Interview – Zak Claxton, Second Life musician

zakclaxton_liveZak Claxton is one of many Second Life musicians who have built up a loyal following. Over the past year I’ve been aware of Zak’s work on an album showcasing the body of original songs he’s built up. With the December 11th release of his self-titled album, I thought it was a good time to profile his work, to get his thoughts on the SL music scene and some tips of SL music performance.

I do need to make a disclosure – I’ve known Zak’s real-world alter ego for seven years or so – we’ve hung out together throughout that time on a number of musician discussion forums. We both became Second Life residents around the same time and the Metaverse Journal’s Second Life presence was constructed by Zak’s partner Kat Claxton from Encore Design Group. Finally, I have had extensive involvement online with the other musicians on the album as well.

On to the interview:

Lowell: You’ve been a musician for decades – aside from the Second Life learning curve, was there any aspect of musicianship you’ve had to learn or change with Zak?

Zak: Absolutely. Most musicians are used to receiving immediate feedback from their audiences, be it clapping, cheering, or throwing beer bottles at their foreheads. When I first started performing in SL, it was a bit disconcerting to finish a song and then wait for 15-40 seconds to have the audience react, due to the latency of the stream. You get used to it after awhile.

Also, on a personal basis, most of my musical experience as a live performer previous to SL was as a member of bands. It took a short while for me to get used to being alone on stage, with no other sources of music than what I can perform in real time with my guitar and voice. But I got over that relatively quickly… it’s just a matter of experience.

Lowell: Can you describe in a paragraph or two the process of making the album?

Zak: I am extremely fortunate to have developed close friendships with a number of talented people in the music/recording business. When I decided to get serious and do a “real” album (as opposed to something I could record in my bedroom on marginal equipment), I enlisted the help of engineer/producer Phil O’Keefe, and recorded all of the tracks at his Sound Sanctuary Recording Studios in Riverside, CA. Then I called upon the talents of a couple of other multi-instrumentalist friends; Bunny Knutson provided drums on every song as well as some additional guitar parts, and Ken Lee also came in for a few songs on keyboards and guitars.

The process was pretty simple. All of the songs were those I’d written to be able to perform as a solo artist, so it was just a matter of fleshing out the songs, arranging them for a rock band setting. We would go into Sound Sanctuary, and Bunny and I would perform the songs in real time, without any click tracks to lock us in. It was a very free and creative environment. After we got the drums down, we would layer other tracks via overdubbing. I played the majority of the guitars and bass, and did most of the lead and backing vocals as well. Phil O’Keefe also added various parts as needed.

We started recording in March 2008 and didn’t finish until August 2009, but that’s only because our respective schedules didn’t allow us to record whenever we felt like it. We actually only spent six days in the studio during that time frame, and each of those days had us creating two complete songs. The sessions were actually very productive. Phil would then make rough mixes as we went along, and at the very end we had one final session to go through and make tweaks to those rough mixes. The whole thing was very smooth, and since I was working with great friends, we had an incredibly fun time at each session.

Lowell: Can you divulge the inspirations behind any of your songs?

Zak: I’m inspired by many things, both for the musical and lyrical content of my songs. First and foremost, I’m inspired by all the great music that’s been done before me. I’ve spent a lifetime as a lover of all kinds of music, and I did my best to allow those influences to be reflected in my songs.

On a more specific basis, I find that nature is often a key source of inspiration. In a number of my songs, you’ll hear references to the sky, the sea, the sun, the stars and so on. I don’t know why; perhaps I feel these things are part of a bigger picture than the fleeting stuff that happens in our day to day lives. But I’m also inspired by relationships, and the interaction between people in general. Certainly, the fact that I’m madly in love with my ladyfriend Kat Claxton resulted in the creation of several songs on this album, specifically “This Afternoon” and “Always Tomorrow”.

Lowell: Have you written any songs based on your performances in Second Life?

Zak: I have, and have performed them upon occasion in SL. For example, I have a song called “Triana” that was inspired by a gal to whom Kat and I have become close in SL; she runs a weekly music trivia game we attend.

However, it was important to me to make a distinction between what I do in SL and what I do on a more general basis as a musician. I did not want to make this an SL-centric album, and it was my intention all along to create music that people could relate to whether or not they’ve even heard of virtual environments. It’s safe to say that nothing that ended up on the album is specific toward SL, only because I wanted all people to be able to enjoy it with or without references to virtual worlds.

Lowell: I know it’s hard to list a few, but are there particular SL musicians that you admire / have inspired or impressed you?

Zak: Definitely, yeah. SL is simply a microcosm of real life, and much like the rest of reality, you have a small percentage of people who probably shouldn’t be playing music in public, and then a much larger percentage of people who are pretty decent and can play and have fun along with their audience. And beyond that, you have a small number of people who are obviously very talented. Again, these percentages line up with what you’d expect from any collection of musicians in any real life community.

While most SL musicians do cover tunes in world, I have a greater admiration for those creating and performing original music. Some of my personal favorites include Grace McDunnough, a fellow singer-songwriter who is from Atlanta. I’ve also really enjoyed the live creations of a guy who would probably be considered a DJ, but is actually a great real-time remix artist named Doubledown Tandino. Slim Warrior is another original remix artist and singer who is very talented. She’s known in real life as SlimGirl Fat, and is currently achieving some well-deserved recognition in the UK. I also enjoy the music of a British guitar player and singer Blindboy Gumbo who does blues-based music. He’s great and does a fun show. Hexx Triskaidekaphobia puts on reggae/jam shows in SL as a pseudo-band called Born Again Pagans who are very original and cool. I also enjoy the performances of SL artists like Mimi Carpenter, Mel Cheeky, and several others.

Lowell: What are Zak’s goals for the future?

zakclaxton_albumcoverZak: I tend to create music for the sake of the music, as opposed to ulterior motives like fame or fortune. I can say for sure that I still have a lot of music inside of me that has yet to emerge. I’ve begun writing songs for a second solo album, which I intend to start working on in early 2010. But on an immediate basis, my self-titled debut album is just coming out now, so I have some stuff to do to help promote it. In that regard, I will be doing some live shows in real life, and we’re making an effort to get terrestrial radio airplay here in the USA in addition to the Internet radio play we get on stations like IndieSpectrum Radio and SL Live Radio. While I’m not fooling myself into thinking my album will be some massive pop hit, I still want to do the things that will at least give it a chance to get heard, so the current focus is in that regard. I’m working closely with Kat on this stuff, since we’re partnering in a record label called Frothy Music to do the release of my album.

And, of course, I intend on continuing to do live performances in SL on a regular basis. On average, I do about 5-6 shows each month, and I have no plans of slowing down. At the end of the day, I play in SL because I really enjoy it, and as long as there are people who want to see and hear me, I’ll be there.

Lowell: Have you collaborated at all with other SL musicians and if not, is it likely to occur in the future?

