Monday, September 28, 2009

"Thanks Anyway" Studio Mix

I don't usually explain too much about my songs, and I have no plans of starting to now. You hear the song; perhaps you like it, perhaps you don't. But if any piece of art can't exist without every onlooker knowing the exact intentions of the artist, it probably isn't all that great to start with.

That having been said, I'll tell you a couple of things about this latest track for my upcoming album that you can probably figure out on your own. First, it's the most straightforward pop song on the whole album. Second, it has a slightly juxtaposed effect of having pretty dark lyrics on top of this very light and airy musical motif. Finally, I've been playing this song in my live shows as a solo acoustic song (with just guitar and voice) for so long now that even though I was the one who recorded this track, it took me by surprise, hearing it mixed for the first time this morning. It's a nice feeling, having a song turn new again.

We're now down to two final songs remaining to be mixed, which will happen very soon. In the meantime, please enjoy "Thanks Anyway".


"Thanks Anyway"

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My debut on the radio

Awhile back, I was in SL minding my own business when I got a message from a resident I didn't know previously. Her name was Serenity Questi, and she had something to say to me that many musicians wait a lifetime to hear.

As it turns out, Serenity was renting some space in the SL parcel that Kat and I own, and she'd been listening to the Podcast of my music that I'd put on the parcel's media stream. As she listened, her boyfriend happened to hear the tunes as well, and enjoyed a couple of my tunes. That's always nice to hear, but there was something a little more significant about it in this case; her boyfriend was John Maycumber, a DJ who has a couple of different shows at stations in the northeast Florida area. One show was called String Theory, broadcast on Jacksonville's NPR affiliate 89.9 WCJT-FM.

String Theory is described as being a show for "modern acoustic alternative", which is about the best genre-based description of my acoustic musical style that I've ever heard. So, on his request, we put together a CD of the songs he'd indicated would be good for the show, and sent it off. After a semi-excruciating waiting period, we were told that John had indeed selected a song for inclusion on his show, and we waited anxiously for Friday night to come around. I had a live show in SL from 7-8, and immediately afterwards jumped over to iTunes and started listening to the station. Kat and I sat through the first couple of songs in the set; we've been listening to the show quite a bit and really enjoy the format regardless of my personal interest in being played. And then, at roughly 8:07PM, a very recognizable strum of a D chord came through the speakers. It was the beginning of my song "Falling Down".

While my music has been played dozens and dozens of times on Internet stations like Indie Spectrum and SL Live Radio, that moment on Friday night was the first time a song that I've composed (and played and sang on) was broadcast on terrestrial radio, over the airwaves. To say it was exhilarating is putting it mildly; Kat and I were pretty ecstatic, and sat here transfixed while my song played through. A short while later, John back announced what had been played, and again, hearing my name and song title on an NPR station was an incredible moment.

Below is a short snippet of the show from last night, including my complete song -- I couldn't help but record it for the history books, or the Zak Archives, or whatever you want to call it. We're well aware that this is only one play on one station that's not in the country's biggest market, but it's a start, and an exciting one at that.


Arubia Introduces (09.25.09)

Friday nights are a good time for shows in SL, or anywhere for that matter. Granted, you're competing against a bunch of other people performing at the same time, natch. However, it's made up for with the fun attitude of "Thank God the weekend is here!" from your crowd. We were fortunate to get a really fun batch of people at Aurelie Chenaux's Arubia Introduces live music venue, and everyone seemed very much ready for some rock and roll.

Now, usually I like to do my show, and then hang out for a little while afterwards, chatting with people and thanking them for coming, and so on. But we had a bit of a special circumstance tonight in that we were aware that one of my songs was going to be played on terrestrial radio for the very first time, and the radio program started at 8:00PM on the nose. That's why, having announced this fact beforehand, Kat and I had to sprint away seconds after playing the last chord of the final song. But let it be know, I had a terrific show at Arubia, and will definitely be pestering Aurelie to perform there again.

