Michael Bohli: Let’s talk about first contact and beginnings. My first time with IAMX was at the Heitere Festival in Zofingen near Aarau. It was in the summer of 2009 and the whole show is also on YouTube. I’ve never heard about you or your music before and it blew me away. What is your approach with playing concerts? Do you try to get new fans on every concert or play for the people who know you already??
Chris Corner: Yeah that’s a good question. It depends. On the IAMX shows we have a loving core fan base and the shows are usually very well received with a lot of warm interaction. It is usually very satisfying from my perspective. If I do a festival it’s a little more challenging. IAMX is a specific niche project. So at festivals a lot of people do not know the band and have not the open mind that is needed to get this kind of music. It can be confusing. So I don’t really care and do what I want to do. I don’t change the things to impress them and it is more like “take it or leave it”. That can be a bit hard but is also refreshing. It takes yourself to a place where you accept yourself and what you do as an artist. You get up there and just put up a show.
Also with a lot of honesty.
Exactly. The people that liked IAMX before will also like this shows, and the people that never liked it before will not after a festival gig.
What was your first contact with music?
It was through my uncle. He was an obsessive fan of the 80ies new romantic / new wave band called Japan. He became very into David Sylvian, the artist who did the quite weird and contemporary odd music. And that was my first exposure to music, which was quite unusual. But I absolutely loved it and my whole life I’ve been very impressed by David Sylvian. I guess he is the only musician I would call an idol. So this was the first time I was aware about music. My mom played more commercial stuff, like melodic 50ies music – very atmospheric and romantic stuff. So these two things really shaped me and made me the person I am now.
Was this also the initial point where you said “I wan make music myself” or was this later on?
It came a bit later. At first I wanted to be a scientist. I was studying astrophysics in college and the university and I did music on the side. I really loved the technical side of creating music, but the emotional side of art came with the second album with my band Sneaker Pimps. The first one was more about learning about my trade, the industry and growing up. So I became a performer through this second album, when I realized that it is very natural for me to express myself in this way. But this combination of technology and the emotional side really gave birth to IAMX.
What defines a musical journey? Which factors in life have influence? It is the whole life, not just parts.
Yeah, my brain works in a way that consumes things very fast. I can listen to something and it is done for me quite quickly these days. I am not obsessed about bands now. Also I love many things like film, technology, art and architecture. All these things come together in a way of life and attitude, what became IAMX. The lifestyle I want to live and be able to express my different parts of my personality.
As a listener you get that with IAMX. You use German lyrics, since you lived in Berlin for seven years. There are some songs with waltz rhythm but is there a point where you thought, that is too much? Or does it work with the first try?
I have come to accept that this is the way I do it. I’ve always experimented in the past with different kinds of ways to produce but this way I work with IAMX now is the best for this project. I promised myself with the new album “Metanoia” to live a more stress free life. And a part of this is to accept the way you do things and not always being dissatisfied with the way it turns out. It is about accepting the essence and saying “it is going like this and will be this way” and work within this limits. It was quite refreshing to accept that. And I also want to some stuff outside of IAMX. This is going to be the next step.
Was this also part of the change by moving to L.A. and doing the second time an album with crowd funding? How was that?
It is wonderful and very rewarding, not just financially but also creative. There are no limits in what you can do. The people already support you in what you are doing without hearing anything from it and this is very special. Also you are not in the chains of a big label or record company. It is great people can get more involved. We made the mistake with the first one that we had to many rewards and I ended up trying to live up to these commitments that we made for months. So we simplified it with this one.
Is it also a way to get closer to the people and is there more interaction?
Yes it really is. My fans are pretty intelligent and conscious people and obviously everybody wants to grab the music right now from the internet. I get that it is convenient. And with crowd funding it is a cool way to offer them the music, but also letting they help to create it with their financing. It is a very nice way for them to show the love and support.
So the internet helps in difficult situations and perfect to help you share your own thoughts and creations?
I don’t think that is black and white. It is like the Wild West. You can form your own way of the music industry and it is boundless. But you also can spend a lot of time being frustrated how to used it because of this endless possibilities. You can just go blank. And this is one of the problems with the modern world: The excess of choice. If you are a practical person you can use it in a good way. It is still very hard also because the music is not financed in a way it used to be. Maybe this is better but I’m on the fence with this theme. I know you have to be adaptable and I’ve always been like this. The internet really helped IAMX very much. I can be really useful for indie projects.
What do you think about music in general? Does it help to get more open minded, making new friends and being able to spread your own thoughts?
I think it is one of the most powerful ways of spreading change and love. I feel very very lucky to get to satisfy my creative urges but also help and move people in a way that is out of my control. It’s a very special interaction and it can be very therapeutic. Like ways it can be a nightmare and very emotional. But overall it is a very benevolent and beautiful force in the world and hopefully will be around for ever.
We have pretty troubled times right know. Is music even more important in times like these or is it getting more into the background?
It is tough. We live in a world where are bombarded with bad news every day. If you open up a newspaper or turn on the TV you have such easy access to negativity and people should change from their car crash mentality. Because in the end all we see is bad news.
And it also discourages people you don’t want to leave the house.
Right. Psychologically it is very damaging. But I still think you can find refuge in art and music. Maybe it is not as respected as it used to be in a sense that it’s so easy to get. The popular music industry puts out a lot of garbage that confuses people. Everybody knows what’s good but maybe they don’t have access or the energy to find the real thing. You can change things in small ways. I stopped having big ambitions a long time ago. You can reach a small amount of people and create change this way. And that is all you can hope for. That is realistic.
Do you try to spread your messages through your music or do you try to be more metaphorical? Mostly you use pretty personal lyrics.
I stay on the side of metaphor because I feel like a hypocrite if I’m being actively political. The only way that I can be political in my weird way is to say how things are rather than how they should be. It’s more like this how it is and how I feel about it. Trying to be self analytical and put my thoughts on the table. And through this people can decide if they agree with me or not. But I have never been a political activist and I would rather talk about the subtle everyday problems that people go through. That is just more realistic for me.
With your live shows you use video projections, costumes and lot of stuff. Do you plan to release a live album or even a DVD in the future to capture every aspect of IAMX?
Yeah people asked about that a lot. I’m not sure how I feel about it. In a way it is somehow protected and special because it is contained in this gig environment and you have to go to that show. It is old school and the way it has always been. You have to go there and experience the person in the flesh. I’m not really against it but I don’t really feel how to capture it. Maybe I am being a bit protective about it. I cannot see it happening at the moment unless something really interesting or special comes up.
Or maybe a project where you combine an art-movie with your music like the English band archive did it with “Axiom”. Maybe that would be new way to explore the levels of IAMX since you also do your own music videos.
That’s something I would absolutely love to do. Though one thing I’m not really good at it is scripting. Things that I find most interesting are more abstract. Basically I would prefer to just paint pictures with moods and atmospheres and let the people discover it for themselves. But I guess you cannot do this for a short film. That would be a bit too self indulgent. But yeah maybe I could do a thing like this with IAMX.
So thank you very much for your time.
You are very welcome.