Edward Kyomoon: I Wanna Pick You Up

by Traci Nubalo

images by Jami Mills

(reprinted courtesy of rez magazine, December 2011 issue)

Where does one begin? At the beginning, of course.

At our Rez Magazine staff meeting one night I happened to half-jokingly ask if anyone knew of any killer SL musicians who I might like to go see.

So Jami Mills pipes in: “Edward Kyomoon. He’s playing tomorrow. Come with us.”

You know Jami. She’s one of the very best photographers in Second Life. She’s clearly the most amazing artist of imagery that I have ever worked with - by far. She’s been here with me for quite a few gigs now - each issue cooking up delectable eye candy to go with what we hope will be a good story. And in the process of becoming the musical eyes and ears (by proxy) for concert lovers across the artistic grid, we have become friends.

So just about 24 hours later, Jami introduced me to the wild ride of Ed Kyomoon.

My first impression was that it was a great crowd at Sweet Whispers. It was inspiring to see so many SL music lovers gathering for the concert when so many deserving performers and venues are catching light crowds of late. Then I noticed that many of the fans seemed to know one another. They seemed to have done this before. This, I realized, is Ed’s core group of fans - the ones who show up for almost every show.

Sweet Whispers just celebrated their first anniversary in Second Life. It’s a lovely outdoor venue with plenty of room and excellent sightlines to the stage. In speaking with Isabelle Brucato, who co-owns the room with Jessica Gabardini, I learned that they work very hard to make Sweet Whispers the “place to be” for quality live music. One of the strategies that they have successfully employed is to strive to have the best SL artists available to play the room regularly. And this is Ed Kyomoon’s regular night. (In future visits I was to learn that Sweet Whispers is becoming a “place to be” for SL musicians and others working in the business).

The gunslinger appears right on time and he MUST have gotten the memo: black tee shirt; black jeans; black hair grown into a long bang over his left eye. Black shoes; black Fender Stratocaster (“with custom black pick guard and knobs,” he would later clarify); grim game face. This guy is ready to kill. He has that elusive aura of a man who intends to take no prisoners. Not tonight.

Jami and I discussed how much we'd like to get a shot of Ed at work up on the videoscreen.
At an evening gig at The Roof@NYC she captured this amazing four-dimensional photo.
I love how she got Ed the poster, Ed the avatar, Ed on the screen, and Donn DeVore in RL.
Thanks to Lingual Markus and his awesome SL venue The Roof@NYC!

As his avatar moves through the venue and arrives at the stage, Donn DeVore (he is Ed Kyomoon in Second Life and Donn DeVore everywhere else!) appears in realtime on the huge video screen provided by Kyomoon’s production team. For the next hour we joined the packed house and just flat-out partied! Watching Ed’s intensity on the live-feed screen caught and held my fascination and attention for the entire hour. I’m a very big fan of the relatively-new process of artistically merging RL and SL via interactive real time broadcasting of gigs. I regard this as a huge leap forward for all involved, especially the listener/viewer. So I asked him:

Traci Nubalo: My readers really enjoy some technical discussion. Can we open this interview with some ‘Tech Talk’? I’d like to discuss the vidscreen a bit.
Edward Kyomoon: Sure. I'm an audio engineer in RL so the technical is fun for me.
TN: To me, the realtime video screen is a major development. It brings you (and your avatar) right into my living room.
EK: I use Quicktime Broadcaster, a free Apple app, to capture the live video and send it to a relay server that sends it to the viewers, using the built-in iSight cam on a 2007 Macbook Pro.
TN: You are one of only several in live SL music who uses this new technology. I wonder why so few?
EK: I've seen a few other people use video in SL. I think I might be the only one that uses it at nearly every show now.
TN: I agree.
TN: CraigLyons Writer was the first that I saw using the real life hookup, I think.
EK: Yeah, I saw Craig using it as well. He had different cameras he could switch between.
TN: Yes. He also used the vidscreen to very successfully demonstrate his loop pedal stuff - building the song structure by using looped layers of sound. I liked that guy’s performances a lot.
TN: I‘ve also covered Tone Uriza when he used his screen. You know, the fabulous SL blues guitarist.
EK: Oh yeah. I know Tone. Also Anek Fuchs does video, too. Great guitar player.
TN: Yes, he is. If I’m not mistaken, I think that Anek is in on the tech aspect of vidscreening as well. It really is a great development though and I'm glad to see you using it.
EK: Since my decision to use it I’ve added colored lights, backdrops. I used to use lava lamps close to the cam so they looked huge!
TN: Really? Too funny.
EK: Yes. They were framing the scene - blue lava lamps?
TN: LMAO. Yes, I love it. The whole real time video thing is very cool for the viewer. It really adds another dimension to the SL experience.