By the way; as if you couldn't tell from the set list below, I'm really focusing on my original tunes these days. And people seem to like them a lot, which makes me a happy little musician dude.

The Set List...
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
Peace Song (This Guitar Is My Weapon) (Zak Claxton)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Man of Constant Sorrow (Traditional)
Time Never Waits for You (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Big Bad Bill (Van Halen)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Come Around (Zak Claxton)

Gigantic thanks to my friends/fans (frans?) who supported my show and made it tons of fun...
kif Mizin, Cher Harrington, Horizon Darkstone, Diana Renoir, Xerxes Ninetails, Kat Claxton, MrNoCal Honey, Siobban Smythe, Aeriona Bartavelle, and my great friend Aurelie Chenaux!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Album Update: Where We At?

I'm like a cloud

If I really felt like it, I'm pretty sure I could write a book on making an album. I don't know that it'd be a very interesting book, and it might only have my own perspective on the matter, but I could fill page after page on the triumphs, trials, and tribulations of the process of recording a bunch of songs.

Since I have neither the time nor energy to write that book (I'd rather spend it on making another album), I guess a blog post will do just fine. Here's where things stand on the creation of my album as of today. Let's start at the beginning, though, okay?

June 1969: I am born. This may be when the universe began, for all I know.

Sometime in early 1973: For some weird reason, my parents place me in piano lessons before my fourth birthday. I'm sure I was precocious and all that, but it seems pretty young to me. I continue playing piano on and off for the rest of my life. Mostly off.

June 1977: I get a guitar for my birthday. Ah, that's more like it. I can carry it around (try that with a piano), and girls look at me in a different way when I play it. This must be something good.

December 1980: I play (and sing) in my first big show in front of people, at a recital put on by my guitar teacher. Completely coincidentally (I hope), John Lennon is killed in New York at the very moment I take the stage for the first time in LA. Spooky, huh?

Fall 1982: I start high school, and get some of my friends into being in a band with me. Thus starts a lifetime of trying to play music with other people, with varying results. One result is that for the first time, I'm starting to write my own songs. They are uniformly crap.

Sometime in 1984: I meet a high school buddy who is also into songwriting, and we spend every spare moment writing and recording songs (when we're not out being little criminals, which was unfortunately far too often). Mike and I write and record dozens upon dozens of songs. Nearly every one of them are utter crap, until we get a little older and start listening more (rather than just spewing sounds and words onto tape). After about 5-6 years of this, we start writing some pretty decent stuff. I also end up going to several music schools in this time frame, learning a lot about composition.

1992-2002: The Dark Ages, musically speaking. I am busy trying to build a career and a family. I do record occasionally and jam with friends from time to time, but it's almost always on other people's songs. Creatively, I am funneling my efforts to things other than music. It's a shame, since I probably could have done some interesting stuff in that decade. Every so often, I pick up a guitar and strum a bit, and some of the themes I noodle with at this point do make a difference down the road (ooh, foreshadowing moment).

2000: While being a marketing weasel for a pro audio company, I become acquainted with one of our outside product beta testers, some guy with a studio in Riverside named Phil O'Keefe.

2001: Having been into Internet-type stuff for awhile already, I become a member on the MusicPlayer forums (the people who make magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, EQ and so on). I meet several people with like-minded musical outlooks, including Bunny Knutson and Ken Lee. Phil O'Keefe is also a member there.

2002-2006: On the insistence of an old friend, I join a local band that's playing the covers circuit. While it doesn't do much for my creative output, it gets me back into playing on a regular basis so my skills are honed again.

October 2006: My ladyfriend and I discover Second Life, which is cool because at the time, she's living in Seattle and I'm here in LA, and it allows us to feel like we're hanging out. One of the things we do is go check out some live music. "I can do that," I say to her.

February 2007: I finally sit down and start writing some songs. After doing a few silly tunes to get back into it, I do my first couple of serious songs in many years: "This Afternoon" and then "Falling Down". The latter tune was one I'd been fiddling with for years and finally finished.

