(You can now read Kelli's
biography in her own words at the new official website. Click >HERE< to go there now)
Kelli was brought into the world on the 30th
June 1974, in Birmingham, England. Her first memory was being held in
the arms of a doctor and seeing the bright blue sky through a huge
Kelli, with her older sister Rebecca, was raised in
Bartley Green, Birmingham. Her parents were big fans of David Bowie,
The Kinks, Joan Baez, & Jimi Hendrix, their records were to be a
great influence on the young Kelli. She was also really into
bands such as The Doors, Sonic Youth, The Cramps, Violent Femmes, and
The Pixies. Another love was writing stories, & poems, later
this would develop into a special talent for songwriting as well.
By her early teens Kelli was bored with
school, she had played truant for months and left around the age of 14
to continue her education at home. She got a Saturday job at a rather
strange hair salon called Rumours, and by age 15 was working evenings
at the Barrel Organ, a goth rock bar in Birmingham.
On her 16th birthday Kelli walked into Jake's, a
tiny tattoo parlour in Birmingham city centre, and got the first of her
now famous tattoos, the exquisite panther on her right arm. She
was getting more interested in live bands around then and went to see a
lot of acts, Iggy Pop, Sonic Youth, and Xray Spex, among many.
Then Kelli saw something in a music shop window that
would feed her desire for music even more, a gorgeous white electric
guitar! The price tag was well beyond her wages,
but after saving every penny she was finaly able to buy it! Sadly
she had to sell it soon after, but was then given another guitar by her
friend Roger Rose as a gift for singing on his song, 'Come Dance With
learned quickly and was soon playing, and singing, in her own band,
It was a fantastic experience for Kelli, she
discovered a real love of writing songs, and worked hard with the other
band members on verses and choruses to make the songs come to life on
stage. Psycho Drama had a great time playing the pubs, and bars,
all over Birmingham city centre, but after a while things got a bit
weird and they split up.
Around that time Kelli really got into horror,
reading a lot of Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Splatter Punk books.
She loved getting stoned with friends and staying up all night with
them to chat about horror, usualy while watching gross cartoon legends
Ren & Stimpy.
Soon after Psycho Drama had split, Kelli was phoned
by Russell Cross, the frontsman of a local punk band, he had seen
Psycho Drama perform and was very impressed by Kelli. Cross had
just heard about the split and asked if she would be interested in
becoming the singer for his band. Kelli was reluctant at first
but after some discussion she agreed to join. The band was
renamed The Lumieres, and Kelli became the singer, songwriter, and
That was a magical time for Kelli, over the
following months The Lumieres (Kelli, Russell Cross, Rob Simmons, &
Linley Cross), played a lot of gigs around Birmingham, each performance
bringing larger crowds. They later released a 7" vinyl single, the
excelent 'Cinder Hearts'.
Kelli sent The Lumieres demo tape to several record
companies, one of these led to their first London gig. It was there she
met with Rick Lennox of One Little Indian Records.
He asked Kelli if she would be interested in joining
a new trip-hop band they were going to sign! The band's founders, ex
club DJs Liam Howe, & Chris Corner, had heard Kelli singing and
thought she would be the perfect voice for their new material. Kelli
asked if she could hear some of the music before deciding, so Lennox
sent her their demo.
Kelli was uninspired at first, she was from a rock
& roll, & goth, background and there was really nothing like
that on the demo, but after listening for a while she started to dig
the music and decided to give it a go.
The rest of The Lumieres were fine about Kelli's
departure, by this time the band was coming to an end. The bass
player had got married, and as his wife was expecting a baby he
couldn't tour. So with Kelli leaving, The Lumieres called it a day.
Lennox introduced Kelli to Howe, & Corner, and
they invited her to their studio (in a spare room at Howe's parents
house) to sing on some demos.
It was all a bit of an experiment at first. Howe
& Corner would produce the music, and write the lyrics, Kelli would
then interpret and sing them in her own way, bringing a unique
sensuality, warmth, and humanity, to the largely electronic tracks.
Over the next few months the fledgling band
rehersed, developed their sound, and made a new demo. They also (after
some changes) settled on a new name...Sneaker Pimps.
Kelli, and the others, relocated to London, and
after playing some gigs and a lot more work in the studio, the first
Sneaker Pimps singles, 'Tesko Suicide', & 'Roll On' were released.
They were quickly followed by the album, 'Becoming X', and yet more
singles, '6 Underground', 'Spin Spin Sugar', and 'Post Modern Sleaze'.
Reviews were glowing, with Kelli's singing always bringing the highest
praise from the critics.
Sneaker Pimps had signed to Clean Up Records (part
of One Little Indian). But even bigger news was to follow when
Virgin Records signed them in the USA.
The band really took off in America. Bored
with generic, home grown, pop bands, the US was ready for the trip-hop
Brits, especialy the gorgeous Kelli and her sexy, sensual, vocals.
This was especialy true for the single, '6
Underground', Sneaker Pimps biggest hit. Endlessly remixed,
appearing on many compilation albums, adverts, and even on the
soundtrack for the movie, 'The Saint', the song became a classic of the
90's. The stylish video for the song with the beautiful, seductive
Kelli, sporting a very striking, spikey hair style, also fueled the
media interest and fan mania.
