Saturday, May 29, 2010

ZCHFS #9 Report (05.29.10)


I only remembered to record the last couple of songs in today's Zak Claxton Happy Fun Show. But it was a particularly fun show today, with a zany set list. I wasn't in the modd to do my standard list of Zak Claxton songs, so I handed a stack of songs to Kat and had her pick them at random, which may help explain the crazy set list below. I relented right at the end, and had her randomly choose a Zak tune, which happened to be "Falling Down". It all worked out fine.

ZCHFS #9 Set List...
Peg (Steely Dan)
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes (Crosby, Stills, and Nash)
Uncle John's Band (Grateful Dead)
Sex and Candy (Marcy Playground)
Wind Cries Mary (Jimi Hendrix)
The Worst (Rolling Stones)
Nobody Home/Vera (Pink Floyd)
*Synchronicity II (The Polive)
Man of Constant Sorrow (Traditional)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Improvised Outro Song (Zak Claxton)

Thanks to everyone who tuned in to today's show! Next one on June 12!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Le Charme (05.27.10)

I'm really enjoying this ongoing European tour I've been doing. Today's show was at an Italian fashion boutique, Le Charme, and it ended up being a very fun show with a good crowd. It helps that the show was well promoted, and it definitely helps to have Max Kleene following me. But mostly, we had a crowd consisting of 99% women who all seemed to be enjoying the tunes, and I don't ask for anything beyond that.

Today's set list...
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Wonderwall (Oasis)
California (Joni Mitchell)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Ashes to Ashes (David Bowie)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da (The Police)
Any Major Dude (Steely Dan)
Time Never Waits for You (Zak Claxton)
Shine (Zak Claxton)
What I Got (Sublime)

Thanks to everyone at Le Charme, especially the people who helped support my show!
Diana Renoir, Sensual Fold, Alexis Fairlady, Arlene Islay, Angie Ling, Kat Claxton, Ramona Planer, Mirtha Majeta, and the lovely Sandy Demina!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Zak hits the mainstream media

Yes, that's me on Click to make it bigger.

In case you hadn't heard elsewhere, I'm doing a show tomorrow (Thu 5/27/10 at 1:00PM SLT) at a nice fashion store in SL called Le Charme. There's nothing really unusual about that. Anyone who reads this blog knows I play pretty much all the time, and enjoy performing at new venues, perchance to gain some new fans.

But the interesting thing this time around is that upon waking up this morning, I saw that I had some new messages on my Facebook wall, and went to go check them out. One was from Sandy Demina, my informal manager who has helped get me in front of a bunch of European audiences in SL recently. Lo and behold, Sandy had managed to get CNN to run an iReport on the fashion show event... and included information on me and the other musician playing tomorrow, Max Kleene!

Here's a link to the report online.

Before you decide that I'm blowing this out of proportion... yeah, it's an iReport, which isn't exactly the same as being interviewed by Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room. iReports are CNN's user-created content section. But still, this is one of the first mentions of Zak Claxton that's even remotely tied to mainstream media. It's not insignificant at all. I'm very happy to have received past coverage in places like the Metaverse Journal, on the Beat Chicks podcast, Second Life Newspaper, SL Enquirer, and many more. But none of those publications are necessarily those that you feel compelled to forward to your mom.

Part of me feels somewhat akin to Navin R. Johnson, Steve Martin's character in The Jerk after being listed in the phonebook... "I'm somebody now! Millions of people look at this book everyday!". Even so, it's pretty cool to be referenced on CNN. All I can think of are the millions upon millions of musicians who weren't on any mainstream media today -- and likely never will be. I'm not nearly so jaded as to not appreciate these kind of things.

Oh, and lest we forget: please come to the show tomorrow! Talking about something is never as cool as actually doing it. There will be a fashion extravaganza, with me (followed by Max) strumming and singing along. Should be fun. See you there.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Podcast! Gibbous! Notes Shack! (05.23.10)

This is a bargain blog post, folks. You get three -- count them -- three topics in one. I've been so busy doing stuff -- a new Podcast, a new music video, and finally a show today -- that I haven't had enough time to write about them. We can remedy that, though. Let's do them in chronological order. It only seems fair.

1. NEW! Zak Claxton Podcast Spring 2010!

It had been five months since the last Podcast. I was slacking. But I think this one makes up for the delay, with news on my latest recording session, four complete tunes from the Zak Claxton album, and (drum roll please)... a complete interview with my friend, multi-instrumentalist and all-around great guy Bunny Knutson! Bunny dropped by on Wednesday evening, and I spontaneously turned his visit into an interview, much to his dismay. You can listen/download it right here...

ZC Podcast (Spring 2010)

2. NEW! Music video for "Waxing Gibbous"
YouTube Link

It's been my intention all along to eventually product videos for every song off the album. Of course, it's also been my intention to quit smoking and do sit-ups every morning, and haven't made much progress yet on those either. But yesterday (Sat May 22), I realized that the moon was in its waxing gibbous phase, and that started me thinking about doing a simple video for the only solo instrumental song on my album. So, Kat and I shot footage yesterday, I did some editing late last night, and bang-zoom! A video for you. Enjoy it.

