Featured Performer
May

Marqs de Sade

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Talking to

MichaelJ Rossini

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Marqs DeSade has been writing and performing music for over 4 decades. Marqs is a singer-songwriter, blogger, and a pretty good whistler. He loves eating banana pudding, riding motorcycles, and sharing laughter with friends, though not necessarily all at the same time. While he has many interests, his passion is music.

 

As well as being an awesome musician, Marqs has also turned his hand to writing, and in his "Say What You've Got To Say: A Songwriter's Perspective", Marqs gives insights into the mind of a songwriter through examining seven of his own original songs. In the book you'll discover why the songs were written, what makes them unique in his song catalog, and some of the lessons that he learned about songwriting from that particular song. 

I caught up with Marqs after one of his many appearances for charity at the Togerher As One festival......

Michael:   Hi Marqs - thank you soo much for taking time out to do this interview with Toggle For Music - I have to say you were such a popular choice with all of our crew - in fact two of them have asked me to put their own questions to you!


 Marqs:    I am honored to be asked to do this.  I can be wordy when writing, so I'll probably give you a novella, but I'm sure you'll be able to edit it to fit your format. :)
 

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Michael:    First up - Could you tell our readers something about your background - were you an established artist in RL before you got here - and how on earth did you get involved in the crazy world of Second Life? 

Marqs:    When I was 11 years old, my older brother gave me a guitar that he had bought for himself.  His intention in buying it was to learn to play it, but he quickly decided that was not his gift nor did he have the patience to learn it.  It was near my birthday, so he gave it to me as a birthday gift, with these words "Here, you can have this, if you can learn to play it."  

The next couple of years saw me playing, as Bryan Adams sang about in his song "Summer of 69"  "til my fingers bled". Often in severe pain, with tears streaming down my face, I would keep playing, driven by this urge within that I didn't fully understand.  There was a passion to learn the guitar, to make music.  By the time I was 14 I was playing in bands, many times with older musicians, quite often playing gigs in bars where I wasn't even old enough legally to be!

Throughout high school and college I played in bands, performing for dances, parties and other similar kind of events. As I got older and began a family, I moved into doing solo work, playing for small gatherings, in clubs, dinner parties and other opportunities where I could share my music. I had begun writing songs in high school, and continued that into adulthood.  As parenthood and adult responsibilities took more of my time and attention, my live performances grew less regular, and became more informal.  Mostly, I wrote and recorded my music for myself,  performed in public for special occasions such as weddings and engagement parties, and occasionally for funerals.  

I had friends who were professional and semi-professional musicians, and would jam with them whenever the opportunity presented itself.  One of my friends was a good friend of Harvey Jett, who had been the lead guitarist for the band "Black Oak, Arkansas" in their heyday, and we would at times get together with Harvey, and his pet monkey, for a jam session. 

My first entrance into SecondLife was in May of 2004, when SL was barely a year old.  I enjoyed exploring and seeing the creative potential of SecondLife, and experienced live music through SL's very first live streaming musician, Astrin Few (though I didn't know at the time he was the first).  I thought it was pretty cool, but RL commitments took me away, and I ended up leaving SL for a few years. When I returned to SecondLife in 2012, the number of live musicians had proliferated, and I regularly tried to attend live music shows.  At this time, I did not have a regular outlet for my music in RL, and increasingly I found myself at live music shows in SL with the thought "I could...SHOULD...be doing this"..

After some reflection, talking to people in my circle of friends and acquaintances who knew a little about the process of streaming in SL, I decided that it was time I gave it a try. So, on January 1, 2014, I did my first full SecondLife gig. 
 

Michael:     You are a wonderfully gifted musician....what made you start to play and who were your early influences and who are they now? Have they shifted as you matured?

