Sunday, July 26, 2009

Recording Session V: 7/25/09

When some musicians go into the studio, their greatest fear is that their music will lose something in the translation of being produced and recorded. I continue to marvel at how without exception, my songs have become better each time I've gone in to work with Phil O'Keefe at Sound Sanctuary Studios. I mean, not "a little better than I expected". I mean that the songs grow, bloom, thrive there in Phil's studio.

Another terrific day of recording yesterday. We did the drum and bass tracks for both "Fade Away" and "Waiting for This" on Saturday July 25. We also got in a few guitar tracks and a great keyboard by Ken, but by then it was getting close to midnight, we were having a few technical glitches, and it was time to wrap up the day. We'll be going back into the studio one last time to finish vocals and other overdubs.

I'd like to give public kudos to my hero Bunny, who did "Waiting for This" (a six-and-a-half minute song) in the very first take, flawlessly. That blew my mind. It was a terrific day, and we're one step closer to having this whole thing wrapped up. :)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Back in the studio on July 25

Zak sips his coffee and thinks over the plan for his final recording session (for this album).

Here's a semi-unusual blog post from me, in that it's focusing on an upcoming event, rather than something that already transpired. In slightly more than 48 hours, I'll be leaving here and heading out to Sound Sanctuary Studios in Riverside, CA, the same place where I've already recorded nine songs for my upcoming album. The plan for this coming Saturday is to record the last two songs that will be going on the album, a kind of poppy little tune called "Fade Away", and a song that's pretty epic in both length and content called "Waiting for This". At that point, we'll have 11 songs in the can... plenty enough for an album release. It doesn't, of course, mean we're done recording forever. I have every intent of jumping right into the next album, since I have at least several songs in various stages of being written. But at some point, you have to wrap up a project, and that's what we're about to do with the debut album.

Most of you understand that simply recording the music doesn't mean you're finished. These songs are made up of many components -- guitars, voices, drums, bass, and so on -- so those audio elements need to be mixed in ways that we think sounds good. After all the songs are mixed, it needs to be sent to another guy who does something called mastering. That's where the tone and volume of the entire album is made consistent so it's not jumping around from song to song, and the end result is the master, which is then used to replicate CDs and to create files which can be purchased from places like iTunes.

I'm not really concerned with the schedule; there's no record label breathing down my neck to release this, so it will be done, basically, when it's done. But we are getting closer, and wrapping up this Saturday's recording session brings us another step toward completion. I'm pretty excited, but you can't rush through the finish line when so much important stuff happens at the very end. The need to pay attention to detail is crucial from here on out.

Regardless of all that, the important thing for now is to pay attention to the last couple of songs. I'll be there with my lovely Kat, who comes to the sessions for both moral support as well as her job of photo/video documentation of the recording. My co-producer, engineer, and great friend Phil O'Keefe will be handling his multiple roles with aplomb as always. Bunny Knutson will be there to handle drums as on the other tracks, but will also be adding some vocals and other instruments. And, if all goes well, my pal Ken Lee will be rested enough from his recent trip to Brazil to be there and play some keys and whatever else we can get him to do. I have some very cool ideas for the arrangement and production of these tracks, and I'm feeling very ready to render them into reality.

And, of course, one of the fun parts about working with this team is that even with all the ideas and plans in the world, I always end up getting even more and better results than I'd planned going in. The actual process is exhausting, but it's also fun as hell. And, since Kat will be there with camera in hand, I'll share some of the high points (or silly points or whatever else we get) with you shortly after the session.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

New studio track: "Lines On Your Eyes"


The Broken Rocker (07.18.09)

I mentioned something today during my show at The Broken Rocker, which was that what really makes Second Life venues great is not how well they're decorated, scripted, or otherwise adorned. No, it's the people that go there, and whether they want to have fun or not. So far, at my two shows at The Broken Rocker, fun is exactly what it's all about. Again, it wasn't packed, but the people who were there were having a great time, and I really enjoyed playing for them as a result.

Today's set...
Summer Breeze (Seals & Crofts)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Rock and Roll Woman (Buffalo Springfield)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Fire & Rain (James Taylor)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Comes a Time (Neil Young)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
The Needle and the Damage Done (Neil Young)
A Day in the Life (Beatles)

Thanks to those who helped support my show today!
FacelessAPe Mefusula, ScarlettLa Roux, Ceridwen Albion, Diana Renoir, Dianah Markova, Aurelie Chenaux, Chaz Mikoyan, and the terrific hosts, Kat Keen and Horre Darkfold!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A new look for Zak Claxton

The newly redesigned Zak Claxton site.

If you're a regular visitor of this blog, you may be wondering, "Where am I? And what did you do with Zak?"