3. Notes Shack (05.23.10)

It's really always a fun show at the Notes Shack. I tend to pull out tunes there that I don't do elsewhere, and today had a good-sized crowd of folks that really seemed to enjoy what they were hearing.

I did have a brief moment of insanity, inserting techno bleeps and bloops into the solo section of "You're Like a Cloud". I was going to try and write some excuse for this, but I don't think I should bother.

Today's set list at the Notes Shack...
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Love Hurts (Everly Brothers)
†Little Wing (Jimi Hendrix)
Time Never Waits for You (Zak Claxton)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
††Friend of the Devil (Grateful Dead)
For the Turnstiles (Neil Young)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
She's Always a Woman (Billy Joel)
I've Been Waiting for You (Neil Young)
Help Me (Joni Mitchell)
Shine (Zak Claxton)

†This was the first performance of "Little Wing" since April 30, 2009.
†† And the first "Friend of the Devil" since February 18, 2008!

Huge thanks to everyone who hung out at Notes Shack and supported my show!
Rock Doghouse, Triana Caldera, Alexis Fairlady, Hotrod Solo, Kat Claxton, Aurelie Chenaux, and Notes Shack owner Krakov Letov!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Stream Scene (05.19.10)

Photos by Triana Caldera

Well, I thought I'd done every type of gig in SL, but today once again proved me wrong. It was the first time I'd ever been taped doing a live show for a TV program!

The Stream Scene is a show on Metaverse TV (viewable at, and it focuses on the live musicians who perform in SL. I've been friends with the show's producer, Twstd Ruggles, for a long time, but we never managed to hook up for me to appear on the show until today.

I was their in-studio guest performer, and I have to say, it went really well. As you would imagine, I did a set of my original songs only, and maybe it's because I've been performing so much lately (or it was just dumb luck), but my voice and guitar playing were both behaving very well at today's show. It takes about a week to edit the show together, so expect an update sometime next week when the show is available for viewing on the air!

My Stream Scene set list...
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Shine (Zak Claxton)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Time Never Waits for You (Zak Claxton)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)

Big thanks to everyone who helped support my show today!
Kat Claxton, Triana Caldera, Robustus Hax, GweiMui Ghostraven, jromantic Halostar, Star Mumbhata, Selina Beedit, ANIMAL Cummings, and Stream Scene hostesses Starshine Halasy and Twstd Ruggles!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Restaurante Amanecer En Sevilla (05.17.10)

Photos courtesy of Triana Caldera.

It's a little busy in Zak World, isn't it? As anyone reading this blog already knows, I did shows on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday of last week, did a 12+ hour recording marathon on Saturday that was streamed out to the world on live video, spent yesterday documenting the studio session, and then tried to get in some real-life work today before having yet another show. Whew. I can't complain of boredom these days, so that's good, and on a general basis, the more music in my life, the better.

However, when I awoke today, the thought of doing a show wasn't all that appealing. Then, when I arrived at my show, I was even more doubtful about it being a good gig; we had some confusion with the stream and a language barrier to cross. However, once that got sorted out, it turned out to be a terrific show. The audience was fun and lively, and I unexpectedly had some friends/fans pop in, which is always a nice sight at a new place.

The venue itself, Restaurante Amanecer en Savilla, is a nice-looking build from people based in Spain (which you probably guessed by the name). They pulled together a nice-sized crowd, and I think everyone had a great time, or at least it seemed that way. In turn, I pulled out a few tunes that I don't do very often. This show, by the way, is one of a bunch of European-based gigs that Sandy Demina put together for me, and I have to once again say thanks to her for being a cool manager. I'm enjoying this tour of Europe!

Today's set list...
Time Never Waits for You (Zak Claxton)
Rikki Don't Lose That Number (Steely Dan)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
You've Got To Hide Your Love Away (Beatles)
Fire & Rain (James Taylor)
Blue (Joni MItchell)
Thank U (Alanis Morissette)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
I Am the Walrus (Beatles)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Shine (Zak Claxton)

Thanks to everyone who supported my show today at Sevilla!
estela Panthar, Sandy Beachey, Triana Caldera, Diana Renoir, Sevilla owner Pinterlux Delicioso, and my European manager Sandy Demina!

More notes from the studio (05.15.10)

In my excitement yesterday, I skipped over some of the details of Saturday's session at Sound Sanctuary that might a) be interesting to you (if you're a music/recording geek) and b) will be good to remember later on. Here's the list of exactly what we recorded, in what order, using what gear.

