Saturday, January 30, 2010

My second radio airplay

Terrestrial radio, that is. Once again, host John Maycumber of 89.9 WJCT's show "String Theory" was nice enough to give my song "Falling Down" a spin on his show. We got the tip ahead of time that I'd be on, so we camped out next to the computer and listened live. It's a pretty indescribable feeling, hearing a song you wrote and sang and played being broadcast over the airwaves.

Here's a short audio clip of the start/end of the song, with the back announcement.

As I mentioned last time I got played on terrestrial radio, I need to clarify this hoopla by mentioning that I get played almost every day on terrific Internet radio stations that focus on SL artists, like IndieSpectrum Radio and SL Live Radio. But there is something really special about knowing your stuff is being transmitted over the airwaves via big antennae.

Kat and I, in our roles of the owners of Frothy Music, are starting to get the album out to a wider variety of terrestrial and Internet radio stations around the world, so hopefully you'll soon be able to hear me live over the airwaves in your town.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Z's Music Club (01.27.10)

Photo courtesy of Crap Mariner.

I began yesterday's show at Z's Music Club being a bit of a whiny bitch. You gotta cut me some slack here, though; my audience at the top of the hour consisted of three people, two of whom worked at the club. I mean, c'mon; you name a musician, one who is worth a shit, who wouldn't be at least a little concerned about this revolting development. Not to go off on some silly ego trip, but I am Zak Claxton, goddammit! I've spent three years performing hundreds of shows in SL, and I'm not going to feign modesty when I say that I know I'm a talented and entertaining motherfucker.

I mean, I am.

So, I probably still would have just sucked it up, but even after a few more people started arriving, there were problems. I was told by the hostess via IM that her stream was cutting in and out. Well, that just took the cake. Not only was I playing my ass off for a tiny group of people, but then I wasn't even sure that the few of them who were there could hear me at all. Now can you see why I was a little miffed? In fact, heh heh, I started having thoughts go through my head while I continued to strum away. "This might be a good time for a long hiatus from SL," I thought to myself. "Maybe if folks have to wait a few months to see me, they'll appreciate me some more," I grumbled silently, possibly setting new records for unwarranted self pity.

Anyway, while pondering early retirement from my virtual music career, more people started showing up, and more people started reacting positively after each song, and maybe 20 minutes into the show, I was as chipper and happy as usual. Really, sometimes, you just gotta get over yourself. Not to make any excuses, but I should know that 5pm on a weekday is a shitty time to do a show in SL. After all, I did a 5pm slot every week for over a year, and it was a bitch getting folks there. It's too late at night for most European audiences, and too early for the West Coast crowd. Meanwhile, there seem to be ten million other shows scheduled for that crappy time slot, so you're dividing what little audience there is around too many places on the grid. Unless you're someone like Max Kleene, you're just not going to get a throng of people awaiting your entertainment magic at that time.

Long story short: after I gradually became aware that it's not all about me, I started having fun again, and I think I played pretty well, and enjoyed the show as I almost always do. I will say, though, that next time I'm invited to do a show at Z's, I'll try and get a slot that's less likely to cause me to want to stab a fork in my eye.

Zak's Z's Set List...
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Any Major Dude (Steely Dan)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Mother (Pink Floyd)
Rock and Roll Woman (Buffalo Springfield)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
I Am a Child (Neil Young)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
The Man Who Sold the World (David Bowie)
Big Bad Bill (Van Halen)

Thanks to everyone who came out to Z's to support my show!
Mack Humbridge, Sistagrlro Wei, Marifee Dexler, Kat Keen, jsmn Yao, Crap Mariner, hexx Triskaidekaphobia, TonewoodFrank Unplugged, Perkey Felwitch, Kaj Qinan, our hostess Jadzia Vasser, and Z's owner Zelema Wrigglesworth!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Notes Shack (01.24.10)

Kat and I were talking after I finished my show today at the Notes Shack, and I told her I thought it went pretty well for my not having played for two weeks.

"Three weeks," she corrected me. I started to deny this, but then had to acknowledge that it had indeed been exactly 21 days since my last virtual rock session. My pause each January to handle real-life affairs is at least that long so I can take care of business in the time leading up to the event, and then take a week to actually recover from it. In any case, by the time I got to the show today, I was definitely ready to play.

Winston Ackland had the slot before me, and it's always a pleasure to hear him play and hang out with his fun crowd. As far as my set went, I think it went really well, although I was certainly a little rusty from not having rocked the metaverse in so long. But still, it was a fun show, as shows at the Notes Shack usually are, and I'm glad to be rocking once again.

