1. As a relatively new artist to British Music Fans, if you could
write the perfect headline for an IAMX article, what would it be?
"Ooh (laughing), um (long pause + thinking). Oh God, it's a good
question! Um (thinking), I don't know? I guess it would be something
to do with
'MIDDLESBOROUGH BERLIN BOY COMES GOOD!'
Or something like that (smiling), I'd have something cheesy (laughing)!
Because I feel like I'm sort of coming back, and playing in the UK is
a bit of a homecoming really, in a strange way. Because I used to live
in London for a few years before I moved to Berlin, and it was quite
suffocating, so I moved to Berlin for a real change of scene. So to
come back and actually feel really cool about the tour, is quite refreshing.
So some kind of homecoming theme (smiling)!"
2. Almost just through word-of-mouth, you already have a devoted
cult following across Europe, as well as an intimate relationship with
your fans through MySpace. But does this ever feel like a pressure,
in that people are so analytical of your music / lyrics, and that for
some, you could even be a voice for their suppressed emotions?
"Sometimes I think about that, it kind of hits me and I become
quite aware of that emotion. But most of the time, because my writing
is such an insular (pausing), I have a very introspective way of working
- I don't really play anybody anything until it's finished, and I don't
like playing demos to them either! It's very secretive and I'm quite
possessive about my music. So in a way (pausing), when people respond,
it's great, but I don't feel that I'm necessarily dictating anything
to them. The music is open enough and the lyrics are flexible enough,
for people to take what they want, without blaming me for anything (laughing),
if you know what I mean? At least that's the way that I would see it,
and because it's such a personal experience - writing and producing
in the studio - I do genuinely do it for myself and I don't feel pressurised
to give them what they want. But, on the other hand, in terms of the
live performances, then that's a different experience, because then
you deal directly with people. Atmospheres and emotions are in the room,
and you have a very close, intimate relationship with fans, to a certain
degree. So then it's a different thing, and I think you have to be aware
of how you present yourself, and the message that you're giving."
3. Why do you think Europeans have always been so drawn to subcultures
/ dark electro, rock and gothic music?
"I don't know? I really don't know? It's funny, because you grow
up in England and you're fed English pop music, and then when you live
in Europe, and spend a lot of time there, it's just a completely different
place! People don't have this sense of irony that I think the English
do, and that lack of irony, gives you more scope - more scope to be
really into things genuinely, without thinking, "Is it cool enough
to be into?" So there are no questions about stuff - people just
go for it! In terms of the dark subculture thing, I don't know? There's
quite a wave of that in the Eastern European countries as well (pausing
+ thinking), I can't explain that, but there's been a real affinity
for the stuff that I do there, and I really appreciate going to those
places, because they're really hardcore. But it does feel like there's
more of a subculture happening in England now (pausing), I don't know?
You live here, so I can't really say."
4. Sohodolls originally recommended your music to me, and when I
first heard Missile, it instantly stopped me in my tracks. What was
the last song that had that effect on you?
"Hmm, that's another good question (long pause + thinking). I mean
I don't listen to that much contemporary music - I tend to listen to
classical music, or music from a different time and age, where it's
so far removed from what I do, that it becomes an attractive, atmospheric
place to go and escape to. Something that I'm really, really into and
blown away by at the moment, is Kurt Weill & Bertolt Brecht, and
probably the songs from The Threepenny Opera, which is a famous German
theatrical play / musical piece. There's a really brilliant song on
there - they're all brilliant - but there's one called Die Moritat von
Mackie Messer (Ballad Of Mack The Knife). You'd probably know the tune
if you heard it, but it's sung in German and I'm kind of learning German,
so I'm really into that. Yeah, that blew me away (smiling)!"
5. Ideally, what would you most like your contribution to music to
"For a while, that really concerned me - the idea of what I do,
how it will be pictured or viewed, and what seeds I will sew for the
future. But as soon as I stopped caring (laughing), I think I became
a bit more relaxed with my music, and the real stuff started to flow
(pausing), it felt like that anyway. I think the main thing is, is that
I'd like it to be viewed as a tight audio and visual experience. I think
that's why we play with the style and the imagery, and I said play,
because I think that's a really nice antidote to maybe the weight of
the music - where you have a theatrical performance which isn't too
serious, and you can say really heavy and deep things with the music.
And I've always thought that was a beautiful thing about comedy, the
fact that you can say very depressing things in a funny way. It's not
that I'm saying it in a funny way, but I think that you have to have
a sense of humour about what you do, to in a way, take yourself seriously
(smiling), which is a bit strange (laughing)!"
6. Neil Tennant recently remarked, "Nowadays, pop music is not
regarded as a medium for ideas, it is regarded as a medium for success."
Do you think that's true?
