends. In what seemed at the time as a bit of fun and something to just kill a bit of time at the weekend was soon noticed as a serious skill – their parents recognised this talent, and gave them the well-needed push to take it further. Long before the time of uploading to streaming services or a website, the cassette tape was still an incredibly popular form of music playback during the 1980’s and regardless of people’s views, actually was a decent sounding format, providing decent equipment was used. At this time, the 1980’s was drawing to a close and the musical decade that had dispensed all that it had was now slowly dying. A new genre was needed. What originally was deemed as experimental at this early period of Sneaker Pimps’ history later came as the main musical forefront in the 1990’s; a style of music combining synth hooks and sampling with new groove. In other words: ‘Trip-hop’. The production of these early cassette tapes started to improve with the introduction of new equipment, such as second-hand electric pianos, drum-machines and multi-tape dubbing machines, microphones and mixers. The largest known amount of cassette tapes produced, according to Liam, was 300. These were exclusively sold at school, with the odd exception of giving some away to family members, as a one-off gift. A nearby school was also the recipient of the music project (still unnamed at this point) with promotional aspects handled by a student called Deborah Corner. As time went by, Liam got to know Deborah a lot more on his cassette tape resupply runs and sharing interests and hobbies eventually led to the pair entering a serious relationship. Upon his regular visits to the Corner residence, Liam also got to know her younger brother, Christopher. Having a lot in common, Liam and Chris unsurprisingly hit it off, immediately. Sharing their mutual favourite artists, such as ‘Japan’, David Sylvian, ‘Kraftwerk’, ‘Duran-Duran’ and many more, their friendship blossomed and so did their musical prowess. Chris was eventually taught by Liam over the course of a five month period to play the guitar, in which Chris picked up on very quickly and admitted to becoming better at it than Liam in the first place. With proof of success via the home-made cassette tapes, an idea to form another mini music project was suggested to Chris, with the hopes that they could take it further and become more successful than the previous efforts. After several months of jamming with instruments and noodling with recording and mixing methods, they had come up with the name ‘Sleep Fuse’, a temporary title, until they had fully decided whether to continue down the music route or attend college and study. Graduating from high-school had interfered with the original plan of making music full time, as any idea that was made was essentially up in the air due to the pressuring choice of either finding work or a place of study. As the previous efforts would have seemed a waste of time to cancel completely, the choice to keep putting out the cassette tapes was final, albeit in far lower quantities. Ultimately, both Liam and Chris chose the option of college. Liam went off to study at art school, with Chris leaving to study science and physics. As their courses progressed, part-time jobs were found and slowly, the money trickled back in, thus rehydrating their thirst to record.

 

