Sneaker Pimps

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Sneaker Pimps
OriginHartlepool,County Durham, England
Years active
  • 1994–2005
  • 2015–present
Labels at the Wayback Machine (archived 26 February 2009)
Past members

Sneaker Pimps are a British electronic music band formed in Hartlepool, England in 1994.[1] They are best known for their debut album, Becoming X (1996), and its singles "6 Underground" and "Spin Spin Sugar". The band takes its name from an article the Beastie Boys published in their Grand Royal magazine about a man they hired to track down classic sneakers.[2]

The band was founded by electronic musician Liam Howe and guitarist Chris Corner. They later recruited Kelli Ali (then known as Kelli Dayton) as lead singer,[3][4] plus guitarist Joe Wilson and drummer Dave Westlake as backup musicians. After Becoming X, Ali left the band[5] and Corner took over on vocals. Wilson and Westlake departed in 2002. After a lengthy hiatus, Howe and Corner revived the group in 2016.[6][7]


Chris Corner and Liam Howe met as teenagers in the 1980s,[1] both taking an interest in recording and studio experimentation. They banded together under the name F.R.I.S.K. and produced the Soul of Indiscretion EP, an early example of what became known as trip hop. The mix of beats and acoustic folk sounds was further explored on two more instrumental EPs: F.R.I.S.K. and World as a Cone. They were signed to Clean Up Records.[8][9] The duo also worked as DJs and producers under the name Line of Flight.[10]

Howe and Corner launched Sneaker Pimps as a recording group in 1994. The following year they recruited Ian Pickering to help write lyrics for what would become Sneaker Pimps' debut album, Becoming X.[7] Corner recorded vocals for several demo tracks, but the band decided the kind of music they were writing would better suit a female voice.[11] At their manager's suggestion, they saw Kelli Ali (then known as Kelli Dayton) performing in a pub with her band The Lumieres and invited her to sing on some demos, including an early version of "6 Underground".[8][12] She soon joined the band, and the demos won the group a contract with Virgin Records.[12] The group was presented as a trio featuring Howe, Corner, and Ali; while bassist Joe Wilson and drummer Dave Westlake were added as supporting musicians.[2]

Released in 1996, Becoming X sold over one million copies.[11] The band toured for two years to support the album, including gigs alongside Aphex Twin.[13] A "grueling" tour of the US strained relations within the band,[14] and Howe left the tour prematurely.[12] A remix album, Becoming Remixed, followed in 1998.

Howe and Corner then developed their own studio, also called Line of Flight after their earlier production work, and began sessions for the second Sneaker Pimps album.[2][12] Kelli Ali had taken a break after the Becoming X tour and was away traveling, so Corner sang on the new demos.[12] When Ali returned, she was told by Howe and Corner that her voice was no longer considered suitable for their new music, and that Corner's voice was a better fit.[8][15] Due to other ongoing personality conflicts and the band's concern about being stereotyped as a faddish female-fronted trip-hop act,[2][16] Ali was fired and Corner took over on lead vocals.

This significant lineup change caused Virgin Records to drop the band.[2] Their second album Splinter was released in the UK on Clean Up Records in 1999, and failed to match the commercial success of Becoming X.[17] New songs were premiered during a 2001 European tour opening for Placebo.[8] Their third album Bloodsport was released on Tommy Boy Records in 2002.[17] Howe and Corner also gained notice by writing and producing for other artists, including Natalie Imbruglia, and for remixing songs under the name Line of Flight.[3]

In 2002, Joe Wilson and Dave Westlake left Sneaker Pimps.[18][19] In 2003, a fourth Sneaker Pimps album was demoed but shelved. The album, which started as the soundtrack for an abandoned indie film project called Blind Michael,[7] is referred to in fan circles as SP4.[7][20] Corner then launched the solo project IAMX,[21] which included several songs from the SP4 project.[22][23] After some additional cancelled projects,[24][25] in 2006 Howe and Corner recorded some new demo tracks with an unidentified female singer that turned up on a MiniDisc found in a bar in Russia. The tracks were leaked online and were later confirmed to be legitimate new Sneaker Pimps songs. They have never been officially released.[7][26]

After several years of side projects, Howe hinted in 2015 that Sneaker Pimps may reform.[27] Corner confirmed the reunion in 2016,[28] and as of early 2019 they were reportedly working on a new album.[6]


In the studio, the band regularly swapped instruments. As Corner explained during the recording sessions for Bloodsport, "we tend towards jobs, but generally we can mix and match. If we get bored of one aspect, someone else jumps in the seat. Gone are the days where it’s like 'You’re the drummer, I’m the synth player."[3] When playing live, however, their roles were more fixed:

Current members[edit]

Contributors and former members[edit]