Today's set list...
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
California (Joni Mitchell)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Things Behind the Sun (Nick Drake)
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)
Come Around (Zak Claxton)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
†The Needle and the Damage Done (Neil Young)
Behind Blue Eyes (The Who)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
Tea in the Sahara (The Police)

Thanks to all who supported my show at the Notes Shack!
Triana Caldera, Tyl3r Ravinelli, Suteruni Susanto, Aurelie Chenaux, Jordan Morgenrote, Horizon Darkstone, Kat Claxton, Blindboy Gumbo, Styxl Gurbux, GM Nikolaidis, and the host with the most, Krakov Letov!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Welcome Back, Me

This is one of my favorite days of the year... when the NAMM show is over and I can begin the process of getting my brain back to its pre-trade show state. The show actually ended Sunday, but yesterday I was still in "stop the insanity" mode, and required a good 24 hours of normalcy before attempting to write anything. It's a good week to be in post-NAMM mode here in Southern California; we have a series of storms dumping rain and wind on the streets, so being in my warm home with a full pot of coffee near me is a good way to be at the moment.

While I prefer to put trade shows out of my head as quickly as possible and move on to other, less crazy things, here are a few shots from the show.

Standing outside the Anaheim Convention Center for a few moments of peace before heading back into the din.

Spending some time with my musical partner Phil O'Keefe, who was covering the show for Harmony Central and EQ Magazine

Heading back down the escalator between the ESP Guitars demo room and the Aphex booth. I made this little journey back and forth approximately 18,000,000 times during the show.

What's with the gratuitous cheesecake shot? I'd posted a pic of Kat and I in our hotel room, and my friend Botch requested more shots of "the babe on the bed". The pic above is what he got in return. He'll probably be more specific next time he asks.

So, now that that's done, it's time to get back into doing some things i'd rather be doing, which include...

• Writing some new songs! I haven't spoken about it too much, but while we're busy promoting the Zak Claxton album, I'm also working on several new tunes that will presumably end up on the next album. As I did over the course of 2007-2009, I'll be debuting these songs in my live shows in SL once I feel they're somewhat ready for prime time.

• Expanding my real life business. I've been rather complacent about my own business, which involves marketing and advertising for the music/pro audio products industry. It's pretty understandable, with a lot of stuff going on in the last couple of years that didn't allow me to focus on the growth of my little company. But I see some opportunity out there, and I might as well take it while I can.

• Get back into a regular schedule with my SL shows. Each January, I have to shut down my musical performances for awhile before the NAMM show (to prepare), and awhile after the NAMM show (to recover). I'm still in the midst of that recovery now; my voice currently sounds like shards of broken glass being scraped down a chalkboard. But with a little more rest, by this weekend, I'll be ready to rock again, and am doing so... my first show back will be Sunday 1/24 at the Notes Shack, so I'm looking forward to much strumming and singing and silliness in a short while, and will be continuing to add more shows to the schedule soon enough.

Anyway... I'm back! And happy to be here.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Some of you readers know me personally, but many more don't. If you're in the second group, there's something you probably don't know about me: I have almost no interest in material possessions. In fact, the less stuff I have, the less I have to worry about the stuff I have. However, every so often, I'm pretty much forced to get... stuff. And things.

Anyway, as previously referenced, I have to be at a trade show every January, and among the many things I don't like about trade shows is the expectation that one should dress as if one didn't just get out of bed and put on the closest and most comfortable thing one finds, as I tend to do during the other 350 days of the year that I'm not doing trade shows. Back when I was a young and ambitious corporate weenie, I would wear suits to trade shows. But those days ended long ago (I'm coming up on my seventh year as an independent businessman), and nowadays I try and do a hybrid of the businesslike and the casual. It fits my personality better, in any case.

More importantly, when you know you're going to be standing eight hours a day, and walking miles and miles around a convention center, there's nothing more important than good shoes. While I already have a couple of nive pairs of dress shoes, it really is torturous to have those hard soles under your feet all day. So, I went out with Kat and my son over the weekend and did some shopping. I bought a bunch of stuff, but I was happy to stumble across a couple of pairs of shoes that I thought were a nice bridge between being dressy and comfortable. Since I'm refusing to wear anything but jeans (albeit with a dress shirt and sports jacket), these should look pretty good and not hurt my precious feeties while I romp around the Anaheim Convention Center this year.

Cole Haan Zeno II Slip On

The only thing I know about shoes is that it's an area of apparel worth spending money and worth being brand conscious. There's a reason why Cole Haan has a long-standing great reputation as a shoe maker... their stuff is good.

