est 2004 written and published by Kelli Ali
 

Sneaker Pimps

The first time I met Chris Corner and Liam Howe...

I got the feeling that they thought they were having a practical joke played on them by their manager. They didn't seem to particularly be looking for a singer and when they saw this little punk brummie turn up at their gig being put forward as their next singer, they were close to speechless. Or maybe it was just my heavy black eyeliner that scared them:)

Anyway, I went back to Birmingham and they sent me some demo tracks. I really liked their sound though I was kind of put off at first, by the obvious lack of guitars.

6 Underground was one of the tracks on the demo and I fell in love with that song but I thought that Chris Corner had done a good job of singing on the tracks and when their manager, Craig called to see what I made of the demo, I asked why they were even looking for a singer when they already had one. He said they wanted a girl singer. I should have known there and then that the road ahead would be a strange and illogical one.

They came to see one of The Lumiere's gigs. It was an open air festival in Birmingham City Centre. When I came off stage, I went and said hello but they could hardly say a word. They were really shy and quiet (mortified ?). I mean, it's hard for me to explain how different we were to each other. Liam and Chris seemed a lot more serious and than most of the kids I knew. They were a little bit older than me but liam spoke very posh and it unnerved me a little bit, he would use words that I didn't understand and although I kind of liked them, I felt a distance between us that I could only explain as the English class divide in action. (I'm over it now )

I agreed to go up to Elwick Village (Northumberland) where Liam had a little bedroom studio, there, I sang on 6 Underground and a few others. I sang all the vocals in a little cupboard that Liam had made into a vocal booth and I was impressed at their musical ability and skill with recording and getting good sounds. We had fun and I got to like them more having spent some time with them.

I also found that I sang differently to their songs. They were in a lower key, as they had been made for Chris Corner's voice originally and he had a slightly lower range than me. So I couldn't belt out the songs like I had been doing with my own songs and it felt good. It felt good to try and capture the energy and emotion of what I was feeling and express it in a deeper and cooler, more measured voice.

Craig, the manager called me and said that the band would like me to join them. At first, I declined. The Lumieres had started getting a lot of attention and Kim Fowley was still on my case. I wanted to sing my own songs and I told Craig that they could use my voice if they wanted but why should I join a band who just wants me to sing?

Craig convinced me that I could continue to make my own music and join the band, if the new music became really successful, it would be cool for everybody and Virgin America were already interested in signing the band if I was a permanent member.

I thought about it for a while and decided to join the band that had now chosen the name Sneaker Pimps, on the basis that if I joined them, I would write B-sides and co-write on the next album. They said cool, I said cool and within a couple of weeks, while we were recording some more tracks, we were offered a U.S. deal with Virgin America. It was very exciting and I felt that I had just jumped aboard a fast car that had no intention of stopping until it reached it's final destination.

Kim Fowley called me and I told him that I'd joined the Sneaker Pimps. He was furious and actually spoke about his fury in one of the music papers who were interviewing him about his life. That tickled me, I'd only briefly met the guy and he'd never done jack for me. Still, it was nice to think that someone cared.

The months that followed were fast and furious. We had to finish the rest of the album, Becoming X. We did it all in Liam's bedroom studio and had some good times making that record. Liam introduced me to fine red wine (I had been a Diamond White or 20/20 drinker before that). We would all get quite smashed after a day recording and that was great fun.

Liam is one of the funniest, sweetest people and because he is so intelligent, it's even better to watch him make an ass of himself when he's pissed. Good times. Liam and his dad knew all about red wine and they could actually name a wine by tasting it, which never failed to have me in stitches!

It was cool and we all got on and I was glad that I was making this cool record with these cool kids.

Shortly after making Becoming X, we were already on the road, we had a few weeks to get the live show together and I think I enjoyed it more than the rest of the band did. I could tell that they weren't that into playing live and especially, that they didn't quite know what to expect from me, having witnessed my other gigs (ROCK : 0)

We played all over U.K. and at first, it was the toilet tour. Little pub venues, not usually to more than twenty or thirty people. It was really exciting to me, as I had never toured before and now, we were playing all over the U.K. We toured with a band called 12 Rounds and that was excellent fun.

We were nearly arrested in Glasgow for drunk and disorderly behaviour. In those days, we would get very pissed and toke a bit of weed (me and the drummer, Dave. Liam and Chris didn't smoke)

We supported Neneh Cherry and also Blur for a part of their tour. We played with Tricky and Lamb and it seemed that we were well and truly being embraced as Trip hoppers. AT first, the reviews of the singles were awful but I didn't give a fuck.

Reviews are a pointless waste of time man. If I make a record and someone calls it a piece of shit then I just see that they don't get it. if they love it, I see that they do get it. Same if I read a bad review of someone else's record. It's cool to have ideas and opinions about music but as a job, I see it as a waste of man power.

We played Europe and got stranded on highways for nights on end. We had technical problems andgot booed off stage. We had all sorts of obstacles but it was a riot and I loved it.

We started getting T.V. shows and press and then The Saint (the movie with Val Kilmer), used 6 Underground as part of the sound track and that was it. That song was played every day for a long time and changed everything.

We toured America for a long time. Probably a year or more.