1. BUNNY: Drums for "Shine" (w/guitar and vocal scratch track).
2. BUNNY: Drums for "Time Never Waits for You" (w/guitar and vocal scratch track).
3. ZAK: Bass (Ibanez SR-1100) for "Time Never Waits for You".
4. ZAK: Acoustic guitar (Martin D-18V) for "Time Never Waits for You".
5. ZAK: Bass (Ibanez SR-1100) for "Shine".
6. KEN: Organ (Nord Electro 2) for "Time Never Waits for You".
7. KEN: Keyboard (Nord Electro 2) for "Shine".
8. ZAK: Guitar (Gretsch Pro Jet) for "Shine".
9. ZAK: Guitar (Epiphone Casino) for "Shine".
10. ZAK: Guitar (Fender Telecaster) for "Shine".
11. ZAK: Guitar (Les Paul) for "Time Never Waits for You".
12. ZAK: Guitar (Fender Telecaster) for "Time Never Waits for You".
13. ZAK: Lead vocal for "Time Never Waits for You".
14. ZAK: Backing vocal 1 for "Time Never Waits for You"
15. ZAK: Backing vocal 2 for for "Time Never Waits for You"
16. ZAK: Lead vocal for "Shine".
17. ZAK: High harmony vocal for "Shine" (to be replaced by Phil).
18. ZAK: Low harmony vocal for "Shine" (to be replaced by Bunny).
19. BUNNY: Low harmony vocal for "Shine".

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Studio Recording Session (05.15.10)


We spent all day yesterday at Sound Sanctuary Recording Studios in Riverside, CA, working on two new tunes: "Shine" and "Time Never Waits for You". Simply put, I think it may have been among the best music I've ever recorded. I've had to spend considerable effort today trying to contain my enthusiasm over this session. At least I can share with you, oh loyal reader.

The Basics
We arrived a little late -- it always takes longer to get rolling than you think -- and as soon as we got there, we quickly set up my laptop for our all-day video feed from the studio. Amazingly, I was able to establish a decent connection to Phil's router, and the bandwidth was sufficient to run the audio and video to Ustream. Success! Once we got the live stream set up, it was time to get rocking.

Once Bunny sauntered in, we got his drums set up in the live room, and Ken arrived shortly thereafter. Then we had our usual pow-wow in the lounge to go over some details and decisions about the tunes. A short while later, we set about getting the drum tracks down. As usual, we did this by having me record scratch tracks (that would be thrown away later) so Bunny could do his drums live, along with me. We started with "Shine" and then moved right away to "Time Never Waits for You". As soon as we got the drums down sufficiently, we gave Phil some time to make some adjustments to the drum tracks before we started overdubbing.

Zak warms up on guitar and laughs at the chat from our online viewing audience.

Bunny marveling at Phil's weapons of mass sonic destruction.

Happy Ken is happy.

Getting our plans together in the lounge at Sound Sanctuary.

Songs and gear and stuff
We had a really productive day, finishing almost everything needed for both songs (though I we have a couple of overdubs remaining for a future session). I used a cornucopia of gear at the session. Check it out...

"Shine": Martin D-18V, Gretsch Pro Jet, Fender Telecaster, Epiphone Casino, Ibanez SR-1100 bass
"Time Never Waits for You": Martin D-18V, Gretsch Pro Jet, Les Paul, Fender Telecaster, Ibanez SR-1100 bass

Both songs really had wonderful moments. I loved some of Ken's organ and synthesizer lines on both tunes. Bunny was solid as a rock, and he rocked all day long, hanging until the end to do some vocals on "Shine". Of course, Phil kept the session running smoothly through thick and thin, and helped get some amazing sounds for every track. It was terrific.

Bunny the rabid rabbit.

Taking down the drums after Bunny's masterful performances.

Time to throw down some bass tracks.

The live stream
I really had no idea if the stream would work, but not only did it function better than I would have expected; we had a number of great friends who hung out for a good portion of the day, just watching us do our thing. Every so often (without letting it distract me from the music much), I'd remember to wave over at our Internet audience. I was probably most impressed that our pal Mike was watching the session from his phone while he was out and about. The technology we take for granted today is just mind boggling.

Another highlight of the stream was our crazy musical chameleon Ken, who brought five different costume changes for our viewing audience. I nearly lost it at once point when I walked out of the control room and he was standing there in a Domino's pizza delivery uniform.

Oh, that crazy Ken.

Oh, that crazy Ken, part II.


Wrapping up another Zak Session
Knowing what I know about Phil's ability to blend, mix, and cajole sounds to come together in beauteous ways, I am nothing but thrilled about the stuff we got down yesterday. There's nothing like good friends, good times, and making good music. My hopes: high.

Bunny and Kat. No furry animals were harmed in the making of this photo.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Dubai (05.14.10)

I'd be okay with saying that the small crowd who came to my show at Dubai today had a good time, and I'd also say that I was happy to find my voice in good form and my guitar playing smooth. On the flip side, as an artist, you have to be patient with people who don't have a lot of experience hosting music events. I exhibited some of that patience today, but once we got rolling, I enjoyed doing the show.

The people, mostly Italian, were very nice and appreciative of the tunes, and I managed to wedge 13 songs into the hour, mostly because I couldn't blab as much to people between tunes (since I wasn't sure anyone else spoke English). In any case, I think I gained a new fan or two while I was there. Win.

