The Drax Files 5: Engrama make SL rock

The fifth segment of The Drax Files moves somewhat away from the central theme of the series to date, that of content creators and their work in Second Life and shines a light on the live music scene within SL. In doing so, it again demonstrates the rich diversity of opportunity which is available within the digital world.

Engrama: image courtesy of Draxtor Despres
Engrama (image courtesy of Draxtor Despres)

Engrama is a partnership of musicians in both in the real world and in SL in the form of Argentine-born Pupito Helstein and his Spanish girlfriend Lakua Arriaga. Like many musicians who have embraced Second Life, they’ve found that the platform has provided them with a unique world-wide reach that provides an added dimension to their real-world lives.

“We have no backing tracks, it’s all live,” Pipito says of their in-world performances, “We prefer to play original songs; In fact we improvise in Second Life, we sometimes create even original songs.”

“It totally depends on the mood of the crowd,” Lakua adds.

Engrama: Lakua (image courtesy of Draxtor Despres)
Engrama: Lakua (image courtesy of Draxtor Despres)

Operating from their mountain village home, Engrama have developed not only a distinctive voice, focusing on post-rock era music (which includes covers of Sigur Ros, Radiohead and others as well as their own original pieces), but also a distinctive presence. They’ve taken to building their own stage sets and instruments to better reflect their music and style. More recently, this has led the couple into wider fields of content creation, making prefab homes, furniture and clothing. Pupito has even attempted to encourage his musician friends to embrace Second life, spending time creating unique avatars for them.

Engrama: Pupito (image courtesy of Draxtor Despres)
Engrama: Pupito (image courtesy of Draxtor Despres)

“There is one magic thing in Second Life,” Lakua says as the couple distinguish between their real world and Second Life experiences, “[That’s] when people send us messages like, ‘Hey guys, I heard Engrama music at the Colorado [Grand] Canyon on a trip!'”

“People record our Second Life shows,” Pupito adds, “And then they listen to them on their iPods.”

“They share with us how our music makes them feel,” Lakua finishes.

This is not boasting in any way; the statements are made in a tone of delight and wonder which demonstrates both Lakua and Pupito are themselves awed by the impact their music can have on an audience they might otherwise never reach. “This  is real interaction,” Lakua states as the video closes, “Second Life is a parallel life, they [it and real life] can go together, and sometimes they can cross.”

And that is again the magical power contained within Second Life – not only that we can come into the digital world and free ourselves from the constraints of everyday life and business and create and play and have a lot of fun or share time with others – but that we have within this digital domain the ability to reach far beyond ourselves, to touch others and be touched by them, to share, uplift and help others, and be a part of lives, and make them a part of our own in ways which simply cannot be achieved in the physical world.

A Conversation with Drax (part 1)

The Drax Files have taken Second Life by storm. By creating lucid, engaging and thoughtful insights into people’s second lives, the series instantly strikes a chord with any SL user who sees them and – as I’ve stated in the past, offer up a unique way in which SL could be promoted to the world at large, albeit in a possibly shorter format.

After seeing the first segment, I took time out with Drax, who is a professional musician in real life, to find out more about the man behind the series and also about the series itself – where it is going and what we might be seeing. What followed was a fascinating insight into the man and the series, which I’ll be covering alongside my articles on the series itself, starting with the obvious question: what inspired him to create The Drax Files?

In conversation with Drax at the Valica Coffee House
In conversation with Drax at the Valica Coffee House

Draxtor Despres (DD): As you know, I came into Second Life six years ago and was so just bewildered and bewondered and amazed by the creativity of folks that I didn’t even think of doing something with music or with a virtual band like my friend suggested when I first came in. Instead, I embarked on trying to document what people did, so that’s how I started in the very beginning.

Inara Pey (IP): So you had expertise with video making and saw this as a natural extension of those skills?