Zak: I have, but not in the way I’d really prefer. I’ve taken part in a couple of collaborative efforts that were designed to bring some attention to the SL music community as a whole, but in both cases, I just sang a few lines on someone else’s song and didn’t have much direct participation beyond that. However, I would definitely love to really collaborate on something new with a fellow SL musician. While I don’t have any firm plans at the moment, having focused on my own album in recent months, I can absolutely see that happening at some point soon.

Lowell: You’ve put a lot of work into developing the Zak Claxton persona: do you see Zak as a creative psuedonym for Second Life only or is there a broader connection for you?

Zak: My story is pretty funny in this regard. I became Zak Claxton pretty much by accident; it was a name that I picked while signing up for SL in 2006 without giving it much thought. I certainly didn’t plan on it being a name I’d use for purposes other than in SL. At that stage, I wasn’t even fully aware that one could perform music in SL at all.

I started doing live shows in SL in early 2007, and I can now honestly say that around the world, many more people know the name Zak Claxton as a musician than they would associate music with my given name. If I already had some really great sounding, marketable name in real life, I might have been more open to using it for my musical endeavors. But unfortunately, I don’t; my real life last name is kind of long and German and clunky. So, Zak Claxton has become my official stage name. I find it likely that with or without SL, I probably would have chosen an alternative name which I’d use to release my music, just as Bob Dylan, Sting, and many other artists have done before me. It just so happened that Zak Claxton sounds cool, and I’ve already built a decent-sized following of fans who know me as Zak. It all worked out, despite not being part of a plan. I love when random things happen like that.

Lowell: Does Zak have any plans to perform in other environments like OpenSim, Twinity or Blue Mars?

Zak: I see no reason why not, though I have yet to delve into any virtual world beyond SL. To me, these are all platforms where new fans might be found. Live music is an appealing form of entertainment in just about any environment, and if OpenSim, Twinity and Blue Mars (or others) offer ways to attract an audience and do performances as easily as can be done in SL, I think it goes without saying that I’ll eventually be looking into them.

Lowell: Ignoring the Second Life aspect, why should people buy your album?

Zak: What I really want is for people to throw away all the other stuff when it comes time to judge my album worthy of purchase. Don’t think about SL. Don’t think of me as an avatar strumming a cartoon guitar on a virtual stage. And above all, don’t think, “He’s pretty good for an SL musician.” I want the music and the recording to be judged based on the same criteria you would any new music you’ve ever heard. If you hear something that connects with you, and you truly enjoy the music, then I hope you buy the album, or at least get on one of the online retailers like iTunes and purchase the song you like via digital download.

I think there are aspects of the album that will have a strong appeal to people who appreciate music that lasts longer than the typical pop tune. My strongest musical influences — people like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Police, and so on — seemed to write music that stands the test of time, and doesn’t necessarily feel dated after a few years go by. I would like to think that my album possesses some of the qualities that put it in a similar vein. And while some folks may want to skip over the harder rock stuff and others won’t bother with the softer stuff, I think there’s something on the album for everyone who enjoys well-crafted songs. I hope so, anyway.

Lowell: Have you managed to convince the other musicians on the album to join you in SL? If not, why not?

Zak: Well, I can say that they’ve certainly heard me babbling on for three straight years about how I view SL as a musician’s paradise. But what I usually get in return are excuses like, “That seems cool, but I don’t have time for it,” or, “I’m not sure my computer can handle the graphics,” and so on. In fairness to them, not all of my real life collaborators are the type of musicians who are comfortable doing solo performances, as most SL shows are done. Out of the three folks who helped me on my record, only Bunny has even tried out SL, and sparingly at that.

On a side note, I would enjoy the hell out of doing a full band show in SL. I mean, there are logistical challenges, but it’s been done both as real-time live performances with the band members in the same room, and as relay-streamed performances where each musician is in a different place. But it can be done. Like most things in life, it’s more a matter of people with busy schedules and jobs and families to take care of, rather than a lack of desire to do it. I think it’ll happen eventually.

Lowell: Is it true the drummer on your album spent many hours camping in SL casino chairs before the gambling ban came in?

Zak: Let me tell you something about my drummer: I love Bunny as much as any man can love another without deviating from his heterosexuality. His contribution to the overall feel of the album cannot be understated. He was right there for every moment of the recording sessions, and added invaluable opinions to the process of capturing the songs. The mere fact that he was probably better known as a punk rock guitar player before tackling drums on this album says a lot. He stepped up to the occasion, and while he’ll tell you with typical modesty that his performances were subpar, I tend to think that he was the best drummer on the entire planet for my music.

And yes, I think he did enjoy some camping chairs during his brief tenure in SL. It’s certainly true to his form.

Lowell: What advice would you have for musicians wanting to create music in Second Life – what mistakes should they avoid?

zc_streetZak: Lots and lots of mistakes to avoid. First and foremost, check your ego at the door, as Quincy Jones once famously said. I’ve seen a number of musicians come into SL thinking they should be the hot ticket from day one, since they have a bit of real life experience as a musician. But as I mentioned earlier, there’s actually a pretty deep talent pool in SL, and like any music scene you’re trying to break into, you have some dues to pay in terms of getting recognized.

Second, it’s pretty silly for musicians to think of SL as a viable income source in and of itself. Granted, there are folks who’ve worked their asses off to develop a large fan following, and perform several times per day every single day, and make relatively great tips at each show. I can see some of those folks making enough money to pay their rent, perhaps. But in the entirety of the SL music scene, which probably comprises over 500 people who perform on a regular basis, there are maybe three to five folks who fit this description. It’s a tiny percentage.

Third, while you shouldn’t set the expectations too high from the income available in SL itself, don’t get discouraged and quit. In my opinion, the real value of SL to musicians is exposure beyond your wildest dreams. Look, I live in Los Angeles, right? One of the world’s musical Meccas. And yet, there’s no possible way I would have had as many people listen to my original music as I have with SL. That’s not even mentioning the fact that I have fans who enjoy my music and are based in Australia, Canada, all over Europe, across the USA, and so on. The opportunity for getting your music out there is tremendous.

Here’s a simple thing that still needs to be said: if you’re at all serious about using SL to perform at a level expected for a professional musician, don’t try and sing and play through your computer’s built-in mic using Voice. You should treat it like you would any real show, meaning you use gear that’s appropriate for showing off your skills, and you use an audio stream that will give reasonable quality to your sound. Anyone can hear the difference when musicians are using decent mics, instruments, computer audio interfaces and so on.

Finally, keep in mind that despite the preponderance of people like me who strum acoustic guitars and sing in SL, there should be no limitations in terms of the type of music you play. I’d actually like to see more hip hop artists, more ambient and experimental music, more classical music, and more jazz in SL. In fact, there are probably entire audiences of SL residents who are just waiting for more varied types of musical performances. No matter what type of music you do or how you perform it, give SL a shot and see what happens.

Lowell: Aside from musicians in SL, which SL residents have inspired you the most?

