Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pointless Interim Post

So, as no one at all has noticed, I am on a brief hiatus from performing and recording music while I am busy working in the business that makes tools for people who perform and record music. Ironic, isn't it? I'll be back doing my usual thing in a week or so, but meanwhile, I thought I should write a pointless and random blog post to tide you over until I have actual things that are worth writing about. Shall we begin?

I bought some new jeans a couple of weeks ago. I often go clothes shopping for myself around this time of year for a couple of good reasons. First, I usually like to freshen my wardrobe for the aforementioned annual music business event that takes me away from my music. Second, I tend to have gift certificates that were given to me over the holidays, and I like to use them before I forget about them (which is actually what every store who sells someone a gift certificate wants to happen).

Hmm. There's something familiar about my new jeans.

After buying said jeans, I took them home, as one does. It wasn't until a few days later, while preparing my laundry, that I realized I already owned the exact same pair of jeans. Same store, same size, same style. Precisely the same, in every way. So, at least I'm consistent, even if the result is that people think I never change my pants.

They Stole My Crayon
Perhaps the thing I'm looking forward to most, after my business event is done and finished, is getting back to working on songs with my new little band They Stole My Crayon. This band includes my darling Kat Claxton and my pal Bunny Knutson, and we've already wrapped up the recording of one song that is being mixed by Phil O'Keefe at this very moment. We have many more ideas for exciting new music, so that's something fun to look forward to.

Kat, Bunny, and I are making music that's not quite like other music we may have made before.

Moon and Jupiter Conjunction
I like to look at the sky. Sometimes, I even know what I'm looking at. Last night was a good example, when the moon and Jupiter conjoined in an awesome fashion.

Sometime this Spring, Kat and I are planning yet another trip to Joshua Tree, and hopefully we'll be able to do that during a new moon. We'll take out the big telescope and have fun peeping on our neighbors in the universe. Sometimes, it's equally awe inspiring to not use the scope, and just kick back and watch the Milky Way. Hey, it's our home galaxy. We should notice it every once in awhile. We do live here, you know.


Because, coffee.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Key West (01.11.13)

I'll tell ya... I can't wait to get back to a point where I can write up a blog report on one of my shows the following day. Lately, that's not been possible, but I have an excuse. A good one.

I'm getting ready for the NAMM Show. My real life business is a small marketing communications firm who caters to the musical instrument and pro audio industries, and NAMM is the year's biggest event by a mile. So, as I've written about many times before, I have to spend a good portion of November through January every year helping my clients get ready for it in various ways. What kind of ways? Well, I write press releases, I do web content, I manage social networks, I create signage for their booths, I do spokesperson appearances for them during the show itself, I create print ads and giveaways and... yeah, all that stuff that people do for a trade show.

I do like my job; if I didn't, I'd do something else. But that doesn't mean it's always easy. That having been said, excuse my tardiness on the following report from my show at Key West in Second Life on Friday night. I'd have written it sooner, but sometimes my music career takes a back seat to my other responsibilities. Such is life, right?

Rocking Key West. Photos by Kat.

Good crowd, good tunes, good times. Photos by Kat.

It's easy to say how my show was at Key West, because it was awesome. See, every show I do at Key West ranks among my best, and this one was perhaps even a little better than usual, if that's possible. Max Kleene, who I've long considered a good friend, had the slot before me. I've been fortunate enough to follow Max on probably a dozen occasions or more, and there's a secret to doing it well. First, Max's large crowd is generally open to checking out artists they don't know, and Max always encourages them to stick around for whomever is following him. Second, it's a good idea to open with something that's in line with Max's style. I chose Paul Simon's "Call Me Al"; I figured that the uptempo, happy vibe of the song would work with Max's crowd, and I wasn't wrong. Third, don't be disappointed if your crowd diminishes eventually. Max is perhaps the most popular musical entertainer in all of Second Life, so you'd need to have a pretty bad case of narcissism to assume you'll retain the attention of everyone who was at his show.

For my show on Friday night at Key West, we actually kept a good chunk of Max's crowd while adding on the Zaksters who came for me. The result was a really good audience, and I found myself inspired to play and sing well. I found more inspiration from an older source: David Bowie, whose new song "Where Are We Now?" got covered by me for the first time. I told everyone it was the world's first live cover of that song, and until I'm proven otherwise, I'm sticking to that story.