Dubai set list...
*De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da (The Police)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Any Major Dude (Steely Dan)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Shine (Zak Claxton)
†The Right Thing to Do (Carly Simon)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Behind Blue Eyes (The Who)
Time Never Waits for You (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Big Yellow Taxi (Joni MItchell)
Come Around (Zak Claxton)

*Indicates the fist time I've played this song in SL.
†Last performance of "The Right Thing To Do": August 4, 2008

Thanks to all who supported my show at Dubai!
milla Rasmuson, Crow Titanium, Talia Alchemi, Kat Claxton, davide Garobie, Grace Miliandrovic, Dubai owner stefano Bowler, and my lovely manager Sandy Demina!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How I get ready to record

The most important thing I can relate to you regarding the right and wrong ways of recording music is that there is no right or wrong way to record music. When I talk about this stuff, I'm only referring to the way that I go about doing it, which might be completely wrong for someone else. The first thing to keep in mind is that who are are, musically, affects the process dramatically. A band that plays live all the time might go about it one way; a person who does solo compositions in front of his or her computer might have a polar opposite approach.

So, let's talk about how I do it.

1. Make sure your compositions are totally ready.
I write and perform my songs as a solo artist. That means I create the song (and perform it live) just using my acoustic guitar and my voice. But when I record, I need to arrange the songs for a pop/rock band format, meaning there will likely be drums, bass, keyboards, multiple tracks of acoustic and electric guitars, and layers of harmony and backing vocals.

First and foremost, you want to be sure your songs are good, but I can't give you advice on that... I barely know how to define a "good song" any more than anyone out there. But I do know that once you've settled into your song -- the format of the song is good, your lyrics are solid, etc. -- make sure you give a lot of thought to the arrangement of the song well in advance of going to the studio. You should think through each aspect of the song. What's your plan for backing vocals? Do you know what the bass part is going to sound like? What type of keyboard sounds will be used? My advice in this regard is to listen to your demo (you did record a demo, right?) and focus completely on the part you're going to create. Hear that bass part in your head, and make some notes so you can refer back to them once you're in the studio. Then listen again and make plans/notes for your vocals. And again for the drums. And so on.

2. Make sure your gear is ready to rock.
I can't tell you how many times, as an audio engineer or producer, I've seen sessions derailed for completely avoidable reasons. The drummer forgot to bring an extra head for his snare drum. The guitarist breaks a string and didn't bother picking up some extras just in case. The bass player left his strap at home and can't play sitting down. Make a checklist, and then think through all the contingencies that might happen when you play. It's always better to go overboard with gear and backup equipment than to not have something you need at a crucial moment.

Ooh, shiny new strings on my Martin.

Side note: I'm really lucky in that I record at Sound Sanctuary, which has damn near everything I need for recording even if I were to show up there with nothing at all. Still, I do have personal stuff that's required, and I'm careful about making sure everything is in tip-top condition before hitting the road. Speaking of personal stuff, think beyond the music gear. I keep some nail clippers in my gig bag... you can't play guitar with long nails on your fretting hand. And make sure that the studio is stocked with snacks and refreshments, or bring your own. You don't want to do a crappy performance on record just because you're tired and burned out and there wasn't a Snickers bar handy. Think through everything you need to make yourself comfortable and in a good position to do your best stuff.

Double-check that you have everything ready, even the small stuff.

3. Make sure you are ready to rock.
Here's an area where some people will disagree with me, perhaps for good reason. Some musicians consider "ready to rock" as being in a state where they've been up all night on God knows what kind of drugs, then roll into the studio half blasted out of their minds with a half bottle of Jack Daniels in hand and eight groupies tagging along. Hey look, I can't argue with the results of some records made under those conditions. But I do know that for most folks who really want to take advantage of their limited time in the studio (and don't have the financial backing of a huge label), being a rock star in the studio is a really, really bad idea.

That's why I give the following recommendations:

• Get lots of sleep the night before the session.
• Do everything you can in the days before the session to not get sick or injured.
• Wipe everything else from your mind. You can't be thinking about work or relationships or doing your taxes and make a great record at the same time.
• Hopefully, the place you record is one where you can feel comfortable and relaxed. Stress will not help you record well.
• Feel confident about your songs.
• Stay focused. This isn't a practice, or a jam, or a gig. Have a checklist of what you want to accomplish, track by track, and get the job done.
• Think about how great it will feel when the session is done, the song is mixed, and you're proud of what you've accomplished.
• Ask questions before the session. Don't wait until you're there at the studio, or make assumptions that something you need will be provided. Any reputable studio will be happy to address your concerns so you can be really prepared to record good stuff when you get there.
• If the recording involves more people than you, then you need to be sure that the others -- bandmates, session musicians, producers, whoever -- are all on the same page. It could be something as simple as going over the bridge of the song with the bass player one last time, to being sure the drummer has the schedule right and took the day off work accordingly. I've seen dozens and dozens of sessions get ruined from lack of communication.
• Be prepared, but don't over-prepare. I've known singers who were so concerned about doing a great studio performance that they blew out their voice by warming up too much before the session.
• At the same time, as you should every time you sing or play, take yourself through some standard warmup and stretching exercises for your voice and fingers before they hit the 'record' button. It only takes a few minutes and will end up being crucial toward getting a good performance. You'll actually save time, since you won't have to throw away your first ten "warm up" takes.
• Bring your patience. There are inevitable times where stuff will happen that involves you waiting while someone else records a part, or the engineer preps the board, and so on. Bring a book, a magazine, a laptop, or other things to keep you from caving in to the tedium during the herky-jerky process of recording.