Zak: I’m certainly amazed by the talented builders and scripters in SL. Some of what they do is awe-inspiring. A blog run by resident Bettina Tizzy called “Not Possible in Real Life” ( sadly just decided to close, but the content there is fantastic, showcasing the art, architecture, and other creative aspects of SL. I would also say that some of the SL-centric social commentators like Crap Mariner have been enjoyable to get to know. Also, the few people who have successfully established business models that work in SL are inspirational from the standpoint of virtual worlds’ continuing acceptance into the mainstream.

All that having been said, my biggest inspiration in SL does indeed come from the community directly involved in the music world, which includes the artists, the people who own and run venues, and the fans. It’s been a positive inspiration since day one, and even if I’d never used SL as a platform for my own music, it would have been highly worthwhile based on the friendships I’ve made through the SL music scene.

Interview – JaNa KYoMooN, Second Life musician

jana0508_001JaNa KYoMooN, the avatar used by Jan Pulsford, is a musician I’ve known since the late 90s when we were both involved with online music collaboration via the now defunct Rocket Network. Via Twitter, I connected Jan and JaNa, and knowing her extensive background in music performance and composition, I asked her if she’s be happy to be interviewed on performing in Second Life. She kindly agreed and provides some useful tips for those thinking of starting their performance career in a medium like Second Life.

Lowell: Can you tell us a little of your pre-SL performance and composition history?

JaNa: I suppose I am considered a “veteran musician” who, as Jan Pulsford, has lived an incredible life jam packed with musical adventures that started in London amidst the electronic and hair revolution of the late 80s. Touring the world as keyboard player for pop band the Thompson Twins, I ended up in the USA where I built a recording studio in the woods of Tennessee and formed a production company “Madame la Pulse Productions” working with many independent artists including Felicia Collins (who is now the guitarist for Late Night with David Letterman) and Kat Dyson and Sir Jam who both became members of Prince’s musical entourage. I also formed one of the first online labels during the frenzied Internet revolution of the 90s: “Collecting Dust Recordings”, releasing CDs by artists Nigel Pulsford, guitar player with multi platinum rock band Bush and Grammy nominated Dulcimer legend David Schnaufer.

Cyndi Lauper heard my music and invited me to New York where from 1993-2001 I worked as her co-writer, producer and touring musical director. The partnership spawned some of Cyndi’s most artistic and critically acclaimed work with over twenty co-written songs released on the albums “12 Deadly Cyns” ~ “Sisters of Avalon” ~ “Merry Xmas” and “Shine”. I’ve always loved the rhythms of dance and wrote Cyndi’s club hits “Come on Home”, “You Don’t Know” “Higher Plane” and “Cleo and Joe” which led to working with Grammy nominated DJ Julian Marsh on many of his Pride CDs featuring Happy Charles and Jajucha and more recently UK artist Alan Connor and Evan Cowden.

I’ve been lucky enough to have songs performed by artists as diverse as Ani da Franco, Steps, Darlene Love, Chico Freeman, Bruce Wooley, the Leaders, Dr. Elmo, Sweet Dreams, Zoe Girl, Jeff Oster, Hazell Dean, Julian Marsh and Townes Van Zandt. I’ve also had over twenty albums of production music for film and TV released. You name a TV program and my music has probably been used on it – from Oprah to Jerry Springer, MTV to the BBC! Film scores include “Unhook the Stars”, “Intimacy” and Audrey Tatou’s “At the End” which was written with Jazz great Chico Freeman. We continue mixing jazz with electronica and triphop on such projects as “Zolace”, “CJ7” and “aTHeNa BLue” the latter being best known for the ReQuieM 4 eLViS + JeSuS, which has been performed around a thousand times both on line and live at the City Skies Electronica festival in Atlanta and the Buzz + Click Festival for WRVU. Acid Planet recently ran a remix competition and it is being featured in an upcoming TV documentary about music for peace.

Lowell: During the 1990’s you were involved in net-based music collaboration, can you talk a little bit more about that?

jan_USBmidiJaNa: My fascination with music technology and computers started back in the days of the Oberheim System and continued through C-lab’s Notator on an Atari to working with Logic Audio on the Mac. I became a beta tester for Logic Audio’s Rocket Network, a global network of pioneers of on line collaboration and today I continue to develop that spirit in the 3D virtual world of Second Life where I perform as a solo virtual artist mixing electronica with ambient improvisations and rhythmic reflections.

I know that on line performance and collaboration is a huge part of the future of music and am still recording with people all over the globe, in fact that has been my mode of working for the last ten years. When Rocket disappeared, I reverted to using ichat/skype etc. passing midi files and audio via on line storage and yousendit. Everything has developed so quickly that it is really a lot easier to do than 10 – 15 years ago!

Lowell: What were the main things you learnt from that time that has helped your musicianship?

JaNa: It was great meeting like-minded people and showed that you don’t have to be in the same room to write music or a song! The thoughts flow down the wires and through the airwaves without the hindrance of physical contact – it’s the closest to mind melding and Spock. I was very fortunate to meet Chico Freeman on the Rocket Network who became one of my main writing partners. It was a truly brilliant concept and nothing has come close.

As an aside – I have learned over the years that too much software is developed by people who don’t understand or care about the practical uses. I’m about USING software and making it work for ME not playing the geek game. Most musicians are an altruistic lot and I have seen too many, myself included, unwittingly become enthusiastic unpaid beta testers for badly designed software for start up companies that ultimately will be sold off or floated on the stock market. . But that’s an article for another time!

Lowell: When did you first come across SL and what were your initial impressions?

JaNa: My first impression was it was a big black hole! I got into Second life in early 2006. My friend the ambient musician Tony Gerber had discovered it and as the avatar/musician Cypress Rosewood was having the time of his virtual life in a second life. . I followed him in as Emmeline Pankhurst and fast realised it could be an all-consuming proposition. After a major computer crash and several months later I tried again but couldn’t remember my password or any sign up details so rezzed a new avatar – ladies and gentleman – Miz JaNa KYoMooN. This time I “got it”

Lowell: When was your first SL gig and what are your memories of it?

JaNa: My first SL musical adventure was as part of the Peace Park Trio in 2006-7 playing at the Music ALL Music Peace Park, a sanctuary I built as a place of inner and global peace through music and the arts. I remember the exhilaration of really doing something new and special. We piggy backed three streams and played live. The mixture of electronica with dulcimer and Native American Flute was extremely successful. We played many gigs before the next crash – a mixture of Wall Street and black hole syndrome.

Lowell: When did you realise the music performance aspect would be a good option for you?

JaNa: In the summer of 2008 I started performing as a solo artist – quite a daunting prospect for someone whose whole musical life has been spent at the back of the stage or on the other side of the glass.

At first I was performing hard hitting electronica music from my aTHeNa BLue project but then as time went on it seemed the more down tempo, meditative ambient music was getting the biggest reaction. When I realized the positive aspect of performing this kind of music for spiritual and physical well being I decided to dedicate most of my performances in SL to this end.

Lowell: Can you give details of how you actually go about performing in SL?

