Sunday, November 30, 2008

For the Dogs: Weekend for Lucas (11.29.08)

LIke I mentioned before, I had back-to-back shows on Saturday. I never schedule back-to-backs without a very good reason, but this was worthwhile, since it allowed me to perform at "A Weekend for Lucas", the fundraising benefit concert festival to support Smiling Dog Farms. This organization is a last resort for dogs that otherwise have no place else to go. From their web site...

Our dogs come from shelters and rescues all across America. They may be “unadoptable” because they have bitten someone, have medical issues, or have other behavior challenges. Smiling Dog Farms accepts all unadoptable dogs, regardless of age, breed,behavioral or medical issues. If a dog is breathing, he qualifies to come live here!

Grateful Stryker, a friend and fellow musician in Second Life, started this fundraiser last year after his experience with Smiling Dog Farms and one doggie named Lucas who ended up there. He was introduced to dog in a shelter that was scheduled for execution since no one wanted him, and he found Smiling Dog Farms who helped save Lucas's life. Lucas (who was an older dog) lived out the rest of his days with happiness and dignity. Perhaps the bigger result of Grateful's friendship with Lucas was that Grate got the idea to put together a benefit show in SL to support Smiling Dog Farms. In 2007, I performed at the first show, which was a huge success, and this year was terrific as well. They haven't tallied the total yet (the show is a two-day event that's continuing today), but it should represent a sizable chunk of the annual operating costs of the farm.

Zak onstage at the Lucas show. Note that the lower half of my body is Ruthed... nice capri pants.

All that having been said, I'm very glad I chose to look past the hassles of doing two shows in a row and performed there. After my show at Triumph Cove, I teleported immediately over to Sunshine Daydream, where the Lucas event was taking place, and got right down to the business of a) rocking and b) telling people to donate money to this cause. Despite the fact that I was guilting and haranguing people the entire time, I think it was still fun for everyone. And, of course, it was nice to see some of the old Sunshine Daydream gang again.

I also wrote a tune specifically for the event, which you'll find below, as well as performing two other songs I'd never before done in SL.

Here's what I played...

*Every Dog Should Have It’s Day (Zak Claxton)
One (U2)
*Ramble On (Led Zeppelin)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
The Worst (Rolling Stones)
You’re Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Neil Young)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Walking The Dog (Aerosmith)
*Here Comes The Sun (Beatles)
Thank You (Led Zeppelin)

*Indicates first time I've performed this song in SL
Grateful Stryker watches the festivities.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Zak gets back to Triumph Cove (11.29.08)

Zak has a fun crowd at Triumph Cove.

I had only performed at Triumph Cove once before, but had been wanting to get back there. It's a spectacular venue, and I tend to draw audiences there of people who haven't seen me before, which I do enjoy. Ursula Cinquetti is a terrific hostess, and my thanks go out to Blaze Columbia for sponsoring such a great venue.

Here's the set list...
Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Queen)
You’re Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Accidents Will Happen (Elvis Costello)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
California (Joni Mitchell)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
If You Could Only See (Tonic)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Drive (Incubus)
Heart of Gold (Neil Young)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Behind Blue Eyes (The Who)

Zak rocks, Ursula boogies.

Thanks to the following people for having supported my show!
Graciela Shelman, Bevan Whitfield, Triana Caldera, Anaid Daviau, Kritz Etzel, Thadicus Caligari, SeanMcPherson Senior, Maxymouse Piek, Charles Coleman, Hiker Tigerpaw, Torben Asp, and most of all Ursula Cinquetti!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Two Zak Shows on Sat.11/29!!!

Hey all! A quick heads-up. You're not seeing double... there are indeed two, count them, two Zak shows tomorrow, back-to-back, on Saturday November 29.

First up at 5:00PM will be a very fun show at Triumph Cove, the terrific venue sponsored by Blaze Columbia. I'll be playing in between the Born Again Pagans and Charles Coleman, so it'll be a great hang with fun tunes.

Then, at 6:00PM, I head immediately over to Sunshine Daydream where I'm appearing at a benefit concert called A Weekend for Lucas. This benefit aids a dog rescue organization called Smiling Dog Farms, and they aid abused and neglected animals. This is a great cause, and I'm sure I can count on my friends/fans to come by and support this charity-driven event.