Marqs:    As I mentioned, I started young, because I had a drive to play, to make music.  That drive has at times been muted by the commitments of making a living and raising a family, but it's never gone away.  I grew up in a home where no one else MADE music, but everyone LISTENED to music.  My mother loved CCR (and at 96 years old, she still says they are her favorite band). She played their music, and Willie Nelson, and big band music from the 40's and early rock and roll from the 50's. I had a lot of different musical influences early on.

 

As I started making music, some of the early influences in my life were the Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, The Righteous Brothers, MoTown performers like The Supremes and The Temptations, acoustic performers like Arlo Guthrie and Jim Croce.  

When I first started playing as a teen, I wanted to be a rocker, and that part of me is still there, but as I grew into an adult the softer, more acoustic side became more dominant, and I find these days people like Ed Sheeran, John Mayer, and others in that vein tend to have more of an impact on my own songwriting and music. 

However, those who come to my shows in SL are often overwhelmed by my songlist. I currently have over 500 songs listed, and they cover a wide variety of styles, genres, and eras.  And, while I do many cover songs, the heart of my music is my own original music.   Those are the songs that come from my own heart, experiences, and attitudes about life, death, love and loss.  When I sing covers, I try to make them my own.  I'd rather be the best version of myself I can be than a secondrate version of another artist. 
 

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Michael:     Do you remember your first Second Life gig - the venue and how it went ?

Marqs:    My first Second Life gig was on January 1, 2014. It was not in a 'venue' but on a sim named P3 owned by some friends who occasionally had live performers. It began at 7pm slt. and the 16 songs I performed, in order, were 1. Now I Believe - an original tune, 2. Yesterday - the Beatles' classic. 3. Desperado - one of my favorite Eagles' tunes.  4. Turn The Page - the Bob Seger song about the often unseen struggles of a touring musician. 5. A Matter of Survival, another one of my originals.  6. Everything I Do, the Bryan Adams sappy but endearing love song.  7. How Beautiful (It Can Be) - my own original sappy, endearing love song.  8. I Love The Way You Love Me - the John Michael Montgomery tune - one of my three country songs in this set. 9. Here Without You - the tune by 3 Doors Down.   10. The Dance - Garth Brooks' classic tune.   11. Don't Want to Miss a Thing - Aerosmith's foray into sappy love songs - which finally got them a number 1 hit.   12. Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay - Otis Redding's chill song.  13. This Can't Go On - another original.  14. Runaway Train - Soul Asylum's great tune.  15. Country Roads - John Denver's nostalgic piece about going home to west viginia, although Denver was from New Mexico and the song was actually written about Maryland.. 16. Amazed, the oft-requested tune by Lonestar. 

It went pretty well, I think.  I was nervous which somewhat suprised me.  I had been performing for years, but this was a new environment, and in front of people from all over most of whom I had never met.   I had a few close friends there, and my own Nene, but several of of the 25ish or so people who showed up I did not know at all. Among them was Samantha Chester, from Panorama. Within a month I was playing a regular gig at Panorama, which lasted for a few months, and helped me get my feet wet in playing regular shows. 

Michael:   .  Was there anyone here who helped you, or inspired you, during those early days?

Marqs:    There were many people who helped me in those early days.  Many of them are no longer in SL. My partner, Nene, was a big help to me, especially when I was new to this and needed assistance figuring out how to do things.  Among the things she did for me intially was was to build my first few tip jars, because I had no clue whatsoever about how to do that!  Another person who helped a great deal in those early days was Ami Thibedeau. At the time she owned a beach sim called Bahamas Beach Club. It wasn't really a venue, but she did like to have events there, and she booked me at my first regular gig, within a couple of weeks of my debut on January 1, to play every Sunday morning at 11 am.   One of the great things about that particular gig was that since this was a sim where people just came to hang out, and it was a very popular place on Sunday mornings, I had a built in crowd.  And, considering I had not had time to get to be known or develop any sort of following, that was really a godsend.  It was not unusual on a Sunday morning to have 30 to 60 people there, and as a result my group and subscribo grew fairly significantly while I played there.  Ami would custom build my stages, and I regularly would find a sparkling new stage waiting for me on Sunday mornings. 