JaNa: I have tried a few different setups. Running Logic and SL on the same computer can present problems so I try to have one computer for SL and the other one for Logic and Nicecast. I have also used GarageBand and iTunes to broadcast. I prepare sequences in Logic and prefer to have everything running live – I don’t use mp3s. Just the computer running sequences and me playing over them gives it a feeling of “anything could happen” – there is a certain energy from playing music live that you can’t communicate from lip syncing with ready made mixes. Everything I do with online concerts is prepared especially for that performance. To me music is a collection of moments and I usually capture what I play into Logic after each performance. Eventually I mix it down and make the music of the KYoMooN available as downloads in SL or on iTunes and CD Baby.

Lowell: What are some of your favourite SL venues to perform at?

jana_milesJaNa: They come and go but so many to choose from! The Music ALL Music Peace Park of course! The Pyramid art gallery and Club Ethereal run by Torben Asp and Jess Oranos. The Bluff Arts Center with ZeroOne Paz, Gaia Island with Enchantress Sao, Anthology with Trella Mohan, Dragonfly Reign with Magnolia Anthony and Broody Flow, Firehouse with Trowser Boa and Sugar Hill Island with Marjorie Dibou. The list goes on . . . . and on

Lowell: Have any SL experiences inspired you to write new music?

JaNa: Indeed! I believe music is all around us and we as composers learn to tap into that – we get our inspiration from a variety of stimuli depending where we are in our lives. I do try and write a new piece of music or arrangement for most events and of course if you are collaborating with someone you take into account the instrument and style they play e.g. Trowser and his sax, Cypress and his flutes, Trefies with his dulcimer, Miles with his fusion based keyboards etc.

The Solstice concerts have been very inspiring as have the Space Center events like Yuri’s Night which spawned “Floating with Yuri”; Silver Shimmers came about from the shimmers on the water at Alda Lair; Reflections of Indigo came from two art exhibitions – Indea Vaher and Gleman Jun. Others include Tibet Day and of course Relay for Life. Playing at the charity events are ALWAYS inspiring. That is the really positive side of SL.

For the past few years my RL inspiration was where I lived and the fields and nature that surrounded me. From the sound of the water babbling to the birds, the smell of honeysuckle and the beauty of the trees and flowers. The sight of the full moon to the sound of thunder. This was all reflected in the music I played in SL. I captured these musical moments into my computer. I might come back from a long walk, take a deep breath and play and programme the music I found. I like to think of it as painting and sketches with music. I use reflective piano and ambient synths tinged with echoes of world jazz and triphop.

Lowell: Which other SL performers do you enjoy the most?

JaNa: Torben Asp – A true bedroom electronica artist from Denmark whose venue Ethereal hosts the monthly E-fests. I got to hear him through Cypress Rosewood’s “When Worlds Collide” radio show

Tuna Oddfellow – unbelievable and indescribable visual show with very cool music streamed

Miles Eleventhauer – the jazzologist who I found one night whilst searching for “Jazz”. He plays a great mix from Queens New York

ZeroOne Paz – fellow logic user. I love his original music and covers played from his studio in San Francisco

Nuvolino Ruffino – excellent electronic trance artist from Australia

Formatting Helenoise – plays a wonderful esoteric mix of music to go with his very interesting photographs.

Leanna Luftig – love hearing her New Age music along with HappyCharles SideShow at the Goodbye Weekend Show

DJromex – plays GREAT trance in SL!

Swina Allen from Italy and the ambient Sunday music of cypress rosewood and hardhat Rickenbacker – the list goes on and on. Apologies for those I have missed

Lowell: What are your future plans with performance?

JaNa: I have recently changed computer timezones so am looking forward to resuming operations end of October. I am especially looking forward to continuing the GoodBye Weekend Show and “Behind the Monitor” – an interview show I tried earlier this year that was well received. Also plan on doing more poetry and music shows plus art/photographs with music. SL is the perfect platform for mixing visuals with music. However, more than anything I would really like to develop getting my music through SL into hospitals and hospices – it is such a wonderful platform for people who are disabled in one form or another. I have done several performances to benefit cancer patients and children with autism and really want to do more. Last Christmas we raised a good sum of money for UNICEF at the mAm peace park so the Music for Winter Festivals will be starting up again in November.

Lowell: For the newcomer to performing in SL, would you have any wise words to share?

JaNa: SL is a great platform to experiment and connect. It is a perfect parallel to the real world in terms of seeing yourself reflected in the virtual world. You can be performing to hundreds of people in a short period of time, you can learn from your mistakes and your successes and you can get immediate feedback. For new musicians it’s invaluable for planning a business model. I mean if no one comes to a show, why is that? Promotion is key. Posting to SL events and groups is time consuming but the results are very worthwhile – just like a real life gig.

Do your preparation, your promo, your sound check to make sure your stream is working. Be professional and get it all worked out before hand. There is nothing more annoying than hearing a performer blame the venue and SL about “lag” – go ahead of time to see what issues you may have to encounter and embrace the great opportunity the virtual world gives us and enjoy!! I host the “Goodbye Weekend Show” on Sunday night’s at the Music ALL Music Peace Park and have seen it grow from nothing to a packed SIM. It has helped me record three albums and develop Radio Jana. I wouldn’t have done that without Second Life.

Find out more about JaNa:

1. Calendar for dates and further info

2. Twitter

3. Pictures and event blogs

4. Buy the music – CD and downloads

If you’re a musician and would like to discuss your approach to virtual world performance, drop us a line.

Interview – Paisley Beebe

Paisley Beebe is an Australian Second Life resident who I’ve run into a number of times over the past year or so. I finally caught up with Paisley for an interview on her dual activities of musician and TV presenter in Second Life.

Lowell: Tell me your story in regard to discovering Second Life

Paisley: I read about SL in an Australian woman’s magazine it mentioned Frogg Marlow and Cylindrian Rutabaga, both wonderful real life musicians playing music on Second Life. I was curious about it. Downloaded the client and then spent about 6 hours a day discovering SL. Spent about 2 months just getting acquainted before appearing at French Musician Fabrice Crosby’s venue and going on from there getting gigs and a manager and moving into SL TV.


Lowell: You are a singer in real life – how hard has it been adjusting to the challenges of in-world performance?

Paisley: The hardest part is trying to financially support my gigs in SL. The actual gigs are fun and easy. I’m used to being very interactive on stage due to my theatre and show band background in RL, and the technicalities of streaming live music are not a problem once you figure it out.

