Possibly 4th Street 18: IAMX (Ex-Sneaker Pimps Chris Corner)


Rob Trucks’s “Possibly 4th Street” expositions, in which he invites musicians to perform live and impromptu somewhere in New York City, run intermittently here at Sound of the City. This is the first one that got shut down by the cops. We are very proud.

IAMX performs next Wednesday, September 10 at the Blender Theatre at Gramercy with Hypernova. Tickets are $20 and available here.

all photos by Rob Trucks

Possibly 4th Street
Number 18 (Part One)

by Rob Trucks

I’ve got a ‘lectric guitar and half a bottle of warm beer
I’ve got some funny ideas about what sounds good
What sounds good
Better shut us down
Better shut us down

—Camper Van Beethoven

Former Sneaker Pimp Chris Corner speaks of his IAMX persona in the third person. Kind of like a number of pro athletes bestowing locker room interviews. (I’m looking at you Bo Jackson.)

Except in Corner’s case, his onstage alter-ego really is like a different being. Kind of a stylistic cross between Joel Grey’s Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret and Malcolm McDowell’s Alex in Clockwork Orange. Which kind of makes sense considering that Corner is a Brit (Clockwork) currently residing in Berlin (Cabaret).

But what doesn’t make so much sense is seeing Corner’s creation—sequined top hat, rouge over a touch of pancake make-up, wearing what appears to be a black smock stolen from a hair salon—bound out of an overly large tour bus (think something Merle Haggard might get around in) onto an otherwise desolate sidewalk, in front of a parking garage about as far west as you can step in Manhattan without getting wet.

They only come out at night, my ass.

But Chris Corner and his band bring the works: amps, monitors, keyboards and a full set of drums. It’s our first electrified P4St. Our first honest-to-goodness tour bus and our first color-coordinated performance. Our first pre-gig champagne toast and our first street show in full costume regalia (the band, not us).

Residents of nearby apartment buildings stream out, propelled more by head-scratching confusion than hard-edged curiosity. And though it’s a safe bet that most of these bystanders have never seen a thin British man in sequined hat and full make-up serenading the neighborhood so early in the afternoon (or maybe they have; this is, after all, New York), they stay. They stay and they enjoy.

Of course, it turns out that a pair of local law enforcement officials are also confounded, if not chagrined—it is pretty loud and somehow we overlooked the P.S. 110 Florence Nightingale School just about a block away. So Officers Chen and Kielb do their job. And they do it well.

Yeah, better shut us down.

Better shut us down.

IAMX Plays by Williamsburg Bridge, Gets Shut Down by the Cops

Possibly 4th Street
Number 18 (Part Two)


IAMX, a four-piece ensemble of dark and decadent electronica-poppers led by former Sneaker Pimp Chris Corner


Wednesday afternoon, November 14, 2007


The corner of Delancey and Columbia (a/k/a Abraham E. Kazan Street) in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge, close enough to the Area Garage (number 275 on Delancey Street) to tap into their electricity (thanks guys).

Something Chris Corner has never ever done before (theoretically a shorter list than most):

I would like to skydive. I’ve never skydiven, or dove [laughs].

Something he’s done once and one time only:

Oh, it sounds like such a cliché. And it sounds like I have some obsession with planes, but the Mile High Club. Having sex on a plane.

Is this a transcontinental flight?

It wasn’t actually. It was a European flight from Berlin to Barcelona.

The name of a book he’s read at least twice:

I can’t remember the author but it’s called The History of Mind [A History of the Mind: Evolution and the Birth of Consciousness by Nicholas Humphrey].

The name of a movie he’s seen at least three times:

Ooh, many. I would say Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky.

And the album he’s listened to more than any other in his lifetime:

Brilliant Trees by David Sylvian.

Do you own a rake?

[laughs] You know what? I do. I have a little roof garden in Berlin and I have a very, very small rake. It’s a hand rake.

I do want to ask about Berlin. You’ve been there about two and a half years?

Yeah, just over two years.

