Forgotten Favourites: Sneaker Pimps

Following IAMX’s London gig earlier this year – our minds were blown at the thought of how IAMX has developed to the loud, electric machine that it now is after it’s birth from Sneaker Pimps. Here we bring to you the journey that Chris Corner has been on up to today – with the fame, fortune, joys and lows we would like to take a moment to appreciate his contribution to the music industry and to The Velvet Onion.

© Sneaker Pimps

The Sneaker Pimps first formed in 1994 by Chris Corner and Liam Howe after a plethora of experiments with sounds and synthesiser. This culminated in the idea to begin a not-too-serious band project that they developed from their first band F.R.I.S.K, to Line Of Flight and then after discovering Kelli Dayton performing in a pub, The band took on Kelli who provided vocals on their debut album Becoming X – and so, Sneaker Pimps was born. From this, the band made up of Chris as lead guitarist, Liam Howe on Synthesiser, Joe Wilson on bass, David Westlake on drums (who has since gone on to become the Boosh Band drummer) and Ian Pickering providing lyrics.

The Sneaker Pimps’ sound has been described popularly as ‘Trip Hop’, with it’s dark and atmospheric tunes and expressionist lyrics – even back then you can sense the ‘X’ in Corner itching to be released.

The band shot to success by 1997 – by then they had played several festivals including Glastonbury and also had a Top Of The Pops appearance under their belt. Their carefree and aloof reputation was lost in their own hype and this brought on the decision to create a fresh start for themselves. The band asked Kelli to leave and once Corner found his own voice in their lyrics, they released the album Splinter which was predominately Chris’ vocals and lyrics.
Splinter, compared to Becoming X, is an album that can turn its audience into a puddle of goo and take you through a cacophony of experimental sounds. They took 90’s pop to the next level and after originally fitting the conventions of music at that time with Becoming X, they finally found a voice that gave them a cult reputation, and that took them to a level that their fans couldn’t comprehend.

With the new Sneaker Pimps, the band launched ‘Home Taping’ – a monthly club night in London where a selection of rare covers from the band were performed; including David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes, Stevie Wonder’s Superstition and Duran Duran’s Chauffeur – which the band performed with none other than Simon Le Bon in Toyko (inset)

Along with Home Taping, the band set up their own record label Splinter Recordings, which helped bring to life the careers of bands such as Robots In Disguise and Trash Money. Chris has produced 3 of RiD’s 4 albums and taught many of the tricks of self-producing. You could say that the Home Taping nights were the start of the musical side of TVO, where these bands began to grow relationships. James Cook has also mentioned the social circle that formed back then with his fellow musical partners in a past interview with us.


As the band developed their sound and then released their third album Bloodsport, this album went to a new, darker level and unfortunately flopped in album sales in 2002. Along with the 11 tracks on this album, Chris wrote a selection of other songs that were deemed ‘too dark’ for Sneaker Pimps and following this, the group disbanded and Chris went on to take his additional songs and create IAMX, which became his debut solo album Kiss + Swallow.

IAMX took a completely different turn from Sneaker Pimps as Corner created the alter ego X, a character enthralled in sex, alcohol, hurt, love and with a drastic cabaret image. Their live shows are filled with a high from pulsing drum beats, props and back projections. It’s difficult to comprehend the band live if you haven’t experienced them and so, we can say no more than to hunt them down next time you can.

You can find Chris Corners back-catalogue including all previous Sneaker Pimps albums in our TVO Shop – we recommend you pick yours up and feel the change yourselves throughout all their albums. Which is your favourite?

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