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By Peter Galvin
British sensation Imogen Heap creates electronic soundscapes that are intense, personal, and musically sublime. On her new album, “Speak for Yourself,” Heap brings listeners on a thrill ride of emotion, from the haunting admonishment of “Hide and Seek,” to the beat-driven trepidation of “The Walk,” to the rock-and-roll joy of “Daylight Robbery.”
The album debuted at #2 on Billboard’s Top New Artist Chart in the U.S. The song “Let Go,” recorded with her Frou Frou band mate (and Madonna producer) Guy Sigsworth, was included on the Grammy-winning “Garden State” soundtrack. And “Hide and Seek” was featured on the final episode of last season’s The O.C. Heap also contributed the closing track to the “The Chronicles of Narnia.”
Heap will be at the Magic Bag in Ferndale on Jan. 18. Here, the singer talks about the joy of working on her own, electronic music and her feelings about gay weddings in the U.K.
BTL: You had a lot of success with Frou Frou. I think some fans might want to know why you decided to go out on your own instead of doing another album with your Frou Frou partner, Guy Sigsworth.
Imogen Heap: Frou Frou was really like a kind of little holiday from my own work….There was never a mention of a second record from either of us, and not uncomfortably. We’re just both kind of free spirits. I love to work with a lot of different people, but I was also just gagging to see what I could do on my own. But I’m sure in the future, Guy and I will get back together to do another record, or to record a few songs together.
BTL: Are you aware of having gay fans, either in your audiences or the people who write to you on your web site?
IH: Yeah. I haven’t had any specific “You’ve helped me come out” emails, but I’m very aware that I have a strong gay following, and I’m very happy about that.
BTL: Do you have any sense of why that is?
IH: Maybe because they have extremely good taste [laughs]. Maybe it’s the flamboyancy of the music; it’s kind of edgy and exciting and free. I don’t really know. You tell me.
BTL: Let’s talk about gay marriage. You now live in a country (England) where gay people are having legalized weddings.
IH: Yes, hooray!
BTL: Do you have any friends that have gotten married?
IH: I’ve been to two gay weddings but that was before it was legal. Nobody’s invited me in the last couple of weeks since it was announced.
BTL: Are people calling it marriage or civil partnership? I believe the actual legal term in the U.K. is civil partnership.
IH: Oh, I hope they’re calling it marriage!
BTL: On “Speak for Yourself,” the songs, for the most part, all describe extreme emotional circumstances. And making them even more immediate, each song is really you speaking either to yourself or to another person, usually with some urgency.
IH: Guy had a great influence in the way I write lyrics. He made me really aware that somebody else would actually be listening to the words I wrote. In a way, as my partner in Frou Frou, I would be singing lyrics to him, just by the very fact that he was on stage or in the recording studio with me. So, when he was listening to me sing, I got a sense of what a lyric sounds like when it is “said” to another person. That really appealed to me — that the listener at the other end of the radio, or on their iPod, would be listening to me speak directly to them.
BTL: Did you really like working on your own?
IH: I really had a great time for the most part, as much fun as one person can have in a room full of computers and keyboards. There were times when I get so excited by certain things that I was working on that I just put on my fake disco lights and danced around the room in the dark.
BTL: What attracts you to electronic music?
IH: I just love crafting and shaping sounds. Actually, many of the sounds that I work with start off as organic instruments — guitar, piano, clarinet, etc. But I do love the rigidity of electronic drums. For this record, I would record live drums, and then I would spend a day editing them to take the life out of them. I like to breathe my own life into these sounds, and I do try to keep the “air” in the music. Some people think electronic music is cold, but I think that has more to do with the people listening than the actual music itself.
Imogen Heap will be performing at The Magic Bag in Ferndale on Wednesday, Jan. 18. For more information visit http://www.themagicbag.com.