4. And have fun!
I mean this from the bottom of my heart: if you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong. You may look at all this stuff and feel overwhelmed, or you might be intimidated by the environment of the studio, or worried that your stuff isn't going to be as good as you want it. DROP ALL THOSE THOUGHTS like a hot potato, and have a great time. Your vibe will be reflected in your recordings, and you want your memories of the session to be positive. Chances are, you're doing something you always dreamed of, so relax and enjoy it!

Speaking of fun, one final note: as you may already know, I'm inviting the world to come check out my session on Saturday May 15. We're setting up a live streaming webcam in the studio, so from 12:30PM PDT on, you can watch as I do my thing in the studio. Just go to and you'll be able to watch. See you then!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Pond (05.12.10)

Photo by Triana Caldera.

Today was my second trip to The Pond, a cute little music venue in SL which has the added benefit of hosting Wednesday shows that are a) all original music and b) broadcast live on FCMC Radio.

Last time I played there, while it was a cool gig, we ran into the dreaded stream monster, or whatever it was that was causing my audio to sputter and spurt and cut in and out at a couple of points during my show. I'm happy to say that this was not an issue at this show, and all went well, technically. I can't say it was my greatest performance vocally; I was, to be nice, a little pitchy at points today. But that's life in the big city... some shows are better than others, and nothing I do (or don't do) seems to matter when it comes to how my voice will behave at any time.

Still, the overall show was good, and I enjoyed being able to rock a full hour of nothing but Zak Tunes. Fun show, good times.

Hopping off the stage at the end of my set.

The set life du jour...
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Time Never Waits for You (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Shine (Zak Claxton)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Triana (Zak Claxton)
Come Around (Zak Claxton)

Thanks to all who supported my show today at The Pond!
Triana Caldera, Kat Claxton, Rey Tardis, Lance Windlow, Diana Renoir, hosts MC2U Miles and BurningEmber Hotshot, and FCMC's Reslez Steeplechase!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Illusion (05.11.10)

Top photo by me. Bottom photo by Diana Renoir.

As you all know by now, I love doing shows at places I've never played before. I get to meet new people, turn more folks on to my music, and give my regular fans some new scenery. Today's show at Illusion was a great example of why shows at new venues are terrific.

We started with a tiny crowd. In fact, I don't think you can call three people a "crowd", actually, heh heh. But I've learned something: never, ever panic about a small audience. The worst thing that happens is that you feel badly for the venue, but as a professional musician, you should be able to pull together a fun show for three people as well (if not better) than for 300 people, or 3,000 people. And sure enough, as tends to happen, folks arrived in dribs and drabs until we had a really respectable-sized crowd there toward the halfway point. I was definitely raring to play; my show in SL was on April 25, and I hadn't played for a crowd at all since May 1 (my last Zak Claxton Happy Fun Show).

New venues present one other challenge: not knowing exactly what type of music will be expected or appreciated. Since this show was booked for me by an outside manager, I'd never even been able to hang out there previous to playing. However, this became a non-issue from the very start, as it was obvious that the stuff I was doing -- both originals and covers -- was being enjoyed by everyone.

The set list at Illusion...
Pigs on the Wing Part 1 (Pink Floyd)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Better Man (Pearl Jam)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Things Behind the Sun (Nick Drake)
California (Joni Mitchell)
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)
Time Never Waits for You (Zak Claxton)
Tea in the Sahara (The Police)
Shine (Zak Claxton)
Soul Kitchen (The Doors)

Giant thanks to everyone who supported my show and helped make today at Illusion fun!
Rusty Fastback, Grace Miliandrovic, jsmn Yao, Diana Renoir, Per Negulesco, bluu Jatho, my terrific manager Sandy Demina, and Illusion owner giger Moonites!

Live Music Roundtable with Linden Lab

I don't spend much time on this blog talking about Linden Lab, the creators of Second Life. Honestly, there's been very little reason to, since in the years I've spent there, I've had very little contact with them, and only think about them on the occasions when SL isn't working for whatever reason. Think about it like your ISP: you tend to not think much about the structure of the service until it doesn't do what it's supposed to.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised last week to see that the PR branch of Linden Lab was reaching out to the SL music community in putting together a roundtable discussion. They had us fill out questionnaires about our musical activities in SL, as well as our RL music and how it ties into SL, and so on. I filled it out and sent it in, and was happy to get a fast response from Pete Linden, who invited me to take part in the meeting in-world, scheduled for 9AM this morning.

With a fresh cup of coffee in arm's reach, I got into world at 8:50, and was magically teleported to PR Island. No, I didn't get a standard TP request. Pete pinged me and asked if I was ready, and as soon as I replied that I was, WHOOOSH... I was there. It's good to be the king, I suppose!