Rockport Chartley

Again, Rockport has a reputation for being high quality and comfortable, and these may look a wee bit geeky, but since it's probably going to be raining this week, I wanted something that won't have me going ass-over-teakettle as I stroll around Anaheim. These look like they'll work. Besides, I never seem to have brown shoes, and I invariably find I need them occasionally.

So, there we have it. I no longer need to worry about walking around a trade show in my Nike Air Force 1's or my Vans skateboard shoes. That's probably a good thing.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Why I Disappear Every January: The NAMM Show

I don't know if I've blogged about this before, and I'm far too lazy to look back and see for myself.

If you're a Zakster, and thereby used to seeing me perform a couple times a week (or more) in SL, you may note that each January, I mysteriously vanish from the face of the (virtual) Earth. Perhaps you don't wonder; perhaps I'm being far too egotistical in imagining that people wonder about me when I'm not around. But, assuming you do indeed notice that I'm gone, I'm happy to tell you where I am.

I started working in the music/audio products industry at the tender age of 23, but even before that, I was well aware of something called the NAMM Show. At the time, NAMM seemed to me to be Christmas, the Super Bowl, and sex with 72 virgins all rolled into one amazing extravaganza. In fact, my first couple of NAMM shows were just that; I got to walk around a convention center, surrounded by guitars, keyboards, drums, recording gear, effects, and so on. But wait! There were also famous musicians cruising around those same aisles! I could look up and see many of my musical idols sauntering along next to me. It really felt like heaven at the time.

And, like so many things that disguise themselves as heaven, I found that after a few years of NAMM being a huge business event for me, rather than something built for my own entertainment, it transmorgified into hell.

Doesn't seem so bad, does it? Me with some well-known music gurus, including producer Michael Wagener and bass god Leland Sklar.

Why I Grew to Not Like NAMM
It's really pretty simple. I think anyone would understand.

1. I don't like crowds.
2. I don't like extended periods of really loud noise.
3. I don't like working 18-hour days for weeks in preparation.
4. I don't like having to babysit rock stars.
5. I don't like poseurs.
6. I don't like wearing anything beyond jeans and sneakers and t-shirts.
7. I don't like expensive and crappy convention food.
8. I don't like being in Anaheim.
9. I don't like having to schedule my time minute-by-minute for days on end.
10. I don't like feeling like I'm at a class reunion for four straight days every year.

It used to be much worse, mind you. The days where I was working inside a company and had to account for every second of my day, not being able to leave the booth or sit down, ever... that sucked mightily. Working for myself alleviates some of that, and NAMM hasn't been nearly as bad since I left the rat race in 2003. But it still isn't something I look forward to.

Now comes the time where you don't feel sorry for me. It's not like I'm being interrogated in Guantanamo Bay. All of the stuff above isn't that bad, and many, many people deal with much worse all the time. I'm merely telling you that given my druthers, I'd not choose to hang out in Anaheim for 4-5 days every January. That's all.

I do a pretty good job of trying to not look miserable while I'm there.

A Slight Difference in 2010
Looking on the bright side, there is one small change for this year that makes this NAMM show a wee bit more bearable than many of the past shows I've worked. For the first time in my 20+ year history of going to this show, I actually have some of my own music that I'd like to get noticed. NAMM actually does, in a small way, present an opportunity for me to get my album out to some reviewers and other influential people. So, I do find that in a small way, I am looking forward to that opportunity.

But still, in any case, I won't be performing live music between now and my next scheduled show, on Sunday 1/24 at the Notes Shack. Ironically, the time I spend at NAMM represents the longest I will go without playing an instrument each year, other than a few strums here and there as I help demo my clients' wares. In any case, you know know why I'll be conspicuously absent from SL nd playing music in general for a couple of weeks. The one saving grace of it all is that I look forward to the day after NAMM ends with a hunger and passion that borders on insanity. Monday 1/18 is my official Day of Rest and Fucking Off this year, and I plan on enjoying it to the max.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mr. Rogers

I decided to spend this morning's post on a subject other than myself (gasp! I know, it's shocking).

Being a human isn't a competition. If it was, we'd all be screwed, because the Michael Jordan of humanity left the court a long time ago. His name was Fred Rogers (March 20, 1928 – February 27, 2003), more commonly known as Mr. Rogers of the long-running PBS show "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood". His show was born not long before I was, so when I was a young child, Mr. Rogers was a staple in my household.

I have a personal connection to Fred Rogers in that he was a musician. You probably don't know that he wrote the lyrics and melodies to all of those great jazz-inspired songs you heard on the show -- over 200 of them. He received a BA in music in 1951, as I would do in 1992. But beyond that point, I'm afraid that comparing myself to Fred Rogers is a futile effort at best.

