Typed on the final page of The Alternative’s booklet is the following phrase: “Inspiration: Rapture, Insomnia And Berlin”. In an effort to comprehend those three sources of inspiration, we thought we could start with the last of the three experiences, Berlin. In any case, the first two are hardly bearable in the latest days of a fine summer. Late summer 2006: Trip to Berlin in quest of that “secret harmonic emotion”, which motivates only some people to put experiences into words, feelings into melodies, eagerness into rhythm and to thereafter let ingenuity coordinate well-balanced parts of the above ingredients; in the very hope that the basic creator of “an alternative to real world” would guide us to his musical ingredients and processes, to his mystic harmonic formulas… And so he did:
What’s the concept around the “X” element? “Becoming X” (Sneaker Pimps), IAMX your solo project name and the title of one track of your previous solo album…?
At this moment you could say X represents the subconscious. It is Art, Sex, Truth. It is radical openness that we achieve in heightened states of creativity.
It is the unquantifiable element in all pleasure and all pain. IAMX as a project is an alter ego; a second personality that I can play with and nurture.
Berlin is a dynamic city, integrating mentalities, unifying contradictions reflecting an everlasting development through everyday “construction works” of all kinds as well as architectural interventions. Why did you choose Berlin? How do such a city and its character get involved with the music structures you choose and generally which aspects of Berlin (as an environment to work in) have influenced your work?
I fell in love with Berlin years ago. I fantasized a liberal, dark resonant, beautiful place. It’s true. Artists come here because it is cheap and nobody gives a fuck about following the world. You have breathing space and time to consider your options.
I came because I was sick of the stress and competitive nature of London. That messes with your conviction and makes it harder to finish work.
You have to be careful though, in Berlin you can easily lose yourself. You need to keep focus and ambition when there is no pressure from your environment or the people around you.
This place has given me the spirit to care less about the music industry and take an independent route. ‘The Alternative’ was produced here and reflects this.
Several English songwriters and performers contend that the German audience is more warm-spontaneous towards the music produced by English artists and embraces warmly musical initiatives that may alternate or derive from the classical norms of pop/rock music production. How does the German audience respond to the works of IAMX?
They both have their strengths. I love English people but I am not a patriot. It is where I lived and it made me who I am but I don’t feel attached.
The audiences are equally as warm, it just depends where you go and how you treat them. London has seen everything but the response is still great.
As a performer it is a responsibility to adapt and get the best out of any audience. You make the show in the end. You have to move and affect people. If you don’t get it then it’s your problem and not the audience’s.
In which music scene is your music and performance classified there in Germany? Are there any other groups which could be included in the same music scenes as yours?
Oh God knows. I am not cool and have never felt part of any scene. I live in a bubble and don’t listen to much other contemporary music. I guess that can make what I do unusual but hard to classify.
I like to stay away from all that. In my own head it’s safer there and the only thing in life I can control.
Most people here in Greece know you from Sneaker Pimps. It has been announced that your vocals will not be used for any upcoming album of the band. Would you like to share with us the reasons that lead to this decision?
That is rumor and idle chatter. We may use my vocals, we may not.
There are lots of issues with the band and it’s too complicated to go into it in this interview.
Would you like to enlighten us regarding the facts behind the unreleased 4th album of Sneaker Pimps? Any chance of future release for that work?
There will be future work.
Highly acclaimed album “Becoming X” sounded like trip-hop. With IAMX there has been a change in your music direction, towards electro-pop or even indie-pop paths. What kind of stimuli or experience has affected such alternation in sound and style?
I was always an indie kid at heart I guess. I liked the mix of the glamour and the emotional. Leftield pop with a vision and strong identity.
There was that side to Sneaker Pimps but we concentrated on the slower, deliberated material. I think IAMX was always waiting to get out. I experimented with similar sounds in Sneaker Pimps but there is a lot of compromise working and writing with others.
Change of style comes from a reaction against this; the freedom to play with every idea no matter how brilliant or how stupid.
You also learn very quickly when you are alone, so I locked myself in my studio for a month and came out with the IAMX sound by making mistakes.
Vocals, piano, strings: Your album “The Alternative” is mainly based on the sound of those three instruments, which produce very rich compositions. As for the latter two, do you have any theoretical background also involving the techniques you use when making your music pieces? Would you ever consider singing lyrics in another language?