Higher Things…

Having spent nearly a year studying, they came up with the decision of using a student loan to fund their new project. Their first ever, professionally released E.P. Out with the cassette and in with the vinyl. It was to be called ‘The Soul Of Indiscretion’. The temporary ‘Sleep Fuse’ name was changed and now, the joint-effort was to be known as ‘F.R.I.S.K.’, which stood for: ‘Forever Reign In Self Knowledge’. A total of 500 copies were pressed onto a 12’’ vinyl disc and they were then handed out to various coffee shops, record stores, bars and clubs. According to Liam, one store owner was so impressed that he demanded an extra 1000 copies to be made so that he could sell them on to like-minded individuals. This was the boost they needed. Noticing the success of the E.P., the interest in college started to wear off, but they didn’t let it go to their heads and remained focused. Although the student loan was an incredible help, the budget was still low. To combat the lack of funds and facilities, as they didn't have access to a recording studio like most other artists at the time, the idea to mostly record it in a converted bedroom was raised. One in Liam's bedroom and the other at Chris' flat above a corner shop, strangely called ‘The Corner Shop’. These small projects started to flourish, which ultimately piqued the interest of ‘Clean-up’ records, a sub-label of ‘One Little Indian’ records (now known as ‘One Little Independent’ records), which, at the time was booming, due to popular artists on the label such as Bjork, her previous band ‘The Sugarcubes’ and 'The Shamen'. The meeting with the label manager went very well and so they were quickly signed to the label in 1994, for a mere £15,000 - divided between the two. With this increase in income, Liam and Chris vowed to keep the musical project going. The funds earned from the label were then used to release their second E.P.: ‘Take The Sun Away’. Again, proving very successful in the underground scene, Liam and Chris were asked to perform their ‘F.R.I.S.K.’ material, live. This request initially sent shock-waves through the pair, as playing live was something they’d never considered doing, especially with such low-key material they had been making and the lack of output. For the sake of popularity and putting their name out there, a date was agreed. The gig was Ascot, a town known mainly for its horse-racing. To help prepare for something they’d never done before, long-time friends Chris Tate, who had also been signed to the ‘Clean-up’ records label under the guise of ‘Hunch’ and David Westlake were recruited, for the one off mini-gig. There were no disasters, but playing live was a certified ‘no’. For now, at least. After the gig, Liam and Chris travelled back up north to Hartlepool and continued to do their thing. Soon after, they released yet another E.P. with the proceeds made from the Ascot gig, this time, under a new name: ‘Line Of Flight’. Upon studying the name ‘Line Of Flight’, the definition describes the concept of ‘disappearing into the distance’, devised by the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. Quite apt, since under this new name, Liam and Chris would mostly use it to virtually disappear or hide behind the scenes and produce either theirs or other people’s work, with most not knowing it was actually them. This would allow them to freely remix and produce whilst earning extra production credits and royalties. Producing was something Liam later stated as something that he much preferred, rather than the stress of touring and the constant live gigs. Being the mad-scientist and hiding behind the scenes was a much more enjoyable task and proved to be true, having now produced for many artists, such as Lana Del Ray, Tom Vek and Kovacs and many, many more. Their ‘World As A Cone’ E.P., also released in 1994 was their last. It featured similar themes to their previous two releases and featured improved production and reception. Now that a label had signed them, as always with a record label and a contract, pressures were there to do more. Instead of going down the same route as ‘E.P. after E.P.’, they put out the idea of an album. There was a slight wait, but a reply was received and it was quickly approved. Liam and Chris rapidly set out to provide...