  • Kelli Ali (vocals)
  • Joe Wilson (guitars, bass, backing vocals)
  • David Westlake (drums, percussion)
  • Ian Pickering (lyrics; live synths, bass and vocals)
  • Sue Denim (backing vocals and occasional lyrics)
  • Zoe Durrant (backing vocals)
  • Sarah McDonnell (backing vocals)
  • Chris Tate (keyboards)
  • Noel Fielding




Year Title Peak chart positions Album
US Alt Rock
US Dance
1996 "Tesko Suicide" - - - - - Becoming X
"Roll On" (UK only) - - - - -
"6 Underground" 15 62 45 7 -
1997 "Spin Spin Sugar" 21 126 87 - 2
"6 Underground" (UK re-issue) 9 - - - -
"Post-Modern Sleaze" 22 143 - - -
1998 "Spin Spin Sugar" (remixes) (UK only) 46 - - - -
1999 "Low Five" 39 - - - - Splinter
"Ten To Twenty" (UK only) 56 - - - -
2002 "Sick" 100 - - - 16 Bloodsport
"Bloodsport" (UK only) - - - - -
"Loretta Young Silks" - - - - -
2005 "Low Five" (digital remix EP) - - - - - The Mix You Miss website
"Loretta Young Silks" (digital remix EP) - - - - -
"-" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released.
  • Sneaker Pimps also released the song "Velvet Divorce" on the A Life Less Ordinary soundtrack as well as a collaboration with Marilyn Manson titled "Long Hard Road out of Hell" on the soundtrack to the movie Spawn (1997).

Promo singles[edit]

  • 2002 "Kiro TV"
  • 2002 "M'Aidez"

Music videos[edit]

Year Title Director Notes
1996 "Tesko Suicide" Liam Howe and Joe Wilson Released on the 2001 DVD The Videos.
"Spin Spin Sugar" Toby Tremlett
1997 "6 Underground"
"Post-Modern Sleaze" Howard Greenhalgh
1999 "Low Five" Tom Gidley
2002 "Sick" Simon Smyth
"Loretta Young Silks" Liam Howe
2004 "First And Careless Rapture" Chris Corner unreleased
"Missile" unknown


  1. ^ a b "ONE LITTLE INDIAN | ARTISTS". Archived from the original on 18 August 2019. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Sneaker Pimps hometown, lineup, biography". Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  3. ^ a b c "Sneaker Pimps". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  4. ^ "The Saturday Interview: Spreading the word on the secret fifth man - Ian Pickering; The Paul Groves Interview". Birmingham Post. 23 February 2002. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  5. ^ "Kelli Ali". 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  6. ^ a b "IAMX is creating Music & Visuals". Patreon. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  7. ^ a b c d e "50Q'S WITH IAN PICKERING". Sneaker Pimps Legacy. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d "Biography". Archived from the original on 3 November 2008. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  9. ^ "F.R.I.S.K." discogs. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  10. ^ Patterson, Sylvia (April 1997). "Sneak Attack". Spin.
  11. ^ a b "Amidio | Music alive".
  12. ^ a b c d e "Kelli Ali Psychic Cat Times - Sneaker Pimps". Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  13. ^ "Sneaker Pimps". 6 October 1997. Archived from the original on 12 June 2015.
  14. ^ Lester, Paul (15 December 2000). "Pop review: Sneaker Pimps". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  15. ^ "ONE LITTLE INDIAN | ARTISTS". Archived from the original on 18 August 2019. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  16. ^ Ali, Kelli. "Biography: Sneaker Pimps".
  17. ^ a b "Everything But the Girl". 12 (6). Campus Circle. 27 March 2002.
  18. ^ "Joe Wilson's LinkedIn page".[dead link]
  19. ^ "Dave Westlake's LinkedIn page".[dead link]
  20. ^ "Sneaker Pimps - SP4". discogs. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  21. ^ "news". Archived from the original on 12 August 2003.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  22. ^ "IAMX - Kiss + Swallow". discogs. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  23. ^ "IAMX - The Alternative". discogs. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  24. ^ "GIVE IT ANOTHER ANGLE". Sneaker Pimps Legacy. Retrieved 8 January 2020.[permanent dead link]
  25. ^ " :: official website". Archived from the original on 1 February 2009.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  26. ^ curtis8516 (19 June 2017), Sneaker Pimps - SP5 Demos, retrieved 8 January 2020
  27. ^ [1][dead link]
  28. ^ IAMX [@IAMX] (24 April 2016). "I just created a new folder " (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  29. ^ a b Australian (ARIA Chart) peaks:
  30. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 511. ISBN 9781904994107.
  31. ^ "Sneaker Pimps - UK Chart". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  32. ^ "Sneaker Pimps - US Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  33. ^ "Sneaker Pimps - US Alternative Songs". Billboard. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  34. ^ "Sneaker Pimps - US Dance Club Songs". Billboard. Retrieved 4 February 2016.

External links[edit]