I have no classical training if that’s what you mean. But the delicacy and loveliness of strings and piano work fascinates me. I had been writing on guitar for so long I wanted to push myself into a different direction. It makes you write in another way and you find details and doorways in the music you wouldn’t find on the guitar. I also wanted to learn piano because it is a beautiful romantic instrument.
I have sung songs in different languages. I did a version Loretta Young Silks and Silent Night in French and German. I would love to do it again.
“President” was the song that most people managed to get from the internet in order to know your new work. What is your opinion on free downloads through Internet. What could be your reservations?
To fight against technology is deluded. You have to embrace it and be smart with selling yourself in other ways; through merchandise and a more intimate relationship with the fans. Like making IAMX wine or doing chats with online groups.
The artwork, the style and particularly the live shows become really important.
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.
“For all you lonely boys, I will be president. In all you sons of men, I can be accident”: How does an artist experience isolation or alienation within music and off music?
I experience isolation and alienation everyday. That sounds adolescent and cheesy, yes, but in the end I am alone with this head full of shit and worry and joy. As we all are. I make music to move myself and work on getting things better.
When you produce an album there is a high; a positive sense that you are achieving this goal. Six months later when you talk about everything in interviews you realize nothing much changes and you need to do it again. I have always had difficulties, socially. I think I am a bit agoraphobic or something. I find it uncomfortable relating to the normal world. Perhaps that why I created IAMX. It’s another place for me to go. My own little selfish fantasy island. My problem: Nobody else’s.
In your song “S.H.E.” there is a hint of feminine element, which initially appears to be a curse and then it gets transformed into a sort of protective blessing. What is the meaning of this song? What do lyrics imply about the feminine element?
Above all, the feminine in nature is the saving grace. I grew up with a strong female energy around me. I am thankful for that and in some ways I feel more enlightened and connected with sensitivity, love, affection; the gentle, harmonious qualities in life. In other ways as a man I react against them. I put up walls, I am cold and I think of achieving too much. The song is about the struggle between these, with the feminine element taking the dominant position in the end.
Which artists and albums have you been listening to lately?
ANDREI TARKOVSKY. HILDEGARD KNEF .KATE BUSH . CHRIS CUNNINGHAM. FREDERICO FELLINI. DAVID SYLVIAN. CAN. JEANETTE WINTERSON . FLOOD. CHOPIN. HERMANN HESSE. JAN SVANKMEJER LEONARD COHEN. NICHOLAS ROEG. MICHAEL NYMAN. SIOUXSIE SIOUX VERMEER. KRAFTWERK. TAMMY WYNETTE. ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRINCE. KEN RUSSEL. OLIVER REED. DAVID BOWIE. YOKO ONO. MILES DAVIS. GENE KELLY. SOFT CELL. AKIRA KURASAWA . LE CORBUSIER. JOAN OF ARC. NICO. SALVADOR DALI. MIES VAN DER ROHE. KENNETH ANGER. SCOTT WALKER. JOHNNY ROTTEN………… and hundreds more….
Would you describe to us your “formative years” in music?
Began on the guitar at 12. Wrote terrible teenage songs. Became obsessed with production in my late teens. Learned and analyzed how to make music on my own. Wrote some better songs. Formed Sneaker Pimps. Had some success. Lost my mind. Learned to sing. Grew up. Started IAMX.
If you were given the chance to organize a round table discussion with two musicians, with which two do you think you could have the most creative or productive discussion about music? Could you propose any particular form this “discussion” could take?
David Sylvian and Nico.
I would suggest we talk about spirituality, addiction and mind games.
What other forms of art, except for music, appeal to you?
Film, architecture, I think in a very visual way. With my music I try to paint pictures. I make the visuals for my live shows and it is my second creative outlet.
Could beautiful things be traps? Have you ever had an encounter with such a trap in music?
That’s a vague and open question. I can say that I have fallen into many traps and have seen beautiful things. The trick is to learn and build your defenses for the next time.
Music can move you to the point of unbearable emotion, so in a sense, it is a trap.
What are your plans regarding future projects, works, events and other stuff related to your artistic pursuits?
I am about to produce another album for ‘Robots in disguise’ in January – February. We will work between Berlin and London. Then I would like to put together a kind of scrap book of IAMX nonsense, streams of consciousness, drawings, before I head off to UK and US for revamped live shows.
Oh and a new album at some point very soon if my management don’t work me into a breakdown.
*photos by Gregory Derkenne, Levi Lenaerts and Daniela Vorndran.
Lost Echoes would like to thank Chris and Reza.