Did the newness of the city when you first moved there give you kind of a creative kick in the ass?

Yeah, it’s that sort of honeymoon period with any place. I think it’s the same with everybody, but I’m lucky enough to be able to move around and that’s one of those places that I always had a desire to be for a period. Not necessarily live there forever, but just to go and experience blah blah blah. I mean, I think I was so sick to death of London, of that city life. And Berlin’s much more appealing because it’s more of a relaxed city life. It’s kind of the village city. And having that space but still having the kind of busyness of a city really made it possible for me to be extra creative and extra introverted and extra self-obsessed.

I think certain places—New York, New Orleans, Vegas, I would imagine Berlin—conjure particular impressions without ever having to visit. That somehow the setting is so strong that it gives off signals or clues. Do you remember what attracted you to Berlin initially?

I had, again, quite a cliched, naïve view of the place. It’s kind of dirty, fucked up, still a bit trashy, still a bit dark, decadent. I had these visions of nightclubs and weird people and dark streets. And it’s there, but I had no idea of the other side. And the other side was actually a very, very calming and relaxed place. Which was actually the thing that made me stay in the end. I wasn’t really looking for that, but it was just there and made it that much more appealing.

The beauty of Berlin, for me, is it gives you the opportunity to choose what you want and it doesn’t push its character on you too much. In some ways, if you’re too passive, you can kind of get sucked into the lethargy of Berlin. But coming from London and having that kind of competitive, always sort of fighting against something work ethic, it’s sort of a perfect place for me at the moment.

Even though it’s a much different era, the drama of your music, combined with the Berlin setting, renders a kind of parallel with Cabaret and the time of the Weimar Republic. Is there a similar kind of romanticism in your own experience?

I think there’s a few reasons for that, and it’s actually become more apparent in the music. I made the music before I really got into all that stuff, so I think it was there and I was interested but I wasn’t really playing with it as much. And once the record sort of lived and breathed and we went on tour and experimented with the sort of theatrical side of it a bit more, then I guess the link became a bit more apparent and I enjoyed that side of it more. And also I get very bored with contemporary music, so music of a different time that creates a picture, that creates a sort of fantasy world that I could never be in is always very appealing to me, and so I guess that’s where the link comes. Also we’re very playful with what we do.

It’s great that you have the opportunity for discovery within your own creation. The fact that you’re learning new things, seeing new things within your own work has to be refreshing.

Well, I think that’s the only way I can write. And I think exactly for that reason I would be bored and unconfident with the outcome if I knew what the outcome was going to be. So I do write in a very abstract, messy, and probably, I guess, subconscious kind of way a lot of the time. I don’t have a master plan. I trust that a plan will come and there is something going on, but usually it’s towards the end. And it’s more when I get into kind of technical production mode that the master plan comes together. But the actual sort of feeling and the emotion and the music is a mess.

I’ve read a number of interviews where you refer to your IAMX character in the third person, and in at least one you say it’s a creature that only comes out at night. But I can’t help but notice that it’s the middle of the afternoon.

[laughs] I lied.

How often have you performed where daylight was part of the equation?

Not very often. I mean, I like this because it’s very spontaneous and it’s . . . it’s like we’ve just woken up and we have no choice. When you’re thrown into it, it’s fun. If you’re doing a festival in the afternoon or something, it’s a bit more, you know . . . The mystery of hiding behind lights and visuals and shadows and movement is not there so you have to kind of bring it out in a different way, and I think you have to be just a bit more down to earth and, you know, you can’t sort of do those sort of ridiculous poses as much. You can, but I think you have to add more humor to it.

The light does cause a change, though.

Yeah, because you’re completely exposed. And in one sense, that’s good. There’s a sort of therapeutic process to being out in the daylight and wearing the ridiculous make-up and just saying, ‘Okay, this is me.’ And in another sense, you lose control. You don’t have the power. But this is something different.

You’re still in your honeymoon phase with Berlin. Where does the IAMX character want to live?

On this dirty tour bus, traveling to the ends of the earth.

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