You wouldn’t know he was a musician by glancing at his avatar. He appears as a very basic wooden puppet, with a dash of dark wavy hair, a lit cigarette in his mouth, and sparklers in his hands. But don’t let him fool you. He gets your attention with his simplistic style. He’s putting his heart and soul into his music. I did warn him, though, that his chances of catching on fire as a puppet were pretty good.
Oblee came to Second Life in 2007 having been invited by French Machinima artists to do voiceover work. It was for a small series they filmed using Second Life for visuals. (http://vimeo.com/25240963). That’s when he learned that musicians can play music in-world. After thinking about it, he felt it would be a great outlet for the band he was a member of at the time. Second Life proved to be a natural outlet for a large and varied audience.
What kindled his love of music?
Music apparently is in his genes, as his father is a professor of music and Oblee is proud to admit an amazing pianist. Before Oblee ever picked up a guitar, he was classically trained on the piano. He had performed piano recitals since he could walk. He’s also a solo songwriter/live looper for about six years. The looper allows him greater flexibility to have several parts and it keeps his music interesting.
I invited Oblee to Rico’s tea house for an interview after attending his Key West gig. He told me, “The voiceover work was just a one-time thing. I’ve played music most of my life in one form or other, mostly as a drummer in several touring bands. I’ve written music since I was a kid, so that’s usually my main focus,” he said, as puffs of smoke rose from his virtual cigarette. “I used it to develop what is now my solo show using live looping and a lot of instruments.”
When he began here, he mainly played his guitar. What motivated him to sing was his desire to deliver his songs personally. After all, the best person to tell your story is you.
“So while publishing songs hoping for others to perform them can be satisfying, it just wasn’t me. The same applies for the instruments involved,” he said. “Currently I use a guitar, bass, piano, synth, and a multitude of percussion instruments.”
He stated that his Second Life gigs feature about 75% original material. How much original material he uses depends on who is in the crowd, the night, and how much he’s had to drink, he joked.
Asked if he writes any particular genre, he replied that he’s loved alternative music, “The Cure, The Pixies, The Smiths, etc. He continues to love alternative, but changes it up every now and then. What he loves about the genre is that the rules don’t apply and you can “do things that are musically bad and have it sound good.” A few years ago, he was even hired to play drums for a Country band. Though he wasn’t into Country music, he recognized the amazing songs the man wrote. He was a source of Oblee’s inspiration and the reason so many of his songs had a Country sound to them.
For a time, he played drums for the band “Aftergrass”, but the band is on hiatus at the moment. That’s given Oblee time to work on his own album. He admits that he’s been working on it for years.
Currently, you’ll find him playing solo in real life.
“I’m ashamed to say I’ve had long periods where I was playing live and not getting any work done on the album,” he stated. “In search of a cohesive album that didn’t wander around too many styles, I recorded over 30 songs during this period. The songs, all original, didn’t really go together well.”
Call it inspiration, but during the last year or so, having done Second Life gigs and focusing on a genre, his album came together. He calls it “Wow, Bob, Wow” and it’s available at http://oblee.bandcamp.com. You can also purchase it on Spotify, iTunes, Rhapsody and Amazon.com. It’s all about relationships.
“Some of the songs are metaphorical, some are literal, some wrote themselves from one silly idea, others festered for years until they bloomed into something harvestable,” he told me. “I recorded the basic tracks myself in my home studio, which is an 8 track pro-tools set up. Since I am playing all the instruments on the tracks, it takes quite a bit of time to get a song completed, I’d hate to be paying by the hour.”
Oblee stated that hard lessons were learned about recording and mixing through the debut of the “Aftergrass” CD, which was self-produced. He feels that musicians and songwriters should learn to record and mix their work, as it’s easy, fun and productive.
Oblee has regular gigs on Second Life at Vinyl, Verasong, Rhi’s Poem and The Roof. He told me he chose “obeloinkment” as his avatar name because no one ever thought of it and he knew he could get online. Though, Oblee is a more pleasant and marketable. As for his image, he’s trying to avoid it. He’s more concerned with the audio portion of all his shows than visual animation.
“That being said, I do ‘dress up’ for shows often. I think I went 25 shows in a row without wearing the same avatar once. Lately, I’m just the puppet,” he admitted. “I used this image for a real life poster once and it works well so I stuck with it. I suppose if you wanted any symbolic interpretation, it would be that our avatars are merely puppets driven by a real human being.”
Oblee joked that Second Life is nice because they can’t throw beers at you. He’s comfortable talking to his fans. He’s empowered by their energy and personalities and always has a great time.