That's it for now! See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving to you from Zak

"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed upon our governor, and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

- Edward Winslow from A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, 1621

Monday, November 24, 2008

All quiet on the turkey front

Since I'm in a little lull between shows (I start picking up my show schedule again this coming Saturday and throughout December), I thought I'd drop you a little off-topic blog. No need to thank me.

I am faced with a conundrum. Haven't done a show since last Sunday, but I don't like feeling rusty. What I think I'll do is put on a little surprise Zak Show at one of my own places (Coyote, Neil Young Archives, or NYA Stage, or even Kat's Inspiration Cove island), perhaps sometime on Wednesday. The way I figure it is that a lot of people will have very little to do on that day, and may want to hop into world for some entertainment that doesn't involve family, football, or turkey. So, that's filed in the "maybe" folder for now.

Speaking of turkey, I have volunteered to be the host of Thanksgiving this year. I have a nice new place that I moved into in September, so I invited Gramps, my sister, and her daughter over to join me, Kat, and my son (and his mother, unfortunately) for feasting. It was after I extended the invite that I realized I was desperately short on things like dining room chairs, serving trays, and even enough silverware for seven people. That's why on Saturday, despite my grumblings and intense whining, I went with my son and Kat to that loveliest of luxury retailers, Target, and bought a bunch of crap. Actually, it wasn't all crap at all. I got some chairs, some new flatware, new sets of dishes, new glasses, and various random things that would fit in my cart on the way to the checkout line.

Then yesterday, on Sunday, it was time to tackle the food portion of the feast. Got my bird, which will very likely fit into my tiny oven (I'll make that sucker fit, no worries), and all the trimmings. Of course, I forgot the cranberry sauce, bread rolls, and whipped cream, so there's at least one more grocery run involved before T-Day. And I don't have any wine glasses, so I suppose I'll need to get those too. But all in all, it should turn out to be a good holiday. And above and beyond all of that crap, I'll awaken on Friday morning -- the best food day of the year -- and be wallowing in turkey sandwich fixin's.

Oh man. I look forward to that more than anything.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Facebook: I was wr... wr... wro... mistaken

Well, I feel like a doofus. There's nothing new about that, but the particular reason for my doofusness of the moment is that I'd assumed that Facebook was pretty much just another version of MySpace. This is what happens when you form an opinion about something before you actually look into it. Like, "All hip hop sucks," or "Second Life is for losers who don't have a first life," and so on.

Anyway, my friend Jace had been up my ass for a long time trying to get me to join Facebook. I'd told him in no uncertain terms that the last thing I wanted to do was add yet another social network tool, and that I was already being notoriously poor about the upkeep of my MySpace page, and so on. Jace very patiently told me how Facebook actually provided a lot of Web 2.0 tools that actually saved time, as opposed to wasting it. I was still very unconvinced, and basically started a Facebook page to spite him.

And, of course, as I started looking into it, I become intrigued. "Hey, it can automatically pull in my blog posts. That's neat. hey, it sees my YouTube activity. Cool. Hey, I can export my SL events to my Google Calendar. Sweet." And so on and so forth.

So, here I am to freely admit that I was way wrong about Facebook. It's actually very cool. There. I was wrong. Mark your calendars. And by the way... feel free to send me a friend request if we're friends, or acquaintances, or if you kinda know me, or even if you don't!

And thanks again to Jace who, by the way, become my first Facebook friend shortly thereafter.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Another video from the studio (11.15.08)

After looking through the footage Kat filmed at Sound Sanctuary last Saturday, I found some stuff that was neither silly, goofy, nor full of screw-ups. Here's another short video from the latest Zak Claxton session, and I believe the first and third sections (rhythm electric guitar on "The Sands of Redondo" and the bass line from the same song) are the takes that will end up on the album.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Rocking Triana's Music Trivia (11.16.08)

Have I ever mentioned how great Triana Caldera is? Well let me tell ya, if there was a "Coolest Chick in SL that Isn't My Girlfriend" award, she'd be a shoo-in.

As I may have mentioned before, Kat and I try to spend every Sunday night at 7:00PM at Triana's Music Trivia, which happens to be SL's longest-running trivia game. The weekly event is a really fun social gathering, and Kat and I have been attending for over two years now. Usually TMT is DJed by Samantha Poindexter, but every so often, usually only on special occasions, Triana has a live performer there. I've played TMT a few times now, and Kaklick Martin has a couple of times as well.