In musicians, I found inspiration in other acoustic performers, such as Sassy Nitely, AMforte Clarity, and Max Kleene, all of whom were very encouraging and supportive. These were already established and helped me get a feel for what the music 'business' was like in SL. There were more venue owners than I could name, who helped me out. Kat Chaveau, of Love Kats, booked me as a fill in not long after Love Kats opened, and shortly after she booked me as a regular, and I still play there on a bi-weekly basis.  That's been my longest lasting SL gig.  Kat and I have also had the privilege to meet in person at the SL music jams, and I even got her on stage at a jam to sing with me! 
 

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Michael:     Following on from that is there a gig you remember above all ?

Marqs:    That's really a hard question.  There have been so many gigs. I do have to say however, that the ones that tend to stand out for me have been the ones where the SL Music community has come together to work in unison to raise funds for someone in SL, or the family member of someone in SL, who needed financial assistance for medical needs.  

 

There's something very powerful in that, and it shows how SL is so much more than a 'game' that people play, and that it's really impossible to completely separate SL from RL. It underscores how deep friendships and connections can grow here even in a virtual world, and that music can be a force to facilitate good. 

Michael:   .  You are often seen giving up your time to do charity gigs in SL - is that work particularly important to you ?

Marqs:    I am inherently empathetic, and have always tried to donate to charity causes when possible.  Several years ago, my RL was impacted by cancer, as my sister in law and niece, and later my sister, were all diagnosed with breast cancer.  Each of them struggled and fought to overcome it. Five years ago, my brother, 8 years my senior, was diagnosed with cancer, and within 6 weeks, he passed away.  

 

Music has always been part of my coping strategy for life, and in the following weeks I wrote the song "I Lied" as a way to express my grief.  My sister, who had previously been declared cancer free, had a reoccurence about 2 years ago, and she passed away the day after Christmas this past year, 2021.  I also wrote a song after that experience, "Everybody Goes Away Sometime". These experiences close to me continue to reaffirm to me why the work of groups like ACS are important, and if my music can be used as a way to help encourage giving to those causes, then I am glad to lend my presence and assistance. I can't make cancer or other bad diseases disappear, but I can do a small part to help fight them. So I do, and I will. :)
 

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Michael:      Is there a performer(s) in Second Life you particularly admire ?

Marqs:    There are a lot of talented performers in Second Life.  I love to go to live music shows, and that's usually what I do when I'm in SL and don't have other commitments. There are more than I could possibly name that I enjoy. Lately I have been catching more shows by Katia Portugal than anyone else.  In comparing notes, we started performing in SL within about 2 months or so of one another. Our styles are completely different, but I love just the pure energy she puts into her shows. I always feel like I need to 'DO' something after one of her shows! lol  
 

Michael:    You know the Second Life live music industry inside out by now.  Do you feel it is in a healthy state at this moment in time ?  If you could do one thing to improve it - what would it be?

Marqs:    That's a loaded question for sure! SL fosters a very independent mentality - in that everyone does their own thing in their own way.  There are some similarities mostly across the board but still each venue/owner has their own ways of doing things, and so part of the process of navigating the SL music scene is learning how things work at each venue. 

I'm not a venue owner, but I do understand that for the most part running/owning a venue is a labor of love, and I suspect that anyone who opens a venue expecting it to be monetarily profitable is likely to be disappointed.  In RL if you run a venue offering live music, there is likely to be a cover charge, probably concessions and other product sales to make it a profitable venture. In SL, those things do not exist for the most part.  

 

The business model in SL is the venue foots the bills for providing entertainment, and then hopes they can defray those costs through the tips people give. Some venue owners have other income streams, such as rentals and perhaps selling their own products, which may help to cover the expenses of running the venue, but it's likely that the venue itself operates in the red.  Is that fiscally healthy? No, but it's the model we have adopted in SL and at this point I don't see any realistic likelihood it will change soon.   