It's easy to poke fun at Mr. Rogers' personality. "That guy was creepy," my mom said recently. Really, what's "creepy" about Fred Rogers was the fact that he differed from so many of us in his completely sincere desire to help people with no expectation of re-compensation for his efforts. It went way beyond his ordainment as a Presbyterian minister. In fact, religious fundamentalists often grew irritated with Rogers; when he was asked to condemn non-Christians and gays for their beliefs, he'd instead tell them, “God loves you just the way you are.”

That's another area where Fred's and my beliefs intersect. Not the "God" part; for me, the jury will likely remain out on that topic my entire life. But I agree with Fred on the idea that no matter who you are and what you do, there is goodness inside of you. It's not always noticeable, nor is it easy to access for everyone, all the time. But ultimately, I do believe that people want to do the right thing... and some even do, from time to time.

It's likely you don't know too much about Fred, and that's okay. Most folks might have fond memories of his show, perhaps the little trolley ride into the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, or the donning of the cardigan sweater and sneakers as he arrived to start the day. But Mr. Rogers had a real life as well, one that was incredibly admirable. I pilfered most of the info below from a combination of Fred Rogers' Wikipedia page and from a great blog post from Mental Floss. I'm sure Fred would forgive me for the blatant plagiarism... at least I cite sources.

• In 1969, Fred was still relatively unknown, but that didn't stop him from saving public television. At the time, Nixon's government had decided that PBS was an unnecessary expenditure, and Fred went to Washington to testify before a Congress committee on the matter. His testimony lasted only six minutes, but in that time he convinced a bunch of hard-boiled politicians that "TV had the potential to give kids hope and create more productive citizens." The result? Instead of cutting the funding down from $9 million, they raised it to $22 million. You have also have Fred to thank for the digital video recorder that's probably in your home. Fred also was instrumental in stopping laws that would have blocked videotaping, since he explained how recording the shows would make it more likely that families could watch them at a later time when they were together.

• Interestingly, Fred had a TV show because he couldn't stand television. Any of us who have flipped through channel after channel of crap can understand. Fred saw TV in the '40s and it was a depressing moment, as he saw all the potential in the medium and almost none of it being utilized the right way. In an interview shortly before his death, he said, "I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there was some way of using this fabulous instrument to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen."

• He genuinely cared about people -- all people. There are tons of examples in this regard, but my favorite one is this. He was invited to dinner at the home of a PBS executive. They sent a limo to pick him up, and on the way, he chatted with the driver. Upon arriving, he asked the driver what he'd be doing while the dinner took place, and the driver told him he'd just wait in the car for two hours. Fred wouldn't hear of it, and insisted the man join them for dinner (can you even imagine?). On the way home, Fred also had the driver go by his own home, where Mr. Rogers came in, talked with the family, and played jazz piano to everyone's delight. Like he did with so many others with whom he'd connected, Fred kept in touch with the limo driver, sending notes and cards for the remainder of his life.

Fred Rogers had an ability that I quite obviously do not: he could say more in a few words than others can say in a novel. I pulled some of my personal favorite quotes of his from here.

"When I say it's you I like, I'm talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed."

"Discovering the truth about ourselves is a lifetime’s work, but it’s worth the effort."

"The world needs a sense of worth, and it will achieve it only by its people feeling that they are worthwhile."

"The thing I remember best about successful people I've met all through the years is their obvious delight in what they're doing and it seems to have very little to do with worldly success. They just love what they're doing, and they love it in front of others."

"Little by little we human beings are confronted with situations that give us more and more clues that we are not perfect."

I'll end today's tribute with one last story. Toward the end of his life, in 1997, Mr. Rogers was given a Lifetime Achievement award from the Emmys. Tom Junod wrote about the moment in Esquire Magazine:

"Mister Rogers went onstage to accept the award — and there, in front of all the soap opera stars and talk show sinceratrons, in front of all the jutting man-tanned jaws and jutting saltwater bosoms, he made his small bow and said into the microphone, "All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are. Ten seconds of silence."

And then he lifted his wrist, looked at the audience, looked at his watch, and said, 'I'll watch the time." There was, at first, a small whoop from the crowd, a giddy, strangled hiccup of laughter, as people realized that he wasn't kidding, that Mister Rogers was not some convenient eunuch, but rather a man, an authority figure who actually expected them to do what he asked. And so they did. One second, two seconds, seven seconds — and now the jaws clenched, and the bosoms heaved, and the mascara ran, and the tears fell upon the beglittered gathering like rain leaking down a crystal chandelier. And Mister Rogers finally looked up from his watch and said softly "May God be with you," to all his vanquished children."