April 2007: Armed with a new acoustic guitar and a set of harmonicas, I start playing shows in Second Life. My early shows are 90% covers, but I throw in my own stuff as well. In addition to the first two original tunes, I pretty quickly add another new one, called "Always Tomorrow".

October 2007: I bust out a new song that I was calling "For This Moment" at the time. That song gets refined and expanded and ends up as "Waiting for This". Later that same month, another new one pops out. I call it "Nothing Stays the Same", and eventually the chorus gets retooled and it becomes "Lines On Your Eyes".

February 2008: Another blast of creativity hits me, resulting in "Thanks Anyway". That month, I start talking to Phil O'Keefe and Bunny Knutson about getting together to start recording some of my songs. They seem into the idea.

March 2008: We go into Phil's studio, Sound Sanctuary, and record the first two tracks ("Falling Down" And "This Afternoon") in one day.

May 2008: On a cloudless spring day, I write "You're Like a Cloud". Phil delivers the first two rough mixes for the album. I am happy.

June 2008: Another recording session with Phil and Bunny, this time for "You're Like a Cloud" and "Thanks Anyway".

October 2008: I write "The Sands of Redondo" while sitting in my apartment, wishing I was on the beach instead.

November 2008: Our third recording session. This time, we're joined by Ken Lee, as well as my darling Kat. We record "The Sands of Redondo" as well as "Always Tomorrow". Also, Phil sends a rough mix of "You're Like a Cloud". I am happy.

December 2008: Never having been very happy with an earlier rendition of the song, I revise it and end up with the final version of "Lines On Your Eyes".

January 2009: Phil sends a rough mix of "The Sands of Redondo". I am happy.

March 2009: The muse brings her sledgehammer; I write another three new songs in a couple of weeks. One, "Come Around", is just what I need to kick up the rock quotient on the album. The second, which I don't realize yet, is going to stay an instrumental, and I call it "Waxing Gibbous". The third new one, "Time Never Waits for You", is good, yet I decide to not record it for this album, perhaps to save for the next one. Later that month, we go back for our fourth recording session, and record "Waxing Gibbous", "Come Around", and "Lines on Your Eyes".

April 2009: I pull out another new tune, and a month later do lyrics for it. It's called "Fade Away", and it's the most recent new song I'd write that would be recorded on this album.

May 2009: Phil delivers mixes for "Waxing Gibbous" and "Come Around". I am happy.

July 2009: Our fifth session at Sound Sanctuary has us recording "Fade Away" and "Waiting for This". Phil sends over the rough mix for "Lines On Your Eyes". I am happy.

August 2009: We go in for our sixth and final recording session, doing vocals and guitar overdubs for "Fade Away" and "Waiting for This".

September 2009: Phil sends over the rough mix for "Fade Away". I am happy. Phil sets to work on the three remaining mixes ("Thanks Anyway", "Always Tomorrow", and "Waiting for This").

And that, my friends, brings us up to today. In just a few weeks, we'll be headed back to the studio once again, to do a final listen on all of the mixes and let Phil work his last bit of magic before shipping the mixes off for mastering, then replication for CDs and uploads for online music stores. And now, you know. Whew.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Jester Inn -- Peace Day (09.21.09)

As I mentioned a few days ago , Harrie Skjellerup asked if I could perform at her special day-long event at the Jester Inn for the United Nations International Day of Peace. Well, first, I love playing at the Jester Inn on any day. Second, I'm always supportive of peace. Seems like a good day to rock Pixel Hill!