Becoming Sneaker Pimps…

Recording an album normally means laying down vocals, which is an obstacle they hadn’t yet tackled properly. Previously, Liam and Chris both had provided their own vocals to their E.P.s, but they were sampled, chopped, slowed down and mostly hidden amongst the mix. As it was only a duo at this point, Chris was assigned to sing, Liam piloted the keyboards and another long-time friend; Ian Pickering was brought in, to help with writing the bespoke and fantasy-like lyrics. Ian, having had a degree in journalism and a strong passion for writing lyrics since the age of 10 made him the perfect choice for the upcoming album. Although never mentioned officially as being part of the band, Ian has earned the fan-dubbed status as: ‘The Missing Pimp’. Around six months had elapsed and the main recordings were already nearly finished; but there was unrest amongst the three. Chris wasn’t happy with his singing anymore and he didn’t feel confident enough at this point to have his vocals mixed onto the upcoming album. The style of music also didn’t exactly fit that of a male vocal, something that Chris himself admitted. After some recommendation from their label manager, they had taken a break from recording and travelled from Hartlepool down to Birmingham, to meet another like-minded singer who was also looking for work. A four hour trip down the A1 later and they arrive outside a typical, West Midlands pub. As they enter, the music of a brash sounding punk band hit them in the face. Little did they know, the short-haired and tattooed front-woman of this group called ‘The Lumieres’, was Kelli Dayton - the singer they had arranged to meet. Hours later after the set had ended and alcohol had been consumed, a decision was made to recruit Kelli for their new album. As Liam aptly put it, they ‘dragged her (Kelli) up to Hartlepool, threw her in a cupboard and made her sing’. The album recording process started to progress much faster at this point, as they had found the secret ingredient that they had been desperately looking for. Kelli describes months of recording vocals in a home-made, bedroom-studio setup in Liam’s dads house and then getting smashed after each daily session to expensive wines introduced by Liam, who could apparently taste a certain type and instantly name its brand. Four months later, the album was fully complete and was ready for mixing. Jim Abbiss, whom the band came to befriend, mixed and produced the entire album, along with Flood, of ‘U2’ and ‘Nine Inch Nails’ fame. Finally, to address this drastic evolution, another name was needed. Out with ‘F.R.I.S.K’ and in with ‘Sneaker Pimps’. The name was based around the famous ‘Beastie Boys’ story of the band sending someone from the band out to hunt down old-school sneakers, due to them not having any type of musical talent whatsoever. The explanation for the band name was slightly drawn out, so the album name had to be simple: ‘Becoming X’. Something which helped them in interviews, as when asked what ‘Becoming X’ meant; whatever you want, with the ‘X’ being open to interpretation. The ‘Becoming X’ name eventually mutated into Chris Corner’s later solo band ‘IAMX’. Upon its release, the album was suddenly skyrocketed into the charts and it sold extremely well. Something that came of a surprise to them, as the previous efforts had been very low-key and didn’t fetch a lot, earnings-wise. Before finally hitting the shelves, it had been supplied with five hit singles; the biggest being ‘Six Underground’, which was prominently used in the blockbuster movie: ‘The Saint’. Starring Val Kilmer, the movie had used the Nellee Hooper edit, which later became the wider-known mix, in a scene that nailed the setting and feeling of the song. Then, it was featured in an advert for ‘Carling’, directed by non-other than Wim Wenders. In regards to genre and style, ‘Becoming X’ combined trip-hop with dance, folk and new wave, whilst being held within an avant-garde category - something that had never been done before. Harking back to their earlier work as ‘F.R.I.S.K’ and ‘Line Of Flight’, sampled material was re-introduced. Rather than using their own drum loops and beats like before, favourite music from the likes of David Sylvian, Sandy Denny and even audio from the 1973 horror: ‘The Wickerman’ was used, adding a mysterious aura to the music, yet with an element of familiarity. A cover version of ‘Willow’s Song’ was also included from ‘The Wicker Man’, but renamed to ‘How Do’, with written permission by Britt Eckland. Right after the release of ‘Becoming X’, ‘Clean-up’ records noted the increasing sales of the album and decided to reissued it, with alternate artwork and remixes in place of some tracks. This led to some confusion; something that the band had admitted themselves. What wasn’t made clear, is that most of the remixes were provided by Sneaker Pimps anyway, under their guise: ‘Line Of Flight’ – a sneaky tactic they regularly utilised throughout their recording career. This version of the album sold more than that of the original version and starred Liam, Chris and Kelli on the cover, as opposed to the original album art of a computer chipboard and the band’s logo branded upon it. With this success and high demand came TV appearances. The fear of Ascot began to return. Once again, Dave Westlake was called back and along with him, their friend Joe Wilson, who was assigned bass. Dave and Joe both being long-time friends of Liam and Chris made this the perfect choice and so this line-up of the band stayed the same until the release of ‘Bloodsport’ in 2002 (with the exception of Kelli Ali leaving after the ‘Becoming X’ tour). During the promotion of the album, which lasted up until 1998, ‘Clean-up’ records also released ‘Becoming RemiXed’, another album that performed very well and was packed full of remixes, including edits from Paul Oakenfold and Armand Van Helden. Van Helden’s remix of ‘Spin Spin Sugar’ had the most popularity and so, is to this day, known as the forefront to garage music. With all this success and with the release of any popular album, a live tour was expected. Now that Dave and Joe were permanently a part of the main band, they were signed to ‘Virgin’ records and then thrown on their way to perform...

 

