Words by Sarah McManamon
NRTH LSS had the pleasure to get to know the very talented producer and musician Angela Chan.
Coming to Leeds to study a degree in classical and contemporary music, and a master’s in music production, Angela tells us why she stayed up north as she built her eclectic musical career around her distinctive “fuzzy” sound. Angela also shares some foodie recommendations for the noodle lovers amongst us.
Angela has an impressive discography, including her work as a touring band member of alternative rock group Placebo since 2017, her creative involvement with indie rock band Lanterns on the Lake since 2014 and, more recently, her time on tour with Kyle Falconer of The View.
NRTH LASS: Tell us about a typical day on tour. What are the highs and lows of tour life?
Angela: There’s not much routine to touring. There’s a lot of travelling and packing and unpacking things – vans, boxes, bags, cases. I love the camaraderie of it all especially on the smaller tours where everyone is mucking in. There’s always plenty of chat, jokes and silly games to pass the time. Apparently I sleep a lot too.
NRTH LASS: Would you say that you have a signature “sound” you find yourself returning to?
Angela: My viola and reverb! Other than that, I don’t think I have much of a signature sound … but I do love playing around with other instruments, pedals and getting geeky with tech. I try to mould my sound to fit each band I play with – orchestral strings, dirty fuzzy noise, ethereal soundscapes, synthy pads. I rarely use the same pedalboard setup between bands. I can get really weird with the sound and people often think they’re hearing a guitar. It’s not. It’s a viola!
NRTH LASS: What’s it like being a woman in the music industry? Have you met any gender-based barriers in your career?
Angela: I’ve never felt like I’ve encountered any gender-based barriers, but it’s something that is being talked about a lot at the moment. I went to a “Women in Music” conference recently to try and learn more and after hearing about others’ experiences, I started to think about my own. There are sexist attitudes but it’s very rare that I come across them. On the whole, I find the creative world quite progressive and open. There are many sides to the industry that I’ve not experienced though, so I can’t speak for all women.
NRTH LASS: Tell us about your work as a producer. How does it compare to performing live?
Angela: Performing live is about being in the moment, playing my instrument. In the studio, it’s about crafting and creating. It’s more cerebral, not as automatic, and I’ve got a lot to learn. I like making music for performance art (dance, theatre) and moving image (sound design, film, digital art). I love the relationship between sound and movement. It’s easy to get lost for hours once I get stuck in.
NRTH LASS: What was it that kept you based in Leeds for all these years? Were you ever tempted/encouraged to relocate?
Angela: Leeds ticks a lot of boxes. I came here to study and met lots of people doing exciting things. There’s a lot going on. It’s not an expensive place to live. I found a supportive community and I’ve been well nurtured by it. I lived in Newcastle for a bit and I’d like to go back there in the future. London doesn’t appeal much to me as a place to live. I’m a northern lass.
NRTH LASS: What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Angela: Spending an evening trawling through Gumtree ads and finding the people who became my mentors, best friends and first proper band. I’d recently learned what a pickup was, acquired the cheapest one I could find on eBay, blue-tacked it to my viola and turned up to meet these strangers. Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t get laughed out of the room. I learned almost everything about playing in a band from them. They even equipped me with my first ever pedal. Before them, I never knew what a pedal was. Imagine that.
“Performing live is about being in the moment, playing my instrument. In the studio, it’s about crafting and creating.”
NRTH LASS: How do you balance your personal life with your career? Do you ever feel that you’ve had to sacrifice one for the other?
Angela: If music wasn’t my job it would still be a huge part of my life. Music is very personal to me and through music I’ve made close friends, learned valuable life lessons, travelled the world, experienced adventures and misadventures. It’s not a conventional life, but convention doesn’t excite me. I’ve been told that to sacrifice is to give up something for a greater something else, and if that is the case, it’s not the worst position to be in.
NRTH LASS: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Or any piece of advice you wish you’d received?
Angela: I’ve had a lot of good advice and yet I can’t recall a single piece right now. All I can say is: surround yourself with good people. They will provide you with all the advice you will need.
NRTH LASS: Finally, and most importantly … where can I get the best noodles and dumplings in Leeds?
Angela: Haha! So you’ve spotted I’m a noodle enthusiast. Well, I’m a big fan of Bánh and Mee for Vietnamese, Noodle House for Hong Kong and Malaysian, and Noodlesta is a recent opening for Northern Chinese hand-pulled noodles. Couple of OK dim sum spots too but I’ve not found a place for proper good dumplings yet. Let me know if you find one.