But I pay my RL accompanists RL money to play on SL with me (my voice is my only instrument) and have brought in some real Aussie jazz headliners including guitar legend George Golla, pianist Ray Aldridge, and bassist Craig Scott. I was determined in the beginning not to use backing tapes or recordings to sing along with, as the fun for me being a jazz vocalist is the actual interaction and improvisation between us during the playing of the music and I wanted to present a high quality show. I have managed to stick to that so far, but have had to inject quite a bit of money in order to do that as the SL payments for my concerts are nowhere near covering my expenses. As a result I have cut my gigs down recently to once or twice week in SL (I have done up to 8 gigs a week in SL in the past). The SL music scene is financed mostly through small tips from the audience, which results in under $5 Australian dollars a gig for most musicians for an hours work and even less for the venue owners. Yes everything in SL costs less than RL, but by comparison to other SL businesses, SL musicians are paid very very low wages…for a product they can’t keep selling copies of in a store. And MP3 sales are very low on the whole due to the low music-going population in SL, and so do not compensate for the fact that most of the in-world audience will see a musician for free if they can and won’t even tip. This will change with population growth and more professional artists but right now you do not play SL for money, only for fun and a little more international exposure than you can otherwise get.

There are sometimes one-off events to promote or launch new sims or businesses, which can pay more, but they are rare. The majority of my SL music audience are American due to the time zone and population, and they are somewhat more used to tipping in RL but this means that using the American based tipping model for other cultures doesn’t really work. Europeans and Aussies don’t tip so much, and that then becomes a disincentive for musicians wanting to play in Australian and European time zones, and no one wants to be the first club to charge entry at this stage, so most musicians play for the Americans who will at least throw some virtual coins in the hat for a musician who wants to at least pay his tier, pay for stream rent and buy stuff. Some of the clubs are part of a mall or have a shop and the club owners benefit from the increased traffic to their rentals or shops, in which case they may be able to pay their artists a very small fee, often only about 5 Aussie dollars. But many of the best clubs are there just for the music patrons only, with no money making business attached, and they are really struggling now, getting artists to play only for tips. My average tips are about 2-3 K for an hour so it’s not much. You can’t live in SL off that, and own land…

Lowell: It’d be fair to say you’re very ambitious and keen to promote your talents – do you see Second Life as a competitive environment?

Paisley: No, I don’t see SL as an competitive environment first and foremost. I see it as a social network and another dimension to the Web as we know it. It is an avenue for me to work in the field of work I was trained to do, but had to give up throughout my 30’s when family responsibilities and difficulties took first priority, and it was impossible for me to continue with my career of choice in entertainment. I have a Theatre Arts Diploma from the Ensemble theatre, 5 years of singing training and some radio presenting training through the AFTRS extension courses they offer, and experience in film production, advertising, graphics, theatre and singing as a soloist and as part of a successful concept band. I have also worked as a volunteer presenter for community radio for 3 years. For me to work in RL as a TV host now, is really prohibitively competitive and some would say an impossible dream at my age being in my early 40’s. Having given up my entire career in my 30’s and into my 40’s to deal with some major personal family issues, now that things are getting a little easier for me personally I have a second chance to start again back where I was in my 20’s. And have a second chance, through Second life, where age, demographics, opportunity, experience and looks are no issue at all. You can have a go and make something successful as long as you have the right stuff.

Also the music climate here in Australia particularly in Jazz, is very very bad, worse than most non-musicians really understand. Lack of RL gigs due to closing venues (as a result of 20 years of draconian licensing laws and poker machines), makes it impossible to develop a fan base (we hope the new licensing laws will change things but it will be sloooow going). At least I can develop as a singer on Second Life through virtual gigs, and create an international fan base that would be otherwise impossible.

I find SL at the moment less competitive in the field of what I’m doing in TV and Jazz than RL of course, because its all so new, SL has not been saturated yet with competition in those areas. Like many people in SL who are in business, we hope that when the big guns figure out what SL’s advantages are, and how to utilise them, that we have enough experience and brand loyalty that we can survive the inevitable competition.

As far as ambitions go, Second Life business is such a risk right now, as its all so untried and new, you need ambition and a quite a bit of Chutzpah (and a little madness I think). It’s certainly not for the faint hearted. I don’t think ambition is a bad thing at all as long as you don’t sacrifice integrity and family to pursue it, and I would never do that. A lot of Australians in the past have viewed ambitious people, especially ambitious women as abhorrent. It’s not really been seen as part of our culture, but I think we really have to let all of that fear of being seen as ‘ambitious’, if we want to be successful on a global scale. Keep our individuality and our Australian unique culture sure… but I’m not going to sit back and wait for my ship to come in….

I’m keen to promote my talents in as much as it’s all I have to promote. Singing and hosting is my RL job, it’s what I do, what I was trained for. I don’t have a ‘full- time’ job in RL other than my music, and that can hardly be called full-time due to lack of opportunities for work. So far I haven’t been able to break even financially in Second Life but I believe in what I’m trying to do, and enjoying it so much that I think that one day I might be able to earn some money from it.


Lowell: Where do you see yourself in a year’s time in regard to your work in Second Life?

Paisley: If all goes to my plan, and plans are well, who knows. I would like to be playing music in Second Life with other Second Life musicians in real time with no latency and a better stable SL client, without having to worry about going into debt to pay my musicians. I have plans to release a Live in Second Life album, it’s all but finished…and I would like to see it selling well at shows.

I would like also like to see continued success of my production company and TV shows, the audience is growing but we are still chasing sponsors to finance it. I really hope in a years time to really still be enjoying my time working and playing in SL. And I would like to be able to earn at least a wage above the RL poverty line on SL, to help support my family in RL and perhaps cut my working day down to 9 hours instead of 16 🙂 Dream on 🙂

Lowell: Have you had any involvement with other virtual worlds?

Paisley: Nope I’m not a gamer at all, and I don’t consider SL a game. And the other virtual worlds I have read about appear to be less developed and inferior at the moment. I was fascinated with having a virtual self to start with, and sort of playing dress up dollies with my avatar, but I really just see it all as an extension of my self in RL that’s all, but lots of fun too.

Lowell: If there were three real life musicians you’d love to convince to perform in Second Life, who would they be?

Paisley: Well selfishly, I would want them to perform with me….and that would be Christian McBride on Bass, Harry Connick Jnr on Piano and harmonising with me on vocals, and John Clayton on Guitar. Basically Dianna Krall’s Band without her.. and with Harry in her place sigh. The other band I would love to have on SL would be a big band …and Duke Ellington’s Band would do 🙂 I’m afraid although I love to listen to music the most fun I have is performing it and interacting with other musicians, so that would be my dream.

Lowell: Who inspires you in Second Life?

Paisley: Circe Broom, the owner of the Laurel sim and the music venues she has built there, for her dedication to music and musicians, her desire to promote it at a great cost to herself financially and overcoming all the obstacles she has personally, to do so. Slim Warrior is also another great inspiration, in that regard. Also Wiz Norberg and the team at SLCN.TV in Melbourne, and my own team on Tonight live also inspire me greatly with their drive and ambition creativity, humor and honesty in business. I trust them with my business and my future.

I also admire Cylindrian Rutabaga for her dedication to her music and her unwavering stoicism and Frogg Marlow and Jaycat for their talent and humor.

There are many many more who inspire me, mostly people who see the potential in Second Life and are willing to stick their necks out to use it in an innovative and creative way to bring pleasure to others, or support, or to start their own art or business.