TN: Awesome. Moving on - you play a black Stratocaster guitar?
EK: Yes, my main guitar is a Fender Standard Stratocaster HSS. I customized it a bit with black pickguard and knobs, and had new frets put on it. It needs a new bridge now, because I play the thing so much.
TN: *smile* It is awesome-looking.
EK: My acoustic is a Taylor 110. Simple guitar, no pickup or built in mic. I use a stereo mic setup for that.
TN: With the strat - what sort of rig are you using?
EK: The electric guitars use a Line 6 POD for all amp sounds. It lets me switch between lots of different sounds and amps, effects, etc. And I use a Boss Phaser effect pedal a LOT. Hehe, probably too much!
TN: Does the Boss have the cry baby effect as well?
EK: Yes, it's like a auto-wah effect. A sweeping sound.

One of several truly-amazing features of his live performance is his slide guitar work. I have seen and heard some amazing slide players: Ry Cooder, David Lindley, Duane Allman, Max Lasser, Bonnie Raitt - I could go on and on and never break the surface. But Kyomoon takes all of those styles and puts them together and adds a bunch of “nasty” to the mix. And when he stalks onto the stage he carries that swagger with him: it’s an abiding sense of authority and confidence that he demonstrates night after night.

Opening with “She Sets Me Free” he laid that hot metal slide onto the steel strings and coaxed and wrenched perfectly unearthly sounds from the Fender song after song. Along the way he adroitly covered Tom Petty, doing a commanding version of “Listen To Your Heart”. He also treated us to one of my all-time favorite songs when he swung into a fascinating and musically-powerful rendition of “Romeo and Juliet” by the great Mark Knopfler. He opens with a tonally-sweet echoed electric guitar to which he adds some soft, conversational, almost-spoken-word lyrics to further sweeten an already-excellent performance. His intelligence and openness (as both artist and man) allows him to read this one almost perfectly: passion and romance.

Despite such stellar covers at his fingertips the focus of his live set seems to be his original material. And rightly so. Tonight Ed featured some more downright skuzzy-sounding guitar on “I Miss You So Much I Go Crazy”. The beginning of this clever tune also reminds me of Dire Straits, until he starts blazing with intensity and frenzy (and a tone so wicked that I had the urge to excuse myself and go wash my hands). All musical hell broke out during the fast-paced mid-break when he put the figurative (and literal, eventually) pedal to the metal. Everyone I was chatting with (yes, sometimes I do shop-talk during a set) was literally blown away at this point. This was the moment when I recall having the thought: “This is the real fucking deal.” I was convinced; I had become a Kyomoonie. I was to notice in the nights ahead that I would enjoy these songs even more on the second or third concert listen.

The 38-year-old from “somewhere outside of Seattle” displayed prodigious prowess on standard (non-slide electric) on another smooth original entitled “I Wanna Know”. I’m thinking that this must be a fan favorite, based on audience response to this, my first listen. Everyone in the room just beams and wiggles and flat-out rocks this one top to bottom.

“Wanna pick you up…
Wanna take you out…
Wanna take you home…
Wanna taste your skin…
Wanna be your sin...
Wanna know your name.”

This is radical, raw, cutting edge power rock with hook-laden lyrics that any songwriter would die for.

Looking around, watching the avatars spinning in their ecstatic connection I feel my spirit released and enlivened; and if there’s a better way for human women and men to spend their free time, I don’t yet know what it is.