Key West Set List...
Call Me Al (Paul Simon)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Waterloo Sunset (The Kinks)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Northern Sky (Nick Drake)
Ashes to Ashes (David Bowie
*Where Are We Now (David Bowie)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Blue Sky Mine (Midnight Oil)
California (Joni Mitchell)
Frigid Spring (Chairlift)
Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell)

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

Big thanks to all who came out to this great Key West show, especially those who helped support it! See you next time!
Eflie, TheaDee, Gray Halostar, Alexis Fairlady, pinklady2, Kathy Dayton, Textress Bohemian, Cellandra Zon, Maximillion Kleene, Aurelie Chenaux, Kat Claxton, and the amazing staff at Key West (especially owner/manager and good friend Liz Harley)!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


I was driving my son to school this morning. He's in middle school, an age when you are open to discovery of things that you may end up appreciating your whole life. A short while earlier, he'd heard me raving almost incoherently about the surprise I received upon waking today, which was that a new David Bowie album had been announced, the first in ten years, and that a new single and video had been released.

He asked me about it, and I tried to explain David Bowie in the 30 seconds I had before dropping him off. Here's what I came up with:

"You know how some people occasionally do things or say things or look a certain way or whatever, and you recognize that the person is cool? Well, when David Bowie does something, it's automatically cool. In fact, the definition of cool is whatever David Bowie happens to be doing at any given moment."

Yeah, that seems about right. I mean, how else are you going to explain Bowie? It's easier to explain the wind, or a hummingbird.

Ziggy to Zak
I really can't explain how influential Bowie has been on my music. You don't hear it all the time when you listen to my stuff, if ever. But I will say that he's there, somewhere, in nearly everything I write.

It's actually a test of maturity and higher-level thinking, I believe, to appreciate Bowie. I'm not talking about a song or two that makes you hum along. I mean the entire oeuvre that comprises the man's work as a whole. When I was ten years old in 1979, I was up late one night while staying at a friend's house, watching a pre-MTV music video show (perhaps it was "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert" or the like), and a video came on. It was the debut of the song "DJ" from the then-new album Lodger, and I didn't get it. I really thought it was weird. I was ten.

Well, some music isn't for ten year olds. Most music is, but some isn't. Despite my evaluation of weirdness at the time, I still was intrigued. It certainly didn't sound like AC/DC or Aerosmith. I wasn't even sure it was rock (which I knew I liked as a genre). As I got a little older into my early teens, I began that magical process of going back through time, listening to Bowie's early stuff and all the way through his mid-70s work. And then, Let's Dance came out and I was miffed that suddenly everyone liked this artist who I'd assumed I had discovered.

Bowie and My New Band
When I was trying to articulate what my new band They Stole My Crayon should be all about, it was difficult, because I really wanted the songs to be different from what I'd written before. I wanted them to be experimental. I wanted them to sometimes make people uncomfortable. I wanted them to be fearlessly innovative. I wanted spaciousness intertwined with intimacy, coldness and warmth, light and shadow. I wanted it to be difficult for people to describe what kind of music it was.

In short, I wanted it to be Bowie, or to evoke the ideas that his music does, to some degree.

So, I find it tremendously encouraging and inspiring to wake up today and suddenly have new Bowie to listen to multiple times (thrice while I wrote this post). Some of my favorite artists, despite being old, are not only continuing to put out new material, but it's damn good stuff, and none of them seem to be trying to cash in toward the end of their careers and lives. Bowie, for one, not only remains relevant; he defines relevancy for everyone else.

That's what good art will do. And David Bowie is an artist... one of the only ones.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Molaskey's Pub (01.03.13)

After Wednesday's surprise rezday party for Christina Haiku, my first "real" Zak Show of 2013 happened the following night at Molaskey's Pub. I've written many, many, many times about Molaskey's over the years I've been performing there. One of the best live music venues in SL? You betcha. But making matters even better than usual on that night was the fact that I was in a lineup of performers who count among my best pals in the SL music community. It was a "Maali's Kids" show, meaning that Sassy Nitely, Lyndon Heart, and I were all playing back-to-back.