In early 1998, with 18 months of sell-out tours
behind them, and still riding high on the sucess of 'Becoming X',
Sneaker Pimps began work on their next album. Kelli naturally thought
she would be singing as before, but Howe, & Corner, had came to an
almost unbelievable decision. At a meeting she thought was to
discuss the next album they told Kelli they wanted to change musical
direction, and didn't want her in the band anymore!
Kelli (and 99.9% of the fans, & music press) was
surprised, and shocked, but she simply said "cool" and left, she was
too hurt to say anything more.
(Kelli had become (not surprisingly) the main
focal point for the fans and media attention. Because of this
many fans feel that jealousy, on the part of Howe & Corner, had a
lot to do with them asking her to leave. It was a fateful
decision by them, without Kelli, the next Sneaker Pimps album (with
Corner on vocals) sold poorly, and interest in the band dwindled)
Although she was upset by the break up, Kelli knew
exactly what she was going to do next, get busy writing new songs and
start on her solo career.
Until then she had used her mother's family name of
Dayton. But sadly Kelli's father, Michael Ali, had recently died.
To honor him she decided to change her name and write all her new
songs as Kelli Ali.
One of the first things Kelli did was to buy an
electronic piano, and sequencer. She had enjoyed the experience of
computers during her time with Sneaker Pimps and was keen to continue
using them, but guitars would be at the heart of her music.
It was not just the fans who had fallen in love with
Kelli's voice. Around this time Marc Almond asked her to co-write, and
perform a duet with him, the result was the majestic, sultry ballad,
The next year there followed a mega sucessful
colaboration with Japanese born dance producer/DJ Satoshi Tomiie.
Kelli co-wrote and performed two stunning house tracks 'Love In
Traffic', and 'Up In Flames'. They were a huge success, and became
essential kit for club DJs everywhere.
Those couple of years were a mixure of emotions for
Kelli, she was excited to be working with other artists but for a time
there wasn't much contact from the record companies regards her own
songs. It was also difficult to find a producer who understood
what she was trying to do, and say, with her music, that was soon to
change when she met producer Rick Nowles at a party in London.
Nowles, who had already produced music for Madonna,
and Dido, loved Kelli's songwriting, and ideas, and invited her to his
studio to work on her new material. He was based in Los Angeles, so
Kelli packed her bags and headed for the City of Angels.
She was there for a year and a half, it was a
wonderful experience for Kelli. She fell in love with LA, and the
sunshine and relaxed way of life really inspired her song
writing. Nowles was full of ideas and encouragement, and had a
vast experience of all styles of music, and instruments. Together they
created the amazing collection of songs that would become Tigermouth,
Kelli's debut album.
The name of the album was inspired from something
Kelli's Kung Fu teacher had told her. He showed her an energy point on
the hand between the forefinger, & thumb, called the Tigermouth,
which if pressed will lift your whole mood. The idea, imagery,
and the very word, touched Kelli very deeply and she just had to write
a song. Tigermouth, also became the perfect name for her album.
Back in the studio the creative work continued.
Kelli was broadening her musical style much further than before, the
best example being 'Papermoon', a delicate, beautiful song, which
featured traditional Japanese instruments. Kelli was inspired to write
this wonderful song after reading 'The Tale of Genji', an old Japanese
story of love.
Many of the other tracks drew on Kelli's early rock
influences. Nowles had a big surprise for her when he asked ex Doors
drummer, John Densmore, to play percussion on the song 'Kids'.
Kelli has been a huge Doors fan since childhood, it was a great thrill
to have a member of the legendry group play on her album!
In 2002, the eagerly awaited promotional
'Tigermouth' albums began to be sent out. An avalanche of praise,
and congratulations, followed from critics and fans alike. They loved
the album's embracing, summery feel, and the wide range of songs
surprised and delighted the reviewers. From the punchy rock 'n'
roll of 'The Infinite Stars', to the sensual grace of 'Sunlight In The
Rain', it was obvious to all the album was a finely crafted labour of
There was surprise from some fans expecting darker
tracks similar to the Sneaker Pimps days, but they quickly relised
these are Kelli's own songs,
full of love and emotion and much more
personal than anything she had sung before.
It was now just a matter of time before the final
cut of the album was released to the stores.
Although Kelli was working hard on Tigermouth she
found time to travel, visiting Japan, and Panama. (She also has a great
interest in oriental art, & music, and has even studied magic in
many different cultures.)
There were also more colaborations with other
musicians in 2002, singing on Linkin Park's 'My Dsmbr', and teaming up
with funk legend Bootsy Collins to write, and perform 'Play With
Bootsy', the title song of his latest album.
Kelli was also on her first ever solo UK tour,
supporting the band Garbage, at the request of lead singer Shirley
There were a few delays, but in early 2003,
'Tigermouth', was released. To quote one reviewer, Kelli Ali is here to
save us from a world without stars!
(I'd like to say a very special THANKS to Kelli for
sending me a lot of info about her early life, and career)