Altered States And Egos…

A few months after the album’s release, a tour was booked and things seemed positive. The whole band was very enthusiastic in the idea of travelling across the globe to play live – America, most of all. America happened to be the longest date, lasting just over a year and ultimately, very nearly, breaking them up. The United Kingdom dates mostly consisted of gigs starting in pubs and then progressed to festivals, such as Glastonbury and V96 and then bigger dates appearing alongside other acts, namely ‘Aphex Twin’, ‘Blur’, Neneh Cherry and ‘Placebo’. The majority of these were just a ‘play and go to the next’ procedure, but The ‘Placebo’ dates had them form a strong friendship, which later led to a Sneaker Pimps remix of their ‘Every You, Every Me’ single with performances together up until 2003. The American tour eventually proved to them that it was nothing they had ever expected and that the ‘American Dream’ was a lie. Nearly a year had elapsed of living in hotels, motels, tour buses and having to play the same songs in the same venues and in the same manner eventually formed cracks amongst the band. Their love for America had started to break down. Liam and Chris never liked playing live to start with and the constant main focus from the media on Kelli, soon took its toll - on everyone else, who seemingly felt left behind. Chris nearly drowned whilst swimming in the San Diego Ocean as he believed (under the influence of alcohol) that he could swim back home and at the last moment was saved by Liam - something that he describes as being the best deed he’s ever done. Their mood seemed to improve during their time in New York, when upon recommendation from their American label ‘Virgin’, they were given the strange opportunity to collaborate with Marilyn Manson, for his song ‘Long Hard Road Out Of Hell’. This song was to be the main single for the upcoming movie ‘Spawn’. The recording process appeared to go very well, until the song was mixed and they were given the cassette tape to listen to a few weeks after. What first was thought to be a dodge copy was then revealed that they were 80% mixed out of the final song and so arguments and interviews ensued. After weeks of trying to get their recordings sent back for a planned Sneaker Pimps mix, Manson purposely returned the vocals that were supposed to be Kelli’s, fully-erased and with his own on instead as a presumed attempt as a last laugh. Although this did garner a huge amount of attention towards Sneaker Pimps, with it came over the top media coverage and angry mobs of Marilyn Manson fans at their gigs. Some of which came to cause trouble, some came around and dug Sneaker Pimps, staying until the final song. The Manson incident soon was forgotten about and the dates continued. Kelli described waking up each day in a new state, an exciting moment of her career. For others, not so. For instance, one day whilst Liam was walking down a long desert road during the California segment of the tour, he was nastily screamed at and called a ‘fag’, by three men in a passing-by pick-up truck. With Scott Walker’s ‘It’s Raining Today’ playing on his Walkman cassette player, he experienced a euphoric moment of sadness, in which he chose to pack up and fly back home, leaving the rest of the band stranded in a hotel room. The cracks had opened too far. The gigs had stopped, so had the money and no-one would speak to Kelli...

 