Harrie put together a pretty outstanding group of musicians for the show, beyond my usual silliness. It started at 10am with Strum Diesel, and then Zorch did his thing. My pal Blindboy Gumbo was up next at noon, followed by Obeloinkment at 1:00. And then I did my slot (following me was the final performer, Didier Soyuz, who was incredible as usual). First, since I know the Jester Inn people appreciate original music (duh), I kept a bunch of my own tunes in the set. In terms of the covers I chose today, you have to know that I've played three shows in four days, which is much more than my typical one show per week (or less) that I've done lately. I wanted to play some rare stuff for my regular fans so I didn't bore them to death. Combined with the peace theme of the day, it made for an interesting group of tunes. I also used the opportunity to get inspired by the event, and wrote/performed a new tune just for this show.

Song Sample: "Peace Song (This Guitar Is My Weapon)" (Zak Claxton)

My peaceful set list...
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Court & Spark (joni Mitchell)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Driven to Tears (The Police)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Down by the River (Neil Young)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Tribute (Tenacious D)
*Peace Song (This Guitar Is My Weapon) (Zak Claxton)

*Indictates first time I've performed this song in SL

Thanks to everyone who helped support my show at Jester Inn today!
Kat Claxton, EvaMoon Ember, Gretchen Capalini, Andre Pawlowski, Blindboy Gumbo, Jeaninne Mathilde, Horizon Darkstone, Diana Renoir, Persia Bravin, Aurelie Chenaux, Obeloinkment Wrigglesworth, and the most excellent hostess of today's event, Harrie Skjellerup!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Triana's Music Trivia (09.20.09)

Ah, Triana's Music Trivia. Some of my & Kat's best friends in all of SL were those we got to know here. In fact, having started our weekly trivia night every Sunday there shortly after we first joined SL in 2006, we've been going to TMT for almost three years now. It's a fun thing to do no matter what, but performing there (which I've done 4-5 times) is an absolute blast.

We had most of our usual trivia pals there, plus a number of folks who came in for the Zak show. It was completely zany as usual, though I was trying my best not to read the chat window as I was trying to get through my songs without laughing.

Song Sample: "Woodstock" (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young version)

The set list for Triana's...
Triana (Zak Claxton)
Jane (Barenaked Ladies)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
She's Always a Woman (Billy Joel)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Plush (Stone Temple Pilots)
Come Around (Zak Claxton)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Woodstock (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)

Thanks to all the great friends and trivia peeps who supported my show!
Alchemy Epstein, Nakira Tennen, Tessa Rhiadra, Kat Claxton, Diana Renoir, Jordan Hazlitt, MrNoCal Honey, Jura Shepherd, Ictus Belford, Samantha Poindexter, jsmn Yao, hexx Triskaidekaphobia, Xerxes Ninetails, Julianna Lionheart, and the lady who isn't trivial to us, Triana Caldera!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ambrosia Dance Club (09.18.09)

Let's make an analogy that everyone can understand here. Have you ever been to a party where the food was good, the drinks were plentiful, the location was nice, but regardless of all that, you just never really felt at ease with the surroundings?

Sigh. That's been me twice now at Ambrosia Dance Club, which is actually a really cool place, and an attractive build, with nice people who work there and run the place. That having been said, as I told my core group of fans after the show yesterday, "That was fun. Let's not do it again."

As a singer/songwriter, I'm much more comfortable in a setting where people are really getting into the music, as opposed to being the background noise for people to dance, or to cyber-sex with other audience members. Again, this isn't about Ambrosia specifically. I had a good show there with a pretty big crowd, and we (the Zaksters and I) had a good time. But given the choice, I don't think I'll be going out of my way to perform there again. It's just not a songwriter showcase type of place. No offense intended, and hopefully none taken. If I was looking for a cool spot to dance in SL, I'd hit it in a second.