Sunday night, even though I was still a little mentally and physically burned out from my recording session the day before, I was really looking forward to doing my show at TMT. I think it was probably my favorite show I've done there, since I was slightly punchy and was therefore in extreme silly mode.

The zany crew at TMT dances while I rock them.

Playing "Triana" for Triana!

So, it was a fun show, and since I'd been doing nothing but playing guitar and singing for the 24 hours previous, I was at least nice and warmed up when I got onstage. Since I was with friends, I threw out a couple of tunes I'd never done before in SL, and they were more fun than I'd thought they would be.

Song Sample #1: "Triana (Mellow Version)" (Zak Claxton)

Song Sample #2: "Tribute" (Tenacious D)

And here's what I played...

This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Triana (Zak Claxton)
*Boyz in the Hood (Dynamite Hack)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Mother's Little Helper (Rolling Stones)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Six Underground (Sneaker Pimps)
*We Are The Champions (Queen)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Tribute (Tenacious D)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Thank You (Led Zeppelin)
Old Man (Neil Young)

*Indicates the first time I've played this song in SL.

Thanks to the people who supported my show, and all my friends at TMT!
Alchemy Epstein, Nakira Tennen, Samantha Poindexter, Tommy Cult, Kaklick Martin, Catz Mora, Hef Hifeng, MrNoCal Honey, Bosco Constantine, Rey Tardis, and of course, Kat's and my Second Life girlfriend, Triana Caldera

Zak in the Studio (11.15.08)

I had one of the most fun and productive recording sessions of my life on Saturday. Kat and I drove out to Riverside, the home of Sound Sanctuary Recording Studios where I've done all the recording for the Zak Claxton album thus far.

The two songs we planned on doing were "The Sands of Redondo" and "Always Tomorrow". Both songs have a medium-slow 6/8 tempo, so I figured we could stay in the groove getting both down in one day. Kat and I arrived in Riverside at noon as planned, and hung out with studio owner/operator Phil O'Keefe and our pal Ken Lee for awhile until Bunny arrived. Bunny's lateness, by the way, was well justified this time; there were several freeway closures due to the myriad of fires rampaging around Southern California on the day I recorded.

But I digress. We brought Bunny's drums into the studio and got ready to rock. All photos by Kat Claxton, except noted.

We got all the drums and mics set up...

And then went back into the lounge and mapped out our game plan. But first, we took time to do silly poses, as is required by the musician's union.

Finally, we got into recording the two new songs. We started with "The Sands of Redondo" since a) it's the more complex of the two and b) both Bunny and Ken couldn't stay at the studio all day/night, and we had to get their parts down so they could take off in the early evening. My plan had all four of us doing a guitar solo on the tune, so after we got the basic tracks down (drums, rhythm guitar, and bass), we set up to do the solofest.

We tracked the players in order so we'd have some semblance of continuity on the track, and Ken led the effort. This somewhat random choice turned out to be an excellent plan, since Ken laid down this unbelievable solo with his E-Bow and SG, resembling whale calls and really setting the tone for the rest of the song. Phil went next, getting a little grittier than Ken but staying pretty smooth within the D minor motif on the Epiphone Casino. Then Bunny who is so much more than a drummer, took a Strat into the tracking room and laid down this awesome Arabic-themed set of crunchy notes that I just loved. For the final solo, I used a Les Paul and tried to bring the solo section to a peak level of frantic frenzy. I'm really looking forward to hearing this mix!

Before doing anything else on that track, it was time to lay down the basic stuff for the second song, "Always Tomorrow". I kid you not: Bunny got the drums down in one pass. There's only one take, and that's it, and I love it.

Ken had split at about 5:00, and after Bunny did his drums on the second song and grabbed a slice of pizza, he was out of there at 7:00. So, for the next 5-6 hours after that, Phil and I did layer upon layer of overdubs, adding all the vocals, background vocals, additional guitars, piano, and percussion to both tunes. Kat and I rolled out of there close to 1:00AM, and got some much-needed sleep at the luxurious Motel 6 down the street.

