Sneaker Pimps

Last updated

Sneaker Pimps
Origin Hartlepool,County Durham, England
Years active
  • 1994–2005
  • 2015–present
Website 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

Contributors and former members


Studio albums

TitleAlbum detailsPeak chart positions Certifications


Becoming X 275580471111
  • Released: 25 October 1999
  • Label: Clean Up (#CUP040)
  • Formats: CD, LP
  • Released: 22 January 2002
  • Label: Tommy Boy (#TB1532)
  • Formats: CD
"—" denotes items that did not chart or were not released in that territory.



YearTitlePeak chart positionsAlbum






1996"Tesko Suicide"Becoming X
"Roll On"
"6 Underground"15621817457
1997"Spin Spin Sugar"21112626728872
"6 Underground" (re-issue)9106711
"Post-Modern Sleaze"22414322
1998"Spin Spin Sugar" (re-issue)463970
1999"Low Five"3923847Splinter
"Ten to Twenty"5638968
"Loretta Young Silks"
"—" denotes items that did not chart or were not released in that territory.

Promo singles

Music videos

1996"Tesko Suicide"Liam Howe and Joe WilsonReleased 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 Cornerunreleased

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  11. 1 2 "Amidio | Music alive".
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  15. "ONE LITTLE INDIAN | ARTISTS". Archived from the original on 18 August 2019. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
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  17. 1 2 "Everything But the Girl". 12 (6). Campus Circle. 27 March 2002.
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  19. "Dave Westlake's LinkedIn page".[ dead link ]
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  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)
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  27. [ dead link ]
  28. IAMX [@IAMX] (24 April 2016). "I just created a new folder " (Tweet) via Twitter.
  29. 1 2 UK chart peaks:
  30. UK independent albums chart peaks:
  31. 1 2 Australian (ARIA Chart) peaks:
  32. "Austrian chart peaks". Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  33. Canadian albums chart peaks:
  34. Scottish albums chart peaks:
  35. US albums chart peaks:
  36. US Heatseekers albums chart peaks:
  37. "Certified Awards Search". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved on 10 October 2020. Note: User needs to enter "Sneaker Pimps" in the "Search BPI Awards" field and press Enter
  38. UK dance singles chart peaks:
  39. Independent singles chart peaks:
  40. Canadian dance singles chart peaks:
  41. Canadian rock/alternative singles chart peaks:
  42. European singles chart peaks:
  43. Scottish singles chart peaks:
  44. US singles chart peaks:
  45. US dance singles chart peaks:
    • Spin Spin Sugar: Whitburn, Joel (2004). Hot Dance/Disco: 1974-2003. Record Research. p. 238.
    • "Sick". Billboard. 14 September 2002. Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  46. US modern rock singles chart peaks: