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A conversation with Imogen Heap
Electronica artist plays Asheville November 16

by Lawrence Ferber

Find out more about recording artist Imogen Heap at her website, www.imogenheap.com.
Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” is a wrenchingly beautiful acappella track featuring a layered, manipulated chorus of Heap’s angelic, lush vocals. It comes as no surprise that the song was included in a pivotal scene during a season finale of “The O.C.”

Also featured on her new solo disc, “Speak For Yourself” (RCA Victor), the ditty is bringing Heap, former vocalist of catchy electropop duo Frou Frou (with Guy Sigsworth), into the limelight as a solo artist — as did her song for the all-ages fantasy flick “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “Can’t Take It All In.”

While Frou Frou may have been the first Heap that American audiences noticed, she actually made her debut as a solo artist in 1998 with an album, “I Megaphone,” and as an opening act for Rufus Wainwright and Coldplay.

Unpretentious, and a bit of a techno geek, the London-based Heap relayed a few elaborate descriptions of her recording process, who’s the hottest on “The O.C.” and whether we might get to hear “I Megaphone” again during a recent phone interview.
Q. What’s the most personal song on “Speak For Yourself?”

IH. “Hide and Seek.” I rarely tell anyone what it’s about. Other people’s interpretations are probably far more interesting, but it was a very cathartic song for me. I wrote it in a very short space of time and it was obviously just dying to get out of me. And I don’t want to let anyone know [the story behind it] because I don’t want the person it’s about to have the satisfaction of knowing it’s about them!

Q. Did you always conceive of it as an acappella track?

IH. It just was. It was very late one night and I had a horrible day in the studio. I was just about to put the helmet on and cycle home and out of the corner of my eye I noticed a piece of gear I hadn’t used yet. If I have a bad day in the studio I make a point of quickly putting something down so I plugged my harmonizer into my keyboard into my microphone — I’ll explain how this thing works. You put your microphone into the harmonizer. And the harmonizer reads the messages from the piano. If you play a C but sing in E, the piano would make your voice sing the C as well. It’s making my voice do the different chords. It’s very simple, which is great. I had no time to question the song.

Q. “Hide and Seek” was on “The O.C.” — which of the show’s guys do you think is hottest?

IH. I like Caleb Nichol [played by Alan Dale], who died when my song “Hide and Seek‚” came on. He was the bad boy. I like the bad boys. I hang around prisons every day watching them come in and out.

Q. Was Rufus Wainwright a bad boy when you toured with him?

IH. If he was he kept it very secret! He’s a real sweetheart. When I first saw him perform I remember saying “Oh shit, he’s really good. I’m glad I’m not on after him.”

Q. Do you visit the gay bars?

IH. I have been. Wherever they serve alcohol is fine by me. I spent a lot of time in gay bars in San Francisco and Seattle. But to be honest, I just don’t go out in the U.K., unless it’s to do with music or see a band I like.

Q. How different was it to go from electronica to the fully orchestrated “Narnia” song with composer Harry Gregson-Williams?

IH. Very different. It didn’t feel right to do something electronic and gritty and angular for the movie. What was great was I got real strings and an actual orchestra playing my song! Harry, the composer, and I did get along famously. We spoke a couple of times about doing something together again, but I thought he can’t really mean it. He’s amazing. But he called me up the other day and said it’s okay if I announce to my agent that we want to do a score together!

Q. Will your first solo album be re-released or made available as a download?

IH. Well, for some unknown reason the guys who signed me and have this record aren’t pulling it together. Even though I wrote and recorded and slaved over it for a good few months I don’t have the ability to release it. I think it would be stupid not to and I’m trying to get permission to sell it on my own website. www.imogenheap.com.

— Imogen Heap performs at the Orange Peel in Asheville Nov. 16.

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