Emotional Translator by Paris Obscur
Long ago, back in 2007, I came to SL seeking possible opportunities for my real life company. I didn’t find a satisfying use for my business, but I stayed for the creativity and fun. Since, I’ve done different things, among them is music.
As a kid, I was taught piano, but I didn’t enjoy playing others’ stuff; I wanted to write music. My teachers didn’t want me to, so I quit. And then, at around 18, I learned the drums alone, and performed in many bands/ styles. Later, I went back to piano, filling my hard drive with musical feelings. In real life, I’ve been on stage both as a drummer and as a pianist.
One day, about two years ago, I decided to start writing songs and singing, but I needed more confidence before trying the real life stage adventure with my originals. There is a very active live scene in SL. This seemed a great way to slowly start, see what the audience thinks of my music, and gain experience. Why not? So far, in real life, I’ve had a couple of private shows as a singer, but nothing big yet. For the moment, I focus on SL.
Finding a career balance
Coming in-world to get rich is a wrong challenge for a musician, in my opinion. SL is a bit monkey business, honestly. One hour of my time will pay much more in real life than a performance here, even if I do get pretty good tips. I’m happy because with them, I could buy an electronic drum kit last year.
Including fees, if 5KL is an average concert, that would be 10KL per day for two performances. This translates to about $1200 USA per month, which can be supplemental for a retired person. But for a 30’s or 40’s person, as main occupation, with a family, I don’t believe in it.
SL is not a career in itself. A career means you can live financially from your activity, and I doubt many performers here can do that, unless part-time, and if you live in a tax haven. Here in France, if you want to do it “officially” it will cost you more taxes than what you will earn.
SL is an amazing way to be creative, to perform, and the only drawback is money. Compared to a real life show, where you’ll get paid 150 or 300 euros, or more when you’re a bit famous. In SL, I don’t think anyone makes 300 euros per show. Performing here is mostly for the creative and experience side. Because of my real life activities, I cannot perform more than eight times per month, which can never earn a living. There are many places where I wish to perform or that want me, but sometimes, they have to wait two or three months for a free slot.
Performance as expression
To find balance and achievement with the schedule, I have made different tests. When I sing, I give everything I have, so I just cannot perform two or three times per day—that would kill me. Physical limits are one thing, but there is also an emotional limit. I can’t perform more than four shows in a week or I don’t handle it well emotionally.
For me, there is no SL/real life. There is only me—Jon, Paris Obscur. I write songs, and SL is a way to perform them and stay in touch with fans. I talk a LOT with them and many are very close and dear to me. I let them listen to work in progress, and they are incredibly respectful with my creativity. Sometimes, a word or a comment can change the way I’ll see a song. I usually log in thirty minutes before the show, and invite friends and fans to come. We talk. This kind of interaction is MUCH more difficult in real life. Here you see an avatar at a show, and two weeks later, you see them again, and can start an IM: “Hey, I saw you last time, gtsy.”
I have a busy life between real life and SL. Sometimes, mixing the professional, Paris Obscur, friends, and family, is not so easy. But, well, such is life. In SL, what I do is talk to friends and fans, see other performers and perform. I love to know what kind of people can love what I do. Not a lot of performers do only originals—most do covers or a mix of covers/originals. I don’t have a single cover (I had one when I started, but I haven’t performed it for ages).
I do what I love to do and it was a very big surprise for me to see that others could really love it too.
“Circus” is very edgy. Contrast it wish a song like “Beauty,” which is more mainstream. Actually it sounds more mainstream, given the context of my songs. Out of context, let fifty people hear it who don’t know my universe at all, and get comments. It’s exactly what. I did. I paid for such a service on Reverbnation and the results are surprising. Around half of the fifty people who responded, think it’s “dark” when, for me, it’s a luminous song.
For many fans, “Obsession” is THE song. It is, indeed, a very Paris Obscur-ish song. I love many styles of music and I see no reason to limit myself to one. In my songs, different characters speak of what has happened in their lives. They form a family, a relationship to one another. There is the father, his two sons, his wife, the spouses, the raped girl (princess) the little monster (child of the rape). All are inspired by real stories, that I’ve heard, and mixed. No character really exists; each is a blend of different persons/stories.
This is my vision: When I sing, I focus on the voice only. The instrumental tracks are loaded on my MP3 player. I wrote all the instruments, and I carefully craft synthetic sounds with acoustic real sounds. For example, in “The Darkness of My Soul,” the piano sound is a mix of six acoustic pianos lines with three synth pianos. Some think that virtual performance should ALL be live. But the instrumental richness can’t be done with a guitar or a piano alone. And I do not have twelve pairs of arms.
