Interview and Photos by VIENNA JAMES
Machinima by PIA KLAAR
Niagara Falls is best known for its romance, drawing honeymooners from far and wide to its majestic beauty. So it is no surprise that this is the place from which one of SLs most popular performers, Maximillion Kleene, hails from. Performing in SL since December 2006, his group membership exceeds 1400 members and grows steadily with every show. Max is a down-to-earth guy who knows how to touch the heart of his audience - magically creating a one-to-one feeling, as if he is singing right to you. His vocals entwined with his smooth acoustic guitar oozes a natural romantic vibe that leaves you begging for more. Max was influenced by mainstream rock such as Led Zeppelin and AC/DC but has found his niche in a variety of acoustic favorites such as Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson, Simon and Garfunkel and does justice to the Foo Fighters, Blind Melon, Snow Patrol, Coldplay and will often throw in some Tom Petty, Duran Duran, Billy Joel and many, many more. Max’s set list is always creative, never disappoints and he loves to do requests.
Max took piano lessons at a young age but stopped when he hit his teen years and didn’t really get into playing guitar until he graduated high school and started college where it came naturally to him – he learned to read music and played at campfires and eventually with bands in the local bar scene. Second Life has given Max the opportunity to experience the spotlight and become a solo artist which has inspired him to move solo performing into his real life. I caught up with him after a recent gig at the Home Expo to learn more about this successful artist, and my good friend, Max Kleene.
VJ: How did you first hear about Second Life and what inspired you to start performing in SL?
MK: I found out about SL from an article in Rolling Stone Magazine. It was about live music in SL, but I was more just interested in checking it out. After I stumbled upon my first live music event, I thought, "hey, I think I can do this...” It was basically going to the live shows and listening to the live musicians at that time that inspired me to give it a shot.
VJ: Were you nervous?
MK: First show? Very nervous, yes. Now... I like the nervous feeling... I don't find it bothersome...it's kinda like, "showtime" feeling. Make sense?
VJ: mm hmmm! I heard you had a surprise birthday party thrown by your fans recently? Were you surprised?
MK: Yes! If I was suspicious, I would have figured it out but I wasn't...so questions about, "what are you doing? Don't you have a show?" I didn't find out of the ordinary.
VJ: No doubt a memorable evening! You have played so many venues in SL. Which events or venues were most memorable for you?
MK: Old Salts Pub was the first venue I saw live music, so playing there was nice. The Hummingbird Cafe was the very first place I streamed and will always be the most memorable shows. Playing benefits like Relay for Life and Lance Armstrong Foundation, I always find exhilarating as a performer. It’s a nice feeling singing and playing for a good cause.
VJ: It’s amazing to be able to perform for people all over the world too - have you ever been surprised by the range of nations in your audience?
MK: Not really. I find it amazing, but I kinda knew about the potential to play to anyone, anywhere that had a computer and an internet connection. I love that I've made friends with people in so many different countries.
VJ: I know that you are always going to open mics and are very supportive of other performers in SL. Do you think the live music scene is flooded right now or that there is plenty of room for growth?
MK: I think the music is growing exponentially. I don't feel it's flooded... It can only be so big and can only grow so fast. I'm in a lucky position in the live music scene. I log on, I play shows and people come to listen. I don't have a formula. I just try and do the best 1 hour show I can do.
VJ: Have you ever performed at a live SL Convention or plan on attending the San Francisco convention in August?
MK: I don't have plans to attend the convention in San Fran in August. I have a Montreal meet that I'm looking forward to and a Texas meet in Oct, Montreal in July. I haven't ruled out San Fran, just seems unlikely right now.
VJ: Quite a distance huh.
MK: Yea, and it's a lot of trips in a short time, but you never know :-)
VJ: Tell me about the meets - have you been to one before?
MK: I've met Mimi Carpenter, HatHead Rickenbacher and Dolmere Talamasca for little get-togethers and jams in the past. Indianapolis was a very large gathering. about 15 or so SL musicians and about 15 more SL listener/fans. This July will be another large scale SL/RL Live music event. We're expecting about 15 or so musicians...so far we have about 50-60 live music fans registered to attend and we're hoping for about 100 in Montreal, Quebec July 24 -25 so it's shaping up to be a fun event.
VJ: That sounds awesome! I have to say, singing duets with you Max has been a highlight of my Second Life, and I love to hear you sing with other SL artists like Stella Silvansky. I imagine you must have to juggle duet requests all the time – how do you work it out?
MK: I LOVE dual streaming with musicians in SL, one of my favorite things about SL Live music. I do it as often as I can. I've dual streamed with so many SL Artists; I will do it as long as they let me!
VJ: Wonderful! Max, most of our readers are in the library field and I noticed on your MySpace page that you mentioned your favorite books were Alex Garland's ‘The Beach‘, Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Michael Crighton books. Are you an avid reader and do you get a chance to do much reading with such a busy schedule?
MK: I wouldn’t call myself an avid reader. There was a time I did a lot of reading and those were my favorites. I read the Hobbit and tried to read Lord of the Rings but I found it a hard read. People tell me, read through, and don't worry about understanding everything but I'd read pages and pages, and not know what's happening...
VJ: LOL, I found Lord of the Rings to be a hard read also. About performing - I know Second Life has helped you get comfortable with doing solo performing - do you test out original tunes in SL to gauge how they might be go over in RL? Spending any time in the studio?
MK: Songwriting continues to baffle me. I'm trying to develop, but it's not coming very easy, hence no time in the studio. I have software to record rough demos of ideas. Performing while sitting at your computer is really great - not only by having an audience, but to develop as a performer.
VJ: What is one of your most requested songs?
MK: Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars and Jason Mraz’ I'm Yours are very popular.
VJ: Would you mind singing one for us?
MK: Sure Vienna! Click here to view Max’s performance machinima!
VJ: Beautiful, thank you so much Max it was great talking with you!
MK: You too Vienna!
To catch a Max Kleene show, search for Max under Live Music events and be sure to get there early - the sim will fill up quickly! If you’re a venue owner looking for some great exposure, contact Max’s manager, Kat Vargas, for booking information. Try to allow for at least 80 avatars!
Max’s Website: http:/www.myspace.com/maximillionkleene
SL Group: Rhythm Collective
Booking Contact: Kat Vargas