Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Winter 2010 Podcast w/Phil O'Keefe Interview

LISTEN NOW!

We decided to bump things up a notch with the latest Podcast. Check this out... you get:

• An in-depth interview with Phil O'Keefe, who engineered, mixed, and co-produced the Zak Claxton album.

• A couple of songs from the ZC album.

• A previously unheard live recording of "Waiting for This" from the release party on 12/11/09.

• News, goofy crap, and a new commercial spot with my son making his radio voiceover debut.

Enjoy!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Music Video: Lines on your Eyes



LINK TO VIDEO (YOUTUBE )

Kat and I enjoyed a lovely Christmas, with all the gifting, gorging, and celebration you would expect. And then, waking up on the 26th, I was equally joyous that it was all done and over with. After making sandwiches from the leftover roast beef, we headed outside on a crisp but sunny day and filmed the video for "Lines on your Eyes". I edited it yesterday evening, and voila! Done and uploaded in the course of a half day.

A bunch of people have asked how we go about creating these videos, and I don't think it could possibly be more simple. Kat and I start with a pen and paper, planning some ideas around the song's vibe and lyrics. We put down a loose list of shots that we want to get, and then we go outside and film them. While we do that, we often come across other things that seem like they'd work within the context of the song, and we film those too.

After awhile, we head back inside, and I transfer the movies to my computer. In this case, I also had some archival footage from the day in the studio when we recorded the original tracks. I also pulled those in to work with them. Do we have some kind of high-end fancy editing system? No, of course not. I work in iMovie, which is part of the iLife package that came free with my Mac. There are similar applications you can find on your PC as well.

In a nutshell, the job goes like this: you pull in the audio first, and then synchronize your video to match up. At that point, your only limits are a) your creative use of transitions, cropping, and titles, and b) the limits of your cheap-ass editing software, which obviously isn't going to give you all of the capabilities of high-end editing tools. But you might be surprised at the quality level you really can get using inexpensive stuff.

Back to "Lines on your Eyes": this is only the third video we've done for the album. We'll probably do more, but for some of the songs like "The Sands of Redondo" or "Falling Down", I can see us putting a little more effort into both the planning and quality level of the project. As always, loyal reader, you'll be the first to know when we have new stuff to hear and/or see.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays from Zak & Kat

Z's Music Club (12.23.09)




I first played at Z's Music Club back in October, and I liked the vibe there, so when Throughthesewalls Moody offered me another gig there, I was happy to accept. It would be prudent at this point to mention that SL has been very kind to me over 2009, with nary a show affected by problems with the grid. In other words, I was due. When it came time for my show to start and only 7-8 folks were hanging out (and none of my regulars), I began to get a little suspicious. Soon my fears were confirmed; the grid was, as they say, borked. Logins were disabled, teleports were broken, and transactions were impossible. Yay!

Despite that, we ended up having a really fun show. And finally, after about 40 minutes, the SL problems cleared up and we had a nice rush of people for the last section of the show.

The Set List...
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Long December (Counting Crows)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
†Tangled Up in Blue (Bob Dylan)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Under Pressure (Queen and David Bowie)
Come Around (Zak Claxton)
Court and Sprak (Joni Mitchell)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)

†Only played once before in SL (06.20.09)

Thanks to those who made it to the show, and those who waited patiently until they could! Thanks for your support!
Bear Morgwain, Athena Rubanis, Hawk Claven, EveMarie Caffarelli, Cadence Senizen, Perkey Felwitch, Hadrian Troncon, Maaltie Branagh, Aurelie Chenaux, Kat Claxton, Richy Nervous, Mack Humbridge, Diana Renoir, Xerxes Ninetails, Candie Sparkle, qweasd Zeritonga, Latte Dagostino, Z's great hostess Jadzia Vasser, and "Z" herself, Zelema Wrigglesworth!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Notes Shack (12.20.09)



Krakov Letov gets frustrated, and I can't blame him.

He's a great guy. He definitely loves music. His place in SL, the Notes Shack, is very cool, with a vibe of authenticity that seems much more close to home for most of us who've done a lot of real-life gigging. I usually find the people who frequent the Notes Shack to be happy and fun loving, and at least at my shows it has a loose, mellow vibe where everyone is cool and into music and good times.

And Krakov appreciates that. I see him enjoying himself as people play at his little bar up in the North Norway sim. It's a good location, too, with several local music-oriented spots (including the headquarters for IndieSpectrum Radio one sim over). But for whatever reason that no one knows but the Gods of Ancient Linden Yore, he never gets the giant crowds there, or at least not often enough for his liking. And, possibly worse, when Krakov gets onstage to do his own DJ set at the Notes Shack, the crowd tends to disappear faster than if the sim was going down and one of those "get out now!" notices appeared.

Despite that, Kralov keeps the rock rolling at the Notes Shack, and while it probably shouldn't be one of SL's best kept secrets in live music, it's still a fun place to perform, or to see a show. My show today was a nice breath of fresh air (and a sigh of relief) for me; as you know, I've been exclusively performing in support of my new album, doing three consecutive shows as release events both in SL and in real life. So today's show was kind of a "back to normal" event, and it was nice... I got to relax a bit more, pull out a few covers, and had fun. And I think Krakov did too. And really, that's why we do the things we do. If it wasn't fun, most of us wouldn't bother with it.

The set list from today at the Notes Shack...
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
The Weight (The Band)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
†Uncle John's Band (Grateful Dead)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Love Hurts (Everly Brothers)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Cinnamon Girl (Neil Young)
Waiting for This (Zak Claxton)

†Notable... only played this song once before in SL (April 6, 2008)

Thanks to all the folks who supported the show today at the Notes Shack!
GOLAN Eilde, Diana Renoir, Triana Caldera, joel Telling, Kat Claxton, and the mighty Krakov Letov!

SL Album Release Party (12.18.09)




I was a little concerned going into the third and final event for the release of my album. I was starting to feel like I'd been deluging the world with a few too many events. Yeah, I know that some people play multiple times per day, and my three release events in one week wasn't all that bad. But I was sort of bracing myself for disappointment. For one thing, we were hosting it at our brand new Club at COYOTE, so it's not like it was a place where people knew as a hang-out spot. Also, we'd had a good turnout at the last two shows in various ways, and I was prepared to have no one show up for the last event, which was the official album listening party for my SL friends/fans.

I really should have known better. The Zaksters are a hardcore bunch, and they came out to offer support in a big way for Friday's show. This really was a unique show in all my gigs in SL to date. Why? I didn't pick up and guitar or sing! Instead, I was the DJ for the night, and I played back my entire album, while making commentary between each track. I told the folks who were there all of the inspiration, musical or otherwise, for every song, and told them a few things to listen for that I haven't noted elsewhere (and probably won't in the future either). For the people who attended, I think it was a really fun and different kind of Zak Show, and it seemed that everyone enjoyed it. I know I did.

If this were a typical show, I'd place a set list right here. I suppose I will anyway... but it's simply the track list from my album, from start to end.

Lines on your Eyes (Zak Claxton)
Come Around (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
The Sands of Redondo (Zak Claxton)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Waxing Gibbous (Zak Claxton)
Waiting for This (Zak Claxton)

Huge thanks to everyone who came to the SL Album Release Listening Party! You f'ing rule!
fatzo Runo, Kat Claxton, Xerxes Ninetails, hexx Triskaidekaphobia, Diana Renoir, Bree Birke, Shellie Sands, Alchemy Epstein, Biff Zond, Bibi Ballinger, Triana Caldera, Kat Keen, Feather Osterham, Jezebel Xue, Nakira Tennen, Magnolia Anthony, BuffaloMike Hammerer, dragonfly Olson, Broody Flow, Wildflower Serendipity, Ginger Marseille, Kira Robbiani, Basil Brooks, and anyone else who I missed or was listening in on the stream. You people are THE BEST.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

IndieSpectrum Radio (12.16.09)



As Part 2 of my evil plan to take over the world album release rollout, we did a special show at the IndieSpectrum Stage. And when I say "we", I actually mean more than one person this time. Kat joined me onstage for this show, not to bang a tambourine or sing backup, but as my own personal journalist who interviewed me about the album between songs. Now why would we do that? First, because people do seem to want to know more about the album, and second, because the show was being broadcast live over IndieSpectrum Radio, and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to talk to a lot of folks at once.

So, Kat got on stage with me, and got her own mic both in SL and real life, and every so often, while I was getting another song ready, Kat would shoot me questions, which I'd more or less answer. The show itself went really well, with one glaring exception of when I retuned the guitar for "Lines on your Eyes" and I didn't quite leave the low string exactly on a D. But no matter: it was a fun show, and we had a small but happy crowd there in person in addition to the folks listening to the stream, so I think it went well.

Note that as I was being broadcast on IndieSpectrum (and because it was part of the album release event series), I once again stuck to all originals... all songs found on the Zak Claxton album.

Set List at IndieSpectrum Stage...
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Come Around (Zak Claxton)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
Lines on your Eyes (Zak Claxton)
Waxing Gibbous (Zak Claxton)
Waiting for This (Zak Claxton)

Big thanks to everyone who tuned into IndieSpectrum.com and heard me rock, as well as the folks who were there and supported the show!
Tommy Cult, Tauri Tigerpaw, Triana Caldera, Diana Renoir, Gwen Difference, Etierre Bonde, Cullan Padroclum, Clarissa Pastorelli, and IndieSpectrum owner Fox Reinsch!

Monday, December 14, 2009

10 reasons to get the downloads



A little over a week ago, I gave you 10 reasons to buy the Zak Claxton album on CD. And, may I say, they were some excellent reasons. But as of last Friday, all the major online music stores are carrying the album. Let me also tell you that I was one of the people who embraced purchasing music via online downloads from early on. Why? Well, let's talk about those reasons right now.

1. Instant gratification.
No one can deny that it's awesome deciding that you want some music, and three minutes later you've purchased it and are already listening to it. While we ship the CDs as quickly as we can, there's still that wait for this physical piece of media to arrive to your mailbox. If you want some Zak music NOW, downloads are the way to go.

2. Easy upload to your iPod or other MP3 player.
There are lots of people these days -- dare I say most of them? -- who listen to music exclusively via their mobile device, like iPods and cell phones and various MP3 players. Well, if you're one of those people, digital downloads were basically made for you. You buy the song, connect your device, sync it, and boom: Zak tunes are ready to roll.

3. Choices of places to buy.
There's currently only one place to get the Zak Claxton album on CD: via the ZC web site store, through Amazon Checkout. But there are five, count them, five different places where you can get the album online as downloads. Let's list them (and link to them for your clicking pleasure)!

iTunes (more info below for those of you outside the USA)
Amazon MP3
eMusic
Napster
Rhapsody

So, if you're already comfortable buying music from one of those places, you can!

4. You're outside the USA.
Can we ship discs outside the USA? You betcha. However, since we're set up with Amazon Checkout to handle our payments, some folks may have difficulty using this service. While we love being able to present the album in CD format, for pure convenience's sake, it might be a lot easier just to download it locally. One nice thing about our relationship with Apple's iTunes service is that we have the album available in many places around the world. All you need to do is search for Zak Claxton in the iTunes Store in your country, and I should be there. The official list of countries where we have albums for sale includes Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and United Kingdom (in addition to the United States). Even if you don't see your country on that list, give it a shot and I'll probably be there. If not, let me and my record label know and we'll figure something out for you.

5. You think CDs are for dorks.
There was a time when the Compact Disc was a really cutting edge way of purchasing and listening to music. Sadly, I'm old enough to remember those times. By the way, CD players used to cost like $5,000 when they first came out. And people bought them. Frightening, eh? But the CD is now over 25 years old, and especially to some of the younger generation, the CD is kind of an antiquated way of getting your tunes on. If you're a person who thinks that a tangible medium for music is for Grandma, it's okay; we understand. Just get the music as a download, and then go have something pierced or tattooed or whatever is cool for people like you.

6. You don't like "Thanks Anyway" but you love "Falling Down".
When I was working on the album, I knew very well that by including a pretty wide variety of music, I ran the risk of having some people get way into certain tunes while absolutely hating others. The album is meant to be that way. Not to go off on a tangent, but when Led Zeppelin recorded their third album, they included some of their hardest rock tunes (i.e., "The Immigrant Song" and "Celebration Day") and some of their softest (think of "Tangerine" and "That's the Way"). I like albums that take you up and down and around, giving you different things to reflect your different moods. All that having been said, it's perfectly okay if you're totally into "This Afternoon" on the Zak Claxton album, but don't feel a burning need to get "Waxing Gibbous" or "Always Tomorrow". One of the great things about downloads is that you can purchase each song as a single, so feel free to cherry-pick my album and get what you like.

7. You're in an online music community.
A funny thing happened on the way to this zany web-based world in which we live: communities popped up that weren't based on anything as simple as the town where you live, the school you went to, and so on. These days, there are communities that span the globe which are devoted to music. Some of those communities are even based around the stores themselves (people who share iTunes iMixes, who write Amazon.com reviews and so on). Getting into the world of downloads can lead to a process of discovering cool music from artists both new and old that you may never have found otherwise.

8. You have the world's largest/most eclectic download collection.
Are you the type of person who is on a mission to fill up every last byte of data in your 500GB mobile media player? Do you like to scroll through 750 pages of songs in your computer's music folder? Are you determined to have a collection of music that rivals the lists on All Music Guide? Well my friend, you're currently missing 11 songs from the Zak Claxton album. They're out there... and you don't have them. Do not panic. Just slowly reach for your mouse and go to the Zak Claxton Dot Com Store, and you will be just a click away from closing that gaping hole in your collection. Whew. That was close.

9. You got an iTunes gift card for Chrismahannukwanzaa.
Happy holidays! I'm guessing that at least some of you opened a little envelope and received that most terrific of presents, a gift card to an online music service. Yippee! Now it's time to put that card to good use. You already have all the stuff you really like, and you don't want to blow $0.99 on some flavor of the moment that you'll never listen to again after you burn out on the tune in a few weeks (I'm looking at YOU, Lady Gaga). So while you're there at the iTunes Store or Amazon MP3 or whatever, just search for Zak Claxton, and I'll be practically in your stocking, hanging by the mantlepiece. Oh, and your Aunt Judy will love the fact that you took that card and got some damn fine rock music that will stand the test of time.

10. You want to.
It's your money, and your choice. If you want to spend a buck on a Zak Claxton song, you should just do it. You don't think twice about spending a buck on a Snickers bar while waiting in line at the grocery store. You barely think once about it, I'm sure. If you've heard one of my songs and you like it, you should get it for yourself. And while my music is sweet, it's going to last a lot longer than the candy bar, I promise. Hey, you work hard, and if you want something that will likely bring you some joy and peace and contentment and happiness, is it a crime to spend a buck on it? I didn't think so. Treat yourself today.

And finally, though I hate to do this, I need to end this silly little blog post on a slightly more serious note. A lot of folks over the past 10 years or so have developed some funny ideas about music... like, it has no value. Those are the kind of people that get digital song files and illegally share them with others. Look: we understand this. We know that when you like a song, you want to be able to turn other people on to it. That's totally cool! Musicians want their music to be heard... otherwise, we'd all play by ourselves alone in a room and not bother recording this stuff in the first place. But the reality is that we spend a lot of dough -- on instruments, on recording studios, on musical training and so on -- all in an attempt to make our songs sound great for you. It's a slap in the face when someone basically says, "Your music isn't worth shit, so I'm going to steal it."

You may try and justify this by thinking that you're not ripping off the artists... just the evil big labels who screw the artists anyway, right? Well, I don't know much about that. I'm not involved with any major labels. When you're talking about an independent musician, putting their songs on peer-to-peer nets or doing illegal file sharing of any kind just reaches into the pocket of the artist and steals money from them, straight up. All I'm saying is this: if you dig the tunes enough to want them for yourself, I thank you. But please pay for them. It shows respect for the artist, and it shows that you actually value music. If it's important to you, don't treat it like it's worthless crap. Kick down the $0.99 for a song, and you're going to feel good about it.

End of the sermon! If you have any questions about getting digital downloads of the ZC songs/album, you know where to find us.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Album release party at The Bean Counter (12.11.09)



Video Clips from the Release Party

Since a picture's worth a thousand words (and I don't feel like writing a thousand words at the moment) I decided to tell you about the release party documentary-style. Check out the video above for some song snippets, and below for some Kodak moments.


Jess and Christina (aka Triana and Kat) get set up at the merch table before the show starts.


Pretty Kat smiling as I start the show.


I hadn't planned to do more than three or four tunes the entire night, and instead have folks listen to the album some more. I ended up doing nine songs and only ran the album during my set break. Sometimes its best to play these things by ear, so to speak.


This was the first time I did a hybrid show that hit both a real life audience and an SL crowd at the same time. I found that I wanted to be able to pay more attention to my digital fans who hung around during the show, but the real people had to take precedence. NO matter, it was fun for everyone.


Thanking Bunny for his efforts...


... and Ken too.


The crowd was cool and seemed to appreciate the tunes, which is always nice.


Rocking the Bean Counter crowd


Signing CDs while my son actually seems almost impressed.

I want to briefly thank some folks who really came through for me at the show. First and foremost, my darling Kat for helping prep and execute this event with style. Also to Triana Caldera, who flew to LA from Minnesota just to be here for the event. Also to Diana Renoir, who handled things in SL while we were otherwise preoccupied with meatspace. Let's not forget perhaps the most important element of all, which were the friends and fans and music lovers who came out for the show. It really couldn't have been much better.

Release Party Set List
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Come Around (Zak Claxton)
Lines on your Eyes (Zak Claxton)
Waxing Gibbous (Zak Claxton)
Waiting for This (Zak Claxton)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT


This is it, folks: the last notice about my album release party. If you're in the LA area, especially around the South Bay, I welcome you to come by and say hello, and have some coffee, and listen.

ZAK CLAXTON ALBUM RELEASE EVENT
FRIDAY 12/11/09, 7:00PM
The Bean Counter Coffee House
1218 Beryl Street (in the Redondo Village center near Vons at Beryl/Prospect)

The media loves the Zak!



Am I allowed to say "Holy shit!" here? I think I am. Sorry to those offended by either shit or holiness.

I went across the street to the Bean Counter, where I'm hosting my album release party tomorrow, Fri 12/11/09, at 7pm. I wanted to discuss a few small details with the staff (like, "Where are you going to move that cream/sugar station so it's out of my way?" and so on). While I was there, I noted that the new issue of the local free rag, the Beach Reporter, was out. So I picked up a copy, hoping that they'd printed a small listing of my show.

I walked all the way back home... well, across the street, anyway. And I flipped to page 54, where their Billboard section was listed. I started scanning the little listings and was disappointed to not see my name listed among the events happening in the South Bay area where I live. And then, my eyes drifted a couple of inches to the right, which is when the aforementioned, "Holy shit!" erupted unbidden from my mouth. It was loud enough to cause my cat to jump off the couch and find a place to hide from his suddenly insane owner.

Next, I ran to Kat's place and showed her (whoo-hoo!). The I ran back across the street to the Bean Counter to show them (Wow! No way!). And then back here to show all of you. Whew.

I'm not a big seeker of either fame or fortune, but it sure is cool that the paper would run a giant photo of me along with my show announcement. What a great feeling to open the newspaper and see myself! And not even in the crime section!

Holy shit!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

FIbber Magees (12.09.09)




Yeah, it's my third blog post of the day. What, there are limits or something? Am I going to break the Internet?

In any case, I had a fun show today (as usual) at Fibber Magees. Phooka was hosting, and she did her usual terrific job. The crowd, while on the light side, was cool and enjoying themselves. Not much more to add except that it's taking some getting used to referring to my album in the present tense (as opposed to the future); I've been saying "my upcoming album" for so long now, it's more difficult than I'd have imagined to call it "my new album which is now available".

A few notes of interest (haw) about the music: I did a couple of tunes today that I'd put away for at least two years, and threw in more covers than I have been lately. Perhaps it was the peripheral awareness that my own album release party is just two days away, making me ease up before the onslaught.

The Set List...
The Waiting (Tom Petty)
Triana (Zak Claxton)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Do They Know It's Christmastime? (Band Aid)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Jane (Barenaked Ladies)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Queen)
Tribute (Tenacious D)

Thanks to everyone who supported my show at Fibber Magees!
Triana Caldera, Krakov Letov, Phooka Heron, Melody Deimatov, Isobela Capalini, Diana Renoir, Aurelie Chenaux, and Kat Claxton!

ZC CDs: we are shipping them!



It's true, it's true. As seen in my video from Monday 12/7, after a bit of a wait (hee hee) we received the CDs of the Zak Claxton album late on Monday, and then on Tuesday 12/8, Kat and I shipped out the first batch of pre-orders. It was pretty cool... printing out mailing labels, autographing the discs that had been requested as such, and then packaging them up and taking them over to the post office. We even saw the truck pull up shortly thereafter, presumably to carry my discs away to various places all over the country, perchance to be enjoyed by people who dig the Zak Tunes.

We took one extra copy of the album with us, for a special purpose. After we finished with the post office, we walked over to the Bean Counter coffee house, the place where we're holding our album release party on Friday night (12/11). Once we got a caffeinated drink in our hands, we handed the staff the CD and asked them to play it over their sound system. They did, and Kat and I sat back and listened to the album in its entirety while sipping our drinks. We had them keep the volume relatively low; it was a mellow afternoon and I didn't want to blast my rock tunes at the people who were trying to use their laptops and read their books and so on. But even played quietly, it sounded terrific. We've got realy high hopes, both for the release party and beyond.

Pink Candy (12.06.09)




Sorry I'm a few days late with this show report... it's been, heh heh, a slightly busy week so far.

I played at Pink Candy for the first time on Sunday. Cool place; kind of has the vibe of a house party. As I've said before several times, I prefer to play places in SL that have a smaller design, rather than giant pseudo stadiums and warehouse-sized clubs. I think perhaps it's because my music is more intimate, and because I usually don't have giant crowds, so 20 people in a smaller place feels like a more happening show than those same 20 people scattered across a football field-sized area.

Anyway, it was a good show... we got most of the Zaksters out there, and made a few new friends too. I actually took a request... rare for me, but it was for Nail Young, and I already had the harmonica strapped on, and it was from Vanity Sugarplum, the club owner. How could I refuse? In any case, I'm sure I'll be back there again sometime soon.

The Set List...
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Rock and Roll Woman (Buffalo Springfield)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Heart of Gold (Neil Young)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
California (Joni Mitchell)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Things Behind the Sun (Nick Drake)
Come Around (Zak Claxton)
Lines on your Eyes (Zak Claxton)

Thanks to the folks who supported my show at Pink Candy!
Diana Renoir, Callinet Dagostino, Aurelie Chenaux, Cullan Padroclum, Toffee Kira, Kat Claxton, Senjata Witt, Jeaninne Mathilde, jsmn Yao, and Pink Candy owner/music lover Vanity Sugarplum!

Friday, December 4, 2009

10 reasons to get the CD



Call me crazy, but I'm betting a big percentage of people who read my ramblings here are bleeding-edge technophiles. After all, many of you are my compatriots in the online world of Second Life, and spend a good chunk of your time immersed in a virtual environment. Other readers are big music aficionados, and have become accustomed to purchasing music via digital download. Well, as you all should know by now, the Zak Claxton album will soon be available from all your favorite online music stores (iTunes, Amazon MP3, eMusic, Napster, and Rhapsody). But it's already available on Compact Disc, and perhaps you haven't given much thought as to why you'd get one over the other.

Never fear, loyal reader, because I have already thought this through for you! Just one of the many helpful services you get from being associated with me. Anywhoo, here are ten reasons why getting the ZC album on CD might be the best bet.

1. Hello? Tangible storage format?
I love digital downloads as much as the next person. But I do cringe to think of the inevitable time when I will have an unexpected HD crash, and just perhaps all of my stuff isn't as backed up as I'd like it to be. Looking in my iTunes list just now, I could lose 941 songs in the blink of an eye. The thought makes me sad. But if I did have all that stuff on CD, no worries! I'd have all eleven professionally-recorded and mastered Zak Claxton songs in a handy storage format to place back on my computer as needed.

2. Take me on the road with you!
Some of us have MP3 players and/or audio inputs in their car stereos that allow you to easily connect your iPod or other portable player to your car's stereo. And then there's the rest of us, who aren't in a position to buy new cars or new sound systems for our cars every couple of years (yes, I'm jealous of those that are, dammit). But here at the end of 2009, most people do have a CD player in their vehicle, and what could be better than getting on the freeway, punching the gas pedal, and cranking up some "Come Around", "Fade Away", or "This Afternoon"? Nothing, I tell you!