Flowers And Silence…

After the tour had reached its long-awaited end, Sneaker Pimps temporarily spilt up to recover and focus on other things, mainly light and easy work, such as remixing and producing. The band had provided work to other artists, such as their remixes for ‘Placebo’ and ‘Eagle-Eye Cherry’ to collaborating with ‘Maxim’, from ‘The Prodigy’. Liam and Chris still worked on music at this time but Dave and Joe left to spend time at home with family, whilst Kelli took a trip to Costa Rica. A few months later and after things had finally settled and had a chance to simmer down, Liam, Chris, Dave and Joe had booked a recording slot at ‘Terminal Studios’, in London. Now was the time to commence work on the second Sneaker Pimps album. A band meeting was called and Kelli was called in soon after. Nobody spoke a word. She recalls there being a ‘strange atmosphere’ and so she questioned what was going on. The plan was that Chris was going to sing. Originally, Kelli had assumed it was going to be a shared role of singing, but when it was learned that from now on it would permanently be Chris on vocals, the awkwardness increased and she left the studios in a flurry of tears. Soon after walking down the street, she described a sense of weight being lifted from her shoulders and that the idea of working solo could be a much more exciting experience. Kelli had officially left Sneaker Pimps. This choice of vocal change is still a main focal point amongst causal and die-hard Sneaker Pimps fans, causing debates about ‘who is the better singer?’ to this day. Although scars have healed and friendships are now restored, ego is the assumption of this drastic change of style, whereas Liam and Chris stated that it was crucially needed in terms of evolving and not going down the same old route of making a ‘Becoming X part two’, which is normally what the record label wants. With the loss of Kelli, yet more attention was focused on the band. This time around, mostly negative. ‘Virgin’ records America dropped the band instantly and the upcoming second album would never see the light of day in America, a land they had so hard tried to tame. With Chris now on vocals and Dave and Joe being a permanent fixture of the band, this line-up would remain permanent for the next four years. With this album, it would be a vast change in style to ‘Becoming X’, whilst still retaining elements and sounds of ‘original Sneaker Pimps’. The first recordings began in early 1998, with the first song: ‘Low 5’ (later changed to Low Five). Liam described this as being the song that forced the split with Kelli and duly noting the band’s disillusionment with the record industry. An early title for this album was ‘Scissors, Paper, Stone’ – a lyric from the final track: ‘Wife By Two Thousand’. It is thought that Chris still had doubts about his voice at this time, as some tracks from the early album demos featured Emiliana Torrini, but a decision was made and so the final album features full and complete vocals from Chris Corner, along with backing vocal contributions by Joe and Chris’ then-girlfriend: Sue Denim. After a year of recording, the album was finished. It was to be called ‘Splinter’. As the band had picked up on the constant publicity focus on Kelli, they chose to mirror this slightly, with the album cover featuring Chris, showing only the back of his head. The original proposition for its cover art was a naked Chris Corner, sitting in a shallow, soapy bath and submissively staring up at the camera. With the drop from ‘Virgin’ records, ‘Splinter’ only ever saw its release in Europe and Japan. The album didn’t perform as well on both the charts and sales aspect as its predecessor, but it had its reasons. The band stated that ‘Splinter’ wasn’t meant to be an ‘in your face’ hit album, it was intended as a healing experience. In contrast to the electronica and pop of ‘Becoming X’, ‘Splinter’ was a combination of down-tempo trip-hop, with elements of indie and Brit-pop, contained within an ambient surrounding. Although the recording sessions of the spare bedroom at Liam’s dad’s house had run its course, now had arrived the budget of a vast, open studio. Even with this, the band described this time as a claustrophobic and personal experience and to reflect this were its choice of singles; it was only provided with two single picks on before release, compared to the five hit singles that ‘Becoming X’ had previously spawned. Media outlets jumped on the sacking of Kelli before even listening to the actual album, but the band bared through it all and made haste for the ‘Splinter’ tour, in the spring of 1999. Instead of the year-long slog of America, the band gigged at low-key venues, such as theatres, colleges and universities - strictly in the United Kingdom. Most dates had people looking confused at the fact that Chris was now singing all of the hits of ‘Becoming X’ that Kelli would’ve originally sung. Some people complaining and leaving right after the first song and some staying until after the event to state that it was much better than anything Sneaker Pimps had ever done before...

 

Sneaker Downtime…

As the ‘Splinter’ tour was slowly approaching its end, the band side-stepped into different waters. Up until now, remixing was their main strength and so they felt they needed to add another skill to their repertoire and so Joe was assigned the task of making the band’s first ever website. During the early days of internet, websites were made using HTML coding and took a lot of time, attention and skill to keep up and running. With the band doing so much at this point, it constantly needed updating. Due to the lack of time, this role was later handed over to Christophe Godfroid, a dedicated friend and fan who later opened various spin-off websites and even provided a web-base for Ian Pickering’s band ‘Transporter’. Amongst the constant creative ideas, a plan to hold a club-night was raised, similar in style to what Prince used to do, back in the 1990’s at his house/studio ‘Paisley Park’. The set, called ‘Home Taping’, consisted of a music night held at the Institute Of Contemporary Arts, in London. The idea in that Sneaker Pimps would invite many famous celebrities to send in their cassette mix-tapes, from the likes of Madonna to Tony Blair and Jennifer Aniston to Gary Barlow. These tapes would then be played back to back, with no editing or mixing whatsoever - some still containing radio announcement-bleed over and songs cutting off completely. The rough and ready music night snowballed and attracted yet more attention, ‘The Guardian’ newspaper calling Sneaker Pimps ‘total fucking liars’ – an article which has stuck ever since and something the band themselves have cited as being the most publicity they have ever received. Most nights, the band would play covers of their favourite artists; the infamous, semi-official bootleg of the band playing covers of Bjork, David Bowie and even Stevie Wonder, was taped unknowingly and then later supplied for free on the official Sneaker Pimps website. Supplying free MP3’s is also another technique that the band utilised to expand its presence. A unique edition of ‘Low Five’, branded the ‘For Lovers’ mix was supplied as a free MP3 download. This version has not been released elsewhere since. Moving on from website building and club-night hosting, a label was now in the works. ‘Splinter Recordings’, the band’s only record label, was published and ready for action. For this label, there were two acts already to be inducted; ‘The Servant’ and ‘Robots In Disguise’, the latter featuring Chris’ then-girlfriend Sue Denim and Dee Plume, partner of Noel Fielding at this point. After a lot of ambition and excitement, ‘Splinter Recordings’ didn’t turn out to be the huge success the band had hoped for – ‘The Servant’ releasing only two albums: ‘Mathematics’ and ‘With The Invisible’ and ‘Robots In Disguise’ releasing only one E.P.: ‘Mixed Up Words And Sounds’. Their self-titled debut LP, produced by Chris, was originally intended for release on ‘Splinter Recordings’, but it eventually made its release a year later on ‘Recall Records’, the label he’d later use for the majority of his output as ‘IAMX’. With the slight let-down of the label’s lacking popularity, the band put it on the back burner, for the time being...