If there was anything I could do to change the music industry in SL, it would be to work on developing a more equitable flow of Lindens, that helped support the venues a little more. I don't know what that would look like, and I suspect it would take a LOT of cooperation across the SL music world to make any significant changes, but I think to me that's one of the weaknesses of our system. 
 

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Michael:     Conversely what would you say irks you the most ?  (aside from annoying interviewers)  

Marqs:    This probably won't make me any friends among performers, lol, but I think probably the one thing that irks me the most on a regular basis is how performers don't manage the clock very well at the end of their shows, especially when there is performer following them.  In most venues, and for most shows, the next performer's time starts at the top of the hour, so anytime my stream is still playing my performance after the top of the hour is me stealing his/her time.  

Now, I can't say I am perfect about it, because I'm not, but I make a very conscious effort to make sure my stream stops as close to the top of the hour as possible. Every performer knows there is a 20 to 30 second lag between what they say and when people hear it, but somehow at the end of the hour, when the performer sees the clock at the :58 minute mark, he/she thinks he has 2 minutes left, which is not the case.. at best he/she has 1:45 seconds left, and after talking for 20 seconds about what song they are going to sing, they have less than a minute and a half...and pretty much no one has a 1 minute 20 second song.. so they will go over by 1, 2 or 3 or more minutes.  On an occasional basis, that's possibly not so bad..  but i've been around the SL music scene long enough to know that's not the exception..that's the rule. 

I would like to see performers be more professional and respectful of the next performer's time. There's absolutely nothing wrong with spending the last minute talking, thanking people, introducing the next act, etc., when there's clearly not enough time to fit a whole song in. I used to play on a live radio station, and the sound engineer told me "You have until 2:00.  You can keep playing after 2:00, but we will stop broadcasting you at 2:00, so after 2:00 nobody will be hearing you, not even me.", so I learned to respect the clock when it was time to stop. It's just common courtesy for fellow performers. 
 

Michael:   .  Next a question from Taila - Could you tell us differences between making music in rl and sl? and the audience in rl and sl? Which.do you prefer? Any reason for the preference?

Marqs:    Well, to me the most notable differences in making music in RL and SL... in RL, I have to lug equipment, set it up, do sound checks, pack it all up and lug it back home afterward, and I HAVE TO BE FULLY DRESSED!  In SL, I have my studio already set up, everything is in place, I just have to walk in, plug my guitar in, turn my stream on, and I'm ready to go, and I can be in my PJ's if I want to.  From that standpoint, SL wins it hands down!

The biggest difference that is not as positive for me is audience interaction.   In RL, you can hear people applaud, cheer, whoop and holler in appreciation. In SL, I have my sounds muted during shows because it gets played back over my stream if anyone plays gestures with applause noises and such things, and, unlike someone who primarily sings from a track, I am usually focused on my music and lyrics visually, so I can't really pay attention closely to the chat until after the song, which means I don't get to enjoy the responses from the audience in SL as much. From that standpoint, I would give the nod to RL performances. 

In regard to audiences, however, when I played primarily in RL, my audience/fans were nearly always all local. In SL at any given show I might have people in the audience who are listening from nearly any continent in the world. I have people in my group and subscribo from Australia/New Zealand, South America, Europe, and Asia that I'm aware of, and likely there are others as well that I'm just not aware of. So, SL gives me the chance to have a global audience for my music, something that used to only be possible for global recording artists. Now, I can sit in my studio in Kansas City, Missouri, and perform for people from around the world.  In this regard, SL definitely wins.   

I would have to say in general that I find SL preferable overall as my primary way to play music these days. I still play RL gigs on occasion, and I do enjoy those, but I find I miss the RL scene less and less as time goes on.

