Featured Artist: Loop Artist Angela Sheik
Loop-based music making requires a rather intense blend of musicianship, talent and technical chops. Pioneered in live performances by artists such as Phil Keaggy, Robert Fripp, and (late in his career) Chet Atkins, looping allows an artist to record a few bars of music (typically 1 to 4), set it to persistently repeat, and then build the song adding instruments, vocals and additional loops.
While artists (The Beatles and Moody Blues come to mind) have been experimenting with looping since the days of analog tape, digital recording technology has made looping accessible to all artists. Looping devices such as the popular Jam Man from DigiTech, The JM4 Looper and M13 and M9 Stompbox Modelers from Line 6, RC-300 Loop Station from BOSS and others, allow a solo artist to compose their music layer upon layer, weaving an often complex tapestry of background, lead and vocal tracks. With some artists, just watching them guide the evolution from initial loop to completed track (thank you YouTube) is as mesmerizing as the final created product. Such an artist is Angela Sheik of Wilmington, Delaware.
As we announced earlier (11/1) on L2Pnet.com, Angela was recently crowned this year’s BOSS Loop Station U.S. Champion, advancing her to the world finals in March 2012. This was no small feat as she was first selected from hundreds of video submissions to compete with five other finalists in front of live judges. So taken were we with her voice, style and winning performance, we wanted to learn more about her and her music.
L2P: How did you first become interested in using looping technology as your main partner in creating your music?
Angela: I have always loved electronic music. It was the first type of music that upon hearing, I was immediately passionate about. I have spent years trying to emulate my favorite bands in this genre: Portishead, Massive Attack, Chemical Brothers, Hooverphonic, Sneaker Pimps. Mainly my process was to write a song on the piano and then try to add electronic production. Only lately have I begun to use electronic equipment as the vehicle for a song, rather than writing songs and then trying to cram electronic elements into them. This new way seems to translate much better to the audience, and it seems to give my songs a bit more integrity.
L2P: What instruments and effects do you use the most?
Angela: I am crazy in love with the idea of mashing organic elements using electronic tools. I love the looper pedal; it confines me in a good way, bringing needed structure to my songwriting. When writing on the piano I think I can tend to get a little too artsy-fartsy and lose a lot of my listeners. Too many twists and turns. I also love the autoharp for this same reason. It has a limited number of chord choices, forcing me to choose carefully.
L2P: Where do you see this process taking you in the future?
Angela: I hope to continue growing in the organic-meets-electronic style of music. Adding more organic elements that aren't seen too often. I am especially focused on bass lines lately. I would love to learn to loop and play the bass clarinet! My dream would be to continue building a strong set of material that people find both interesting and emotionally captivating, perhaps partnering with another musician or two, and then one day opening for another artist that I consider a soulful innovator such as Imogen Heap, Andrew Bird, or Jack White. But that's just dreaming!
L2P: How do you go about creating your music? Watching the videos, it's almost as if you have everything totally planned in your head. How many takes does it usually take you to get a video you are pleased with?
Angela: The video taping is part of the process. When I'm writing a song I can't really tell where it should go—I'm too involved maybe? But when I video a couple takes and watch it again, I can say, "No! The bridge should build more! The chorus needs to repeat!" Usually by the time I sit down and start taking video a song has been brewing in my head for about a week, already.
L2P: What are your favorite tools in your electronic tool box?
Angela: BOSS RC-50, microKorg, Moogerfooger low pass filter, Moogerfooger Etherwave Theremin Plus, Roland SP-404,
L2P: let’s talk about a couple of your songs, what was the inspiration for “Run For Cover”?
Angela: That was written for a close friend who began suffering from anxiety attacks when the economy crumbled in 2008. I was longing for them to feel understood, to have faith that the bad times would pass.
L2P: "Waiting For You"?
Angela: This song has a split meaning. It began as a prayer, wanting God to show up more in life. It was based on a verse, "Ask and it will be given, seek and you'll find, knock and the door will open." But I also connect strongly with Military wives/family who are left to wait at home while their loved ones deploy to dangerous parts of the world. I have one brother and one sister's husband who are Marines. Through them I have seen their families and communities go through a lot of longing, loneliness, worry. I also see this song as an expression of those emotions.
L2P... and your special version of "Amazing Grace"?
Angela: This one was written specifically for a Uganda benefit I sang for. I wanted it to have a little African-influenced sound and I wanted it to be joyful and relaxed.
L2P: Any final thoughts?
Angela: Well, I am determined to continue growing musically, challenging electronic media to deliver music that is fresh and decidedly human. I quit my day job in 2010 and have been trying to be a full time performer since then. The biggest turning point for me since that decision has been the discovery of my relationship to the audience. Fascinating! This is a subject I could go on about for hours, but I'll try to sum it up this way: What makes a group of people love or hate you from the stage? This is something I study at each and every performance, both mine and other musicians. It is a mind-blowing, unspoken exchange and it captivates me. I love it. It is one of the best parts of my job.
Sheik Finds Her Voice by Getting Loopy
By Robert Lindquist