Interview: Kelli Ali (Sneaker Pimps)
Published on December 3rd, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Former Sneaker Pimps front lady Kelli Ali is releasing her latest solo album Band of Angels through the Pledge Music route – click here to avail yourself of a variety of offers – so Rocksucker fired her over some questions to find out a little bit more about the project…
What can we expect from Band of Angels? Is there anyone else involved in the project? What are you using to record it?
Band of Angels is a climax of everything vocally and musically I have experimented with so far. Strings and electronic music come together and I had a lot of fun writing songs that challenged and inspired me vocally for this album. It’s by far my most ambitious record ever.
I recorded the demos mostly on Pro Tools and Logic. Then as always, recorded the final parts at a professional studio. I collaborated with a lot of different artists for Band of Angels: MOTOR, Cult With No Name, Jilk, Martin Phone, Frank’s Daughter, Kindle to name a few.
Do you plan to take the album on tour? If so, have your thought much yet about what your live set-up will be?
I have to work out the best way to recreate the album live. It may be a long process! I would love to tour but it’s tough getting it all together and very expensive for an independent artist to organize. I may play a few intimate gigs in London to begin with and see how it goes. If I ever win the lottery then the first thing I’ll do is a world tour!
More and more artists are going the Pledge Music route now. Would you recommend it based on your experiences with it so far?
Definitely. Anyone who makes records needs to know and connect with their listener. Pledge Music not only makes this possible but fun and exciting for both artist and audience. Making “Band of Angels” through Pledge Music has been one of the best and most amazing experiences because of my listeners, and the support and belief they have shared with me personally. We have made a record together and that is a triumph for our musical relationship and something we will never forget.
Do you have any other projects on the horizon?
I have been writing with Paul Oakenfold and also may be collaborating with some other artists next year. I think the Button Pusher album will be released next year: I co-wrote and sang a couple of songs on that album. It’s quite a fun record, very retro and glamorous with lots of other female vocalists appearing on the album.
How did the Ozymandias collaboration A Paradise Inhabited by Devils come about, and how would you say the Mary Shelley inspiration manifested itself in the music? Do you think you might work together again in the future?
Christophe (Ozymandias) contacted me via e-mail and sent me some beautiful piano pieces for collaboration, he wanted me to write lyrics and sing to the pieces.
When I heard the music, I had a flood of ideas and knew that we could make a beautiful record. So I encouraged him to keep writing and sending me more music which I would write and sing to. Over the course of a year or so, we gathered ideas and finally I went to Switzerland to work with Christophe on the songs. Christophe told me that the music was based on the short stories of Mary Shelley but that I could write from whatever perspective I chose.
However, I thought it was a wonderfully dark and poetic subject and decided to immerse myself in Mary Shelley’s stories and make each song relate to one of her works. I had immense fun writing the lyrics and learned a lot vocally. It was the first time I had experimented with a very classical style of singing and I believe A Paradise Inhabited by Devils helped me grow a lot as a vocalist and a writer.
I would love to work with Christophe again but not sure when that would be as we’re both working on other projects.
Your albums differ greatly in style from one to the next. Is that a conscious thing? Is there any kind of music you’d like to try that you haven’t as of yet?
I get bored very easily and need to keep challenging myself. There is usually a gap of at least two years between my albums, so inevitably by the time I’m making a new album, I have absorbed lots of new influences. I get so excited about each album I make and I think I need this uncertainty and enthusiasm to see me through the process. Therefore I always try to do something different with each record.
This said, I also feel that the constant thread throughout all my albums are the melodies and lyrics.
No matter the genre or combination of genres I use, I have come to notice that the soul of each record is unmistakably my own. The more records I make, the more this thread is apparent to me and hopefully, to my listeners. I don’t mean to sound cocky when I say that, It’s just something I’ve noticed and something which I enjoy. Each record is different and yet has the same beating heart at its core.
How did you come to work with the likes of Marilyn Manson and Linkin Park in the past? They seem like unlikely matches. Or is that the appeal of working with them?
The record companies often set up a lot of collaborations between their artists. I was lucky to have worked with some great people. Sometimes though, like in the case of the Bootsy Collins collaboration, it is a matter of chance, being at the same party and hitting it off etc.
I love the challenge and diversity of collaboration. There is great appeal to working with artists from all kinds of musical worlds, because I adore all kinds of music. It’s usually a lot of fun too because as artists we tend to become quite isolated within our own spheres. Meeting and working with other artists who you respect and admire teaches you something, reminds you of the journey we’re all taking and is kind of reassuring.
What was Marc Almond like to work with?
Marc is a gem. I really enjoyed working and hanging out with him. I’ve always loved his work from Soft Cell onwards, and we had a lot of fun making “Almost Diamonds”.
Are you still in touch with the other members of Sneaker Pimps? If so, what are they up to at the moment? Do you ever talk about getting back together?
No we haven’t spoken in years. Not sure what they’re up to. They asked me to get back together with them once but it was all based on how much money they thought we’d make as opposed to any musical journey.
The demos they played me were no where near as good as Becoming X and they didn’t want me to co-write anything, so I declined their offer.
Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming acts that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
Love Cult With No Name. Check them out, their albums are beautiful and they are constantly on my play list. Very sophisticated music and the singer Erik Stein has a wonderful voice. Jonny Boux the pianist/keyboardist is so amazing too.
They collaborated with me on a couple of tracks for the Band of Angels album. I sang on most of the tracks for their Above as Below album.
Also Jilk and Martin Phone, co-collaborators on my album. and both on the marvellous Bit-Phalanx label. Coppe, the Japanese electro wondress, Grimes (probably not obscure anymore but love her) HK119, Kites, Jed and Lucia, Sylver Tongue (supported Bat For Lashes on last UK tour),
Noa Babayof, The Black Angels, Nico Muhly (not obscure at all but some people don’t know who he is yet and I think he’s amazing).
Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists along to tide you over, whose would you choose?
Kelli Ali, thank you.