For those of you who know me, you probably know how much I worship the ground that Imogen Heap walks on. I find it very hard to talk about her on EQ sometimes because her music is so untouchable to me – anything I could say about her could not possibly make any difference whatsover. It's a bit silly to think that, I know – but just know, the woman is that important in my music world.
I was out to dinner with a few of my friends about six months ago and they asked me, "if you could interview anyone Raj – who would it be?"…and without delay I said – "Imogen Heap". They said I should make it happen and what seemed like a distant dream then, has now actually happened and well – it's been perhaps my favorite interview I've ever done on EQ.
I had the pleasure of meeting Immi last week at her Tweetup in London and she's a very warm and pleasant personality, not something I come across too often in my music writings here on EQ. I'm an even bigger fan now, if at all possible, and I can't wait to hear "Ellipse" when it's finally unleashed this month. From what I've heard at the Tweetup – it's another music masterpiece.
Here's part one of my interview with Imogen Heap. In this portion, Immi talks about her video blogs, the inspiration behind "First Train Home" and being her own worst critic…enjoy!
EQ: Well hello Immi – how are you today?
Imogen Heap: I’m good – how are you?
I’m very good thank you!
How are you doing? You were at the Tweetup – we met there didn’t we?
Yes I was – Thanks for doing the Tweetup, that was such a cool experience…
I really enjoyed it. I left on such a high. My friends and I stayed afterwards and we had a drink and a chat about how nice it was…it was lovely.
It was so nice to meet some of the other fans too- I wish more artists would do stuff like that…
It was a really interesting group wasn’t it?! They should follow my lead I say! [laughs]
Exactly! So I am very excited to chat to you – I've been following your numerous vblogs documenting the making of "Ellipse" and it's been quite the journey as a fan of your music. Let's talk about the vblogs for a little bit – how did the album creation process differ this time for you as you were publicly letting the fans in on your creative processes through the video blogs?
Yeah – the main difference really for me as far as getting the work done, was there was lots and lots of nice lovely distractions along the way – like working with Mika, or working with IAMX, or doing stuff with Nitin all in between – there was always things cropping up and I constantly felt bad about having said one thing and not finishing it another day. I never factored in the unexpected, that’s my thing that I NOW do. [laughs]. I never factored in like “I'm gonna finish this because it’s only gonna take two months from now”. I never factored in two weeks dedicated to something would turn into something else. Now I have learnt how to do that a bit better! But as far as the interaction with Twitter and YouTube and people on there leaving me lovely messages, I don’t think I would have been able to finish the record without it to be honest. Because sometimes it was so difficult to get into the studio and do the work because there were so many other distractions – I wasn’t in the flow of it. Or, there were time pressures and I wasn’t enjoying it. But to wake up in the morning and check your Twitter and see a loving stream of messages sent to you like “I love your music” or “I love what you played on 12 seconds” or “I love that sound” whatever it was – it was the little words of encouragement that helped me so much – that was really invaluable to me. What I love about now, living in this time, that we didn’t have before is this the gap between me and the listener – the final piece of the puzzle…it doesn’t exist anymore. It’s this beautiful, seamless “I write the music, I can tweet about it, I can YouTube it and they can instantly hear it”. I’m so impatient – I just want it to be in their ears. But we have to wait – But it’s all good, though!
"Speak For Yourself" was such an acclaimed album, did you ever feel any mounting pressure with "Ellipse" – that it had such a huge expectation to live up to?
No – nothing is worse than my own pressure. If I could get rid of that. It’s my pressure that’s tough. I say things like “is it matching up”, “are you doing good enough work”, “have you lost the magic”, you know. [laughs]. All those kind of doubts get into your head. Every now and then though you make a sound, or you get a string arrangement that you really love and you get a really good connection between the bass and the drumline and you think “no – I still got it in me yet!”. All you need is just a few of those to dot it around. I didn’t worry about it. There are certain things about “Ellipse” that you would never find on “Speak For Yourself”. But that’s a lot down to my confidence now, being four years older and having met so many fantastic fans along the way and really understanding and getting this great sense of acceptance that no matter what I do, even if it’s a strange part of me that writes something like “aha”, it’s still very much a part of me and I feel like, in the same way that my friends would accept it as a part of me – I don’t feel pressure to HAVE to write every song like “Hide And Seek”, or HAVE to write every song like “Headlock”. Each one of those songs that I just mentioned are very much in their own musical space. I love having that freedom. It’s lovely.
The first single "First Train Home" is just gorgeous. Tell me, what was the inspiration behind this song? I'm kinda curious if it's based on real events or not – with you being stuck in an uncomfortable place that you really can't wait to escape from.
It certainly is yes. Slightly exaggerated, but basically I was trying to project manage my studio, and the house and moving in never having done anything like that before is EXTREMELEY stressful. [laughs]. Dealing with painters and decorators, scaffolders, electricians, muralists and everything and trying to cook for them all and keep everything going and still trying to do the promo I need to do and trying to write a record, I was so stressed out. So my friend rang me up and said “I never see you anymore, why don’t you come down, you’re not making the record yet – come down”. So I went down to Brighton and all the way on the train I was making phone calls, and I wanted to just be back home working on it. I just wasn’t in the headspace. So we went out this festival – it was good – but being around music made me even more jittery like I should be doing more and getting home. I didn’t really have a good night really. I was trying so hard to be into the night and they were all nice people and everything but I just wasn’t into it, but I just couldn’t escape and I couldn’t get home and it was too late and lived three hours away. So I was stuck – marooned at this party of people all having such a fantastic time. If someone tried to cheer me up by saying “is everything alright” – it just made it even worse. Literally, you just want to scream and slap everyone around (not really slapping everyone around – joking), but you know you just don’t want to be there. Panic attack set in. Cold sweats. And I just wanted to get on the first train home basically. I did eventually – got the first train home, stayed up all night and wrote the song on the piano at home really quickly. What’s lovely about it is that I recorded the song in the studio which is directly underneath the dining room where the piano is. And then yesterday [says very excitedly], I filmed the video for it which is where I wrote the song!
You recently did something really groundbreaking, you invited your fans on Twitter to write your new biography. I've read it and it's truly an amazing piece. How long did it take you to put the final version together?
My journalist Twitter friend Dan chose all the quotes and collated it and put it all together. But as far as the idea it took me about two minutes. I was talking to my manager on the phone and he was like “right – we need to get a biography together" and I was like “oh god, I hate getting biographies together” because you have to find the right person to write it for you and it’s so hard to get the tone right, cause you want to say good things you’ve done, but you don’t want to blow your own trumpet! You never get to say what you really want to say. So I was talking to my manager and I said “why don’t we get the Twitter fans to each right a sentence” and we can put it all together and then he suggested my friend Dan do it and I was just amazed – FANTASTIC response – such creative entries as well. Things that made me say “how did you know that?” So many people we’re really paying attention to the tweets and the YouTubes, really knowing the process of making the record. It was just the best biography EVER because apart from being factual, funny and inventive, it’s also great because – I didn’t write it or a journalist didn’t write it – you can get away with murder when it comes to flattery. [laughs]. It was amazing – I didn’t think about all those things when we came up with the idea – it was more the dread of just trying to find a journalist to write me a biography. My fans are such a creative bunch anyways, so I knew they could come up with some great stuff…