Set List:
Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
Sex and Candy (Marcy Playground)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Wonderwall (Oasis)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Fire & Rain (James Taylor)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Heart of Gold (Neil Young)
Come Around (Zak Claxton)
Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Queen)
Who Do You Love (Bo Diddly)

Thanks to the nice folks who helped support my show!
Jordan Hazlitt, Triana Caldera, Layla Beningborough, Purdy Forcella, Jukebox Diesel, Yasmin Cao, Diana Renoir, Parser Lane, Khaiko Nyoki, Aurelie Chenaux, hexx Triskaidekaphobia, ivoni Miles, and Ambrosia's host Phil Kearny!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

International Day of Peace: 9/21/09

I rarely use this blog space to talk about upcoming shows; you can already see my show calendar in about 50 different places on the Interwebz (like in the side column of my official blog, or here, or here, and so on). But this time, there's a reason beyond my overly-inflated ego for me to tell you about a show that's important for reasons beyond my participation.

Monday, September 21 2009 is the United Nations International Day of Peace, and I was asked by one of SL's finest venue owner/managers, Harrie Skjellerup, to perform at the event. I am completely honored to be involved. To explain why, I want to quote something something from the event's website:

The United Nations' International Day of Peace - marked every year on September 21 - is a global holiday when individuals, communities, nations and governments highlight efforts to end conflict and promote peace.

Those of you who know me pretty well are aware that I'm not much of a hippie, or at least not an obvious one. But I am fundamentally opposed to war -- ALL war. I optimistically believe that a time will come that war is a distant memory of an earlier, barbaric era of mankind. This probably won't happen in my lifetime, or my son's, or his son's, or maybe many generations of people. But I do believe it will happen. And, unlike many of the other woes that affect humanity, I think that war is something that can be affected through cultural change.

Music has been an important part of our cultural heritage going back to prehistory. While I don't think anyone can write a pop tune and change the world, I believe that taking one day to be aware of the power of peace is a great use of time. It is, after all just one day. You can get back to killing and hatred the following day, if that's what floats your boat. But on September 21, it would be great if people around the world could reflect on how far they could progress if they weren't hampered by the horrors of war.

Enough preaching on that topic. Come on out to the Jester Inn on Monday. It's a great lineup of musicians, and it's bound to be a fun show. Oh, and by the way: I was inspired to write a new, original tune for this event. I may only play it once, for all I know, so please come by for my 2:00PM SLT slot. I promise not to preach at you very much, and let's have some fun and promote peace, just for one day.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Zak weighs in on Second Life Cover Charges

Since everybody and their respective monkeys have offered an opinion on the proposals to standardize cover charges at Second Life live music shows, I felt a need to add my L$10 to the fray. Don't worry; I don't think you'll find anything particularly inflammatory or controversial here. Just a few thoughts on the topic. First, the background.

Flame On!
Late last month, the Second Life Newspaper ran an article on a cover charge system that was brought up by a fellow SL musician, Mankind Tracer. Note that I said "brought up"; he's hardly the first person to suggest this plan, nor the first to implement it. But he seems to be the focus of the controversy for current go-round of the idea that SL audiences should pay a cover charge to see live music events, as opposed to relying on people's desire to tip artists and venues on their own accord.

Why is this even being considered?
Pretty simple answer to a complex situation: it's getting harder and harder for venues to pay performing musicians. Many venues that formerly offered a fee to musicians found themselves unable to do so for various reasons, and one of two things happened; they either closed their stages, or they convinced the musicians that performing for tips only was in the best interest of everyone. So today, the majority of places you go to see live music in SL do NOT pay their musicians (but some still do... more on that in a bit).

So, according to the article, Mankind Tracer's plan would have a preset entry fee, enforced by a "bouncer bot" that would eject non-paying residents from shows. He initially suggested a ticket price of L$500 (about two US dollars, for those of you unfamiliar with SL's in-world currency) for an artist of his caliber, from which a 20% portion of the total take would go to the venue. Sounds pretty good on paper, at least for the artist and the venue, right? Let's say Mankind gets 30 people to come to the show at L$500 a pop. The evening grosses L$15,000, the venue takes $3,000, and everybody is happy, right?

Here's why this system is not going to work for most artists, venues, and (most importantly) audiences in SL live music. In no particular order...

