One of the things I love when writing is structuring the song like the act of sex. Keiko Takamura
It works. By Teddi Shamrock
Not too long ago, I had been poking around the Net, and stumbled upon the work of an intriguing artist. When I wanted to learn more, the trail proved elusive, but I hung in there. I eventually found out more about Keiko Takamura, the popular Second Life musician. Besides being tenacious, I can be plucky too. I sent a copy of my original article to Keiko thinking she might appreciate my experience, and asked for an interview. Graciously, she accepted.
I first learned of Keiko Takamura as a result of a You Tube video. It was her music–and in particular the honest edginess of her lyrics–that compelled. Lyrics alone, however, don’t make a musician. Keiko determined this for herself soon after entering high school. While she’s been writing songs as long as she can remember, Keiko realized lyrics wouldn’t be enough. “It dawned on me,” she recalled, “that I wasn’t going to be cool unless I learned how to play guitar.”
Keiko’s music is personal but approachable, drawing the listener in. The lyrics and melodies come together seamlessly, though she says she hears the tune first. “One of the things I love when writing,” Keiko said, “is structuring the song like the act of sex. Quiet or unembellished at the beginning; foreplay. A quick, satisfying flourish in bringing in more instruments; penetration. The bridge or the chorus coming back from it; the climax. Then a short outtro – refractory period. Smoke and a cuddle. Ready to go again.”
Musically her influences are many, but when it comes to attitude, Keiko cites a short but powerful list: Shirley Manson, Courtney Love, Gwen Stefani and Shiina Ringo. The onstage presence of each of these stars is electric–full of confidence, if not bravado. This fierce 90’s girl rock persona captured Keiko’s imagination and continues to inspire her.
Like her audacious role models, Keiko always had something to say, she just wasn’t sure anyone would bother listening. This lack of confidence lead to significant performance anxiety. Then came Second Life. For three years she broke new ground, helping define the emerging virtually live performance space. During that time, Keiko also developed her stage presence and poise–as well as an impressive fan base. By the time she appeared on MTV’s True Life, Keiko was already a Second Life superstar, and she continues to be an A-List draw.
And she’s working to break new ground again. Keiko may be the first virtually live performer to successfully bridge virtual performing success into a local performing career. While many face to face performers are just discovering the power of virtually live performances, Keiko is headed the other way, and is now appearing at physical venues performing as a member of the band The Shebangs.
“Performing with my band is amazing,” she said. “I am so lucky to be able to share my vision with such talented musicians. Dana and Charlie Parker, wife and husband, drummer and lead guitarist. Jason Sanchez (a.k.a. Jason Towton in SL) on rhythm guitar. Julian Contreras on bass. The lovely and fabulous Robin Yukiko singing backup and piano.” Keiko notes that virtually live and dual performances are on the upswing, “Concerts are being streamed all the time now. It’s the thing to do. I’d like to simulcast into SL every time we play, but sadly, that would take a team of roadies armed with laptops.” The technical considerations grow in proportion to the number of voices and instruments that need to be streamed.
In addition to being a talented lyricist and musician, Keiko’s success has surely been enhanced because she’s also proven herself to be a savvy digital marketer. Keiko treasures her fans, and uses social media to further develop the relationship, as well as promoting both virtual and face to face performances. “I wouldn’t even try building a fan base, if I didn’t have Twitter or Facebook. I love being able to post events, so my friends can see a Google map of the venue, and easily share or retweet it.”
The outpouring of support from her fans helped convince Keiko to take the face to face performance plunge. “Being in SL and sharing my music gave me the idea–however wrong,” she adds humbly, “that I could possibly have what it takes to branch out into my own RL local music scene.” Keiko says she always dreamed of being part of a band, “When I moved to SF and met my drummer, I knew this was a chance I had to take while I’m still young and impulsive.” Even though her local performances trim availability for virtually live performances, Keiko is committed to her fans and uses social media to stay connected.
It will be interesting to watch this transition from virtual sensation to local phenom.