"Yes, that's very true and very observant! It's a huge corporate
indulgence (pausing), it's funny coming from him of all people actually
(laughing), because the Pet Shop Boys were the perfect pop package of
The '80s! I do believe that, but I also have faith in the power of the
independent movements that are happening. The way we do things with
IAMX, it's like a tight-knit community that does everything without
the power of huge backing and lots of money, so it's quite self-sufficient,
and I think that's the new way of doing things! It's actually a more
productive and rewarding way of doing it I think, because I've been
in big major deals in the past, and dealt with major companies, but
I only had heartache with them you know? And so the way that we do it
now, is very much on our own terms, and I think that's the only way
that we personally, can deal with it. But I think that that's also a
guiding light for other independent thinking artists!"
*In another recent online interview, Chris stated
is very important and to fight against technology is deluded. You have
to embrace it and be smart with selling yourself in other ways. Art
is still the currency, you just have to make everything that surrounds
it more attractive. I like the idea of artists becoming gypsies again;
selling ourselves door to door, city to city, a hand to mouth existence."*
7. When asked about your lyrics, you said that "lyrics for
me have to be natural and real, there has to be weight. Sometimes I
like to suspend belief, but everything is based on personal experience
and sentiment. This is where spirituality comes in." But of all
the Art & Music that inspires you, which is the more dominant element
that they have - Truth or Joy?
"Hmm (thinking), being polite in English, I would say a bit of
both (smiling). I wouldn't say joy, because I think personally (pausing),
it depends what you see as joy - if you take joy from being moved in
a depressive / emotional way, you can somehow feed off that and feed
it into other things. But, I would say that normally, the truth of it
is more important. Like take something such as production - because
I'm still kind of a producer as well - so something like rhythm, is
a very truthful, direct way of making people feel things, and I think
that you can manipulate truths in music to make emotions or whatever.
I'm not so much into the more joyful side of things, I'd always go for
a more bittersweet edge to music."
8. In order to shake-up his creativity, David Bowie once utilised
the 'Cut-Up' literary technique devised by The Surrealists, whereby
he would randomly splice his lyrics and then reassemble the words in
an abstract manner. Would you ever consider experimenting in such a
"I've heard about that, yeah. I mean the way that I do it lyrically,
is actually quite a feely and in no way a theoretical way of writing
lyrics. What I do, when I get into the studio, I know that in some baby-like
way, I'm trying to get something out. You know, you sort of see a baby
trying to say stuff and you know that they're trying to express an emotion,
but it's not quite there yet. So my first step of lyrical writing, is
coming out with this sort of nonsense language, with the guitar or the
piano. It works well for me, because it also pushes me into (pausing),
I respond to it and think, "What word can I use that would also
describe what I was feeling at that time?" So, it pushes me to
use words that I would never use, and I hate being lazy with my lyrics,
because it's such a powerful and expressive medium - it's so open you
know? So I would always shy away from the traditional writing concept.
The 'Cut-Up' literary technique would be another way of doing it, but
I don't know if I've ever tried that? I think I heard about that once
and I thought, "OK, let's give it a go," and I remember doing
that and it didn't work (laughing)! So I was thinking, "Nah, he's
dressed it up in some way - maybe somewhere along the line he's used
it, but he's also kind of gone back on it."
9. Have you ever met any people that you admire, and what were your
impressions of them?
"Actually, the weird thing is, the people that I would like to
meet, I've never met! Not really. I mean I've met a lot of people -
maybe somebody that I knew was extremely famous or whatever, but I'm
not that interested in. But that's OK, because I'm not really interested
in the idea of fame anyway. But in terms of people that I would really
like to meet, I think I'm a little bit scared as well - I don't really
want to crush my impressions of them, and maybe I'd always like to hold
10. You've now been based in Berlin for several years. What do you most
enjoy about living there, and what do you most miss about the UK?
"Um (pausing + thinking). My friends and
my friends (laughing)!
I ran away from them and I miss them too, but there are so many things
about Berlin that I love, that instantly struck me and that have also
grown on me. I went there with this impression of indulgence and decadence
and subculture and nightlife - and it's all there, but there's also
a really calm and relaxed side to Berlin, which I enjoy more than that
side of things. And now, I really enjoy getting into the language, because
it's something that I never got into as a kid - I was always shit with
languages (laughing)! So, I'm experimenting with that, which is really
nice, and just being very, very relaxed and not worrying about money
- that's one of the biggest things! You're not in a rat race, whereas
in London, you really are! But I do miss my friends, even though I'm
still working out who they are (laughing), but it gives me time to think,
so that's a good thing!"
11. Over the years, Europe has produced many 'One Hit Wonders' - but
do you have a favourite 'One Hit Wonder' song?
