Friday, July 17, 2015

Jaycatt Nico and Frogg Marlowe

By Bixyl Shuftan

This week marks the tenth anniversary of the first performance of a well-known musical duo in Second Life: Jaycatt Nico and Frogg Marlowe. Also known as Jaycatt and Frogg, or "Effnjay," they have played at a number of venues across the grid, including the Live stage at the Second Life Birthday. I recently had a chance to talk to them at their home venue in Aphibicatt Gardens in Lingmell. We greeted each other, then got to the interview

Bixyl Shuftan: "To begin with, did you both meet before or after you came to Second Life?"

Jaycatt Nico: "Before, probably when we were 6 years old?"

Frogg Marlowe: "Heh, we met in first grade, grew up down the street from each other."

Jaycatt Nico: "Was that about 6?"

Frogg Marlowe: "Yeah- kindergarten's at 5, so probably when we were 6. (We) went to the same school as well!"

Jaycatt Nico: "Elementary, that is."

Bixyl Shuftan: "Interesting. So you're known each other most of your lives."

Frogg Marlowe: "Yup- he's more my brother than my brother. (big grin)"

Jaycatt Nico: "Oh yes, there was a brief stretch when Frogg lived up farther north about an hour, but otherwise we've pretty much been nearby since we met."

Frogg Marlowe: "I was also travelling for about 6 months in '99."

Bixyl Shuftan: "When did you first become interested in music?"

Frogg Marlowe: "Mrs. Williams taught us both in elementary school, and we were both in a children's choir together, called 'The Leprechauns.' "

Jaycatt Nico: "My folks had my sister and I learn an instrument, and I picked piano. But yes, it was a while before our musical paths crossed more regularly like they do now.  Frogg and I haven't been playing music together until Second Life."

Frogg Marlowe: "Heh, yeah, we didn't actually play music *together* until SL. And I didn't pick up (a) guitar 'til after I was 30."

Bixyl Shuftan: "And how did you both find out about Second Life?"

Jaycatt Nico: "I learned about it from Slashdot."

Frogg Marlowe: "And I learned about it from over Jay's shoulder, while he watched MST3K at the 'Elbow Room' in SL."

Jaycatt Nico: "Such a great shared experience... Never knew that sort of thing was possible... I was hooked on SL."
Bixyl Shuftan: "So your first days here went very well?"

Jaycatt Nico: "Oh yes, at that time, it was just a three day trial, and on the second day I signed up."

Frogg Marlowe: :(laughter) Your weekend was a three day weekend - the trial was a week long."

Jaycatt Nico: "Ah okay (big grin)."

Frogg Marlowe: "It was 10 bucks to join, back then, but if you cancelled before the week was up, you got it refunded."

Bixyl Shuftan: "So the MST3K Theater was your most memorable expereince in your early days?"

Jaycatt Nico: "That, and just being able to be in a visual chat room. At the time that's about all I did online; chat and visit with folks."

Frogg Marlowe: "It was actually a tiny club called 'The Elbow Room.' They showed the show on the roof - not sure when the MST3K Theater opened up."

Jaycatt Nico: "Yeah, and below, people would just hang out and listen to the radio, talking or dancing. The small space made for a nice atmosphere."

Frogg Marlowe: "And kept everybody in chat range. (laughter)"

Jaycatt Nico: "It was the sort of experience I'd been looking for all my life, really."

Bixyl Shuftan: "At what point did you think of playing music of your own?"

Jaycatt Nico: "In Second Life you mean?  Or in general?"

Bixyl Shuftan: "In Second Life."

Jaycatt Nico: "For me it was all I knew how to play."

Frogg Marlowe: "I met a guy, and later showed him a video of me playing a song. He helped us get set up to play shows in SL, as before that, there were only about four people who'd ever played live music in SL (other than in the beta days, but that's a different story). He and his business partner built the 'lillypad lounge' for our first shows."

Jaycatt Nico: "They even got us our first mixer."

Bixyl Shuftan: "Those were the two people who helped you get started?"

Jaycatt Nico: "They really are, yeah, I can't think of any more instrumental in it."

Frogg Marlowe: "Yeah - though cua swore me to never mention his name again, (laughter) - (he just didn't want anybody else asking him for help - he likes his lazy-time)."

Jaycatt Nico: "Frogg started playing, and I played his breaks (so he wouldn't have to put on the radio for background music while he was away)."

Frogg Marlowe: "(and it was only because Jay noodled around a bit on his piano for a sound check that they even knew he played - the orginal plan was for radio in set-breaks) It wasn't until months later that we actually started playing a few songs together, which grew into more songs, which grew into what we do today (smile)."

Bixyl Shuftan: "Perhaps I should ask about how your names and appearances came about?"

Jaycatt Nico: "My first name is Jon, and my father gave me the name Jon Cat at a very young age.  Not sure why, but I think it was because of the Johnny Cat cat litter brand, and it was a sort of joke.  It was shortened to J Cat, and I wrote it out Jaycatt.  As for the siamese, my cat back in 2005 was a tortoiseshell, and I wanted to match that color scheme, but this was the closest I could get. I grew into it, and now I don't look right without it after all this time."

"Oh, and I picked 'Nico' because I thought it sounded like 'Neko.' (grin)"

Bixyl Shuftan: "Sounds appropriate."

Frogg Marlowe: "I'd had the nickname 'Frogg' from around the time I first started writing songs - (my first song came from a voice I got after coughing for 6 months and had the chorus 'listen to my voice, I'm a man named Frogg') - The avatar was something I pieced together after a month of looking for a frog avatar in SL, and not finding anything that wasn't extremely cartoonish (took the head from one of Extrovirtual's tiny frog avatars, and the feet from an old free Linden 'frog prince' avatar) - and I picked the last name cuz I thought it was one of the names that's brought up when people talk about who *really* wrote Shakespeare's plays."