* * *

Like any good, solid musical performer, Ed has found himself in the midst of a fascinating group of supporters and friends to help him along the way. It’s even become a family affair. His SL wife Zoey Starsider takes the role of #1 fan and fulfills it perfectly. One of the things she does best is to flash the current lyrics into Open Chat, making the original material, especially, more accessible to the newcomer and more exciting overall. Edward's RL mom, known as Foxxie Fang here in SL makes the appearance at most shows, (“as long as it’s not too late”, she mentioned in one IM to me) helping with the vid screen. In fact, when I was having trouble getting the image up at one show it was Foxxie who kindly took the time to talk me through the process of reinstalling the current version of Quicktime, a process which took all of four minutes and did the trick perfectly. Thanks, Mom!

In the middle of my time hanging with the team at Ed's SL concerts while writing this piece a major piece of SL music news sweeps through the camp: longtime Kyomoon personal manager Carol Greenwood has stepped down. Information begins to circulate that the team will announce that Sher Salmson’s crack management team SpiritFire Management has taken the booking/management helm. Arguably one of the most powerful figures on the gridwide live music scene, Sher and I go back a long way in SL music, so I had a chat with her about the acquisition.

Traci Nubalo: Hi Sher. Congratulations on signing Ed Kyomoon to SpiritFire. I think it's a master stroke for both of you.
Sher Salmson: Thank you, Traci. I can tell you - I am thrilled. *smile*
TN: In my opinion this is a major SL music story: “market leader joins forces with market leader.”
SS: I know without a doubt that Ed is a professional, which pleases me to no end. Not only is he a great talent but he knows how to enhance his appeal through his professionalism. I'll let you in on a secret, too. You know that I rarely get to go to concerts outside the artists on our SpiritFire roster, simply because of time restraints. But when I did have the time Ed is one that I would always try to go see. I would go to his concerts. The energy at his concerts is exceptional and always energized me!
TN: This a perfect match, then. Okay, Sher - myself and Rez congratulate you!

Next, I grabbed Kyomoon personally and discussed the move with him:

Traci Nubalo: Congratulations, Ed!
Edward Kyomoon: Thanks, Traci! I’m really excited about going to the SpiritFire group. It seems like the best thing to do. I was on my own for a couple of weeks. Not fun.
TN: It’s a master stroke, Ed. You could not have chosen better. And perfect that this breaks during my article. I'm doing a rewrite to include this.
EK: Well, I was always happy working with Carol Greenwood. But this move is to a new level entirely. Also I know most every other musician on the team, too. I was Allister's [Westland] best man in SL years ago. I stayed at Gina [Stella] and Anek's [Fuchs] in RL when I was in Chicago in 2010.
TN: What do you expect SpiritFire can do for you that will be growth-oriented?
EK: I hope that working with them will get my gig calendar full again and give me access to more venues. I‘m playing about ten per week now and I’d like to play at least twelve. 12 -15 live shows is a good week for me if I can keep up. My face hurts after a few nights; my fingers bleed…
TN: SpiritFire Entertainment is top of the line, Ed, both as managers and as people.
EK: Yeah, I feel very comfortable with them. It’s all very exciting.

* * *

The move to Spritifire, however, marks the entry of the artist into the top realms of the SL entertainment scene. I knew Sher (and wrote about her and her performers) back in the days when she was doing everything but selling AcousticEnergy Nitely music from the trunk of her virtual car! Now her roster still carries the always-amazing AE, plus the incredible talent of a strong list of artists including: Allister Westland, Anek Fuchs, Gina Stella, and the powerfully-original singer-songwriter Quantamis Navarathna (who will be featured in an upcoming issue of rez magazine).

And Ed Kyomoon.

* * *

Since seeing the show last time I had been pondering what it is that makes this artist’s concert set so very enjoyable to see and hear (and feel!). There are obviously several factors which are common to most successful acts in either world: excellent singing/playing ability, compositional abilities, astute song selection at concerts, ease of communication with the audience, strong technical prowess, etc. Leave out one of these factors and your band may very quickly find itself playing Saturday mornings at an empty inworld garden center, or performing on a multiple bill onstage at the slave market on Gor.