 

Third Time Lucky…

Moving away from remixing, producing and performing live, the band moved on to recording yet another album. Although it wouldn’t see its release until mid-2002, the first recording sessions had started in early 2000. Sharing many similarities to ‘Be Bop Deluxe’ and their final album ‘Drastic Plastic’, Sneaker Pimps moved to France to record their (unbeknownst at this point) final album. Now, with Ian on-board, the whole band, family and friends alike had moved to a renovated farm in the middle of the French countryside, to extract as much creative juice for the proposed new album as possible. Having had trouble with their previous label ‘Clean-up’ records, Sneaker Pimps had ended their contract and embraced the freedom of being able to do as they wish, without the constraints of being tied to an agreement. Referring back to the official Sneaker Pimps website, the band was now demoing new music to potential record labels via free MP3 downloads. These very quickly attracted the attention of the highly popular American hip-hop label ‘Tommy-boy’ records and so they were quickly signed, ready for the release of the album that was to be named: ‘Bloodsport’. A vast change in style to ‘Splinter’, the theme was now neo-80’s pop, with elements of grunge-infused trip-hop, with an overall gothic feel. The album was once again mixed by ‘Flood’ and was supplied with five singles before its release. One of which, ‘Loretta Young Silks’, featured the late Honor Blackman, known for playing Pussy Galore in ‘007 - Goldfinger’. Coincidentally and mysteriously, Loretta Young sadly passed away on the day that the ‘Bloodsport’ album was released. After two years of critical backlash and a struggle for money, things slowly seemed to be looking positive for the band. Until the day that was September 11th, 2001. The 9/11 terrorist attack occurred on the World Trade Centre in New York and amongst the major collateral damage was the economic damage, of ‘Tommy-boy’ records’ offices. With this huge loss of revenue, along with several other labels, ‘Tommy-boy’ records was forced to cut and hold everything. As the band had been recording ‘Bloodsport’ for over two years, delaying it even further wasn’t an option. The problem now, that there was no money left. Each individual member of the band had reportedly had to fork out around £10,000 each of their own savings to promote and release ‘Bloodsport’. Once again, with no label, they had the genius idea to publish the album via the ‘Splinter Recordings’ label. Something that’s not very evident, due to the album’s packaging being branded with ‘Tommy-boy’ records’ logos prior to the disaster. To make up for lost earnings, the album was pressed as a limited edition, double red vinyl set, along with a double remix vinyl of ‘Bloodsport’, a signed ‘Loretta Young Silks’ E.P. CD and finally a set of custom ‘Greenflash’ sneakers, specially commissioned from Dunlop. Another label that snapped up the album was Simon Le Bon’s ‘SYN’ label, in Japan. This led to a joint-collaboration and studio recording of ‘Duran-Duran’s’ classic track: ‘The Chauffeur’ and a live set at ‘Meli-Melo’, in Tokyo. As usual, a tour was expected and after hearing about the luck Sneaker Pimps had been having, it was kindly supplied by ‘Digibox’. The ‘Bloodsport’ tour was slightly different in spirit, compared to previous Sneaker Pimps gigs. Liam had temporarily left the band a few months into the tour to tend to his new-born baby girl. To cover for the lack of synths and sample triggering, old-friend and collaborator Chris Tate was recruited. When Chris later left to start his new band ‘Trash Money’, Ian Pickering was acquired to take his position. The last ‘Bloodsport’ gigs ended in Russia, 2003, just as Sneaker Pimps were rewarded with a fixed plaque stating that they were voted ‘the best band to visit Russia’. These last gigs started to become more and more experimental with the constant line-up change and had Chris demoing new tracks intended for the fourth Sneaker Pimps album...