I'm not sure how they put together their list of attendees, but I think they did a good job at making a cross-reference of many different types of musicians with their own performance styles and goals, both in SL and RL. Here's who was there (hoping I didn't miss anyone, and my apologies if I did):

- Alazarin Mondrian
- Dakota Pluto
- Debi Latte
- EvaMoon Ember
- Grace McDunnough
- Keiko Takamura
- Kyle Beltran
- Lance Rembrandt
- Lou Mannock
- Rola Hykova
- Skye Galaxy
- Zak Claxton

- Blue Linden
- Catharine Linden
- Pete Linden
- Jennifer Dolores
- Travis Pooraka
- Vanessa Emerald

We could have had a nice jam session after the meeting.

After a welcome from Pete Linden, we proceeded to go around the room, with each person giving a mostly-brief introduction of themselves and what they do in SL (and RL in cases where it applied). Since most of the people there were veterans of the live music scene, I think we all knew each other fairly well previous to today's get-together, but I learned some new stuff about my fellow SL musicians nevertheless.

What was immediately apparent was that the Linden PR team did a good job of vetting this crowd to show the variety of performers in SL. You had people like Debi and Lou, who mostly do covers. You had Alazarin, who does his unique brand of progressive rock. There were people like me, Keiko, Lance, and Eva, who focus on our real life music careers but still are very involved in the SL music scene, and combine both parts of our lives in that aspect. And of course, the wonderful Grace McDunnough, who doesn't perform live in RL but makes up for it tenfold with her immersive shows in SL. A nice cross-section of the live performing scene. Well done, Linden PR peeps.

When Grace talks, I listen.

For the most part, the discussion focused on the goals and feelings of the musicians. It wasn't entirely a one-way street conversation, but given the limited time we had, the priority seemed to be a fact-gathering mission for Linden's PR team, rather than a chance for us to quiz them. The specific topics included comparing SL to other social networks in terms of effectiveness for music promotion, asking what unique qualities of SL made it attractive for live musicians, and so on in that vein.

If a bomb went off in this room, there would... still be about 700 too many musicians in SL. Kidding! The more, the merrier.

There were surprisingly few fireworks at this meeting. I think everyone there understood that this meeting was not about bitching Linden out for the perceived lack of support of music in SL. Any number of grenades could have been lobbed, like getting clarification on the rights of artists to perform covers in SL, the 25 group limit, the small audience sizes due to sim limits, and of course the crippling of search functionality in Viewer 2. But while some of these topics were broached, they were all done respectfully, and with the understanding that these were not the people responsible for fixing this stuff anyway.

About the only moment that my ears pricked up in this regard was when Dakota Pluto asked pointedly, "So why is Linden interested in us now? Some of us have been doing this for five years, and this is the first time you've bothered to talk to us." I really enjoyed that barb, but Pete handled it adroitly, and Catharine Linden seemed only marginally defensive about it. I think the overall message from the musicians was that we're all aware of the shortcomings of Second Life as a platform for live music, but that we all care enough about it to overlook some of those issues to focus on the positive aspects that will help push forward both SL and our own careers as musicians.

Dragons and sexy cartoon people. Yup, this is SL.

Thanks, Linden PR!
It was good to feel that we're being heard, even if it's only for Linden's PR benefit for the time being. Hopefully these communications channels can continue to open for us, and allow SL to be viewed as a viable platform for musicians around the world, as well as a place for music lovers to discover some great live performers and their music.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A busy and exciting week

Happy Monday! Actually, if you're reading this on Facebook, it's "Happy whatever day this post appeared on Facebook even though Zak wrote and posted it to his blog on Monday!", but that doesn't sound nearly as snappy.

In any case, it's a busy week, and I thought that since I might not have too may opportunities to be blogging away over the next seven days, so here's a little preview of what's likely to happen.

Monday May 10
Er... well, it's not the highlight of the week. It's Monday, and most of my day is going to be filled with work-related activities. If you're really curious, that would involve writing content, updating web sites and social nets for my clients, and various things and stuff I do to earn a living. But since all work and no play makes Zak a dull boy, I also updated the Zak Claxton site to highlight the big festivities for this coming Saturday (see below for details).

Tuesday May 11
We'll get this day rolling with a 9am roundtable discussion with Linden Lab about the Second Life live music community. Should be interesting, and hopefully productive. Later on, speaking of Live Music in SL, I'll be performing at Illusion at 2PM SLT. Here's your SLurl:

Wednesday May 12
I'm returning to the Pond at 4PM to do a full hour of all-original music. Why all original? Because the show is being simulcast on FCMC Radio. Your SLurl... if you can't attend the show, you can still listen in at FCMC's live stream:

Thursday May 13
Ah, a day of getting work stuff done and general preparation for the weekend. I'll do a post later this week that explains how one prepares for a recording session. It's not as magical or mystical as some might think.

Friday May 14
I have this accidental tradition where I end up playing a live show the day before a recording session. Like, almost every single time. And I never TRY to book a show on that random day; it just happens like magic. Trip out on this...

Fri March 28 2008: I had a previously scheduled show at our COYOTE club.
Sat March 29 2008: First session for the first ZC album ("This Afternoon", "Falling Down").