3. The 6-Panel Digipak.
What the hell is a Digipak? I shall tell you. You probably know what a "jewel case" is. It's what you probably consider as standard in CD cases... a piece of see-through plastic on a little hinge, attached to a tray that holds the disc. As we've all experienced, the jewel case almost always gets cracked, or the hinges snap, or even in the best case, it gets scratched up and nasty looking as time takes its toll. But the Digipak is a way cooler type of CD package, made of card-stock paper with only a small plastic component to hold and protect the disc. It's more environmentally friendly than the old jewel case, holds up better over time, and still fits easily into your CD rack. Plus, since we went with the 6-panel type of Digipak, there's plenty of room for...

4. Artwork!
Here's something you don't get with a digital download. I've written about my lament over the loss of cool album art, and my disc has some neat stuff to stare at while you relax and listen to "The Sands of Redondo"" or "Waiting for This"". You get to read the album credits, and see a neat photo of me and my goofy studio band. That should be reason enough, as far as I'm concerned, to get the disc.

5. It's a limited edition (whether I like it or not).
Most CDs you buy from the big, well-known artists, are produced in tens of thousands. Why? Because they sell a lot of them via their big music industry marketing machine. But as a little independent artist, I only sell one CD at a time, to one person at a time. Now, I won't lie to you; if Best Buy calls me up and orders 10,000 of these for their stores, I probably won't turn them down. However, the initial small run of CDs are indeed a limited edition, and when they're gone, they are gone. There's another aspect of the CD that could make it even more of a keepsake for you...

6. Personally autographed upon request.
I can't put my signature on an MP3 file. I've tried, but it just looked like more metadata. With this lovely CD packaging, I am happy to add my autograph if you'd like. When you buy the CD, just send an email to contact (at) frothymusic (dot) com, and let me know to whom you'd like me to sign the album. I will be happy to do so. IMPORTANT NOTE: To sign the CD, I'll need to remove the protective shrinkwrap, so it will be naked when you receive it. Just FYI.

7. Makes a great gift.
Ever give someone a digital download for their birthday or a holiday? Sure, it's nice. The thought is what counts, yada yada. But really, wouldn't you rather hand them something that they can actually reach out and touch? If you have someone in your life who likes my music, here's something you can wrap up and put a bow on and attach a card to and make them happy. Don't you want them to be happy?

8. Impress your friends with your "indieness".
Are you a hipster? Don't answer, because no true hipster would admit to being a hipster, or even knowing what a hipster is. But if you're the kind of person that wears an ironic mustache, drinks PBR, and buys overpriced vintage t-shirts with 1970s product logos, there's no way in hell you'd have a CD from any recognizable artist anywhere near you. Admit it: you yearn for the moments when someone picks up a disc in your car and says, "I've never heard of this guy." Well my fashion-bucking friend, my CD is for you. Not only am I nearly unheard of in every major territory around the world, but by having the CD, you have the opportunity to show everyone just how unique and interesting you really are... but they'll never notice if you have me as a file in your computer.

9. You like me. Or not.
I'm a likable person. I really am. I could prove this to you in any number of ways. If you were here right now, I'd offer you a cup of coffee and provide hours of stimulating conversation. We'd while the day away with interesting anecdotes. We might take a stroll on the beach, a walk through the park. If you requested a song, by God, I'd pick up my guitar and start strumming and singing just for you. That's just the type of person I am. While buying my music as a digital download is fine, there's something to be said for having this physical, tangible representation of this person for whom you're so fond. And the reverse corollary of this is also important: if you freakin' hate me, you could buy my CD and set it on fire, or fling it off a cliff like a frisbee, or crush it into 10,000 slivers of shiny multicolored plastic under your boot. Hitting "delete" on a digital file isn't nearly as satisfying.

10. IT SOUNDS BETTER.
While many of the other helpful hints in this list have been a little silly, this one, I assure you, is not. While we all love the convenience of digital music files like MP3 and AAC and so on, all of them compress the digital data to some degree to make it easy to download. While I've made sure my digital downloads are every bit as high quality as is possible through services like iTunes, they are still not as good as the quality of the completely uncompressed 16-bit 44.1kHz WAV files that are used for CD audio playback. If you really are a fan of the music, you're not going to experience it in any better quality than what the CD will offer.

So there you have it, folks: 10 reasons to get the Zak Claxton album on CD. Stay tuned for next week's list of "10 reasons to get Zak's music as digital downloads".

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Zak Claxton Album: AVAILABLE NOW


Well, it's been a crazy day. Crazy isn't always a bad thing, by the way, Granted, we humans tend to yearn for steadiness and stability in our lives, and "crazy" usually implies the absolute lack of both. But sometimes, as Seal said, you have to get a little crazy.

It started last night, when Kat and I decided to try and implement the "Checkout by Amazon" payment system for our web store that we'd been tinkering with. Up until that point, we'd had nothing to confirm that the system was functional. As the saying goes, nothing risked, nothing gained, so I decided to take it online and actually placed an order for my own CD. The first encouraging news was that it seemed to ding my credit card (yay! I guess). A little while later, Kat and I were sitting here when my email chimed, letting me know that I had an order for one "Zak Claxton CD" and that I should ship it.

Joy!

So that was the first cool thing. It meant that we were actually capable of taking orders for my CD. The next one happened this morning, when I heard back from NationWide Disc,the company who we chose to replicate the CD. We knew that it was getting close to the time that I should expect to receive my run of discs, and I'd dropped them a line yesterday to get a status update. Lo and behold, my timing was impeccable; NationWide let me know that my discs would be shipping today, and I was likely to receive them early next week.

Joy!

So, with those two pieces of good news in mind, we decided to announce the availability of my album, and began taking pre-orders at the Zak Claxton Store. The thing I like the most about using Amazon's checkout system is that Amazon is such a trusted name in retail that there's never a worry about the payment info being used inappropriately. In fact, I never see the actual payment info. I just get notified that an order has come in, and I ship the CD.

What all this is leading up to is that after many, many years as a musician, and a year and a half spent recording (on and off), we finally have something to show for it. I'm a little shellshocked by this moment of effort coming to fruition.

BUT WAIT... there's more.

As I told you just the other day, I spent some time after Thanksgiving making a new promo video for my shows in SL, and included quite a lot of general info on SL and the live music scene. Little did I realize that Torley Linden -- the master of all SL tutorials -- would find it worthy of inclusion on the official SL blog. You can go check it out here.

