Interview: Imogen Heap
Fresh off the back of her appearance on Late Show with David Letterman, Imogen Heap talks to us about her new single, influences, and plans for the future. 'First Train Home' is the first single from your new album Ellipse, which was originally going to be released around this time last year â was there any particular reason why it was held up for so long? Lots of reasons really â firstly my studio took 8 months to build when I thought it was only going to take 1. Also t... (continued)
Fresh off the back of her appearance on Late Show with David Letterman, Imogen Heap talks to us about her new single, influences, and plans for the future. 'First Train Home' is the first single from your new album Ellipse, which was originally going to be released around this time last year â was there any particular reason why it was held up for so long? Lots of reasons really â firstly my studio took 8 months to build when I thought it was only going to take 1. Also the lovely thing about my situation now is that I get to do collaborations with people like Mika and IAMX, so each time something like that comes in, it's great, but it takes time away from recording the album. I just didn't factor that in when I set the original deadline. Next time I'll think of a deadline and then double it. Speaking of collaborations, you've also worked with Guy Sigsworth in the past as Frou Frou â how do you think your creative process differs when working with him or other collaborators to when you're writing on your own? Well, working with Guy is an amazing experience, he's an absolute genius and my favourite producer on the planet. I guess what I learned most from him was to consider what a song sounds like when sung to you as opposed to what it's like to sing. I think working with him and seeing what a really good producer could do helped me when working with other people. If I'm writing a song with someone I like to go all the way because I find it hard to separate the sound from the song. Also I'm probably actually much happier when I'm working with other people, because there's always someone to get you out of a rut, so it's much more enjoyable. I mean, I do enjoy writing stuff on my own in parts, but it's also a lot harder in that respect.
Is there anybody that you'd really like the opportunity to collaborate with?
I don't really consciously think about things like that, though I probably should. The collaborations I've done over the years have always been just opportunities that have passed my way, so I've worked with people I would never have thought of. Having said that, there's an artist called Beardyman who I absolutely love â he's a beatboxer, but so much more than that. I was tweeting about how amazing I thought he was and a mutual friend saw it and put us in contact.
So we can look forward to a Imogen Heap/Beardyman project in the near future?
Yes, we're going to do something in December, around Christmas I think, when things have calmed down a bit
What was the first piece of music you remember loving?
Hmmm. It would probably be some Michael Jackson, I'm afraid â I love Michael Jackson. I'm actually recording a radio session for Dermot O'Leary later today where I was asked to do one of my own songs and one cover, and I was a little bit reluctant at first because I usually hate doing covers. I've never actually chosen to sing someone else's songs. But I had such fun going through my iTunes last night and finding all these songs I really enjoyed singing, and the one that I landed on was Thriller, so I'll be singing that tonight.
Your music has been put into various categories including electronica and pop â what genre do you see it fitting into, if any?
If people ask me the question, I usually just say pop to get off the subject. Because really I feel pop encompasses everything: Radiohead, Outkast, Michael Jackson â whatever happens to be on the radio. If you heard something like Outkast before hearing it on the radio, you probably wouldn't recognise it as pop, but over the years I've got used to hearing it in that way. But I don't think I make electronica. To me, electronica is Squarepusher and Aphex Twin, and I feel a little bit cheeky for being included in that category. I record my music electronically, but it's not all about synths and stuff. I use a lot of strings and acoustic instruments.
You recorded a performance on Letterman a few days ago, how does it feel to be doing so well in America?
Yes, things are going really well. There are a lot more places to get to people. Over here it's very limited; you don't have many music programmes and there aren't many guest spots. We have programmes like Jonathan Ross's, but they're for super famous people. There's not much scope for people like me to get on TV. But over there they have a much bigger TV culture; there's loads of great programmes and they've got a million more channels than us. It's the same for radio â America has stations for every type of music, but in the UK, if the big stations don't play your music then the local stations are really reluctant to play it too. But it's becoming easier as people are becoming more interactive online. Now that Spotify is beginning to pick up steam, and people are becoming more aware of music that they wouldn't hear on the radio.
What are your plans for the future?
Everything from having kids to writing my first piece of classical music. One of my goals in life is to have a classical piece premiered at the Proms. And I'd love to do a score for a film, maybe in the next year or two. Also I'd like to find a bit more time for myself, relax a bit. I feel like Ellipse is really going to decide what happens with the rest of my life now. I really, really love the album, and I worked hard to make sure it came out sounding the way I wanted it to, how I felt at the time. But as a result I've got so many more ideas about where I want to go and what music I want to play. I want to put more music out, but put it out quicker â maybe put one song out every three months. I hate all the waiting around involved in making an album.
So do you think albums are outdated now?
I just don't think I work best in that environment. I really love all the club versions I've done over the years, and it just works better for me to work in short bursts. I get a little bit tormented with the darker side of me when I'm left to my own devices, and it's not a fun place.
Imogen Heap's latest single First Train Home, as well as the new album Ellipse are both out now!