'One Little Indian Interview' - 3rd September, 1999
Sneaker Pimps have made a brave, brilliant new record. It's not the record anyone expected. It is, however, pretty damn close to the record they always wanted to make. It's not likely to sit comfortably on anyone's coffee table; much of it is not pretty, but most of it is very beautiful. What does it sound like? You want reference points? Try: soundscapes as inventive as Tricky's Maxinquaye, the self-examination and widescreen vision of Radiohead's OK Computer, the prickly atmospherics of David Sylvian's Secrets of the Beehive, the unexpected spiky sweetness of My Bloody Valentine's Isn't Anything. All at once, and nothing like that. Really, it's a huge, intimate, vicious, passionate collection of songs. It's a surprise.
"It's been a long time really, it's taken a year," explains Liam. "We'd toured really more than we could mentally sustain: Becoming X was a studio album and we were hoodwinked into the touring circus lifestyle. You need to have sawdust in your blood to enjoy touring. The year before last we spent eight of the twelve months in America and... it was a strange thing to do." "It just drove us a bit loony," offers Chris, drily. So loony, in fact, that Liam flew home in the middle of the final tour, a plot-losing crisis-point the band had seen coming for a while. "We'd got to this place in Tennessee, a filthy, Deliverance-style place," Liam recounts. "A truck went past and they shouted, ' Fags! We're gonna kill yer! ' I was walking round the town, I couldn't sleep. I had headphones on and I was listening to my favourite Scott Walker LP, Scott 3, and I just thought, I'm desperately unhappy here. So I called a cab and said, Take me to the nearest airport, which happened to be Nashville. Luckily the bag I had had my passport in it and I got a ticket home. I was feeling very, very fragile. We'd played the game and agreed to so many things and sold our assets along the way and even if we could have gone double platinum it wasn't going to be worth it. It was doing us harm: we weren't very exciting on stage. We had to get back to what was most important, which was writing and recording music. We came back at Christmas and had a week off and then we started the new material. Kelli was still involved but it was becoming distant... It was drawing a line on the tarmac saying, we have completed the Becoming X experience. But I love that record and still feel it's very important."
Chris: "I find it difficult to listen to."
Liam: "We still have the recordings of the Becoming X demos with Chris singing on them and there's something amazingly precious about those songs."
Chris: "I'm so confident about what's happening now. It was fighting against a corporate concept that if you've gone gold in America and the UK, why thefuck are you changing? But we want to,we're not chugging down that road.It's a bit David and Goliath... sort of. There were a thousand doubters..."How does he feel about stepping into the singer's spotlight? "It's natural, that's the thing, I'm absolutely full of conviction for the writing. I couldn't think of any other way of doing it. In a way, I don't want to be pushed to the front, because I want it to be the whole band. I never wanted Kelli to be pushed either, I want people to know what it was all about in the first place."
Liam: "There is the theory that the more you pass on your ideas the more diluted they become. There was a thinness before, a lack of confidence. It came across the way it did because of the gap between concept and interpretation. When Chris sings it's genuine. He's not singing this for anyone else. This is a record we like listening to. It's a different band,bar the name." And so it is, in a way. Not only is their guitarist, Chris,now their singer, but everyone's position in the band has changed.
Dave: "We weren't a band before, really. We weren't designed to perform songs live, we made the best of a bad lot. Now it sounds like a band playing songs together. Joe played the drums as much as I have and I've played as much keyboards as Liam, so it's all swapped around."
Joe: "It's a more emotional record, less considered in a way."
Dave: "More Cagney or more Lacey?"
Joe: "Definitely more Lacey."
Dave: "We're all very proud of it."In many ways, they're unlikely pop stars which is partly why they're so good at it. They are four funny, gentle, driven,too-smart-for-their-own-good people who stumbled into something they didn't quite expect and turned themselves inside out to survive and understand it. They love music as much as you do. And they have done what very few bands manage to do successfully: they have confounded expectations.
Dave: "I have the idea that Sneaker Pimps is a brand new thing."