One more thing to note: we all had a great time, and soon after we arrived home on Sunday afternoon, I put together a little blooper reel of video footage that Kat had captured while we recorded (below). Enjoy the outtakes and screw-ups and so on. For the time being, it's all you have to hear, since it'll be a little while before we listen to these mixes.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Amazing! Great show at the Blarney Stone (11.11.08)

I had what must have been one of my top-ten all-time SL shows last night at the Blarney Stone in Dublin. One thing I really like about playing places like the Blarney Stone is that they have a built-in crowd of regulars. At a lot of places, if I arrive 20 minutes before showtime, I'm the only person there, often getting there before the venue owner/manager. But not last night! It's a great feeling looking at the map before you teleport to the club and seeing 20 green dots waiting for you!

So, a few funny notes... first, I started the evening with a naked guy who decided to wiggle his nude ass on my stage moments before I started my show. According to Cher Harrington, there were a total of four nekkie people that had to be dealt with during my show, so apparently I bring out the freak brigade, which is fine with me as long as there's someone there to deal with them.

Getting ready to rock, with a nice poster behind me.

A happy crowd makes for a happy Zak.

One of the several times I got an uninvited guest on stage with me that night.

Second funny (kind of) moment: at 4:59, one minute before I was going to do my first tune, I crashed SL! It's been a long time since I've had any SL crashes at all, but this one wasn't so bad... I did a fast restart of the MacBook Pro, popped back into world at my last location, and jumped into my first tune. Contrasting that, my audio/streaming computer went through the entire show without even a hiccup, which was a welcome change.

But all that is pretty normal, in SL anyway. The other things that made this show awesome...

• First, I'm VERY happy these days with any 40+ crowd. I think we peaked at 47 or so. That means we had a good 60+ people who saw the show, counting some who came late or left early with crowd turnover. Love that!

• My voice and guitar decided to behave to a satisfactory degree, with no severe screwups. I have no complaints.

• I love having my good friends like Cher, DD, Silas, and Triana in the crowd. I get all happied-up as soon as I see their names pop in.

• The Blarney Stone has a great vibe. After playing so many RL Irish pubs here in the LA area (Hennessey's, Killian's, Keegan's and so on), I felt right at home there.

• Cher Harrington must be the best hostess in SL, bar none. She was on top of everything and seemed to be having a great time (and made sure everyone else was having fun too), and I don't ask for more than that.

In any case, the end result was a great show, with quite a few folks signing up to join my Zak Claxton group right after the show, which is one of my big goals at the moment (building my crowd).

Song Sample: "One" (U2)

Here's what I played!

If You Could Only See (Tonic)
What I Got (Sublime)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Heart of Gold (Neil Young)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Help Me (Joni Mitchell)
*One (U2)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Wonderwall (Oasis)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
All-Star (Smash Mouth)
A Day in the Life (Beatles)

*Indicates first time I've ever performed this song in SL

Thanks to everyone who was at the Blarney Stone, along with these folks who helped support my show!
Triana Caldera, Felix Valeeva, Otawan Fouquet, Noelle Pobieski, GentlemanKev Bookmite, Laelae Nubalo, Padula Bing, Silas Scarborough, bobo Foxtrot, Milan Martynov, Eowyn Atlass, and most of all, the hostess with the mostess, Cher Harrington!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Studio session coming this weekend!

I am FINALLY getting back into the studio this weekend, and I can't wait!

This recording session was originally scheduled for the beginning of September, but due to difficulties with Team Zak's schedule, we couldn't get it together for a couple of months beyond the original plan. But there's no better time than the present, so off we go to Sound Sanctuary Recording out in lovely Riverside, CA.

The plan is to record two ZakTunes: "Always Tomorrow" and the rarely-performed "Sands of Redondo". Kat will be accompanying me to the studio, and will be capturing some photos and video. My usual compatriots, Phil O'Keefe (engineering, co-producing, additional vocals/instruments) and Bunny Knutson (drums, creative inspiration), will be joined by a special guest this time... my pal Ken Lee! We're not quite sure what contribution the Giant Asian Guy will make, but it's bound to be good.

Next week here on the Zak Blog, we'll post some stuff from the session.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

"This Afternoon" video!

Well, here is a tasty treat for all three or so of you Zak Claxton fans out there. And it's a double-dipped delight that's a veritable feast for the senses.

