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By Kevin English
Scotch Plains, NJ, USA

While rifling through a stockpile of DVDs at my local bootlegger last winter, I came across a British cult classic, not yet released in the States. From the opening credits, I was captivated by its raw portrayal of UK street kids, fast paced cinematography and brilliantly composed film score. 

When I updated my Twitter status to read, "Watching KiDULTHOOD. The British version of ’Kids’", The Angel responded.

THIRSTY: How did you come up with the name, The Angel?

The Angel: Back in the day, when I was signed to Delicious Vinyl, I was just going out under Angel or Angel C. (The Label) was like, "There is no way we can put you out as "Angel". It’s too generic. No one is going to understand who you are. So we went through many months of horrendous band names until one day, Mike Ross, the owner of Delicious said, "What about ‘The Angel’"?

The name stuck, but she assures us with a delicate laugh, “There is no pretention (in that name). Some people get the wrong idea. I'm very down to earth."

THIRSTY: When you talk about being in the “Cave” on Twitter, where are you?

The Angel: I’m either in my studio or in other peoples studio, mixing, recording, editing; you know, working on music. Especially when I'm working to picture, you really need it to be dark so you can look at the screen and get sense of what is going on. You feel like you’re not on the same planet anymore.

Her resume reads like the tattooed arm of a seven foot Laker. She splits her time well between producing, recording and scoring for both television and film. Her music has blessed projects ranging from the Tupac and Tim Roth feature, "Gridlock'd", to HBO’s new hit series, “True Blood”. All the while, The Angel insists on keeping one foot firmly planted in the underground music scene, from LA to London.

Jhelisa and The Angel

THIRSTY: What do you listen to when you are not making music?

The Angel: A cross section of stuff. If I want to chill out I listen to Old School Reggae. Otherwise, I listen to really aggressive Dub Step and Drum and Bass. Lately I'm into a lot of UK Hip Hop and Grime. Like a lot of Americans who have distaste for UK Hip Hop, I was also a little bit skeptical. (But) I have to admit, UK artists are doing something a lot more progressive in urban music than we are.

THIRSTY: What instruments do you play?

The Angel: I play keys and do all my own programming. I can pretty much play whatever I hear in my head and that’s how I create pieces of music.

Her more recent work can be heard accompanying the indie film, Gaia, the story of a group of Native Americans who discover a young woman, left for dead, in the Arizona desert and proceed to take her to their reservation.

THIRSTY: How is finding the inspiration for a film different than making a record?

The Angel: They are so completely different. When I'm making a record anything goes. Whereas when I'm working on a film it will have a very specific need for what the music has to do. As much as I’m brought in for my (musical) sensibilities, I’m also brought in to facilitate the Director’s vision.

Here The Angel talks about her work on the classic Ponzi scheme depiction, Boiler Room (starring Giovanni Ribsi, Ben Affleck, and Vin Diesel) and Fox Network's television show, "Standoff".

Boiler Room | Standoff

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At the time of this interview, The Angel was racing towards a deadline on the film, Bedrooms and simultaneously releasing the evocative single, "Ultra Light" featuring the sounds of legendary soul singer, Jhelisa. One listener metaphorically described the track as, "Being inside while it's raining. Haunting and warming at the same time.

THIRSTY: Tell us about your new single, “Ultra Light”

The Angel: "Ultra Light" is one of those spiritually unifying messages of strength. I wrote the lyrics quite a long time ago over a completely different backing track, something more along the lines of Drum and Bass. I kind of put it aside, and when Jhelisa was here, I knew that she could do something so brilliantly with it because the way she interprets melody is incredible. So I started from scratch, rhythm up, building something that was a lot more in keeping with the melody of the lyrics.

THIRSTY: What do you look for in a vocalist?

The Angel: I look for distinction and personality. I love people who have a little something that don’t sound like everyone else.

THIRSTY: How did you link up with Jhelisa?

The Angel: We were both based in the UK in the 90's. We were recording there and doing bits and pieces (separately). She was having hits with The Shamen and Soul Family Sensation, and guest-ing on other people’s records. So we met in the (music) scene, and we always clocked each other. Then I got signed to Delicious and I started making an album (for release in the US) while I was still living in the UK. I just loved Jhelisa’s vocals.

I never wanted to be a lead vocalist

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THIRSTY: How many individual tracks are being laid in a session like, “Ultra Light”?

The Angel: I probably lay over 20 tracks of just vocals, could be 30 tracks of vocals easily on “Ultra Light”. It varies with instrumentations in terms of percussive tracks. I cut things up a lot. If I'm using breaks I totally cut them up and recontextualize them and then add other bits and pieces. I could have 10 tracks of percussive, then atmospherics and bass, mandolin and all types of interesting things. It could get up to 60-70 tracks.

THIRSTY: What’s next for The Angel?

The Angel:  (My album) “Xtra Sensory Goodness” is the next big priority. It’s been 80% ready this whole year, so it’s a little bit frustrating, but as soon as I begin working on a film, it really takes over and it’s hard to have enough time to do more. Then I have another film to go onto in the next few months. Luckily I’ll have a little break.

The album is completely divorced from “Ultra Light”. The two are not at all alike, in such the enigmatic way that I do things (Chuckle). It’s a conceptual album, its completely instrumental, very Dub Step-py in essence. It is really cinematic and melodic and (pauses) different. There are a few tracks where Jhelisa is Oohing and Ahhing, but there are no lyrics, no songs in the typical sense.

THIRSTY: Can we talk about the next film you’ve been commissioned to score?

The Angel: This project is with a female director and I've been dying to work with a female director for many years. I've only worked once with a female director, Raelle Tucker who is now doing an amazing job as a writer in the industry. She is actually one of the Executive Producers of “True Blood.”


Although the best music is often hidden within the shadows of the underground, discovering the blissful sounds of The Angel has restored faith in the notion that true art is still alive and well. I anxiously await the second single, “Words like Daggers”, and whatever else she has to offer.


The Angel Blog:



All opinions expressed by Kevin English are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.

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