• Standardization simply does not work in SL. The moment that a number of venues switched over to a cover charge system, the very first thing that will happen is a backlash from other artists and venues who will begin using the LACK of charges as an advertising bullet point. "COME TO OUR SHOW! NO COVER CHARGES!". You get the picture.

• Many musicians do not WANT to charge audiences. I think of people like Soundcircel Flanagan, who, in March 2008 after becoming disgusted with the commerciality of the SL music scene, not only stopped charging venues fees for his performances, but also stopped putting out a tip jar or soliciting tips at all from his audience. You're going to tell a guy like that to have shows where people cannot attend without a mandatory fee? Some of these people do what they do for the love of playing, such as Soundcircel referenced above. Others have a more self-centered agenda: they want to use SL as a springboard for their real life music, and it should go without saying that the promotional opportunity of exposing one's music to a worldwide audience has a great value. I would probably fit well in that second group, though there's more to my story, as I'll explain shortly.

• Many venues do not want to be told how to host shows. If they're happy with the way things have been rolling, or perhaps have a different business model that allows them to be profitable (or at least not lose money) in hosting live shows, why throw a wrench into that system? For example, I can think of several venues in SL that have corporate sponsorship from business outside of SL. Their job is to get as many people to the sim/venue to expose audiences to promotional messages from the sponsor. They don't need an added impediment to getting people to go there... quite the opposite, in fact. Other places enjoy the hippie-like aspect of free shows, free music, good times for all. Who am I to argue against that perspective?

• Audiences lose. They just do, in a number of ways.

a. Brand new residents in SL are automatically excluded from shows with a cover charge system... the majority of them don't start out in SL with any intention of putting real money into what they consider a video game. Getting those new people to become fans of your music is crucial for anyone interested in building a fan base in SL for their music.

b. It's a common activity for people to bounce around between various shows over a limited time period. Are they going to be able or willing to continue to do so once it costs money just to enter a venue? But wait, this gets better: how does one go about checking out a new artist to see if they're any good if it's going to cost them money? In turn, new artists in SL who have yet to develop a fan base will have a really hard time trying to do so.

c. What happens with tips? Many people seem to enjoy using tips as a way of personally expressing pleasure to the musician. I can tell you, though: if I paid for a ticket to see an artist, I would not feel in any way compelled to then tip the artist in addition to the ticket fee. When's the last time you threw extra money on a stage after buying a ticket (or paying a cover charge) to see a band in real life?

So, this is a really bad idea, right?
No, not at all. There are certain places and certain musicians for whom this might really work well. Granted, the first reports of the use of Mankind's cover charge system were pretty distasteful to me, since Mankind reportedly continued soliciting for tips despite the cover charge being enacted. Perhaps that was due to the fact that the initial show used only a L$1 fee to prove the concept; perhaps he'd have refrained from asking the audience for tips had the fee been in the L$500 range he originally suggested.

But the one thing I'm saying is that it's fine to have a cover charge system! However, please, for the love of all that is good and well in the world, do not try and evangelize such a system, or have any expectations that it's something that's going to work well for all venues and/or all musicians... and certainly not all audiences either. I think the inherent flaws in this plan are screamingly obvious.

But don't just listen to me.
There has been a ton of insightful commentary around the SL blogosphere and on forums related to the SL music scene with every possible opinion you can imagine stated, often with a ton of flowery prose that makes it seem as if this little idea was the end of the entire world as we know it. But there are some great points made, and some funny points as well, so feel free to dive into any of the following for some wider perspectives.

1. Crap Mariner sees the demo of Mankind Tracer's bouncerbot.

2. Salome Strangelove comments on this return of the SL live music drama llama.

3. Zorch Boomhauer gives Mankind some ideas of where to lodge a rabid badger.

So what IS your deal, Zak?
Nothing like listening to a person complain who won't offer any solutions, eh? Well, I have no solutions that work for the entire SL live music scene. Why? BECAUSE THERE ARE NONE. There are far too many individualized circumstances, different goals, different definitions of success in SL live music, that imposing ANY one solution is bound to be at the detriment of people who don't share the same views. Should some artists and venues adopt a cover charge system? Sure, if it works for them. But in no case should any artist or venue be made to feel like they are not supporting the live music scene by choosing NOT to implement such a system. The best bet is to do what we've always done: let people try different things and see what works and what doesn't, and do what they feel is right. That's all. No drama required.