 

Uncertain Future…

At the end of the ‘Bloodsport’ tour, in late 2003, Dave and Joe both left to follow further ambitions, with Dave leaving to focus on creating content for sampled-based software, film and soundtracks and Joe studying for a degree in music education (with both of them joining Chris Tate in ‘Trash Money’ in 2004). This left Chris solely in charge of Sneaker Pimps, with some input from Liam and Ian – Liam still on paternity leave at this point. What first seemed overwhelming for Chris was now the complete opposite. Ideas and inspiration were rekindled and the recording sessions for the tracks demoed on the final ‘Bloodsport’ gigs were now resumed – entirely in Chris’ London flat, with a vast amount of input from his then-girlfriend, Sue Denim. The songs featured on it were meant to be used in an upcoming film called ‘Blind Michael’; a dark and twisted fairy-tale, devised by the band with writings coming from Ian. Supposedly, starring an actor from the BBC’s hit drama ‘The Bill’, plans for the film were soon aborted, as funds lacking. The film was put on hold and so it was reverted back to being released a standard album, rather than a soundtrack. After months of silence, excitement and talk of the proposed new album died down and has since not officially seen the light of day. Shortly after, it was later leaked online in its entirety by an unknown source. Reasons for its recall are unclear; some sources stating that it failed to attract the attention of a record label and some stating that the songs were too personal to Chris for him to release it at the time. The album, having not been provided with a title at this point, has since been dubbed as ‘SP4’. Chris, now feeling more and more creative, slowly started to distance himself from Sneaker Pimps, subtly hinting that they were no more. He then formed his own solo project: ‘IAMX’, with Sue Denim, releasing his first album: ‘Kiss And Swallow’, in 2004. It featured some songs from the unreleased ‘SP4’ album, but in their final, intended form. On the other hand, Liam had also been busy, having now left paternity; he had produced the album ‘Ice Skating’ for the German neo-synth-pop group: ‘Ultrafox’ under the new name of ‘The Zip’. ‘The Zip’ was a short-lived, mini-production group consisting of Liam and Joe, similarly in fashion to ‘Line Of Flight’, but with more emphasis on sample creation, rather than production. With this news that the founders of Sneaker Pimps were now moving onto different things and the official website for Sneaker Pimps changing all of its logos and branding to ‘IAMX’, the likelihood of Sneaker Pimps splitting was very high. A year later, in 2005, the website was reverted back from ‘IAMX’ to ‘Sneaker Pimps’ and it was announced that ‘Becoming X’ and ‘Splinter’ would receive a remastered, 5.1 surround-sound mix, along with a possible re-vocal of both albums, for free. This idea sparked huge excitement amongst the public, but it ultimately never materialised. As usual, creative ideas were still blossoming – the next being a side-by-side competition and DVD release. Utilising their ever-popular website and forum, the band had supplied the multi-track stems to an unreleased ‘Becoming X’ era track, in which fans could remix, if they so wished. The winner of the best remix, chosen by Liam and Chris, was to be featured on an upcoming DVD, containing b-sides, remastered vinyl-only tracks, demos, concert footage, pictures and more. After about a year of teasing, a winner was never picked and the DVD and competition was forgotten about completely. The official Sneaker Pimps website remained inactive as of the 29th of November, 2005. However, upon the Sneaker Pimps forum, Ian had sneakily posted that they had been working on yet another project, temporarily titled ‘The Magnificent 7’. These seven tracks, produced entirely by Chris, featured an unknown and uncredited female voice. Ian provided some brief updates about this new project, the final being in 2006, but once again, it fizzled into nothing with no further information given. A few more months passed and a mystery album was uploaded to the internet, the tracks in question being suspect Sneaker Pimps music. The rumour being that a Sony MiniDisc player was discovered in a Russian bar. The person who found this, then uploaded the tracks to the internet. It was assumed that these were fake Sneaker Pimps songs, as this was attempted shortly after the success of ‘Becoming X’, but nevertheless, they turned out to be the exact songs Ian had described as ‘The Magnificent 7’ and have been since classed as official Sneaker Pimps demos. Again, these proved very popular and gave false excitement again to the public assuming a reunion. Cue a 10 year gap...