For the next months, I want to go on performing in the places I love and have more “special events.” It does take planning, and I’m very happy to have my manager, Sweetpea Shilova. We’ve met in real life a few times, and she deals with all these details. She is a big help as well as many other people, like, for example, Lanky at the shop. He came to me one day and said, “I have an idea—lets create merchandise, like the real shows!” Other friends or fans suggest places to perform or help prepare the real life shows.
As far as music is concerned, I work alone for a reason. On the creative aspects, I’m more demanding than you can ever imagine. For example, the CD I released in August, I mixed the songs, but I wasn’t happy, so I paid a tech to mix them. But I wasn’t happy either, so I mixed them again from scratch, just keeping his voice mix. And then I did it all again, because I still wasn’t happy. Then the mastering engineer suggested some mods, that I did again, twice. Actually, I can be obsessed by details until everything sounds exactly the way I want and that can last during hours and hours.
Emotions are a gift. In my stories, you don’t die when your body dies, but when you stop feeling. For me, feeling is just like breathing; it’s a part of life; it’s necessary.
People are often surprised to know that, no, I don’t listen to my own music, except when I create or perform it. When I write, I always start with an idea for piano or voice. Sometimes, I have the lyrics first, sometimes (more often) the music first.
The narrative evolves by adding new viewpoints or characters. I have a song called “The Long and Painful Agony of Mr. Aaron Rosenberg.” When writing, I didn’t know how to finish it, So I set it aside for a couple of months. Every day, I watched my 79 year-old neighbor through my real life window. It inspired me to talk about old people who just wait for death to take them.
One day, my old friend died and because he died, I finished the song this way: the father dies. If my neighbor hadn’t died, the story would probably be different now.
I love to read peoples’ minds and hearts. People easily come and talk to me about how they feel. I absorb all this. I “collect” a lot of feelings, and represent them. People often ask me which songs are about my own life but I don’t tell if they are autobiographical. Listen to my music, read the lyrics, ask questions. Perhaps will you get enough clues to have your own opinion about that.
I’m clearly extrovert, but an extrovert CAN have a rich inner universe. I live strongly and fast. I have a very dense life for my age, and all this feeds the beast inside. So I feel, and I express, and people get, and give back.
Many judge others quickly, without taking time to BE them, to feel like them. Yet, in a given context, anyone could probably be a monster. For example, there is a question I hope I will never have to answer as a father: If someone rapes or kills my daughter, what will I do? Be wise and forgive, or unleash the beast inside, and seek revenge? The characters in my stories are both mean AND nice; they have good AND bad sides, not always as honorable as hoped. Black and white doesn’t necessarily produce grey. In feelings and values, I don’t like grey. Take white cotton and black wood. Try to make something grey with them. People can be awful and amazing, at the same time.
For me, creating music is therapeutic, it is a need. Aside from the thirty songs that I perform, I have around 200 bits of songs in progress, some as old as ten years.
Advice to other artists
Don’t be the limit to your own potential. Dream big. Have expectations. Tons and tons of expectations! Be disappointed, and do it again, but better, on and on, forever. If you expect 100, and you don’t get it, you can still get 80 or 90. But if you expect 10, you can only get 10. My three favorite words are: “all, more, now.” I love to see how others react, when I say, “I want it all, even more, and now.”
Music as purpose
A lot of people say that my stories resonate by echoing their lives. And my stories inspire—like a “virtuous circle.” When starting, I didn’t expect anyone to love my art. I wrote for myself, and never shared it (not including the sound design I do for companies, which is design, not art). When the first person told me “I like,” I was happy. Then someone told me “I love”— better! Then another told me “it touched me,”—wow! I was SO happy. And then people have told me that my music has changed their lives.
I’m nothing more than a translator of experience and emotions. I transmit. People get the transmission and send something back. My music requires some maturity to be able to let others have that open window directly inside me.
As a kid, I wanted to be priest. That’s before I realized this it meant: no sex. More seriously, I love the idea that with what I say/do/create, I can really touch people, and make their lives better. This is an AMAZING reward. Then, religion? Politics? Art? Art is cool, and I need it in my life. So I chose art. A friend said: “Tu sais .. ton projet rl est tres important !!!!! pas que pour toi,” which means “You know, your real life project is very important!!! not only for you.” THAT gives a sense to my life.
—Paris Obscur, Jonathan Dimitri Soderstrom
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