I alluded above to my reasons and desires for performing in SL. I am indeed getting close to wrapping up an album of original music, and one of the things that's most important to me is simply being able to play my songs for people who might enjoy them, perchance for them to be interested enough to buy my album or purchase/download my songs once they're available for sale. But I also play in SL because I simply love playing live music... it's a great adrenaline rush, just like any stage in the world. That having been said, do I want to play in SL for free? No! I do quite a lot to prepare for and execute my shows in SL, and it takes quite a bit of time and money investment -- for my music gear, for my stream costs, and so on. So, I'm the person in the middle, neither trying to rely on SL to pay my bills, nor taking the "music should be free, maaaaaan" approach either. And in any case, I'm very happy to have the free will to do shows as I see fit, and to have my audience be able to easily access my shows and have a good time. That doesn't seem like too much to ask.

Last point in this needlessly long-winded diatribe: I do not know Mankind Tracer. I understand he's a nice guy and talented as well. But he is one of more than 300 people who play in SL on a regular basis (i.e. weekly or more). And that's just the artists; many more are involved in this little community... like the venue owners, managers, and the audience (let's not forget them, ya know). It's a tough thing to imagine that one person could come up with such a great plan that it would be immediately acceptable by a majority of the community. I have yet to find three people, much less three hundred, that can completely agree on one way to improve the SL live music scene.

So, best of luck to all... those trying to find new ways to make it work, and those happy with the current environment. It's the fact that this stuff is being discussed and raising attention which might have the greatest effect, rather than the implementation of any "one size fits all" policy or program for Second Life music.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Notes Shack (09.13.09)

Yesterday evening, Kat and I found some rare time to go check out some other artists playing in SL. We caught most of Charles Coleman's show at new venue called Sydney's Live Music, and later on we visited the great-looking venue Heron Island Performance Center to see one of my personal favorite SL musicians, Grace McDunnough. I think seeing Grace always makes me aware that it's not necessary to play as hard and fast as I usually do in my "default rock guy" mode. She tends to play softly and accentuate her lyrical message as much as anything.

So, today at The Notes Shack, I think I took a little inspiration from Grace and did quite a bit of stuff that was more on the mellow, songwriterly side. As is often the case at the Notes Shack, we had a rather small crowd but they were cool people who were digging the tunes, and I ended up having a great time. Also, since it had been awhile since I'd played anything new, I pulled out a Who song from the album Quadrophenia, which is always a welcome band to cover at a classic rock place like the Notes Shack. I also did a Joni Mitchell song that I've barely ever done in SL, since it requires me to drop the security of a guitar pick and use my fingers. All in all, it was a very fun show, as I'd expected it would be.

Listen now! Song sample from today's show: "A Case of You" (Joni Mitchell)

Set list du jour...
Rock and Roll Woman (Buffalo Springfield)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
*Is It In My Head (The Who)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
A Case of You (Joni MItchell)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Love Hurts (Everly Brothers)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Come Around (Zak Claxton)
Lines On Your Eyes (Zak Claxton)

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

Thanks to all who came to today's show, and especially those who helped support it!
Jeorge Carver, Angelina Rhode, Ezra Raymaker, Jordan Hazlitt, JimRockfords Smalls, Triana Caldera, Diana Renoir, Aurelie Chenaux, Geddy McGettigan, Kat Claxton, Tad Morenz, Grace McDunnough, and the awesome Notes Shack host, Krakov Letov!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fibber Magees (09.09.09)

Why was today's show at Fibber Magees one of my best ever in 2-1/2 years of doing shows in SL? I can tell you right away, it wasn't because of anything special about my own performance. I know I played well, but I generally do, all modesty aside. No, today's show was great because we had a large and boisterous crowd of really fun people and good friends. It really comes down to that. The audiences never realize how important they are to inspiring a musician who's playing live in front of them.

