“IAMX is basically my public therapy,” says Chris Corner. “It’s my way of being able to connect with the world, to pour my heart out and dance at the same time. It’s also an excuse for me to play with who I am, to explore certain parts of my personality that I don’t get to explore in everyday life.”
Metanoia, Corner’s sixth studio album as IAMX, is a milestone for the multifarious English composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and video artist. The consistently riveting set marks a timely return to musical activity for Corner, whose innovative, influential body of work has established him as one of the most potent creative forces in the world of electronic music.
Having made his initial mark as co-founder and charter member of seminal British trip-hop progenitors Sneaker Pimps, Corner has forged a powerful and enduring creative identity as IAMX. Matching a fiercely original sonic vision with deeply catchy, personally charged songwriting and a charismatic, emotionally raw performing persona, Corner has built a powerful body of recordings that have won IAMX a loyal and diverse international fan base. Along the way, IAMX has evolved from enigmatic studio project into an eccentric, expansive live act, incorporating additional musicians and all manner of costumes, sets and visual effects.
Metanoia offers some of IAMX’s most personal and expressive music to date. The first new IAMX release in two and a half years, it’s largely the product of a challenging, often harrowing period during which Corner battled, and ultimately prevailed over, a variety of personal demons that caused him to reexamine his personal and artistic priorities—and to briefly consider abandoning music altogether.
“It was a combination of despair and depression and insomnia, and it was very difficult,” Corner explains, “It took me a long time to get through it, but I learned a lot about myself, and I developed a new set of mental tools that allowed me to survive.”
“For about a year, I really thought that music was one of the things that was hurting me psychologically,” he continues. “I went through a lot of therapy, and eventually I realized that it’s all down to my own choices. And I realized that it wasn’t the music that was hurting me, it was just that I had to reprogram myself to approach things in a different way, and it became very clear to me that I still wanted to make music more than ever.”
Corner emerged from this period of intense self-examination with a new attitude towards his role as a musician and artist. He also relocated from Berlin, which had served as the London native’s base since 2008, to the sunnier environs of Los Angeles. The change of scene, and the artist’s renewed enthusiasm, are reflected throughout Metanoia.
“I spent seven years in Berlin, and I absolutely love that city,” Corner notes. “But I could have been anywhere, because I was quite isolated. And I would always end making the records in winter, which is very dark and oppressive in Berlin, so, combined with the emotional turmoil of the writing, I ended up digging my own hole. So I decided to get out and go to L.A.”
“This is the first record I’ve made in a long time without being manically stressed,” Corner notes. “I was very conscious of wanting to move into a more relaxed phase of my life, so I intentionally took a lot of the time pressure and work stress out of record-making, and made it as easy on myself as I could. That was very different, because each time I’ve made a record in the past, there’s been a tour booked and a manager breathing down my neck, and the depression came from that stress. So this was like going back to the beginning, where you’re just doing it for pure enjoyment.”
That feeling of creative liberation is prominent throughout Metanoia, as demonstrated by such powerful, uplifting tracks as “Happiness,” “Wildest Wind” and the introspective “Look Outside.”
“‘Look Outside’ really sums up the feeling of healing, and of taking a journey and arriving in a positive new place, and sitting down and looking outside the window and feeling good about what you see,” Corner says. “That’s the song that best explains where I am now.”
The sonic vision and emotional honesty that drive Metanoia have been consistent throughout IAMX’s, and Chris Corner’s, musical history. After more than a decade with Sneaker Pimps, during which time the group released three albums and numerous singles, Corner chose to pursue his own path.
Adopting the alter ego of IAMX, he quickly established a distinctive sound incorporating driving synth-rock, dance beats and emotion-charged ballads, as well as an adventurous lyrical approach that forthrightly addressed matters of love, death, addiction, decadence and gender identity. Those thematic concerns also manifested themselves in the inventive, often controversial music videos that Corner directed, and in IAMX’s elaborate, theatrical live shows, which often incorporate elaborate props and projections, as well as the distinctive stage outfits worn by him and his live band members.
The first IAMX album, 2004’s Kiss + Swallow, made an instant splash with fans and critics, as did such subsequent releases as The Alternative, Kingdom of Welcome Addiction, Volatile Times and The Unified Field, plus the in-concert Live In Warsaw and the remix collections IAMIXED and Dogmatic Infidel Comedown OK.
“Becoming IAMX was allowing myself to explore this more extreme character that I had not really explored with my other music,” Corner explains. “Having that brand became an excuse for me to go crazy and experiment with myself and see what came out.”
Having emerged from an extended period of introspection and healing, Corner is looking forward to ending his extended hiatus from touring and taking IAMX back on the road to support Metanoia.
“It’s not big stadium music, and the power of it is that it can be intimate and simple, so I want to take that into this next phase,” he asserts. “It will definitely be a performance, but I also want to strip it down and make it sound like this album does. Once I’d made the album and I came back round to thinking about touring again, the idea of getting out there and sharing the music with other people began to feel really exciting again.”
As Metanoia demonstrates, Chris Corner has emerged from his personal travails with a renewed sense of musical purpose.
“Making this record has given me a lot of confidence and strength,” he says, adding, “I’m seeing things really clearly now. I see how music nourishes me, and I’ll never let myself forget that. You make your own happiness, and you have to work every day to stay focused on the things that matter.”