Fri June 27 2008: I perform at SL5B... twice.
Sat Jun 28 2008: Second session for the ZC album ("You're LIke a Cloud", "Thanks Anyway").

Fri March 20, 2009: Live at the Vibe HQ.
Sat March 21, 2009: Fourth session for the ZC album ("Waxing Gibbous", "Lines on your Eyes", "Come Around").

That's just a few examples. There are more. In each case, I hadn't at all planned on doing a show the day before my session, but it's a good way to warm up, and all sessions where this happen to work out went very well. Why screw with a good thing? That having been said, I got randomly booked to play at Dubai at 1:30PM on Friday 5/14, and play I shall!

Saturday May 15
The REALLY big day. As mentioned earlier, I'm going to the studio to start work on the next album. We're doing two tunes: "Shine" and "Time Never Waits for You". Also, you'll be able to watch the entire recording session with a fly-on-the-wall perspective, since we're streaming the entire day on Ustream. The easiest way to see what we're doing and drop us a line in chat: on Saturday at 12:30PM PDT, just head to and jump right in.

Sunday May 16
By Sunday, I will have used every ounce of energy in my body and mind, and will be using whatever is left to a) drive home from the studio and b) prep and upload stuff for you to see from the previous day's sessions.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Happy Birthday to the Moop!

This is the Moop, and he's now an adult... in human years.

Yep, the Moop is 18 years old, born at the beginning of May 1992. His actual name is Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation Starship Enterprise, or Captain for short. But I call him the Moop, because for most of those 18 years of his life, he's only done two things consistently: moping and pooping.

Here's how I got the Moop: my mom's friend owned a boutique in the Long Beach area, and apparently found the Moop as a tiny kitten who'd been abandoned by his feral mother. She was kind enough to not leave him out there, but not quite kind enough to want to keep him. So she gave him to my mother. A few days later, my then-girlfriend (now known as my ex-wife) and I were visiting Mom's, and Mom made some incredibly full-of-shit speech about how sad it was that she was going to have to take the cat to the shelter, probably to be put to sleep. Well, my former girlfriend/future ex-wife ate that up, and despite the fact that we were living in a tiny one-bedroom apartment at the time and already had a perfectly good cat, she insisted that we take the Moop home. I caved; we now had a second cat.

But this one was weird. He didn't like to do cuddly cat-like things. In fact, he liked to stay on his own completely. Didn't want to socialize with people, or other animals. He mostly stayed under the bed, coming out only to eat or use the litter box. We figured he'd warm up after awhile, but that didn't happen.

Years passed. We moved to a bigger place. Had other cats. Had cats die on us. Had a kid. Changed jobs. Got divorced. And yet, through all the turmoil, the Moop remained steady as a rock. Steadily weird, anyway. But I have to give Moopy some credit; as my son got older, and Moop ended up being the only animal in the house, he gradually mellowed out over the years. He's actually a semi-normal cat at this point, and it only took him until age 88 (in relative human years) to get there.

Despite his advanced age, he still seems pretty healthy, and generally seems happier than he ever did. Hopefully this is due to some long-awaited kitty contentment that he's found, as opposed to cat senility. Regardless, while there are no guarantees when you're a cat old enough to vote, I find that I'm happy that the Moop is still around. Hats off to the Moop Man!

Monday, May 3, 2010

What's happening?

It's a good question. What is happening? What's going on? What the hell is there to do, and why aren't we doing it?

Since this blog more or less focuses on my music -- live shows, recording sessions, songwriting and so on -- you have to understand that not every day is a "music day". Not to be all depressing, but it's been said that people who focus exclusively on one thing are bound for failure. Kurt Cobain was a brilliant songwriter and performer, but when he mistakenly felt his creative fire was extinguished, his solution was to eat the wrong end of a shotgun. Bad idea, Kurt. That stuff would have come back around.

As you know, I did the seventh episode of my Zak Claxton Happy Fun Show on Saturday, a couple of days ago. It was happy and fun, as planned. But I'm not currently scheduled to play again until May 11, over a week from now. I'm taking this short break purposefully; the idea is to hold back on the music for a bit until it builds up like pressure in a soda bottle. Then I play a series of shows on May 11, 12, and 14, all as a warmup for my first session back in the studio on Saturday May 15. In the meantime, I thought I'd fill you in on some possibly mundane events of the non-musical variety.

New Shades

When you live in Southern California and are already rather light sensitive (they say we green-eyed people have it the worst for some reason), sunglasses aren't just a fashion statement; they're a necessity. Here's a little Zak Fact that you may not know; in my plethora of jobs I held as a young man putting myself through college, one of them was managing a Sunglass Hut in a mall. I became a bit of a sunglass snob as a result, and pretty much refuse to buy/wear the crappy $9 shades you see at grocery stores and gas stations. That having been said, I've been doing exactly that for the last year or so. My last pair of Ray-Bans finally broke, and I bought a cheap pair (cue ZZ Top song here) to hold me over until I got some better ones. Well, that ended up being all of 2009. I kind of liked the look of my cheap sunglasses, but they were beginning to fall apart, so it was time for some new shades, baby.