Then it hit me! There’s a deeper level to this creative story than audiences in SL ever get to see - and never should: long before any other set of ears have heard it - maybe even before the song is finished - our guy is in his studio laboring long and hard; sweating out grueling, meticulous hours to create tracks which will eventually give the song not only its heart: drums, bass and rhythm guitars, but also its soul: lead guitars, backing vocals, effects, etc. This is where Kyomoon shines. These tracks - so lovingly nurtured in the studio - polished until the magic is revealed. And it’s this enchantment that gives the guitarist a musical backing that can not only stand up to but enhance his incredible live skills. In other words, his live “band” is him. And when recorded and performed with artisty it becomes just that: the total package from Ed Kyomoon is an art form unique to himself.

Traci Nubalo: So, yes. You have a studio background?
Edward Kyomoon: Yes, I studied music and audio in college in the early 90's, and then worked as a live sound tech for a few years in Houston where I grew up. Then I moved to Seattle to pursue a career in the recording industry, which I've been doing since 1998 here.
TN: What kind of recording are you doing?
EK: Every thing you can think of: rock bands, jazz, classical, voice-overs, TV ads, radio spots, demos, major label bands, bluegrass, too many to list.
TN: Awesome.
EK: Eventually I became the owner of a very large studio and ran that for a few years. I’ve made thousands of records with thousands of musicians. It’s become second nature to me. When you are in a studio 30 days a month, 12-16 hours a day, you get good at it.
TN: Your studio background really is evident in your backing tracks. Do you produce/engineer your live backing tracks?
EK: Yes, I use Logic Pro 8 and Protools software for composing and recording all my backing tracks for originals songs and many of the cover songs, although there are many well-produced backing tracks available online.
TN: Your backing tracks are (in my opinion) one of the keys to your live SL set, Ed. I think they are so well-produced that they free you to perform live. They augment your show, not get in the way.
EK: Yes, I started out just playing acoustic guitar, no tracks. Simple setup. I'm always trying to make it sound better. I try to blend the tracks with my live vocal mic and guitar to make it sound like a band. Sometimes it’s tricky - mixing while playing and singing, but I get bored easy, I guess.

* * *

Back in the world of live music, the tour has stopped by for an evening at Key West Resort and Marina, one of SL’s musical mainstays. Liz Harley, the vivacious owner of Key West, has been personally greeting every single avatar who has walked through the door since July, 2007. It’s one of those venues that is loved equally by audiences and musicians. The room sits outdoors right on the water and it has that laid-back “beach club” vibe that we all love so much.

I’m sitting here pretty-well stunned by a wonderfully- orchestrated live version of Ed's amazing original “Twilight’s Sparkle”. I find myself so deeply absorbed into the layers of sound that I have moments where it all fits together precisely. Like an audio satori. Later (when thinking reestablishes itself) I realize that this was caused by the preciseness of the recording, arranging, and live playing (excellent slide guitar, again); everything perfect in itself. “Sparkle” could very well be used effectively for a film score. I hope that Ed is able to pursue this lucrative avenue.

[Hours before handing in my final version of this article Kyomoon hit the stage with a more recent version of "Twilight's Sparkle" complete with supporting vocalizations from the "My Little Pony" cartoon series of which he seems to be a major fan. It’s amazingly cute, musically-valid and clearly a step in the cinematic direction.]

Truth be told, I found it very difficult to review only a few of his originals in this piece. I wanted to write about all of them. (An earlier incarnation of this article was actually a lot more tune-heavy, but weighed in at an onerous 5,000 words!)

Tonight’s set also featured a surprise (for me, anyway)! Out of his pocket Edward pulls the opening notes of “Black Magic Woman”, which most of us ~ myself included ~ assumed was written by Carlos Santana. Ed will quickly correct you in that endearing rockstar way he has about himself that it was penned by Peter Green of early Fleetwood Mac fame. He then proceeds to burn the house down with it.

** ** **

After about 15 live shows on the virtual road with Ed Kyomoon I reluctantly decided that my career demanded that I move on. I told one friend that I could happily rewrite this article using all of the new info that I gathered just in the last few shows. But everything moves forward…

It’s great when the tale finishes with everyone so happy. Jami is happy; Ed Kyomoon makes a positive career move; Sher Salmson lands another top group for her roster; SL music fans will get to see more of this great act live; and my editor will be thrilled that I am finally turning this article in.

So, where do I end this? At the end, of course.


Copyright (c) 2011/2012 Traci Nubalo/Jami Mills. All rights reserved.


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