KOWA keeper
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Interview with Chris Corner of IAMX 6/11/09

Whats the concept behind IAMX?
IAMX is a manifestation of something Ive been wanting to do for a long time which is actually exist outside of the traditional music industry and to have an independent project that encompasses many different things-visuals, music, attitude, art, a kind of lifestyle concept, I guess. The music is simply the first step for me and the stage performance is another step, the visual aspect is another step. IAMX represents this attitude, this lifestyle that is an alternative way of living and creating, outside the normality, the boundaries of the traditions of this industry.

How has living in Berlin allowed you to escape the music industry and how has it affected your latest CD?
Berlin is very free and liberal, open place. Its very cheap so its really good for artists. Its like a little oasis in the middle of Europe and it attracts many different artists and musicians its a real sort of cultural melting pot of very interesting people and people that dont really care too much about what other people think of them. I lived in London for a long time and Ive traveled a lot obviously and I bumped into or I saw many different levels of fame and money and people that thought they should be cool or do certain things to be cool and I wanted to run away from that, I wanted to find a place where that didnt really exist. Berlin is that place for me, I moved there and I found that I didnt have to care anymore about what people thought about me and I could just be free to explore my personality, my quirks, my vices, my idiosyncrasies, and be proud of it.

Can you explain the title of your latest CD Kingdom of Welcome Addiction? What kind of addiction? Does this kingdom actually exist?
I tried to use the word addiction in a positive sense or to play with the word to open it up a little bit so its not weighed down by negativity. Through hedonism and experimentation, I personally found a way of living that is good for me. Im not saying that everyone should, Im just saying that its possible. I think this might be a controversial statement, but I think some addiction is positive and I mean it in the sense of addicted to music, to work, to motivating yourself, to driving things. I like people with drive and I like to have drive and I dont mean in a vicious, ambitious sense. I mean more of a love of life and for experimenting with things. Exploring things. Addiction, Im trying to use it in a positive sense and I know that people, when they listen to IAMX music, they sometimes see it as very dark and depressing and its me trying to put a little bit of a humorous side to it.

Your lyrics are provocative. Do you use your music to send a message or as a form of self-expression?
Its a form of self-expression, thats all I can really do. I dont like to preach, I think thats boring but I obviously need to use freedom of expression to be able to say what I see as being wrong with the world. Sometimes I play with thingswordsto be provocative, maybe to drive people to question things rather than dictate to people. I dont want to say this is how it is but there is a level of observation that I like to use and if I look at the world and I think there is something wrong with the world then I would like the freedom to say that stuff. Its not necessarily what I believe, its a way of playing with expression. Also to motivate people to think.

Your music deals with emotional pain and worldly anxiety. How does suffering play into your own creativity? Do you think its necessary for creativity?
I think its overrated. Its an age-old question and I think suffering is one of two things. I think suffering is glamorized and overrated and its been glamorized for too longits hypedtherefore people feel that to be interesting enough and inspiring enough of an artist you have to somehow have suffered. Everybody suffers. Just being alive is suffering. Being alive is also very beautiful. It depends how you use these things. I think its a dangerous game to glamorize artistic suffering. Its been done in the past, you know people killing themselves and becoming famous because theyve killed themselves and being held as geniuses and all that kind of stuff. Its just too much stuff for a human mind to deal with. I think if youre good, youre good whether you suffer or not, to an extreme. I think you can do great wonderful art without having to really suffer. On the other hand, everybody suffers and I am not an exception. I dont think I necessarily suffer more than others, but I maybe know how to channel it better.

You dont just play musicyou perform a show. How did you get into incorporating costumes and visuals into your live performances?
I was asked that question today and I thought, was is it I like about it? Its a question that everyone wants to ask: what is the idea behind having an act? I dont really see it as an act. From an early age, I was dressed up by my sister and was kind of experimented on by her and I think I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed playing with theater and I love film and I love color and I love freaks and I just love all of that playfulness. Its just another part of the experiment. I dont see why you cant do serious interesting music and dress up. I dont see why they have to be mutually exclusive because why not? Why not put a huge wig on and sing about very painful things? I dont think you have to be dry and sit in a tee shirt and have a big beard and be taken seriously. Thats just my view. I just enjoy it. Its really a very honest expression of who I am rather than the person I want to be.

Do you think that the theatrics of performingI know you said they dont contradict the seriousnessbut on what level does it glamorize suffering? Do you think theres a conflict there? And to what level are you examining or questioning it?
I think maybe in my case, it somehow gives a lighter side to it or it gives you a breath of fresh air from the weight of the lyric or music. Having that playfulnessit balances it out for me because theres so much sincerity and fragility in a lot of things I do. And aggression. For me to dress up is a way of somehow not taking myself too seriously and being able to face myself without not being able to go on, in terms of performancesnot suicidal tendencies. For me, dressing up is partly that, partly being able to build myself into a state where I can begin to expose myself which is a really good form of therapy, to dress up, to rip myself apart, to almost expose the ridiculous nature of celebrity because it is ridiculous and I think for me, dressing up is a way of accepting t hat and taking it to an extreme and enjoying it and reveling in rather than this sort of decease of our timesthis big brother reality, celebrity culture which is vile and disgusting I think because people want to be famous for being famous which is a really strange concept. I want to be famous because I just want to be famous. Theres not enough behind it for it to sustain itself so in the end youre building a culture based on nothing because theres nothing really behind it and its only going to fall down. So my way of dealing with that is dressing up and freaking out.

Thats a good way. So you have a large following
Do I?