Torley says, "The cultural relevancy – including mixed-reality bits showing how Zak's avatar relates to his enthusiastic first-life self – communicates with power and humor. Also addressed are broader issues of marketing yourself, which every musician (I can relate) deals with. This video is bound to inspire other musicians and listeners who aren't sure how to get involved bringing their passions to SL. It's a touch over 9 min. but I highly recommend watching all because it fills a unique-yet-practical gap, and hey… it's FUN! Thanks Zak!"

No, thank YOU, Torley. I am pretty thrilled by all that's going on, though as I mentioned before, it's a little unfamiliar and slightly overwhelming and... yeah. Crazy. But I could get used to that.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

AI Tranquility (11.30.09)



I arrived at Aurelie Chenaux's pretty outdoor music venue AI Tranquility at about 20 minutes before the start of my show. This is standard operating procedure for me. While it doesn't take 20 minutes to set up a mic, a tip jar and strap on a guitar, I like to give myself plenty of time to do things like send out notices of the show to various groups, and to hang out for a minute and get my bearings before starting my first tune.

Anyway, there was no one there except Aurelie herself, which was also pretty normal; no one gets to a show that early, not in SL anyway. But as time ticked away, I gradually became a little more concerned. I was definitely concerned at 6:00, when I started my first song and Aurelie was still the only person at the venue! What happened? Did I become unpopular overnight? Am I passe? Did my fickle audience all simultaneously decide that I was no longer worthy of their attention?

These are the thoughts that go through a performer's mind whenever they have a less-than-packed house at a show. By the time I finished a couple of songs, there was a really nice-sized crowd of very fun people. And it was perhaps because of that sense of relief that I proceeded to lose my mind, apparently. For one thing, I was particularly goofy... yes, more so than usual. But I really knew the night was an odd one when I turned the page in my set list, saw the song "Come Around", announced what I was about it play, and then... PLAYED SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY! That's a new one for me; in all the hundreds of shows I've done in SL, never before have I randomly started playing a different song. All of a sudden, I looked at Kat (who was sitting next to me as usual) and realized that my hands -- apparently acting on their own with no input from my brain -- were playing "Fade Away". No problem; I've played it many times before, but realizing what I'd done, I started laughing and could NOT stop. I laughed through the entire first verse and chorus, and the poor audience probably had no idea why their musical entertainment seemed to have gone insane.

Regardless of that craziness, it turned out to be a fun show for everyone. Here's what I played...

Set List at AI Tranquility
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Space Oddity (David Bowie)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
Jack Straw (Grateful Dead)
Come Around (Zak Claxton)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Soul Kitchen (The Doors)
Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie)

Huge thanks to the folks who supported the show and put up with my nuttiness...
Fleetwood Andrew, Triana Caldera, Portia Munz, Axel Piccard, Charlee Anthony, Siobban Smythe, Xerxes Ninetails, Diana Renoir, and of course our lovely hostess Aurelie Chenaux !

Monday, November 30, 2009

Upcoming Big Events in Zakland

"Zakland" is not a real place, by the way. It's more of a state of mind. And while I do shows in SL quite frequently, there are some special events happening all too soon that need some extra notice. Be aware, ye Zak Fans and Friends, of the following dates.


Wednesday December 9, 12:00PM: Zak at Fibber Magees in SL
What's so special about this show? Well, two days before the official release of the album, we're going to debut my new music vendor, so we're giving SL folks a bit of a head start on getting real, actual music from me. Plus, Fibber Magees shows are always fun, so come even if you're not planning on buying the album in-world.


Friday December 11, 7:00PM: Zak's RL Album Release Party
Here it is: after 40 years of being alive, 36 years of being a musician, 27 years of being a rocker, three years of playing in SL, and almost two years since I entered the studio to start recording, my debut album is actually going to be available to the world. Here's the deal: this is a REAL LIFE event, but we're going to stream the audio into SL so that folks who can't attend in person can still get a "fly on the wall" effect of being there. We'll be hosting the event in SL at our all-new Club at Coyote. Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime event for all of us.


Wednesday December 16, 6:00PM: Zak Live on IndieSpectrum Radio
The folks at IndieSpectrum are being kind enough to host me at their live music venue in SL, and broadcasting the live show to the entire Internet. I'll be performing live music for a full hour. If you can't make it to the show in SL, by all means tune in at indiespectrum.com.


Friday December 18, 5:00PM: Second Life Album Release Party
You didn't think we were going to leave the album release festivities in real life only, did you? Of course not. While the event on 12/11 is going to be streamed into SL, at this VERY cool show, I'm not performing live at all! Instead, I'm going to play DJ, and broadcast the album in its entirety into SL in high quality, while telling you all the stories behind the music. Trust me, this one will be cool.

So, that's it for now. Keep in mind that there are other shows and stuff betwixt and between all of these other events. For the complete schedule of Zak events, you can always find details at the "Zak Live" page at zakclaxton.com!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Video: Zak's SL Music Guide 2010

I know, it's not even December yet, and my 2010 version of the official "Zak Claxton in Second Life" video is already live on YouTube. I guess the influence of a four month long holiday marketing season is starting to rub off on me.

Anyway, this year's official "Zak in SL" vid became a journey of epic proportions. Within its 9:17, you get the entire picture, soup to nuts, of what SL is and how live music can be found there. And, of course, there's also the info on me, what I do, how to find me in SL and so on. All of this is interwoven with a soundtrack of my tunes, both studio tracks and live recordings.

Zak Claxton in Second Life (2010)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Making the album part 13,262: The Singles

We live in a weird world. We really do.

Example: I perform live music almost exclusively in a virtual 3D Internet world. That's weird. And while back in reality, people buy singles more than ever before (due to the popularity of digital downloads), almost no one bothers creating artwork for their singles anymore, since online stores like iTunes generally allow only the one piece of cover artwork to represent all songs off an album. That's pretty weird too.

There was a time (he said nostalgically) when people would go to record stores and buy little round pieces of black vinyl that had two songs on it, called the "A Side" and "B Side". The "A Side" was usually the hit song off an album, and sometimes the "B Side" was a tune that wasn't even on the album at all... you had to buy the single to hear it. It was cool, if you were a big fan of a band, to go buy the single. And it usually came in a little paper sleeve that had custom artwork on it.

I was pretty sure that I was done with my album artwork after I handed off the files to be printed on my CD packaging. But lo and behold, my immersion in a weird world has come through for me once again. My record label Frothy Music decided to go with a music vendor system in Second Life that allows people to purchase each single in addition to the entire album as they choose. The cool thing about this system is that people can elect to play the music in SL on their parcel by plugging a code into their media stream, and they can also download the song to their computer for uses outside of SL. But the other cool thing? Each single can use its own artwork, giving me an excuse to show you the following covers! Life: it's weird, but mostly cool.