(DD): I was completely self-taught in the video department, and so some of the early ones are terrible to look at (laughs) – well, just from a technical standpoint, but I think the stories are still valid; so that’s how I started. Then there were so many other possibilities, and Flufee, and I got so into narrative stuff and comedy and I wanted to do drama – that was actually next on the list [after Flufee] – and then Kriss Lehmann [the subject of the first segment of The Drax Files] said, “You know, what’s really missing is what you used to do; just document what people do in Second Life.” And I said, “You know, maybe I should do that, and why don’t we start with you, Kriss?” And we did that piece, and now I think I’ve found a format that really works.

Flufee
Flufee

IP: The hallmark of the series has been your willingness to stand aside and let people tell their own story, rather than opting for a more traditional interviewer-lead reportage. If I might use a musical analogy, you’ve become more the musical arranger than the conductor. Was this a conscious choice, or something which evolved in filming the first segment?

DD: Six years ago I did insert myself as a narrator / reporter, just like an NPR or BBC-type radio reportage because I actually come from a reportage type background. I worked in radio as a news director producing the nightly news at an NPR station, so I have the reporter-led format down from a flow-type perspective. But it seemed to me that letting people really speak and taking myself out of the picture; just going into the story and then coming back at the very end is a much better format.

IP: The response to the series has been overwhelmingly positive – even LL have been promoting it through the likes of Plurk and the SL website dashboard. Did you anticipate the response being so broadly positive?

Draxtor Despres
Draxtor Despres

DD: Thankfully, my stuff is always warmly received, but the response to The Drax Files is one that I did not anticipate; and that leads me to believe I’ve stumbled across a mixture of things that work. I’d hoped that this would be the case … but I’m much more thrilled than at any point ever before; even when I won this award and went to Paris during the hype days.

There is one caveat, however. It’s that my audience is in SL. It’s really nice that the SL community loves these, but just like Scientologists and Mormons want to convince outsiders that their thing is awesome (laughs), I want to really penetrate the outside. I don’t have delusions of grandeur or anything; I just feel I need to be this ambassador and I need to reach the media, because the mainstream media, as you know, has abandoned Second Life and whenever they mention it, they regurgitate clichés. As a former member of the media I’m appalled at their laziness … so I’m counter-balancing the lack of coverage the mainstream media should be doing.

IP: When we originally talked about the series, you mentioned it would be six or so segments in length. Has the response encouraged you consider possible extensions to the project?

DD: I have so many segments planned! Now that I’ve seen that it is working, I’m overwhelmed myself. Obviously, my wife and family are number one to me, so I have to sometimes put on the brakes, because this can become a borderline manic phase when you see the possibilities in your mind but just don’t have the time! Well, the good thing is I have no other hobbies like Golf, Baseball or Nascar which afflict middle-aged men  – even if I am only 42 (laughs) – so I do have my leisure time available to donate to this obsession!

But seriously, I look at this as a season basically like a television season with 20 or 30 episodes, and I’m looking at the broad arc so that when it’s all done, you really have a complete overview. So yeah, tonnes of plans!

IP: Perhaps we can explore some of those plans in the next part of our conversation.

DD: I’m sure we can!

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5 thoughts on “The Drax Files 5: Engrama make SL rock

  1. Thank you so much Inara for this write-up and excellent questions! Not always the norm that they are thoughtful like this 🙂 I would like to point out that I do not see Engrama as a departure because the central theme of the show is more creative endeavors which could include for example creatively i.e. pro-actively dealing with health issues in a self-help context [Virtual Ability etc]. Back to working on episode 6 now….oh my….where is my medication././././

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    1. Thanks 🙂

      I agree, it’s not a departure in the broader sense, but rather in that the first for segments has focused very much on the more physical aspects of creativity in SL – as in making content. I know you want to expand the focus of the show to include all aspects of creativity in SL, so mMy bad for not expressing that more clearly in the opening paragraph.

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  2. It really stunts me to not see the Drax files promoted by Linden lab as they are what shows the best of Second Life!
    Rod Humble should really make justice to His name and promote Drax as the biggest campaign all over RL!

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  3. I think the Drax Files are just what SL needs to reach out to a wider audience, and, methinks, a better, more dedicated and more creative one. Instead of old and failed concepts like the “become your avatar” thing…

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