Jhelisa (l), The Angel (r)

The Angel “Words Like Daggers” feat Jhelisa on LaunchLeft

It’s been a long time since I’ve released a new record. There are many reasons for this; like the fact that I’ve been spending more time scoring film & TV projects than paying attention to songwriting, and the fact that I’ve been drawn into new and exciting areas of creativity, like screenwriting and developing projects… And then there have been unexpected, life altering, events that have derailed me, fully demanding my attention as they occurred. The kind of stuff that makes it easy to lose one’s self and one’s passion…

But during the haze of our double pandemic it took a gentle request from my cousin Rain Phoenix to reignite my focus on releasing a new record via her Launchleft podcast/label. I’m grateful that Rain asked me to contribute a single to the Launched Artist Digital Single Series commemorating River’s 50th birthday, August 23rd. In doing so, she reminded me that reconnecting with my art as a recording artist is not only a grounding and fulfilling part of my life, it’s an essential part of my healing process… a touching reminder that the process is ongoing.

During such a self reflective time, I realized I’d abandoned an unfinished song that carried the weight of emotional trauma, and that this was the perfect reason to take it out of its compartmentalized box and finally complete the thought. My close friend, Jhelisa, had been by my side and had graced the track with her gorgeous vocals… and they were ready to be heard. “Words Like Daggers” is an exploration of loss, the agonizing breakdown of a deep connection, merged with other poignant losses, like the loss of my bass player and spiritual brother, Robert Russell, who plays on the record.

As I listened to a rough barebones mix of “Words Like Daggers,” I reimmersed myself in blending Jhelisa’s haunting lead vocals over the ambience of my heavily treated backing vocals. I still marvel at Jhelisa’s innate ability to channel the essence of whatever emotion needs to come through, in the most evocative and visceral way. I finally pulled myself together and tackled the arranging and mixing of the track. I’d be lying if I said it was easy. Given the timing, my mind was on other worldly issues, rather than on myself or my song… George Floyd had recently been murdered by police, and all I wanted to do was lend my voice and efforts to fight for justice and equality, to fight against systemic racism and police brutality not only for George, but for Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Elijah McClain, Sean Monterrosa and so many others whose names finally came to light. I had to find a balance between my daily activism and my commitment to that creative spark that I’d only just regained.

Somehow, I managed to get in the zone and push through. I shaped the song so it would sound like a memory, like you’ve somehow entered someone else’s dream space. The emotion is contained, very internal. I juxtaposed the vocal vulnerability against a driving, incessant rhythm, so you can feel an underlying urgency at the same time as experiencing a gentle plea like, “Where’s my shelter…?” which all of us can relate to.

As I honed in on the mix, I started working with another close friend and long time collaborator, on the cover art. Over a twenty year period, Todd Gallopo has done a  superb job of turning my trippy ideas into single and album covers for my various projects. These include covers for my debut album, “No Gravity”, both of my 60 Channels albums, “Tuned In, Turned On” and “Covert Movements” as well as various DNB singles. Without Todd’s creative presence, helping me focus on the artwork at just the right time, I would have found it impossible to finish “Words Like Daggers.” I’m so grateful for the love and support.

In my next post, I’ll talk about the experience of producing the video for “Words Like Daggers” with film, TV and video director Mark Pellington, and how it got me closer to completing the album, “Xtra Sensory Goodness,” which will be released in November.

The Angel "Words Like Daggers" feat Jhelisa - Cover Art
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