 

Watch This Space…

After several years of fans being resigned to the fact that Sneaker Pimps were no more, almost all had been converted with Chris’ constant output with ‘IAMX’. Some very short video-clips were teased in 2013 showing Liam travelling to Germany to guest record on the ‘IAMX’ album: ‘The Unified Field’. This sparked a huge interest in Sneaker Pimps once again, with people believing it was an actual reunion, when in truth, it was far from it. Two years later though, the teaser came true. 2015 was the big year that the surprise Twitter announcement from ‘#SneakerPimpsNow’ was unleashed, stating that it was the start of a new chapter. Before that, in the 10 years that had passed, the public had resigned to themselves that Sneaker Pimps were no-more and the only constant Chris Corner resource was ‘IAMX’. There were numerous sparse Tweets from Liam, piloting this new Sneaker Pimps account, over a two year period. Most updates telling of flights to L.A., to record with Chris and sessions with a new singer called Simonne Jones. Although the Tweets spiked the attention of the public and media outlets, a similar pattern shown before started to emerge. Three years elapsed with no news whatsoever. Once again, people felt let down and spoke of their disappointment. Secretly, there was a deeper reason for this...

 

High Fives And Hiatus’…

As the last official Tweet from the Sneaker Pimps Twitter page had been posted, a total of two years went by without a single update. What was later revealed is that Chris had secretly been recovering from a very deep depression, so bad in fact, that in a desperate attempt to aid his recovery, he had to move back to United Kingdom to live with his parents. Liam, also who revealed that he had been suffering from depression and bi-polar disorder, felt that even waking up was a strenuous task and so Sneaker Pimps and any other project he was producing had to halt. Thankfully, the two had since been able to combat this and work recommenced on the new album. In 2019, Chris had invited Liam over to his ranch, in the Californian desert to continue the recording sessions for Sneaker Pimps, with input from the newly announced singer Simonne Jones. Whilst there, Chris was in the midst of introducing a new type of live gig, called the ‘Mental Health Gathering’, in which Liam attended and explained his sufferings with depression. Liam also played on the following gigs with ‘IAMX’, in Los Angeles, playing classic ‘IAMX’ tracks originally featured on the ‘SP4’ demos album. At this point, Chris was utilising a new platform called ‘Patreon’, a service where fans could pledge various amounts of money each month and in return, view live streams, interviews, one-off gigs and any other exclusive content made available on the program. The next video to be made available to pledging fans would be a special, one hour long live stream of both Chris and Liam talking about the new Sneaker Pimps album and their life together growing up in the music industry. Having been made exclusive to the ‘IAMX’ Patreon, fans felt it was unfair that essentially another band’s content was only available through paying for the ‘IAMX’ Patreon. Due to this, the live stream was eventually leaked amongst fans and so it circulated the web for all to see. In the live video, was a vast mixture content, from talks of mental health, Sneaker Pimps origins, favourite artists, general questions from fans tuning in and potential future outings. One fan asked about a possible Sneaker Pimps deluxe box-set, hoping for it to contain unreleased tracks and b-sides - in which both Liam and Chris seemed excited and enthusiastic about. This turned out to be true and was advertised for release in September 2020. Another fan spoke out and questioned the return of Dave, Joe and Ian, to which Liam or Chris didn't clearly clarify. Dave, Joe or Ian have since not spoken out and assumingly are not a part of the new album. Six more months slowly passed and on the 10th of March, 2020, Chris stated on an ‘IAMX’ Patreon live-stream that the new album is ‘80% likely to happen in 2020' and that 'it’s out of my hands, but not out of my heart’. With this final statement, that is the current up to date and complete history of Sneaker Pimps. Whatever happens next, will be updated here...

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