IMOGEN HEAP is back. The groundbreaking electronic artist took a touring hiatus of almost a decade to have her first child and work on a Harry Potter score. She’s also promoted her MI.MU musical gloves line — wearable technology that aims to revolutionise music-making by triggering notes using hand and arm movements — and pioneered the artist-led, blockchain-based Mycelia Creative Passport project. Now 41, she’s touring again and there’s promise of a new album.
What made you tour again after such a long break?
My original tour was supposed to be five years ago, but I discovered I was pregnant and decided to cancel it because I couldn’t give birth on the road. Then I became a mum and things got really crazy, but I couldn’t make it work until my daughter got older and I had focused on Mycelia. Everything came together in the end.
Did you miss touring?
I retreated a bit and missed the connection with the fans. There’s no other way to do it.
Is touring rock’n’roll? Have you ever chucked a TV out the hotel window?
[Laughs]. Not any more — my daughter comes on tour. I can have a few drinks, but have to be up at 6am or 7am when she is. We used to get up at 1pm after a gig but can’t any more, I have to go to sleep early.
Do you regret cancelling some European tour dates in September due to Brexit?
Now I do, but back then I had no idea. That’s the frustrating thing about Brexit, everyone is in limbo. We can’t plan anything. The unknown is paralysing our country. If the tour had been two weeks later, I wouldn’t have cancelled it.
Do you feel nervous about going back on stage?
I’ve done 100 conferences with the gloves and Mycelia but sometimes it’s a finance crowd and people don’t know who I am. What I like about this tour is it is free-form and I can natter on. It’s nice not to stick to the script and, if anything, I feel most comfortable on stage. The fans feel like friends. Everything else in the day is hard work, but getting on stage is easy. As I’ve been taking on other projects, I haven’t been exercising my vocal chords, so the price that I pay is it’s hard to hit the pitching — it’s like not jogging for a while and then running a marathon.
How has your approach to music changed?
I’ve always been very focused and can get my head down. The thing I’ve found as I get older is having the confidence to change something that doesn’t feel right. If something shifts how you live, you survive and are resilient. That’s given me the freedom to relax into new ventures. I wanted to try out new ways of thinking or new tech projects. You get less self-conscious. I don’t spend an hour getting ready doing hair and make-up — I don’t have the time. I walk through the park in Hackney and I don’t have the success where people recognise me wherever I go, but I still do amazing shows.
Do you imagine technology playing more of a role in writing songs in the future?
I would love to have a version of myself that extracts data in the everyday and sits in the background. Then I can go into the studio and say, ‘Hey, A.I Heap, what haven’t I tried before?’ and I will only do that. It’s easy to get into your patterns -there would be something nice in your A.I getting you out of your box.
What can we expect from next year’s new album?
I want to collaborate more — I don’t want to be in a studio on my own again. But I’ve had the occasional afternoon at the piano and songs just flooded out of me. I wrote four songs in an hour. I’m thinking now, I could get loads of people involved, but I could do a simple piano album in about a month. So, it will be one or the other.
■ Imogen Heap plays Roundhouse, Camden on November 15, and touring, imogenheap.com