Bixyl Shuftan: "Interesting inspirations."

Jaycatt Nico: "It really is coincidence that both our names end in two letter pairs (big grin)."

Frogg Marlowe: "Heh- I started over-pronouncing the 'g' at the end, cuz people were mis-

hearing me when I introduced myself as frog... That's when I added the extra 'g.' "

Bixyl Shuftan: "Sounds interesting."

Frogg Marlowe: "(laughter), purely trivial."

Bixyl Shuftan: "How long before you were preforming at another venue?"

Frogg Marlowe: "I think I played my first 'away' gig within a couple weeks - we'd started with playing every Friday at 7pm at the Lillypad lounge, and have kept the timeslot going

for nearly the full decade. I think it was a place called 'Breathe,' but like most places from those days, it's long gone."

Bixyl Shuftan: "I take it the crowd enjoyed your music?"

Jaycatt Nico: "Quite a few wonderful comments, and we'd usually fill the sim, lots of times, hence why this venue is split across two of them."

Frogg Marlowe: "We were consistently filling sims to capacity for a good while, but there wasn't much competition at all in those days."

Jaycatt Nico: "Lately, it doesn't get that full, but I like to chalk it up to there always being a good 10 shows running at any given time, sometimes more. Simply amazing how live music here has exploded since '05."

Frogg Marlowe: "Also, we don't do any promotion, other than group announcements. It was a slow trickle of the musicians from paltalk, after the first group of them came over - Mel Cheeky, Russel Eponym, Cylindrian Rutabaga, and 4 or 5 others that didn't stick around very long."

Bixyl Shuftan: "What have been some of your most memorable performances over time?"

Jaycatt Nico: We've played a few official shows that I liked.  One was a mock tree-lighting ceremony, I think it was for CBS..? And another for a promotional sim made for Evan Almighty."

Frogg Marlowe: "Opening for Jonathan Coulton was a big thrill - and yeah, the tree lighting ceremony for the major network - NBC or CBS - that was when I managed to add Philip Linden as a friend (big grin). Also, the Relay stream show we did with the harmonica player in Japan was pretty cool."

Bixyl Shuftan: "Nice. Did he see any other performances of yours?"

Jaycatt Nico: "Philip?  We would occasionally see him at shows.  Not Coulton though, I don't know if I heard of him again in Second Life."

"We went to a couple of SLCCs, as well, for music,"

Frogg Marlowe: "There was a 'log-a-thon' in our first month or two, where LL tried to get as many users to log in at the same time as possible, and that was one of the first times we saw Philip. They only managed to get a little less than 5000 logged in that time."

Jaycatt Nico: "Playing at the Second Life convention was fun, and great to meet the other musicians."

Frogg Marlowe: "Heh, I remember Philip said hi to my mom, who we'd managed to teach how to log into SL. (her pc hasn't kept up with SL, though)."

Bixyl Shuftan: "Sounds like fun, Frogg."

Frogg Marlowe: "And yeah, the two SLCC's we went to were pretty cool, though I slept through most of the one in 2007. Which was why I missed the group photo (big grin)."

Frogg Marlowe: "They were still trying to figure out how to incorporate live music, though, so some of the aspects of the shows there were kinda... odd."

Bixyl Shuftan: "So your mother was in Second Life (Frogg)? What have your families thought of your singing in Second Life?"

Jaycatt Nico: "My sister thought it was pretty cool, but it's not her style of music."

Frogg Marlowe: "Heh, yeah- that too - our style of music doesn't really interest most of the people we know outside of SL, (laughter). My mom really enjoyed it, when she could (smile)."

Jaycatt Nico: "Although it's true we rarely play in real-life."

Bixyl Shuftan: "You mentioned seeing more musicians after 2005. Were there any other trends in music in Second Life that you've noticed?"

Jaycatt Nico: "It's always been pretty simple to do a show: Set up a microphone and feed it into a computer.  But people experimented with relay streaming, where they can put two musicians together.  That happens more frequently.  I think there's even a group of four or more. It's a difficult thing to do, however, because who ever starts the relay doesn't hear any of the other people."

"There has been some video streaming as well, but it's never a pretty sight to see a musician all decked out in headphones and wires (grin)."

Frogg Marlowe: "I see more ebb and flow than trends. Every so often, I hear people bemoan that the scene is dying, but from my perspective, it just grows, cools, then grows again. The quality has definitely been improving. I was really impressed with what I heard when we had a bunch of us all together to play one song each, for the auditions for the offical Linden Labs 12th birthday show."

Jaycatt Nico: "It's incredible what there is out there.  All kinds of music, all kinds of instruments."

Frogg Marlowe: "styles... genres... the scene's definitely been maturing (smile)."

It was at this point near the end of our interview that we were interrupted by events in real life. When I contacted Jaycatt and Frogg, asking them if they had anything else to add, Jaycatt responded, " We plan to try and play more shows, and learn more material, but music and songs are an ever-changing thing, so we evolve along with it.  No two shows are the same, and practice is the best teacher!  Frogg hopes to learn more of the technical side of audio engineering, which should help our quality and diversity as well."

"As for other things to mention:  We are having our tenth anniversary 'party' on July 18th, Saturday, featuring a few musicians we have known over the years, playing before us.  At the event we will also be releasing a few new songs as well as some t-shirts and other merchandise featuring a new logo designed by Eo Fenstalker, a very talented artist from Second Life."

Frogg's response was short, "his answers were as good as any I could come up with (grin)."

This week, Jaycatt and Frogg have four shows over four days from Wednesday to Saturday, with Saturday being their tenth anniversary show.

Bixyl Shuftan

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