Fred once said, ""You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are." I don't know anyone who had a deeper sense of self, and selflessness, than Fred Rogers. Hopefully, there are more people out there like him. I'll let you know if I ever meet one.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

SL News reports on ZC album release event

I woke today, and before I'd even had my first cup of coffee (which, incidentally, I'm still waiting on), I stumbled across something that made me quite happy: an article in the SL Newspaper on my in-world album release party from 12/18/09!

Ah, here's my coffee. Much better. Whew! Okay, I can think and write and stuff now.

In the article, writer Shellie Sands goes into detail about each song on my album, based on my explanations during the release event. That event, as you may recall, was different than anything I've ever done in SL in that I was not performing the songs live, but rather playing them back from my album like a DJ, and talking between each tune to tell my crowd some of the stories about writing, developing and recording the songs.

Shellie really captured the vibe of the event well in the article, with such detailed notes as, "The sixth track is "Sands of Redondo," one of the longer tracks, featuring drummer Bunny. Zak's home town is Redondo Beach, and he grew up as a surfer . The song is about his experiences going out on the rocky coastal areas and surfing in the more dangerous waves. At times he thought he would not make it back up to the surface and thought he would die. Of course, he didn't and attributes that experience to believing he could do anything. He credits the vibe of the song to Led Zeppelin."

Read the entire article here!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Triana's Music Trivia (01.03.10)

Ah, the first show of a new year! And what better place to do it than at Triana's Music Trivia, I ask you? I've probably mentioned this before, but the folks at Triana's really represent the first group of good friends that Kat and I made in SL when we joined in 2006. Since then, we've spent damn near every Sunday night playing at her music trivia game... and (more importantly) having loads of fun with Triana and the other regular attendees. During that time frame, I've performed live at Triana's request on maybe 4-5 occasions, and it's always fun.

Last night, in celebration of the new year, Tri had a formal trivia event and had me play live once again. Feeling festive, I even bought a new tux for the occasion. Much like real life, I'll probably only wear it a couple of times a year, but every guy should have some nice clothes in his closet- er, inventory, right?

The show itself was fine, and I pulled out a couple of rarities for the occasion.

Set list for Triana's 2010 new year trivia night...

Pigs on the Wing Part 1 (Pink Floyd)
Comes a Time (Neil Young)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Triana (Zak Claxton)
What I Got (Sublime)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
†Sour Girl (Stone Temple Pilots)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
The Man Who Sold The World (David Bowie)
Thank You (Led Zeppelin)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
†The Sands of Redondo (Zak Claxton)

† I hadn't played "Sour Girl" since December 2008, and my last live performance of "The Sands of Redondo" was in January 2009.

What would our Sunday evenings be without Triana's Music Trivia? Huge thanks to those who supported my show, and to all of our great friends at TMT!
Alchemy Epstein, Nakira Tennen, Pilze Braveheart, MrNoCal Honey, Diana Renoir, Mikehell Kronos, Rey Tardis, Jordan Hazlitt, Julianna Lionheart, Kat Claxton, and the lovely lady who makes it all possible, Triana Caldera!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Wharf Music - New Years Eve (12.31.09)

Happy New Year!

For the first time in a couple of years, I did a show on 12/31, this time at the new live music venue run by Ictus Belford and Peny Rexen, Wharf Music. The entire day was a blast, with Ictus himself opening the show at 3pm, followed by one of SL's best and most popular performers, Maximillion Kleene at 4pm. At 5pm, I got the fun task of following Max, which I've done before and enjoyed very much. This time was no exception. We had a terrific crowd who was in a partying mood, and I spent the time mixing originals and cover songs while counting down the minutes to 2010.

When I first started, I was concerned because the sim was full, and none of my Zaksters were able to get in. I needn't have worried; as usual, quite a few of Max's fans departed a short while after he finished, allowing my fans room to get in. All in all, it couldn't have gone better. I was in a great mood and had a fun time rocking out with old and new friends in SL.

New Year's Eve Set List...
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes (Crosby, Stills and Nash)
Heart of Gold (Neil Young)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
Jane (Barenaked Ladies)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Tribute (Tenacious D)
Behind Blue Eyes (The Who)
Who Do You Love (Bo Diddly)

Happy New Year, and huge thanks to the folks who supported my show at Wharf Music!
Don Baily, Shellie Sands, Suka Nishi, Triana Caldera, Diana Renoir, Mellifera Szondi, Julz Flanagan, Aurelie Chenaux, Nancy Lei, Quinton Whitman, Kat Claxton, Sheri Bury, and our hosts Ictus Belford and Peny Rexen!