Sneaker Pimps

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Sneaker Pimps
OriginHartlepool, United Kingdom
GenresTrip hop, electronica, dance, garage
Years active1994–2005, 2015–present
Labels at the Wayback Machine (archived 26 February 2009)
Past members

Sneaker Pimps are a British trip hop band formed in Hartlepool, England, in 1994. They are best known for their first album, Becoming X (1996), and the singles "6 Underground" and "Spin Spin Sugar". They took their name from an article the Beastie Boys published in their Grand Royal magazine about a man they hired to track down classic sneakers.

The band was founded by Liam Howe and Chris Corner, who later recruited Kelli Ali (then known as Kelli Dayton) as lead singer, and long-time friend Ian Pickering to co-write the lyrics.[1] After the first album, the band felt that demos for the second album (on which Corner provided the guide vocals) better suited his voice, especially in regard to the more raw, personal quality of the lyrics. Following the promotional tour for Becoming X, Dayton was dismissed from the group, and Corner became the singer.[2]

In May 2015, founding member Liam Howe hinted via Twitter that Sneaker Pimps would return to release their 4th album.[3] In April 2016, Chris Corner (as IAMX) seemingly confirmed this in an image posted to Twitter.[4]


Chris Corner and Liam Howe met as teenagers in the eighties, 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.[5][6] The duo's early DJ and production efforts took the alias Line of Flight.[7]

As their music evolved, Howe and Corner began to tire of the non-vocal format, and wanted to explore making music with more pop leanings. They drafted school friend Ian Pickering to assist in writing lyrics for what would eventually become the album Becoming X. Chris Corner recorded vocals for several demo tracks, but the band decided the kind of music they were writing better suited a female vocal.[8] At their manager's suggestion, they saw Kelli Dayton performing in a pub and recruited her to join on vocals.[5] Finally the band came together with friends Joe Wilson on bass and Dave Westlake on drums and percussion, and began recording under the Sneaker Pimps name.

The 1996 debut album Becoming X was a runaway success, released during the peak popularity of the trip-hop genre. The album got them signed to Virgin America, and sold over a million copies.[8] They toured the album for two years, including gigs alongside Aphex Twin.[9] A 1998 remix album, Becoming Remixed, followed. After the tour, the band wrote their follow-up album, Splinter. Chris Corner again laid down the initial vocal demos, at which point he felt that his vocal style fit better with the direction their music was turning.[5] At this time, Dayton was asked to leave the band, also in part due to the stress of the preceding tour.[10] The band's lineup change led them to be dropped from Virgin, and the second album Splinter was instead released in the UK on Clean Up Records in 1999.[11] Splinter featured more traditional instrumentation, acoustic guitars, and downbeat tempos. With the band's change in direction, Splinter did not match the commercial success of Becoming X, but solidified a cult fanbase.

Their third album Bloodsport was released on Tommy Boy Records in 2002. Songs from the album were previewed during in a 2001 European tour opening for Placebo.[5] A more dance-oriented album than its predecessor, Bloodsport contains influences of new wave, pop, funk, and alternative combined with a residue of trip-hop. Cynical takes on fame and celebrity are a recurring lyrical theme throughout the album.[11]

In 2003, the band's website stated they had "decided to undergo a mutation" and announced the launch of Chris Corner's new project, IAMX.[12] A fourth Sneaker Pimps album was demoed but shelved, and is referred to in fan circles as SP4. Many of the songs would be finalized and recorded by Corner on the first two IAMX albums. Although the band's website hinted through 2005 that new Sneaker Pimps material and 5.1 Surround Sound re-releases of the first two albums were on the way, these plans never materialized and band members focused instead on varying side projects.[13]

In May 2015, founding member Liam Howe hinted that Sneaker Pimps would return to officially release a fourth album. He later reinforced this on a new Sneaker Pimps Twitter account.[3] Corner has commented that he would like to be involved in future Sneaker Pimps projects if other band members are equally interested.[14]

Side projects[edit]

Chris Corner began working on the side project IAMX in 2003 and has since released nine solo albums.[15] He has also provided guest vocals for TNT Jackson, Moonbootica and The Strike Boys, as well as produced material for Robots in Disguise. Corner also collaborated with Sue Denim from Robots in Disguise, under the name Siblings.

Liam Howe has become a successful writer/producer and has written and produced the likes of Marina and the Diamonds, Lana Del Rey and Ellie Goulding. He is signed to Columbia records for his solo project which includes collaborations with Alan Vega, Neneh Cherry and Princess Superstar.

David Westlake[clarification needed] currently plays drums in Trash Money, has done session work for Natalie Imbruglia, Mediaeval Baebes, and Zero-G, and played drums with Ultrafox on tour.

Kelli Ali (Dayton) has released three solo albums through One Little Indian Records: Tigermouth, Psychic Cat, and Rocking Horse, and most recently independently released the album Band of Angels.

Past member Joe Wilson formed Trash Money with Chris Tate in 1999 and plays live with Client.


In the studio, the band share instrumental duties; however in the live environment they have played the following:

  • Chris Corner (lead vocals, guitar, synthesiser)
  • Liam Howe (synthesiser)
  • Joe Wilson (guitars, bass and backing vocals)
  • David Westlake (drums)

Former members:

  • Kelli Dayton (ex-vocalist, asked to leave after making their first album Becoming X)
  • Chris Tate (friend of Joe Wilson and stand-in for Liam Howe on synthesiser during Bloodsport)




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.

Promo singles[edit]

  • 2002 "Kiro TV"
  • 2002 "M'Aidez"


  1. ^ "The Saturday Interview: Spreading the word on the secret fifth man - Ian Pickering; The Paul Groves Interview". Birmingham Post. 2002-02-23. Retrieved 2015-03-09.
  2. ^ "Kelli Ali". 2015. Retrieved 2015-03-09.
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ IAMX [@IAMX] (24 April 2016). "I just created a new folder" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  5. ^ a b c d "Biography".
  6. ^ "F.R.I.S.K.: Discogs".
  7. ^ Patterson, Sylvia (April 1997). "Sneak Attack". SPIN.
  8. ^ a b "Interview: Liam Howe (Lana Del Rey, Marina and the Diamonds) on Production & Song Writing".
  9. ^ "Sneaker Pimps". Pollstar. 6 October 1997. Archived from the original on 12 June 2015.
  10. ^ Ali, Kelli. "Biography: Sneaker Pimps". Kelli Ali Psychic Cat Times.
  11. ^ a b "Everything But the Girl" (Vol 12, Issue 6). Campus Circle. 2002-03-27.
  12. ^ "news". Sneaker Pimps. Archived from the original on 12 August 2003.
  13. ^ " :: official website". Archived from the original on 1 February 2009.
  14. ^ "Ex-Sneaker Pimp Chris Corner talks about his trip-hop past, IAMX present". Retrieved 2015-10-22.
  15. ^ IAMX discography at Discogs
  16. ^ a b Australian (ARIA Chart) peaks:
  17. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 511. ISBN 9781904994107.
  18. ^ "Sneaker Pimps - UK Chart". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  19. ^ "Sneaker Pimps - US Hot 100". Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  20. ^ "Sneaker Pimps - US Alternative Songs". Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  21. ^ "Sneaker Pimps - US Dance Club Songs". Retrieved 4 February 2016.

External links[edit]