I feel like you do, in Europe definitely and its coming over to the US.
Yeah Im more surprised that thats the case.

So what kind of people does your music attract? What kind of people do you want your music to attract?
I want people to think, I want people to question why theyre listening to music, what they get from it, what it gives them, what the value of art is in general because we live obviously in a downward culture and its kind of destructive for artists, independent artists at least. People like me cant really make money if people steal music. Its a boring thing to say but I would like the people that listen to the musicand I think most people dohave a conscience about what they get and the value of things and put that into balance and not just my music, but art in general, good music. The thing about the downward culture is that you dumb down people and you create a McDonalds style musical industry where you have a Big Mac Madonna tune for 99 cents but people steal it anyway and therefore everybody is brought up on this culture of just taking and then when you get people like usindependent projectsthey take it without having really the conscience. But thats people coming new to the project. I think anybody thats been with the project is usually very conscientious. Theyre thinking people because if they listen to IAMX in the first place, they got past the intelligence test.

Whats your creative process like?
Its quite chaotic. I have many ideas, I sometimes think I have like 20 songs and then when I finish I realize Ive got like 8 and one song is the chorus of another song and they all end up being mixed together. I generally write on the guitar and the piano so Ill sit down and work out the basic structures of each song with the guitar and piano. I have a kind of baby language, which I have for my lyrics which is this abstract nonsense, garbled language that I use that I say baby because babies have these emotions, I think they know what they want to say but they dont know how to say it and I think its really similar to how I write: I know what I want to say but I dont know how to say it at that point so I have this tonal musical speakI sing it and later I adapt the lyrics to that and somehow it comes out how I wanted it. So I have to trust my subconscious a lot that it will come out as something meaningful or not meaningless anyway. Musically, then I take it into the studio and dress it up with my strange electronic production and I spend a lot of time playing instruments, and programming and mixing and generally deconstructing the sound and trying to take the traditional songs and make them into something I dont hear anywhere.

Whats next for you? What do you want to achieve in the upcoming years?
I would like to continue making music. I would like to make some films, I think that would be nice. Maybe do some music for some films. I would like to I guess reach some more people with this music because I know theres a lot of people out there who havent had a chance to hear it and would maybe like to hear it. Id like to be an architect, thats something Id really like to do and produce more bands. Just be very productive, I think thats the main thing Id like to continue doing, just being productive and keep traveling as well.

Where have been your favorite places to travel?
God, there are many. Wow. I mean the states is always an interesting mindfuck. When I come here its like Ive just been thrown into the deep-end and Im quite grounded in my European scheme of things and then I go into a 7-11 and find huge cups and Im always really freaked out by the size of things here but then I get into the nature of things. Like driving through the countryside is incredible. Its just everything here, you have so much bad stuff and so much good stuff; its consumer choice, I guess. Its an amazing place but it scares me a bit, I have to say. But, Ill tell you what, compared to the European crowds, the Americans are a bit more giving actually than I would have expected. I dont know why, I think maybe theyre hungry for something. And in terms of being really relaxed, I think I like Lisbon in Portugal, thats a really beautiful place. Granada in Spain is really nice. Berlin is great in the summer, its a really beautiful place. So many places: Tokyo. I spent a lot of time in Tokyo, that was good fun, producing bands. Too, too many places. The world is a wonderful place.

Whats been the craziest tour experience?
Well theres always the boring rock and roll stories. I dont know if theyre really that interesting anymore. Losing stuff is not good. Losing instruments and having to rebuild a stage from nothing. Getting really sick is bad, Ive done that a few times when I couldnt wake up and couldnt sing and its a really important show and somehow your body just drags you through it. Getting stopped by US officials. I mean there are so many little things. Actually the last tour we came on, I managed to get really, really sick and I just couldnt continue doing shows. For the first time ever I had this incredible fever and we were on a tour bus and it was after the show and I hadnt eaten anythingthat was kind of stupid. I got into bed and I started freaking out and shaking uncontrollably, it was a really weird feeling, I dont know if youve ever had that. So I was taken to the hospital, I was on a drip the whole night, pumped full of antibiotics and whatever, so completely doped up. Got on the tour bus, went to the next show, driving to the show and the tour bus goes off the side of the road completely, were all thrown out of our bunks, everybodys screaming, Oh my God. Im still completely doped up, you know, and they drag me out of the bus, Im on the side of the highway like this, drooling. And yeah, we go to the show and somehow, somehow I manage to do the show. The show must go on. And that was a bit of a freaky thing. We all could have died. Janine came flying out of the top bunk. I still have this vision of her screaming and just falling to the floor. Reza was in the front, my manager, he went right into the window. So yeah, it can be quite exciting being on tour sometimes. Flying a lot is also quite scary. Some bumpy flights, thunder storms, not good.

What are your thoughts on collaboration?
Is that a trick question, are you expecting something?

No, well youve collaborated in the past but this is a solo project
It is and Ive become quite strong about not doing that much. Im trying to be quiteI guess Im a bit of a control freak in the end and Im also quite shy. I like to work alone very much and, if I do work with somebody, I have to really know them, or I have to really trust them or really respect them. So it does happen. It happened on the new record with Imogen Heap. I did a track with hera duet, which I thought worked really well. But that happened quite naturally, there was nothing forced about that. It wasnt planned by a company. I just had this odd idea, this concept, I talked to her about it and she was really into it and she just added her vocals and it worked well. Generally I dont collaborate, I dont want to collaborate that much anymore because it causes a lot of problems for me and them but it depends on the person.

@: interview