Each single has some meaning to the artwork that's appropriate in some way to the song, but I've never been a big believer in explaining my art to people. So, here they are! Enjoy.

Lines on your Eyes


Come Around


Falling Down


This Afternoon


Thanks Anyway


The Sands of Redondo


Fade Away


Always Tomorrow


You're Like a Cloud


Waxing Gibbous


Waiting for This

Monday, November 23, 2009

Decisions, Decisions

Or, "How to turn something relatively simple into a giant pain in the ass".

Most people would agree that today's technology is pretty amazing. However, one thing that comes with seemingly limitless choices is the act of actually getting anything done when there are no boundaries to force your decision.

What the hell are you talking about, Zak?
Glad you asked. As you know, I'm putting together the plans for my album release party at The Bean Counter in Redondo Beach, CA on December 11. In case there's any confusion here, this is a real life venue, not a location in Second Life. Perhaps you'd think that I would be wholly focused on the task at hand -- like, playing live music for a bunch of people who will come out to see me that evening, as well as hosting the first public playback of the album itself. You'd think I would be interested in inviting members of the entertainment press to get some real life media coverage. That kind of stuff. Right?

Well, the good news is that I actually am focused in that general direction. However, it seems to me that my friend/fan base in SL is also very interested in how this event goes. It also has been my experience that folks in SL enjoy events that integrate real life with the virtual world. A good example was seeing hundreds of people checking out the video stream from the recent Texas Jam of SL musicians. And yet, anything I do to try and integrate this real-life event with SL has to, by definition, divide my focus between these two worlds.


Hmm, looks real enough. Maybe I should let reality be the star of the day. Or should I?

The best laid plans...
So, I started thinking, which is usually a huge mistake. "Zak," I thought to myself, "Integrating the show into SL should be really easy. Just bring your laptop and audio interface to the gig, and stream the audio from the show into SL!"

Problem solved, right? I'm a genius. Except I'm not. If it was just a live performance with me playing guitar and singing, it would be about as simple as that. The coffeehouse has a speedy Net connection, so there's no worry there. It also has a large TV screen with an HDMI input, so I could send my laptop's video output to the TV so the folks at the Bean Counter could see me doing my SL thing. Fun, huh? However, it's not just a typical live gig. It's an album release event, meaning it's both a live show and a listening party for the album itself.

"No problem, Zak," my brain continued. "Just run the audio of the CD through your system, and you'll stream the album into SL at the same time." Brilliant!

But wrong. See, there are two things wrong with this plan. First, as those of us who do streaming shows already know, it's not simple switching between live sound sources and recorded sources. It usually means stopping your stream and restarting it each time you switch over, and it's a pain in the ass that I'd rather not deal with while focusing on playing and singing. But much more importantly, the CD will not be going through my simple PA system. That would sound really crappy (like, I'm only using one loudspeaker... hello? Stereo?), and the goal of the show is to present my shiny new disc in its best light. So we're running it through the sound system of the venue, which is high quality and is set up to pump music out into the street, attracting more passers-by. Problem: since the CD playback won't be going through my system, it won't be heard in world very well. Are you with me?


Hmm. I thought this was going to be easier. Famous last words.

What to do?
I had to make a decision on this matter, since it was driving me a little nutty trying to figure out the best way to handle it, but I think I came to a conclusion that will work. Here's the challenge:

1. Focus on the live show.
I've played literally hundreds of shows in SL. I mean, hell; I'll be playing twice in SL that same week. For that show, I need to really keep my focus on the real life aspect of it. However...

2. Don't ignore SL.
Even for just the few hardcore fans I have in SL, I'd really hate to ignore it entirely, since it's been through SL that I've gained the confidence to get back to songwriting, recording and performing as a solo artist. As far as I'm concerned, I owe the SL music community a big debt of gratitude, and even if it means jumping through a few extra hoops that I'd hoped to avoid, I'll do what it takes.

The "Fly On the Wall" Compromise
Here's how we're going to make this work for everyone.

• I'll be nearly completely focused on the live show.

• At the same time, we will stream the show into SL.

• It won't be much of a show in SL, but the attendees will be like a fly on the wall for the real life event.

• They'll hear my live performance in a way that's similar to my usual SL shows, except I won't be addressing them directly in world as I usually would. Instead, they'll hear me doing my thing for the live attendees.

• For the CD playback portions of the night, I'll just leave the mics open. Granted, it won't be the best audio quality in the world, but they'll hear the songs in the background, hear the crowd mingling, hear me making comments about the various songs. It's not perfect, but it's better than nothing, I believe.

• And by the way: we're going to host a completely separate album release event in SL perhaps a week later, on 12/18/09, where I can playback the album in world and let it really shine. So, that will make up for the deficiencies of the live event.

The current schedule of events

7:00PM: The show starts. We'll begin by playing back a few songs from the album while people are arriving and settling in.
7:30PM: I will perform a select number of songs, maybe 5-6 of them, live.
8:00PM: We'll continue playing back the album and telling people about it.
8:30PM: Show's over... goodnight.

Again, I'm going to basically plop my avatar on a stage and not really have any interaction other than that. However, I do plan on telling my live audience about SL, and showing them why SL is such a cool platform for live music. So, even with a little compromise, I think it will be a cool experience for all involved.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Notes Shack (11.22.09)



As I told my crowd at the Notes Shack today, it's always a better gig when you're in a place where you feel comfortable. The Notes Shack has become the place in SL where I can really just enjoy myself and focus on the music, which is mostly what I did today.

Not much to tell you, except it was a usually totally fun time today. One note: after years of being a fan of the late singer-songwriter Nick Drake, I had still never covered one of his tunes until today. He was an amazing guitarist and singer in addition to his incredible songwriting skills, and playing his stuff is no walk in the park. But after a few practices, I felt like the Notes Shack would be a place where an artist like that would be appreciated, so I pulled out one of his songs today. Check it out, if you'd like...