Below, please find the YouTube video for my song "This Afternoon". Not only is it a Zak Claxton video, mind you, but this is the real, actual recording off my upcoming album, Zak Claxton. So you get to listen to the world premiere of a track off my as-yet-unreleased solo album, and you get to see our silly ideas for putting together a home-made video for the tune! So, check out the vid, and then I'll tell you more about it...

Hope you enjoyed it. Here's the "making of" story: Kat and I found ourselves with a little free time one day, and kind of spontaneously went out and started shooting some footage, with me directing and Kat being a steady-handed camera operator. I edited a bit of what we captured and found that it was workable, so a few weeks later we spent another hour or so shooting. Grabbed everything we needed, edited the rest of the video in another hour or so, and bang-zoom! Video is ready. Should I ever get an actual budget to do real videos, I will still fondly remember our time running around the streets of Redondo Beach with my camera.

In any case, if you haven't been following along, "This Afternoon" will be available as a single and as a track off my upcoming album, in stores in Spring 2009. Followers of this blog will be the first to know when the music is ready to rock.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fun at The Notes Shack (11.06.08)

Seriously, I've had a blast every time I play at Krakov Letov's club The Notes Shack. The crowd is fun, and they really do appreciate good music there. Also, I do enjoy the opportunity to play to a mostly European audience... it's very cool.

Nothing special to note about today... I was in a good mood, still in euphoria over the election of Barack Obama, and I think I picked some good tunes, many of which I haven't whipped out in quite awhile.

The Set List...

This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Court & Spark (Joni Mitchell)
Lovely Rita (Beatles)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Like a Rolling Stone (Bob Dylan)
Space Oddity (David Bowie)
Old Man (Neil Young)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)
Free Man in Paris (Joni Mitchell)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Tribute (Tenacious D)

Big thanks to all the people who supported my show!
Billy Mikoyan, Angelina Rhode, Marcella Mornington, Toby Lancaster, Jeremy Barracuda, Jaggpro McCann, Artefax Jericho, Obeloinkment Wrigglesworth, Rainne Kiranov, Harrie Skjellerup, and most of all, Krakov Letov!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Rockin' the SD: San Diego in SL (11/2/08)

I don't know how many of you know this, but shows in Second Life aren't necessarily the casual, thrown-together events that they may appear on the surface. Well-run, popular venues often book their shows more than a month ahead of time, and busy artists are often booked for at least a month out. So, it was quite a long time ago that I set up Sunday's show at San Diego in SL, through a great supporter of SL's music scene Cher Harrington (more on Cher in a bit).

We pulled together a decent-sized crowd, but my favorite part was that with the exception of a few, most of the people who were there had never heard me play before. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that I most enjoy the opportunity to play for new folks, perchance to gain some new fans. I'd say that Sunday's show at SD in SL was really great in that aspect. I also had a great time, and fortunately my voice and guitar decided to cooperate with me, so I feel the performance went well too.

Another note: in addition to running SL Live Radio, Cher Harrington (who's become a good friend over the last year or so) is the booking agent and manager for several SL venues, including San Diego. After my show, Cher let me know that due to my San Diego connections (I've lived in Southern California nearly my entire life, and went to San Diego State U. for a year back in the '80s) and the fact that they liked my performance, the owners would like me to start playing there on a regular basis! I couldn't be happier, especially considering that I'd recently lost my other weekly gig. So, next month, I'll be back at San Diego in SL on 12/7, 12/14, and 12/21 (all Sundays, all at 3:00PM). I'm very excited, and there are a lot of opportunities associated with these shows, so try and attend and wish me luck in any case.

Song Sample: "Plush" (Stone Temple Pilots)

Here's my set list from Sunday 11/2...

This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Plush (Stone Temple Pilots)
What I Got (Sublime)
Help Me (Joni Mitchell)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
*Mother's Little Helper (Rolling Stones)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
If You Could Only See (Tonic)
Old Man (Neil Young)
Drive (Incubus)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Behind Blue Eyes (The Who)

*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL

Thanks to the folks who helped support my show at San Diego in SL!
Studly Nightfire, Emmie Fairymeadow, Triana Caldera, Sally Silvera, Otawan Fouquet, Jonty Smit, Merlin Gray, Starflower Orbit, and the lovely Cher Harrington!