Well, there's no simple answer for that, so I'll give you the long story and hope you're patient enough to read through it. When I signed up for the 3D virtual world known as Second Life in 2006, I needed to pick a name. Without giving it much thought, I rather randomly chose the surname "Claxton", and picked "Zak" since it seemed to sound okay with the last name. Keep in mind that at the time, I had no idea that one could perform live music in SL. So, I was just picking what I thought was the equivalent of a screen name.

However, at the same time, I was starting to work on material as a solo artist, having recently departed from my last band. I considered releasing music under my birth name, which I like just fine, but isn't very marketable (being kind of clunky and German and long). So, I found myself with this name that sounded good, and at the same time started developing a bit of a fan base for my music in SL from people who knew me as "Zak". At some point, I made the decision to have "Zak" change from being the name of my avatar to being a stage name. It seemed as good a name as any, and I kind of liked the fact that it came to me in such a non-purposeful way. Sort of cosmic, if you were thinking along those hippie lines.

But none of that is relevant to anything. As time as gone by and I've ever-so-slowly come closer to completing the album, I knew that framing myself only as a "virtual musician" was going to be a limiting factor in how I market my music. Sure, it's kind of a cute little gimmick, but I've never been a fan of that stuff... it just takes away from the actual music, which is what's really important to me.

So, finally the reason for the big update to the web site and my blog and everything else that's associated with me. I wanted to promote the Zak Claxton name in a way that was more focused on the person, rather than the SL avatar. While the story of how Zak came about will always be attached to SL, the actual music itself comes from an actual person. Therefore, I updated the site (and all the other digital representations of myself, from Facebook to MySpace to Twitter to ReverbNation to you name it) to include more of the real me, and less of the SL me. I probably could have told you all that in a single sentence instead of multiple paragraphs, but I thought you'd like to hear the thought process.

The new look I put together is interesting to me, since it tends to draw from actual photos of me that are stylized in a way that makes them almost look sort of cartoonish. In that aspect, it kind of blends my virtual self with the flesh-and-blood me, just the same way my music crosses a couple of boundaries, and also speaks to my fan bases both inside and outside of Second Life. And that, my friends, is why this blog and every other online representation of me looks different today than yesterday.

As the album release becomes imminent, I will be previewing the album art here on the blog. Keep your eyes open for that sometime in August.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Majestic - San Diego in SL (07.12.09)

Once again, I had to have a little SL live performance hiatus. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I got an acute case of tendinitis in my left hand (the fretting hand for us right-handed guitar players), and couldn't touch my guitar for a week. The next show I had was today at The Majestic at San Diego in SL, so I let the hand rest for most of the last two weeks. Needless to say, I was just dying to play the entire time, and it couldn't have been a better place to return to rocking SL. The Majestic is a somewhat fancy place, so I put together a mostly mellow Sunday afternoon theme of music.

Like any comeback special (even after only a two-week break), I wanted the show to have some elements of excitement, so I did a couple of covers I'd never done before, and had loads of fun with both. We had a small but happy crowd there, and considering the number of live shows that go on in SL on a weekend afternoon, I was happy with anyone who hung out at my little gig. It was really a blast, and I'm also happy to say that my evil tendinitis hand didn't act up at all during the show. So far, so good. And... I'm glad to be back. I really miss my silly virtual shows when I'm not able to do them!

Today's Song Sample: "Rock and Roll Woman" (Buffalo Springfield)

Today's set list...
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
The Worst (Rolling Stones)
Court & Spark (Joni Mitchell)
*Rock and Roll Woman (Buffalo Springfield)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Nowhere Man (Beatles)
Thank You (Led Zeppelin)
Redemption Song (Bob Marley)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Jane (Barenaked Ladies)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
*Everybody's Alone (Neil Young)

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

Thanks to everyone who came to my show at The Majestic today. Thanks for supporting live music in SL!
Cy Nichols, Diana Renoir, Susanna Jansma, Ginger Marseille, Kat Claxton, Aurelie Chenaux, Triana Caldera, today's hostess Padula Bing, and one of SL best music fans, Cher Harrington!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Zak Claxton Podcast

As many of you know, I ran into a bit of a scary situation last week when I ran into an unexpected case of tendinitis in my left hand. That's the fretting hand of a right-handed guitarist, and it's not good. So, I did the right thing; saw my doctor, made sure it wasn't anything more serious, and have treated it with ibuprofen and ice. It has definitely improved, and while I had to unfortunately cancel a show while I healed, I hope to be back to playing guitar very soon.

During my unforeseen hiatus, I decided to at least make some musical use of the time away from actually playing guitar, so I'm happy to present the Zak Claxton Podcast for summer 2009. You can listen to me babble about various things, as well as listen to the mixes from my upcoming album. Enjoy.

Zak Claxton Podcast (Summer 2009)