SONG SAMPLE: "Things Behind the Sun" (Nick Drake)

And here's the whole set list from today's show...
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Nobody Home (Pink Floyd)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
*Things Behind the Sun (Nick Drake)
Come Around (Zak Claxton)
Is It In My Head (The Who)
Waiting for This (Zak Claxton)

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

Big thanks to all who helped support today's show!
Triana Caldera, Horizon Darkstone, Diana Renoir, Lolly Gladstone, Jeremy Barracuda, Sunrise Starsider, Rey Tardis, Kat Claxton, Aurelie Chenaux, and the mighty Krakov Letov!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Getting Ready to Get Live



I don't have to tell you that since I'm getting ready to release my album, I'll be doing some live shows to help support the album. Not many, mind you... I have no intention of going on tour. The very idea of touring is about as appealing as sticking a fork into my eye.

However, I will do some select live shows, including my album release party on December 11, and to make sure I am heard at the various coffeehouse and bookstore-type places I'll end up playing, I needed a PA system. In all the years I've been in bands and so on, I've really never had a need to have my own PA gear -- it's usually been the singer who had that stuff. So yesterday, Kat and I went up the street to my local Guitar Center store. In my real life (as in, the one where I need to earn a living and such), I do web site development and other marketing work for a division of Guitar Center called GC Pro, and it just so happens that the company recently added a GC Pro representative in my local store (South Bay, CA).

So we went there and met with GC Pro sales guy Chris Brown, who was very helpful and walked us through a couple of options (though I was pretty sure I knew what I wanted anyway). I ended up getting the following stuff...

1. Main PA powered loudspeaker: Mackie SRM450v2.

I had a few choices in loudspeakers. I could have saved some dough with a cheaper system, but this is one case where it's money well spent. Mackie has always made some pretty high-quality gear that has good bang for the buck. The other leading contender for about the same price was the JBL Eon, but I've heard the Mackie SRM450 before and knew it was a surprisingly good PA for the price. There were other brands available, of course, but I really didn't want to end up with something that sounded really crappy, or was likely to break in the middle of a show.

2. PA monitor: Mackie SRM150.

You folks know what a stage monitor is? I shall tell you in case the answer is "no". When you play live, your main loudspeaker has to be slightly in front of you, so the sound from the speaker doesn't start feeding back into the mic. We all know what that sounds like, and it isn't pleasant. But the result is that you can't hear yourself. So, stage monitors come in many types, from large wedges that sit on the floor in front of you through in-ear monitors that work like little headphones. But there's another kind of monitor like this one... basically a little loudspeaker that mounts to a mic stand and faces toward the performer. I went with the Mackie SRM150 because it was the right size, the right price, and hell, I might as well keep it all in the Mackie family (I also use a little Mackie mixer for both live shows and my SL gigs).

3. (2) Electro-Voice N/D767a microphones

Obviously, I own microphones -- I use them at every show I do in SL, since I use only acoustic sound sources (as opposed to keyboards or electric guitars). But the mics I already own are studio condenser mics, which are much too sensitive for live use... plus, I don't want them stolen or broken. For live use, a dynamic mic is a better choice. The classic of all dynamic mics for stage use is the Shure SM-58, but my experience has been that the SM-58 is a little too dull for my voice. There have been innovations in dynamic mics, and one is the use of Neodymium magnets, which are much stronger than the magnets typically used to generate signal in older mics. The EV N/D767a is a relatively new mic from a respected name in audio, and has a good reputation. And there's the fact that I got a killer deal on them. That doesn't hurt. I purchased two... one for my voice, and the other to use for my guitar.

4. Stand and cables

Nothing very exciting here, but very necessary. When you lift a PA loudspeaker off the ground, you are doing two things. First, being higher in the air helps disperse the sound around the room better. Second, you are less likely to get the floor resonating and causing buzz and distortion. So I bought a nice stand that will more than support the 40-pound weight of the big Mackie loudspeaker. Finally (not pictured), I bought a few XLR cables to supplement the ones I already own. These are also called "mic cables"; they connect the mics to the mixer, and the mixer to the speakers.

So that's it! I now own a PA system that I can use for all the types of small venues that would be likely to host a solo singer-songwriter like me. The stuff is certainly good enough for now, and I'm happy to have one more thing crossed off the list of needs for my release party and beyond.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Warmup at The Bean Counter (11.17.09)




I haven't spent too many words on this blog talking about "back in the day". While I'm a big believer in learning from the past, I'm not necessarily a fan of living in it. But, for the sake of this post, I'll let you know that there was a time where I wasn't solely a virtual performer in Second Life, heh heh. A long time, in fact. From my teenage years all the way through 2007, I spent a lot of time on stages, ranging from backyard parties to outdoor festivals to clubs and bars all around Southern California. The majority of that live music performing experience was as part of rock bands. For the past couple of years, though, my focus has been recording the album and playing in SL, and I've been pretty absent from real-life performances.

Anyway, as anyone who reads this blog knows well, I have an album coming out, and to help promote the album, it's always been in the plan to do some live shows. Not a tour, mind you; just a few shows around my local area of Los Angeles. One show is rather important... it's the album release party, scheduled for Friday December 11, at a little place right here in my neighborhood, called the Bean Counter coffeehouse. I think a coffeehouse is the perfect place for my kind of music, and it's no coincidence that Kat and I named our label "Frothy Music".

But I digress. One thing I learned from my years and years of playing live is that going into a venue completely cold and trying to perform there for the first time in front of a large audience is terrifying, for lack of a better word. So, one thing I like to do is spend some time in the place beforehand, making sure that I get the vibe of the place. In a best-case scenario, I can go in and actually do a mini-show during off hours, so that when I actually take the stage, I can have the psychological effect that makes me feel like I've played there before.

And that, ladies and germs, is my long-winded intro to tell you that I marched into the Bean Counter yesterday afternoon with my guitar, told them to turn off the stereo, and played an impromptu warm-up set! The folks at the coffeehouse are very, very cool, and were happy to let me strum a bit while they sold lattes and chai teas to their clientele. I just pulled up a chair and started playing a few tunes, pretty randomly, but focusing on my own songs. My total audience included the owner, his wife, two baristas, and maybe eight people who wandered in to have coffee while I was there, but it was still great to get a little real-life live performance under my belt before doing it "for real".

Here's what I played...
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Wonderwall (Oasis)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
California (Joni MItchell)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Come Around (Zak Claxton)

My darling Kat came with me to take some pics and video (and because despite having seen me play hundreds of times in SL, she'd never seen me perform on my own in real life). Here is a video she shot of me performing "Thanks Anyway" at the Bean Counter.