Anyway, we had some 30 people at the club, and a number more who were listening in on the stream, so I enjoyed the opportunity to showcase my original songs. Today being not only 9/9/09 but also the day that the Beatles have released their remastered albums, I made sure to include a few Beatles covers in the set list. The show was so fun today, in fact, that I've decided to give you the entire hour-long performance to listen to here if you want.

•••Entire Show Recording: Zak Claxton Live at Fibber Magees, September 9, 2009 (60 minutes)•••

Today's set list at Fibber Magees:
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Behind Blue Eyes (The Who)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
She's Leaving Home (Beatles)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
California (Joni MItchell)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Tribute (Tenacious D)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Nowhere Man (Beatles)
A Day in the Life (Beatles)
Come Around (Zak Claxton)

Huge thanks to my terrific audience today, especially those who helped support my show:
Carson Coberts, Diana Renoir, Experiment Rhode, Triana Caldera, kalisto Strathearn, Isobela Capalini, Mimi Carpenter, Galley Bellic, Mariposa Upshaw, Olive Adored, Cosmic Beres, Jane1 Bookmite, Soundcircel Flanagan, latulipe Boorman, Aurelie Chenaux, our hostess Padula Bing, and the always-amazing Cher Harrington!

Monday, September 7, 2009

"Fade Away" -- The Lazy Video

Some people like to watch things while they listen to music. Hey, why not? Since we're not going to start making "real" videos until all the songs for the album are mixed and mastered, we like to throw together something for you to stare at while the song plays. Watch me change colors before your very eyes! Enjoy.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

"Fade Away"

For a recording musician, receiving a mix of your song is every bit as exciting as waking up on Christmas morning when you're eight years old. It's really fun hearing your stuff the way your listeners will, for the very first time.

The latest track is "Fade Away". Enjoy. If the player below isn't working for you, try visiting the Zak Claxton site's Music page.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Galerie d'Art du Chardon (09.04.09)

For my first show in September, I debuted at Galerie d'Art du Chardon, which is a well-designed outdoor garden and art gallery. I had the interesting experience of performing at this venue that's oriented toward the French audience of Second Life, as you can probably tell by the name. That's why I was playing at 12:30PM... in Paris, that's 9:30 at night. Bon soir, everyone.

By the way: I really tried to reach into the depths of my brain and recall any of my French from my high school classes oh so long ago. I think my French-speaking audience appreciated my effort, if not the results of it. And, speaking of the audience, that was one area where I'd have liked to have a little... more. The crowd seemed to enjoy themselves, but it was a pretty small group of about 15 people max. I don't mind playing for small crowds, but add in the language barrier, and it was a small and mostly quiet crowd.

Fortunately, my voice and guitar were both feeling great, and I was very happy with my performance. That's good, because I realized later that I'd had a decent number of people listening in to the show via my stream, without being in SL. I'd listed the stream info as a Facebook update, and had a few folks contact me after the show to tell me they'd enjoyed it from wherever they were. So that was cool. Gotta keep in mind that the audience is more than just the folks in front of my face.

Song Sample: "Tea in the Sahara" (The Police)

The Set List:
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Any Major Dude (Steely Dan)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Redemption Song (Bob Marley)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Free Man in Paris (Joni Mitchell)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
Tea in the Sahara (The Police)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Nobody Home (Pink Floyd)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Lines On Your Eyes (Zak Claxton)

Thanks to the visitors of the Galerie who supported my show!
Jeorge Carver, laurine Jewell, Twstd Ruggles, Aurelie Chenaux, and today's hostess, sweetpea Shilova.