This weekend, I went to the mall with Kat and my son, and swung by my old place of employment (from 20+ years ago, egad). Tried on roughly 739 pairs of shades, and it boiled down to a few pairs I liked. The winner ended up being the ones I'm sexily modeling above, some Italian-made shades from Polo by Ralph Lauren. It's been awhile since I wore an amber lens, and I forgot that I really liked it. So, the sunglass issue has been solved.

My Really Hideous Beard

Males, when they find themselves bored with the same face that stares back at them in the mirror every day, don't have the vast selection of choices that women do to make changes. I've tended to have various forms of facial hair since I found myself able to cultivate it around age 16. It started with a really cheesy mustache, and in my 20s was a full goatee for awhile. I then went clean shaven for my later 20s, but starting in my early 30s grew a small covering on my chin which has remained for most of the time since.

Well, a few weeks back, at the start of the playoff seasons for both the NBA and NHL, I found a perfectly acceptable excuse to grow more facial hair. The playoff beard is a hockey tradition, and I vowed to not shave my cheeks until both of my teams -- the L.A. Kings and the L.A. Lakers -- had either won championships or had been eliminated from the playoffs. It's a weak excuse at best, but I'll take what I can get.

The problem is that I've never been able to grow a really cool beard. I don't know why I thought that might have changed over the course of time; you only get one shot at puberty, and mine did not endow me with a rugged, manly outcropping of hair on most of my face. And yet, that hasn't stopped me from once again attempting to once again become the bearded dude that I imagine I can be. A side note: whenever I grow hair on my upper lip, I look like a huge freaking dork who wants to get his ass kicked. You have to draw a line somewhere in looking like crap, and that's mine.

So, for the time being, I'm continuing to not shave anywhere but my neck, upper cheeks, and lip, and you can see the awesome result above. It's patchy, peach-fuzzy, graying, and everything you generally don't want in a beard. But while the Kings dropped out of the NHL playoffs in the first round, the Lakers appear to be going strong, so my beard shall remain until I've run out of pseudo-legitimate reasons why it shouldn't. Well, reasons other than that I look like crap. I find myself less concerned with what other people think about me in my old age.

My Son, the Medalist

Give a proud papa a chance to brag a little. My son was voted by his class as being the "Most Fair Person" of the 2009-2010 school year, and was awarded an actual medal in front of the whole school last week. I don't talk much about my son here for privacy reasons, but suffice it to say that he's an amazing kid, with a great personality and is the light of my life. I'm always proud of him, regardless of the recognition he gets, but it's great to see him be rewarded for being fair... a highly important quality in any decent human.

Feeling Springy

Here in Redondo Beach, CA on this lovely Monday May 3rd, the weather is about as nice as weather gets, anywhere, ever. Granted, I tend to enjoy when it gets a wee bit warmer, but in my lovely suburb of Los Angeles, it stays between 55º and 70º for the grand majority of the year. Even when it's a sweltering 105º during mid-summer in the Valley, it'll be in the pleasant mid-80s here. Currently, it's 65º and not a cloud in the sky, with a high of 73º expected. I'll be spending most of this gorgeous day inside my home office as usual, but still, it's nice to know it's out there if I want to participate in its loveliness.

That's all for now. More irrelevant stuff later this week, I'm sure.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

ZCHFS #7 Report (05.01.10)


We had a lovely time at today's Zak Claxton Happy Fun Show. As I tend to do, I didn't really promote the show all that well, so we had a small crowd but they were all fun and cool people. I thought I played/sang well, and we picked some good tunes -- originals and covers -- to perform. In fact, the only negative of the whole day... being the bonehead that I can be from time to time, I forgot to set the audio source as being through my nice microphones, so instead it was being picked up by my crappy built-in laptop mic, gah. Next time I'll take the three seconds it would have taken to set this up correctly.

Regardless of that, it was a really fun show, and I think everyone there had a blast. I certainly did. Keep in mind, for the next ZCHFS, we'll be streaming live video and audio from the recording studio, assuming it actually functions. Keep your fingers crossed and tune in on 5/15!

ZCHFS #7 Setlist...
Triana (Zak Claxton)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)
Summer Breeze (Seals & Crofts)
Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Shine (Zak Claxton)
Thank U (Alanis Morissette)
Time Never Waits For You (Zak Claxton)
Tea in the Sahara (The Police)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
California (Joni Mitchell)

Thanks to the people who stopped by for the ZCHFS!

Zak's Kitchen: Dill Shrimp Salad

Here's a delightful dish you can make in minutes. Perfect as the weather gets warmer.

Zak's Dill Shrimp Salad
Serves 4-6

1-1/2 pounds of small cooked shrimp (cleaned, no tails)
3 green onions (chopped)
1 large celery stalk (chopped)
1/2 cucumber (chopped)
1/4 cup mayonaisse
1/4 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. fresh dill (chopped)
2 lemons; juiced
1 lime; juiced

Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl. Chill for 30 minutes. Serve by itself on crisp lettuce leaves, or on top of toast corners or pumpernickel rounds as hors d'oeuvres.