Recently, I sat with Gweeb, a talented musician, in his spacebase above Two Kats Land. We spoke in the dining area at a simple white table, his arms rested on the back of his chair. He looked comfortable and confident. The first time I saw Gweeb perform in Second Life, he was in full-on Beatles garb, right down to the hairstyle. Now he’s got his own virtual look going.
Gweeb, born in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, was diagnosed as hearing impaired, but hearing aids have improved his quality of life. On a sad note, when he was 11 years old his father passed away, but not wanting to be considered the-boy-whose-father-died, he transitioned into the class clown. Unfortunately, that change was not for the better, as his actions created a tension between him and his teachers.
“My grandparents helped us a lot,” he recalled as he reflected on those early years. “By the time I turned 13, I started to get into music. Back then it was just pop radio. There were oldies stations from Buffalo, CHUM in Toronto, and, of course, back then you had a wide range of programming with AM.”
The first record he ever bought was Roger Miller. Then, it was the Beach Boys’ “Endless Summer,” and BTO II.
“It wasn’t an artist who inspired me, it was Monica L., who lived across the street,” he confessed. “I was her transparent male friend, the one who she bitched about guys to. I wanted her to notice me in a different light.” In other words, he was trying to get her attention. “I started with a no-name acoustic guitar, which I bought in August ’75 for $15. I borrowed from a friend, two books of Beatles songs.”
Shortly after, in the fall, he met up with two other friends and they created a band. Not a garage band, he said, but a dining room band. They tried to record “Norwegian Wood” with his cheap little tape recorder. Gweeb had a little problem — he couldn’t handle the F barre chord, possibly because his fingers were not long and slim, but stubby. His hearing and the difficulty with fingering were a challenge, but he decided that if he wanted to be a musician, he would have to work hard on overcoming the obstacles.
“The fact that I couldn’t play F, led to me plunking out single notes,” he stated. “I became the bass player by default. That Christmas I asked for, and got, a Beatle bass and I worked long enough to buy an amp. The bass was easier, bigger strings, wider spacing. That winter, we found a drummer.”
By June of 1976, not only had Gweeb progressed in his ability to play bass, he could also play the parts of other guitarists in the band, as well.
“The friend who sold me my guitar saw how I was doing and needed both a bassist and drummer for his band. So there was a bit of subterfuge,” he said. “The lead guitarist was, and continues to be, my best friend, so it was hard to leave Lazy Dynamite, the first band, to follow something that would advance me as a player. I use to walk past his house to school so we always met up. The next band, Lookout, was a learning experience, but it was a number of years before I had as much fun as the first band. We performed in bowling alleys and private parties. We had 40 practices for each gig.”
“Once I made a decision, there wasn’t much question of motivation,” he said. “It was just what I did. There was no room for doubt. I had too many other strikes against me.
Gweeb graduated high school with his goals set on taking a Recorded Music Production course at a college in London. Unfortunately, he didn’t get accepted into college in 1978. So he became a camp counselor thanks to his friend. He acted as an informal music director and learned that he loved the wilderness and canoeing.
His mother enrolled him in a Theatre Arts course to keep him on the path of education; the only thing he learned was that it wasn’t for him. So he worked for an industrial dry cleaners for about seven months before he moved. Again, he applied for the music course and was disappointed to learn he wasn’t accepted.
At that point, Gweeb decided to play on the road. He did northern tours in the summer all through the tundra, ten to twelve hours north of his home.
“There was no disappointment. Remember my decision?” he said to me. “No doubt allowed. I have a thousand road stories, now. I skipped a year applying to college and hooked up with a blues band, a country band and a rock band.”
His main bands were Evenstar and Nickels and he was on the road most of the summer. Then in 1981, after the third time he tried to get into college, he got into the Music Industry Arts program and majored in Recorded Music Production. There he learned to be a session bassist, how to write songs, and record them. He landed a job in photography, running a Qualex photofinishing plant in Winnipeg until he retired in 2004. That’s when he got back to music, started writing it, and doing photography for a living. He also does sound designs for local theaters.
Gweeb came to Second Life after a friend told him he can make money selling sound effects in a virtual world. He had quite a library of them and could create more. The only problem was the amount of actual money he could make vs. the amount of hours it took to package them, therefore, it wasn’t worth the effort.
“Then I found the Junkyard Blues Club,” he told me. “I had no idea clubs existed. I would sit listening to DJs and I wrote during the day. I didn’t know there was actual live music for another two months. I tried to see some acts, but I’d show up as advertised and no one was there. Eventually, I saw Denny Mac. Saw a few more acts and I was struck by all the talk…dull. Musicians taking themselves far too seriously, which is their right, if they choose. So I started working some tunes up, trying to define what I wanted to do.”
In Dec. 2011, he began attending gigs at a blues club called Red Wharf. The owner booked him, making it his first virtual performance on Second Life. That same week, he auditioned at Ragged Edge. Katspurs took him under her wing as a friend and that is where his SL home is. He continues to perform there on Wednesday nights, if he’s able, at 6 p.m.
What does performing mean to him?
“It means an hour of playing, that I may or may not do, if I didn’t have a gig,” he said. “It’s relaxing for me. I like connecting with the regulars and meeting new people. I like not having to wear myself out moving equipment around. I love having closed captioning on the crowd. It’s brought greater improvement to my music. Somehow, it connects me to what music started off to be for me.”
The quality of Gweeb’s sound and performance is important to him. He can do full original shows if he wishes, but prefers a mix. Some covers are straight, others he’ll twist.
Gweeb will perform as long as the experience is fun. He regrets not having the time to follow other SL artists. Dusty Smythe, Doofus and Pan, are a few of the musicians he enjoys.
In RL, Gweeb currently lives in London, Ontario, Canada, where he writes travelogues, high profile interviews and online tech writing to fill in the gaps. When he’s not writing, he’s shooting pictures.