Lowell: Our staple question: three locations in SL that you love the most (with SLURLs if possible 😉 )

Paisley: 1. My home ….no SLURL 🙂 – it’s private.

2. Sailors Cove for its very pretty New England Theme and all my wonderful friends there.

3. Circe Broom’s Laurel sim for her Egyptian Themes buildings and of course Sunset Jazz Club.

Lowell: What new features would you like in Second Life?

Paisley: I would like a more stable client of course, crashes during my show and during my TV show are just awful..

No lag! At all, without having to have a computer with a graphics card that could run a Space Shuttle pleeeese…(I know that doesn’t make sense but you know what I mean).

The ability to stream my concerts without any delay. It varies from 3 seconds to a 30-second delay. Between what I say or sing and when the SL audience hears it..

The ability to play music together with other SL musicians without having to use Ninjam which is really hard…perhaps voice with really really great sound quality….

The ability to have mouths moving on my TV show without it looking like you are pulling faces and eating something like really sticky toffee that is flavored with pepper….

To have better mic animations and singing animations without….see above…

To have prim eyelashes that blink when your eyes blink…

To not have shoes and hair and jewelry go up your bum when you teleport…

To get rid of Ruth!!! Or give her a real make-over so she looks like Claudia Schiffer instead of Cro-Magnon woman (or George Clooney if you are a male ). Please can we get rid of the low brow Donald Trump hair that Ruth has….

To have better support for Macintosh on SL…so I don’t have to use Bootcamp for Windlight.

To have the ability to switch off group notices from time to time…when Im doing my show.

To go to busy mode without a busy sign above my head which looks so rude…

To increase the Group Limits to about 100.

To increase the sim limits to 200 and have no lag…yeah right.. bring on Havok!

To have better security against griefers..

To not have Capped IM’s…

To make the SL Client look more like a Mac design instead of DOS…..

To have Preview as in Mac OS Leopard on your inventory so you can see the jewelry, dresses etc without wearing it or rezzing it .

Hmmmm what else…

To be able to take multiple pictures in Second Life and be able to label them in SL each time I take it…

To have better privacy in SL so people can’t see into places that you don’t want them to see,…

I could probably think of a lot more but …..I think you have enough to go on there 🙂

Lowell: You host a show for SLCN TV – can you describe its focus?

Paisley: Yes…it is a Second Life live TV talk show which through interactivity with the live audience attempts to highlight and promote in a positive way the creativity of Second Life residents using Second life for fun, business or non-profit. It is then recorded and available for download and viewing on the web. It is not current affairs, but hopefully informative and fun.

Lowell: What are some of the more memorable moments on the show to date?

Paisley: Maxamillion Kleen writing and singing his first original song ever for Tonight Live and reducing some of the audience to RL tears, whilst packing out the sim with the biggest audience in downloads and watching live we ever had.

Torley Linden from Linden Labs also attracting a huge crowd and talking so fast and relentlessly that I couldn’t get a word in edgeways, whilst he was also fielding questions from the audience who were also trying to get in on the act (he was of course also taking pictures at the same time).

Having the Second Life Fire Brigade bring a SL fire engine inside the studio and setting fire to the audience whilst explaining techniques in firefighting in SL and RL, and then getting the brigade to put it out..

Having the Harry Potter Sim manager on stage and the Harry Potter sim role-players pack out the audience and the houses of Griffin and Slytherin start fighting amongst themselves across the audience….

Having the Midian sim role-players almost doing the same thing…with various factions all together in the same place……

Having Frogg Marlow and Jaycatt Nico on and having such a wonderful funny interview with them both.

Lots more for many different reasons but every show has a different funny thing happen within the audience and podcaster and blogger Crap Mariner is often responsible for it 🙂 Whether he sets himself on fire or comes as a cup cake or encases himself in ice and Razzap tries to “melt” him with a blow torch, it’s all I can do to stop laughing on set – “don’t read the chat, dont read the chat…”.


Lowell: If you had to describe virtual worlds in ten words or less to someone who’s never been near one, what would you say?

Paisley: The best Disney animation you’ve ever been in.

Lowell: I’ve seen a number of promotional items come from you emphasising your status as a Diva – what qualifies for Diva status in-world?

Paisley: That’s a joke…I get called that by my friends in RL and in SL if I get argumentative about anything 🙂 They use it to put me back in my box…and also it basically gives people a very basic idea of what I do, but is definitely tongue in cheek without using all the other stupid hackneyed words. Diva’s a bit hackneyed too probably, but so is Jazz Chanteuse and Torch Song Singer and all the other words that they use to describe jazz vocalists. When I’m in meetings my staff make sure I have no access to phones or anything else with which to hit anyone with (thats a joke too….). People think if you are a jazz singer who sings like I do, sort of a mixture of modern jazz and cabaret I guess, and a TV host , that you probably are a Diva in as much as you have tantrums. And ask for ridiculous things like only white flowers in your dressing room and not to be looked in the eye. I’d only ask someone not to look me in the eye if my prim eyelashes were not placed properly and I didn’t want them to laugh….on camera 🙂

Lowell: Anything else you wanted to add?

Paisley: I’ve just started a production company called “Perfect World Productions”. It will be producing several TV shows broadcast on SLCN.TV. The next production due for release is an arts show called “Dimensions In Art” which will be a 1/2 hour live weekly show with one guest per show. Featuring film, theatre, dance, sculpture, digital art, sound art, music and painting. I will be the host, and some of my wonderful existing team from Tonight Live will be working on it. It will be launched in April/May 2008. I think that the creative arts in SL are going to really boom as it’s such a wonderful platform for artists of all genres to get exposure for their virtual and real life art, on a real global scale. The quality of what I see in SL constantly astounds me.

We will add more shows to the production company as we build our expertise and our team. And will produce shows that are concepts from other sources not just our own, with other hosts.

My hopes for Second Life are also that more Australians discover and embrace it. The Australian community while very friendly and close is very small by comparison to many other countries using SL. Anything I can do to help promote Aussie culture on SL I will. But there are so very few of us on Second Life yet.

Interview – Pavig Lok (Rezzable)

Melbourne-based Pavig Lok is part of the Rezzable crew that have created some of the more memorable Second Life presences this year. We caught up with Pavig for some thoughts on creating something unique work in virtual worlds.

Lowell: Can you tell TMJ readers a little about your background in regard to virtual worlds?

Pavig: Many years ago I developed an interest in virtual world technologies. A whole bunch of folk, perhaps naievely, saw VR as part and parcel of the coming wave of ubiquitous net access. This was the early nineties, and hacker culture understood that until computers moved away from the programmer/user divide into visual metaphors there would not be strong adoption of them as any kind of enabling technology for the general public. VR was one of the ways we saw that going forward, understanding that games would be an element of that.