The boys were partying and rubbing shoulders with the American fat cats in the music industry. But I found our new found record company friends from Virgin America to be full of shit more often than not and they irritated me with their arrogance. I felt that we were just one of many young bands that they were into because of the whole U.K. trip hop explosion in the U.S. and that once we were no longer press darlings, they'd leave us dead in the water. They were like Vampires . They didn't understand me nor I them. I wasn't into their parties and I didn't dig their coke bullshit.

We were asked to fly to New York and record a song with Marylin Manson for the Spawn movie soundtrack. I really enjoyed meeting him, he was interesting and very considerate, he treated me with respect and courtesy and I have fond memories of New York at that time. Unfortunately, Chris and Liam hadn't enjoyed the experience so much. We were asked to do an interview with M.T.V. News, about working with Marylin Manson, so we agreed but we were waiting around for ages and we ended up demanding a bottle of Champagne each while we waited.

No Moet - no showe, no Chandon - no band on!

By the time we did the interview, we were drunk as skunks. The interviewer asked Liam what he thought about working with Marylin Manson and Liam said something about ' polishing a turd, meaning Marylin Manson's music was shit'. I was so pissed, that I thought it was hilarious, I always got a kick when we started messing around on interviews and we used to do that quite a lot. I also knew that Marylin Manson wouldn't give a fuck if we slagged him off anyway. He's too smart to care. So we launched into a childish group dis of Marylin Manson. They played our drunken faces on M.T.V. nearly every day for a week after that and Marylin Manson's cool retalliation. He said he'd forgotten our names already and I thought that was cool.

I regretted being such a sheep and going along with the drunken banter but I hoped that Marylin Manson would see it as nothing more than immaturity on our part. I think he's a sweetie and does a lot to help kids in America and all over the world, express their anger at the way they're being treated. He's also a cool performer, I really dig 'The Fight Song ' and basically think he's a cool guy.

After that, Marylin Manson fans would turn up at gigs and people were saying that they had come to take revenge on us but I met a lot of those kids after the shows, they were cool and real sweet and if they had come to the shows intending to start a fuss, then they had changed their minds by the end of the shows.

One time I was talking with a Marylin fan, whose boyfriend had her on a dog collar and lead and she said that they hadn't expected to dig the Sneaker Pimps but she enjoyed seeing a girl on stage, most of the bands she went to see were all men.

I loved touring America. There is little more exciting being on the road and waking up every day in a new city or state. I love California and get back whenever I can. There is an openness and wildness to the Californian desert that fills my heart with boundless joy.

It was starting to get difficult on the road and we hadn't been spending any time off stage together for a long time. I was starting to notice the lack of joy on everyone's faces on the tour bus. No one really told me much about anything but when you've been sharing such a small space with a group of people for so long, you kind of have to find some space and I mistook the band's cold shoulder as them simply doing their own thing. Later on in interviews Chris said that he couldn't stand being in the same room as me, that hurt and looking back, I can never remember if Chris and I actually fell out or why he felt so bad about me. It seemed that the band's united front against their singer, was the only thing that was uniting them at the time and they started to argue between themselves quite a lot.

It's just touring for so long I guess. Everybody needs head space and it can get quite strange after a while, living in such close proximity of so many people, I guess that's the test for any band.

I can understand, looking back, how we grew apart and it wouldn't be fair of me to discuss the personal buisiness of the band in this biography but let's just say that we were all young and inexperienced. We could all have been a bit more understanding towards each other but we were on our own journies and the whole thing started feeling very odd and joyless towards the end of the last U.S. tour. Except for the shows that is. They kept me going.There's a certain energy in playing music to a crowd of people who love that music. It's like nothing else. A true understanding, a simple feeling of no matter what's going down in each of our lives, everybody has come together for that fleeting, endless time for the sole purpose of music and there's no point in analyzing why or how, it's timeless and beautiful and in many ways has saved many a lost soul from the depths of sorrow that can befall a life. I've seen it, i've felt it and I believe it.

One morning, towards the end of our last U.S. tour, we woke up in Tennessee and found a note from Liam saying he had had enough. He'd flown home and left the band on the bus. That was the last time I was in America to play a gig. Obviously, it didn't happen.

I felt sad and bewildered. Everybody just wanted to get the hell out and I'll always remember how it rained that day and how down everybody was, it was horrible.

I returned to London and decided to go travelling to Costa Rica and Panama for a couple of months. I was bored and irritated by the spoiled and excessive world of the U.S. music scene at that time and I wanted to go somewhere beautiful and new. It was good to escape, very bizarre to be in the Jungles and cities and deserts of Central America after a year on tour.

It was quite lonely at times though and I wondered how everyone was doing and was kind of looking forward to getting back and starting the next record.

When I returned to London, the Sneaker Pimps had already set up a studio at Terminal Studios in London.

The band called a meeting, which I thought was to discuss new ideas for the next album. When I turned up, there was a strange atmosphere and I asked what was going on. Liam said that Chris was going to sing from now on. At first I thought that they meant he was going to sing as well but then I realised that they wanted Chris to replace me. I was devastated and left shortly afterwards. I felt let down and angry but within minutes of my walk home, I felt a sense of freedom pervade the sadness and by the time I reached home, I was already thinking about how cool it would be to make my own record.

What happened afterwards, is in the ' Writing Tigermouth ' section of this site in Cat Tales. . .

I just want to say that I met up with Chris Corner and Liam Howe last year, we went for a drink and had a good time, it was good to see them and I now realise that what happened was best for every one. I bear no grugde toward any of them and in fact, the fond memories of our time together out number the sour ones.