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Michael:   .  Now a question from Aqua - I know you do a great deal to help other performers.. What would be your best advice to new performers or how can Venue owners in particular, improve in helping

Marqs:    My best advice to new performers is make friends.  Make friends with other performers, because they can give you technical advice when you need it, and they can help you understand the SL music scene from the performer's side; they can give you recommendations to venue owners who may be looking for someone to fill in.  Make friends with venue owners and staff, because you both are there to help one another.  I try to become friends with the venue owners and staff where I play regular shows, and I find that it makes it easier to communicate and work together to build a positive environment for the shows we do together.  Make friends with your audience members.  Clearly you can't become best buds with everyone who comes to your shows, but making friends with audience members makes them more than observers; it makes them participants in your shows, because we all want our friends to do well.  But it's not a 'gimmick' to get people involved either..BE a friend to them.  The people in your audience are going through the same struggles everyone else is...a hello, an encouraging word, singing someone's favorite song when you know they are having a hard time, those can be things that help make their lives better and happier...  To have friends, BE a friend.

Venue owners have a lot on their plates already, and finding new performers isn't always as easy as it used to be.  There used to be a weekly event that often featured new performers looking for some exposure, and venue owners would go there to try to hear some of the newer performers to find some 'new blood' for their shows.  Over time that has evolved into something else, and doesn't provide the same opportunity for newcomers that it once did.  However. SL still has a steady influx of new performers, of all styles and genres.  While I don't know that I have the answer about how to set it up, I think some sort of 'new performers showcase' that occurred on a regular basis that allowed people who have been performing in SL for a year or less. for instance, a chance to do a half hour set or something like that.. 2 hours could feature 4 performers... or 15 minute sets could get 4 in 1 hour... and inviting other venue owners/staff to come and hear them.. that could be a way to help in new artist/performer development.  It also would take some work, so it may be outside what most venues are prepared to do, and I totally understand that, but I do think it would be a valuable asset to the SL music community.  I don't think it's a short-term project though, because I suspect that developing this and making it successful will take some time. 

Another way venues can encourage new performers is simply to give them a chance to perform. It's a little bit risky to do that without having heard the performer, but if they have an online presence at all.. soundcloud, reverbnation, drooble, etc. then there is chance to get some idea of the quality of the performer before booking them. Just in general, I think it's very easy to get stuck in a rut with bookings. Weekly and bi-weekly bookings are easier to manage, but provide less variety in the musical landscape of a venue. While I won't presume to tell venues how to manage their schedules, it seems to me that while 80% of the schedule might be fine as on-going bookings, the other 20% might be good to consider bringing in people who don't 'usually' play there, particularly with an emphasis on new performers, when they are available.  What that looks like on the calendar, and the practical implications of making it work, I can't say, but it certainly would provide an opportunity to expose newer performers to audiences they might have a hard time finding otherwise.

However venues go about trying to support and encourage new performers, I think any kind of support and encouragement is better than none.   I was fortunate that I found venues quickly that would allow me to perform. That's not always the case. I also had the benefit of friends who knew how SL music worked, and had contacts in the SL music world, so just taking the time to explain things to a new performer might be helpful, or sharing his/her information with other venues. New performers are, hopefully, part of the future of SL music.  Just as there new performers joining regularly, there are also performers who decide they're ready to step back, or RL commitments are just too much, or health issues intervene, even death, so helping to encourage new performers helps keep a flow of fresh music coming into SL. 

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Michael:    Finally, in closing, is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Marqs:    I consider myself blessed to have the opportunity to make music in SL.  From the time I was 11, I have had this passion to make music, and now more than ever, SL provides me that opportunity. The venue owners, the venue staff, the fans who come to listen, are all a part of this big family in SL. We feel that family spirit sometimes in special events.

 

 When you go to an SL music jam, you realize how strong that sense of being family is.  We are at times a dysfunctional family, but we are a family, and together we help make SL a place that is more fun, more fulfilling, more positive than it would be otherwise.  I truly believe that SL would have folded years ago if it weren't for the music. Simon Linden told me one time that he thought that music was the best thing in SL. I think he's right, and I'm glad I get to be a small part of it.
 

Thank You Marqs !!!