As usual, futurists get the general shape and the order that things happen absurdly out of whack. 2D visual metaphors like the desktop did pretty much what we expected them to, though are only starting to fulfil their true potential now, and 3D ran across a lot of stumbling blocks along the way. Immersive 3D (like VR goggles which we thought were “just around the corner) ran into the “simulator sickness” issue – nobody saw that one coming, but it pretty much put the kibbosh on what we thought 3D would be. Without cheap immersive 3D for the architects and industrial applications, it was very difficult for anyone in VR to convince business it was anyting more than a game technology, so I left off trying to get involved in virtual worlds until the general public caught up.

By the mid nineties most of the technologies we think of as radical in SL existed already as prototypes. Onlive had proximity based avatar voice chat (on modems!), things like Activeworlds with streaming 3D etc etc. The public wasn’t quite ready for it, business saw it as a toy, it was going nowhere. Ironically it was games that virtual worlds ended up riding on the back of to show their potential to business and the public. I figured the time was right to start looking at virtual worlds as a possible line of employment again.

Lowell: When did you first get involved with Second Life and what were your initial reactions to it after logging in for the first time?

Pavig: I’d heard about SL and kept an eye on it during development. I’d also been on the beta program for As far as a beta tester for them it came down to an email saying “your client won’t install on my machine” and that was that. After a year’s sabbatical from the net I got straight into SL. From watching what they were doing I could tell they had got it more right than anyone who had come before them.

When I first arrived in-world I was pleasantly surprised – it was just as disorienting and insane as it needed to be. It didn’t hold your hand – you arrived there and instantly saw that you had been given a body, access to prims, access to scripts, an entire system the same as everyone else. When I saw what people had been able to make in SL I was stunned – not because it was particularly sophisticated but because there was no solid division between residents and content creators.

That was the trick that nobody outside the hacker community had ever got right before – access to tools for everyone. It’s still the most important differentiating factor – you can teach a newbie to rez a prim, and when discussing something you can go “that bit there” and rez a prim on it – not some premade tool the designers gave you for pointing at things, basic use of the world and it’s qualities to improvise solutions on the fly.

Lowell: What are the biggest changes in the SL community that have stood out for you?

Pavig: The biggest change in just over a year that I’ve been here has been very much like the change on the internet between 1996 and 1998. Masses and masses of people, many of which don’t know precisely why they’re there. Consumer culture has grown hugely and local communities have suffered. This isn’t a bad thing just a shakeup – SL hasn’t had it’s Web 2.0 revolution yet to refocus on the local, so it’s become a big world with no center, and for the folk in it less of a sense of belonging to a community.

When I arrived there was something like 250,000 registrations and now there’s way over 10 million. Even if they aren’t all real people or stayers they represent a huge dilution and expanding of the community away from it’s frontier neighborhood origins. That must have some effect on the general quality of community in SL – it certainly has an effect on grid stability too 😛

Another change is corporate flirting with SL. For a wee while folk thought SL might be the “next big thing” and so folk started pumping money into it as the next push media. Like the web, SL is proving too anarchic to really work in this way. So by treating SL as a new revenue source rather than an experiment in tomorrows media – well let’s just say big business has been less than successful so far. So big business itself has had less of an effect on the world, but certainly had an effect on incoming resident expectations. I can’t say exactly what it is, but I feel it in the community.


Lowell: What is your role with Rezzable?

Pavig: I must say from the outset I’m just an artist working for Rezzable so anything I might say about company strategy and whathaveyou should be taken with a grain of salt. It’ll just be my opinion.

Originally at Rezzable I was bought in with Littletoe Bartlett to do the Greenies build. That also ended up including some project management type stuff and…. well the roles were then, as they are now, quite fluid. As Rezzable has expanded I’ve ended up tinkering on a lot of projects, and that seems to be the case for all of us.

Though MDC’s (Metaverse Development Companies as they’re evidently called now) like to think that there’s some kind of solid job description for folk working on these kind of projects, it tends not to be the case. SL itself is a fluid medium, and changes under our feet constantly – when they beta something all of us start losing sleep over if it’ll break our current builds or change our future plans. That’s just the way it is. I can’t imagine how that must look for big company clients who come to SL for representation, probably like chaos compared to what they would be used to in other media, but that’s just the topology of SL and virtual worlds – constantly in flux.

Part of my role is probably keeping on top of that changability – knowing what works and doesn’t, and what will soon work or break. That is on top of design, building, working with other artists and scripters etc. I’m sure my boss would have a different picture of my role if you asked him. I’m probably listed as a “creative” on the books – nobody really knows what they do 😛

Lowell: Rezzable is arguably one of the biggest phenomenons to hit Second Life in 2007 – why do you think the impact has been so large?

Pavig: I think Greenies was a big part of the buzz, and that’s not blowing my own trumpet. When Greenies went into beta we got a lot of attention from the business blogs because they couldn’t figure out what on earth we were trying to do. It even came down to conspiracy theories about the secret illuminati behind rezzable. Myself and some of the artists were on the rumor mill as well, being picked as alts for anyone but ourselves – which is ironic as most of us had a history in SL for anyone with interest in digging. As insane as that was it kept us in the blogs, which kept folk coming to our sims as they began to open. At the time we weren’t quite ready for that, but we couldn’t have asked for better PR if we had done our own marketing (which we didn’t) – nothing seems to placate bloggers when they think they’ve found a mystery. That got us a lot of initial traffic.

The other thing that kept people coming to peek I think is the content Rezzable has been working on. Just about everyone who builds for Rezz is an artist in SL who was already prolific or recognised. Rezzable simply let them do their stuff and produce stuff they love, and tried to find ways to fit it all together into a cohesive whole. That’s an old school entrepeneurial approach and very different from what the other big companies were doing at the time. As with all entrepeneurial activity it involves risk that some projects might end up plain silly, but that risk is distributed over a lot of projects, artists, sims and so becomes quite manageable. There’s a different approach if we do something corporate, but we’re pretty happy doing stuff that’s fun at the moment, and it pays for itself.

The big difference between rezzable and the main MDC’s is that the larger companies start with a corporate client and their demands, and are forced into a position where they must be risk averse – this will usually produce slick but uninteresting builds, no matter how creative a team you throw at it. Since Rezzable arrived on the scene though I think there’s been positive moves by the larger companies to address that space – we laughed when MOU got their first artist in residence finally with Robbie Dingo. Considering Rezzable was almost ALL artists in residence and a lot younger it just seemed silly – MOU’s creative director is already an artist but not advertised as such.

These creatives were all there already waving their arms around saying “Heya we got ideas let us do something that’s just plain cool for a change.” So we ended up on the crest of a big wave to recognize creatives in the professional SL developers community. The big names had all started out that way too but shied away from the creative-driven way of doing things as they’d grown – now they’re coming back, and I think their creatives are pretty happy about it. Now they have a reputation they can rely on based on what they’ve done and we have a reptation for what we’ve done, so we’re in a different market to the big MDC’s and not really in competition with each other.

Lowell:Did you have a marketing plan in place when Greenies launched or was it an organic approach that just happened to take off?