Perhaps it was some of the leftover good vibes from the new year's festivities, or maybe everyone was relieved that the holidays were over and life was returning to normalcy, but it seemed to be particularly fun that night at Molaskey's. It started with Sassy, and I made sure to arrive plenty early to hear her play. She was sounding great. I took the stage at the 6PM slot, and while I'm generally a harsh critic of my on performances, I think it was a good solid show for me. Lyndon got on at 7PM, and was sounding particularly excellent.

Rocking Molaskey's ice rink stage. At the start of my set, I told a true story about the first time I performed on that stage, and TP'ed to the usual beach stage, and then wondered why absolutely no one was there at my show. TOP PHOTO: Sassy wraps up here set while I stand behind her, and Lyndon stands behind me. We got each other's backs. Photos by Triana Caldera.

I play while people try not to fall down on the virtual ice. Photo by Cicadetta Stillwater.

I hang out with Sassy after our respective shows while Lyndon entertains the house in his inimitable way.

The only bummer of the night? Maali herself, who truly seems to love hearing her roster of artists play, was still in the midst of that horrible flu that seems to have attacked far too many of my pals. She couldn't even manage to stay for the end of Sassy's set, and I felt terrible for her. So, here's hoping the Maalster is very much healthier in upcoming times.

Speaking of what's coming next, as far as my shows are concerned, I have no answer at all! Every year in January, as I've pointed out several times in the past, I have a huge event in my real life business called the NAMM Show. It really takes precedence over everything else around it, so I block off a two-week area that's an unwanted but necessary hiatus from my own musical performances. Currently (though this may change), I don't have any shows scheduled before the start of my self-imposed exile, so for all I know, my next SL show could be in February! We'll see. In any case, my last show was a great one, and I can't ask for more than that.

Molaskey's Set List...
Carey (Joni Mitchell)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
Things Behind the Sun (Nick Drake)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Fire & Rain (James Taylor)
1979 (Smashing Pumpkins)
On The Way Home (Buffalo Springfield)
Allentown (Billy Joel)
A Day in the Life (Beatles)
Everyday I Write the Book (Elvis Costello)
Little Wing (Jimi Hendrix)
Comes a Time (Neil Young)

Big thanks to my great friends at Molaskey's, and everyone who helped support my show!
Wendy Swenson, Triana Caldera, TheaDee, Celeste Ewing, Thinkerer Melville, Sassy Nitely, my sickly but still great manager Maali Beck, and Molaskey's staff (and my friends) Cicadetta Stillwater, Stace Silvercloud, and Mia Kitchensink!

Christine Haiku's Rezday Party (01.02.13)

On New Year's Eve, my friend and manager Maali Beck pinged me on Facebook. She wanted to know if I was able to perform at Christine Haiku's surprise rezday party the following day. For most people, the answer would have been no; I generally don't take shows on short notice (not because I'm an asshole, but because I usually have other things planned on any given day/evening). But I would have gladly rearranged my schedule to perform for Christine. She has been a great supporter of my music in SL, and has gone to dozens of my shows. Above that, she's a genuinely nice person whose company I enjoy quite a lot.

So, come Wednesday night, I did my first live performance of 2013 for Ms. Haiku and her fourth rezday. It was a fun little affair organized by her friend Sesh Kamachi, and held at the venue Christine manages, the Islands of New England. On the downside, a) Christine had the flu, and b)it seemed that most people weren't hanging out in SL right after the new year. But we still managed to have fun and do some silly tunes for Ms. Haiku.

Christine Haiku's Rezday Party Set List...
Scooby-Doo Theme Song (David Mook/Ben Raleigh)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
I'll Be There for You - Theme from "Friends" (The Rembrandts)
Psycho Killer (Talking Heads)
Across the Universe (Beatles)
Love Is All Around - Theme from "Mary Tyler Moore" (Sonny Curtis)
California (Joni Mitchell)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
I Am A Child (Neil Young)
Strawberry Fields Forever (Beatles)
If You Could Only See (Tonic)
Man of Constant Sorrow (Traditional)
Tribute (Tenacious D)

Thanks to everyone who came to Christine's party and made it a fun night for all!