"Um (smiling), I don't know if I've ever told anybody this (laughing),
so this is (pausing), I have a few secret ones as well, but this one
is purely for production reasons of course (laughing)! I really like
that track Lady, by Mojo (starts singing song)
"It was massive everywhere! There are more, but we won't go into
12. What's your Mobile Ringtone?
"My Mobile Ringtone (laughing)? I'm not even into that - that's
something that I'm a bit behind on culturally. I like the old dial phone
and I've got that, because it reminds me of being a kid somehow. It's
really subtle, and I like technology that doesn't intrude!"
13. In reference to your name, if 'X Marks The Spot' - and using your
mind as the spot - what other things in life most stimulate you?
"I would say Architecture. There are many examples, but I would
probably go for The Bauhaus Movement and a Modernist like Mies van der
Rohe, who's actually a German architect who did very many wonderful
things in The '30s and '40s. I like him very much (smiling)!"
14. Do you have a favourite quote?
"SAY IT, DO IT!" I don't know who said that? It was probably
Nike (laughing)! But it resonates with me, because of the independent
way of working, and I think that if you come up with an idea, you really
should act on it very quickly! I've found that there are so many ideas
all around, and you say, "Why don't we do that?" And everyone
goes, "Fuck, that's brilliant! But we don't have the funding and
we don't have the money, so how do we do it?" So we have to try
and find ways of doing things! So yeah, I think that's mine - "SAY
IT, DO IT!"
15. What's the best advice you've ever received?
"Um, there are a few, but I'll try and narrow it down to one. I
think the best advice for me personally, is that I "work well under
pressure" - which I didn't believe for many years (laughing)! I
was thinking, "Shit, I hate being under pressure!" But, I
think it really helps me."
16. You once commented, "The marriage of music and image is
fascinating" - and you have clearly taken great care and consideration
over the band's style and artwork. But are there any musicians' sartorial
looks or record sleeves that you admire?
"Again, I'm not really well-versed in contemporary music, but,
I think now and again, things pop out and at the moment, I like Alec
Empire and his music. Visually, I don't know in terms of bands, but
I think we all take a lot of influence from films, art and artists,
rather than bands (pausing), it's funny really, we should be in a different
17. If you could be photographed for any magazine and be on the front
cover, which one would it be?
"There's a German magazine actually, which is (pausing), God, I
can't believe I'm going to say his name, but it's Bryan Adams' magazine
and it's called Zoo (www.zoomagazine.de). He's also a photographer and
he does half of the photography in it. I quite like that magazine, because
there's a lot of (pausing), you're hearing a lot of secrets coming out
now (smiling) - this is where the band will go, "What!?!"
"It's quite a nice magazine, because it's still got commercial
qualities, but they push a lot of gender-bending in it, which I think
is quite interesting for commercial magazines. Obviously they have a
lot of the traditional girls with tits out doing fashion shoots, but
they also have guys sort of spreading their legs, painted with make-up
and stuff. So, I think it has quite a good balance of sexuality in it."
18. Musically, you "like strong, simple statements and albums
that have the same sound all the way through." But do you have
any particular favourite sections in songs - moments which you think
"Yeah, but it's difficult to drag one out. I like it when production
has that subtlety and detail - I really loved David Sylvian when I was
a kid, and I always noticed that there was a lot of detail, thought
and depth that went into the production and sounds of his music. At
times, there would just be a pause of silence or whatever, and the same
song would return - I think there's a song called Gone To Earth by David
Sylvian - but it's about 10 minutes long (laughing), or something, it's
really indulgent and quite ridiculous! But in the middle, there's a
point where it just dies into silence and then comes back, and I think
that's a really nice pause and break, without killing the atmosphere
and the mood of the track."
19. Of all your songs to date, is there one that you could pinpoint
as the prototype for IAMX's sound?
"Um (thinking), it has two sides to it - it has quite an aggressive
and upbeat / dancey side, and then a more anthemic and melodic / ballad
side or whatever. But, I would say the track The Alternative, is probably
the most representative of the album as a whole, because it has melody
combined with the more aggressive side of things. Something like President,
is too much the other way, and Negative Sex is sort of rock and just
a bit more punky. But I think The Alternative, is probably the closest
to the sound of IAMX."
*IAMX's Tour Manager Morgan, asks if we can start to wrap up the interview,
as the band are due on stage in just over an hour*
20. What are your biggest hopes for IAMX long-term?
"Just to keep doing what we're doing, and to have a strong independent
message within The Music Industry. That's really important, and it's
become kind of a mission for us - to do what we do and plough through,
without having to play the game so much. And also, for everybody to
be happy and comfortable and survive making the music. Yeah!"
21. Lastly, chips or cream buns?
"Ooh (thinking), well obviously there's equal negativity and evil
in both, so you have to (pausing), I'd probably go for cream buns, because
it's more of a feminist angle!"
A very special thanks to Chris and his band, to IAMX's Tour Manager
Morgan, and to Mike @ Infected, for all of their time and help.
"The Alternative To Real World"