Pavig: Rezzable was very hands off and open brief with Greenies – they said “big kitchen, tiny aliens, make it amazing and fun.” So that’s what we did. Rezzable trusted me, Littletoe and Light Waves to come up with the goods based on our personal work and attitude. That was probably the best thing they could have done. Every SL builder would love a sim to go crazy on, a solid theme, and a pay packet to get it done. Rezzable was pretty flexible about our vision for it – we tweaked the brief a lot to get something we thought would work and take the design probably deeper than it needed to go from the outset – that’s part of how artists and designers work, they’re fussy about stuff that really hardly anyone notices.

Light Wave’s Greenies were already known and loved on the grid so it was about making a home for them and extending that story, though I don’t think we’ve tied up all the loose ends, nor should we. The other active thing we did when designing Greenies was tp try and make it look as unlike everywhere else in SL as possible. We wanted it to be somewhere you arrived and the look was different enough that your early SL wonderment came back. So that meant researching a lot of techniques that hadn’t been done before or often in SL – the use of physical hollow megaprims, first generation sculpties, shadow and light overlays etc.

One thing we were determined to do was allow for a day/night cycle, which is unusual in builds of this type, and so control of lighting and tradeoffs along those lines were a large part of design. Locking the sun makes it easier to light stuff but takes away the natural moods of a build and makes it static.

So the real plan was to make something different. If you hit on something that people like then you have the most valuable currency available in virtual worlds – traffic. For any company wanting to get returns in the virtual worlds business that’s the bread and butter – without that there’s very few revenue models available to you. We figured the “if you build it they will come” approach to clients was also a hole in the services MDC’s provide. So L’Oreal Paris has been one of our early clients, and jumped on our Greenies traffic for a low key promotion of their own. They’re giving away skins for their new makeup looks, and we’ve integrated their build into Greenies in a way that doesn’t damage the spirit of the sim. We always saw it going that way, and hoped to keep the “branding” subtle enough and in the spirit of SL that we wouldn’t alienate visitors.


Lowell: Can you list the presences Rezzable has created in SL to date?

* Greenies, which you know.
* Toxic Garden, curently in beta.
* Surfline, currently 3 sims devoted to surfing, and officially opening soon.
* Crimson Shadow, a gothic type build.
* Cannery, predominantly photography based artwork.
* Black Swan, an art build.
* The Stratos sims, which are nearing completion.
* Carnival of Doom, also in beta
* Cascade – closed beta
* The dump – currently being built.
* and several others also in development.

Lowell: Greenies would be the most popular one so far wouldn’t it?

Pavig: Greenies had the advantage of the flood of interest we had when we opened for beta. It put Rezzable on the map and generated a lot of buzz. But visits have been fairly consistant since opening – so much so that it’s been difficult to get in there and rebuild, redevelop, or finish some of the improvements we’ve had on the cards. That’ll be changing in the next week as we push through some long overdue changes. Black Swan has got a lot of traffic as well lately.

Apart from that I think many of the potentially popular Rezzable sims are still in development and not officially open yet. As such they haven’t had a chance to build the same popularity as they simply haven’t been launched. Surfline for example is the kind of place which will build community slowly, but retain a solid community of folk who come back once that’s established. Greenies I think by contrast is the kind of place everyone visits once, but the community that makes a habit of returning will be smaller – kind of like a picnic destination. This is something we’re working on improving, as repeat visitors are a huge asset to a sim, but we’ve all been tied up with so many projects it’s taken longer to get back to Greenies than we’d hoped.

Lowell: Can you describe how you work up your concepts and get them to a finished product?

Pavig: I generally work with Littletoe Bartlett when I can, and both of us are extremely different visual designers. We see the shapes of things differently, and I think we both plug around with our internal lego until a concept works then pretty much realize it complete. For me that means a lot of research, and I think Littletoe is like that too. So for project manager types it’s the old critical path type workings out, we just work a lot more flexibly and internally than most. By the time a concept has a shape in my head people can ask me about a detail of it and I can list the steps to realize it.

This is why I find working with Littletoe so fluid – we can agree on the bits and see the outcome. I’ll tend to start and finish things while she fills in the middle while I do a bunch of tangential stuff. Then I usually use up my remaining reserves of neurosis doing fiddly things I’ve worked out along the way. This isn’t so hard as people imagine, working out of your head. In order for a concept to actually have any kind of value it must be simple and elegant, and if it’s that, then the pieces should fit together to that end. An old wax and bromides designer once told me “put nothing in unless you can explain why it’s there” and that’s worked well for me in SL.


Lowell: What plans (if any) do Rezzable have for presences in other virtual worlds?

Pavig: That’s something you’d have to ask my boss.

Lowell: We always ask the question – what are three locations that you keep coming back to – outside your own builds of course 😉

Calleta’s Hobo Railroad Infohub: It’s my home, and I’ll always be a hobo. They got me started building.

NCI Kuula: Those wonderful folk are still helping the newcomers after all this time, and where I found my feet in SL.

Suffugium: a build that hasn’t aged in the entire time i’ve been in SL. It’s just “right”.

Lowell: Who inspires you in Second Life?

Pavig: This is a hard one because I always miss someone. Littletoe of course, and Mis Ordinal Malaprop for her stoic devotion to elegant and tasteful exploding things. The wonderful Arcadia Asylum who we sorely miss. Mis Tateru Nino for her balanced coverage of SL on the net. Thinkerer Melville for his can do attitude. Tooter Claxton for his builds. Light Waves, who sets the bar for what SL can do. Aley Arai who is prolific beyond belief. Orhalla Zander who established the hobos, and Yadni Monde for his freebie culture. There really are tons of folk. Oh and of course the Grendel’s Children crew.

Lowell: Any predictions you’d like to make for the coming year in regard to Rezzable, SL or the wider metaverse?

Pavig: Well Rezzable will continue to grow I’m sure. At the moment we’re in the process of consolidating builds and tying up loose ends in anticipation of a few launches and “stage two’s”. When that’s solid Littletoe, Light Waves and I are back onto another crazy scale ambitious build that we can’t talk about just yet. I also expect to see some crazy builds from other amazing artists that have come on board recently, but I can’t even imagine what they’ll be yet.

As for SL I believe the growth will continue steadily and things will improve on the grid. I really haven’t seen any other VR that is based on the philosophy of resident = content creator in the same way as SL. So I really do see SL as remaining the only game in town despite the other ambitious startups. Nothing I’ve seen on the horizon quite compares. People wave around Kaneva and so on, but today they’re beta testing 750 concurrent users – they’ve got a long way to go.

When it comes to the wider metaverse I see a lot of activity, but it’s going to be highly factional. Kaneva’s target user, There’s, Activeworlds, Croquet, SONY, etc… well they’re all after different things out of a VR. Some of the new entrants are going to be wildly popular – but I don’t see that impacting SL significantly. Barbie World user registrations make SL’s look piffling but we won’t all be there.

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