It’s time to listen to some Steampunk music. Let’s talk about it with three groups from around Europe: Victor Sierra, BB Black Dog and Poison Garden.
First of all, let me introduce them:
BB Black Dog:
- Axel Bolt, 6’9” (over 2 metres) German Drummer,
- Molly May Hooper, Dancer Backing Vocalist and 5 string Bass player
- Sven Breuel, 5 String Bass Player, Producer Backing Vocals
- Dale Rowles, 4 string Bass and Vocals
BB Back Dog started completely by accident, I was doing session work, and the Trade shows, showing off instruments, and Met Stefan (the original 5 string bass player) through a friend in Germany, he came over to the UK to sell some of his guitars (his day job was a guitar builder), we had a jam with 2 bass’s for a laugh, next thing I knew, Early in 2007 I was Invited over to Germany to write and record a few songs, we used the studio session drummer, did 6 songs in 3 Days and I thought that would be the end of it, but they were very well liked on a German web site, so we decided to get a regular drummer (Enter Axel) and do a full Album, so by June 2007, we Had an Album, and our first Gigs, Stefan left in 2010 touring and the work load too much for him, being a single farther, and 2 replacements Later we now have Sven and Molly.
We are 4 Italian musicians and steampunk lovers:
- Madame Anais Noir @ vocals/bass
- Sir Damian White @ guitar
- Professor Psi @ guitar
- The Pilot @ drums
The project started in 2012 when I and Damian, my husband (the guitar player) attended a show of Emily Autumn in Florence. We remained really impressed by the expressive potentiality of the Victorian world that she recreated on stage and we started to conceive this project.
Inspired by the passion that we have always had for steampunk settings, we decided to create a Steampunk band: we started to write new songs and we involved two well-experienced musicians we already knew (the drummer and the other guitarist) that remained fascinated by the tracks and by the plot that connects them.
That's how Poison Garden was born!
Commander Bob, Big Machine and The Legendary Converted Princess (Anouk) are the crew members of The Hydrogen Queen, well known as the airship and the HQ of Victor Sierra.
Commander Bob: I’m the Hydrogen Queen’s Commander. I like Bourbon and conversations where questions are the answers to questions. As Victor Sierra’s leader I convert improbable ideas into impossible visions. As far as I can remember, music has always been central in my life. I was composing in my head before having even touched an instrument. I have been through several musical trends and I formed several bands. It has been a drag until I met Anouk and we formed Victor Sierra.
Victor Sierra is a universe. People who've been following us know about that. Our music is fuelled by a lot of substances of various geographical historical and artistic origins. Several languages are used and our songs are made of everything available either physical or digital or anything that comes in useful. West East North and South are meeting in our world. Our compass varies now and then and the magnetic north is not always what it used to be. And last but not least we are a DIY band.
The Legendary Converted Princess: I love poetry of the living past, rum, distorted guitar sounds and oceans of every hue. Creator of fabric from the breathe of steam engines. I’m renowned for my disagreements with the commander -- enjoys challenging him with my intelligent arguments. Actually I'm not a princess!!! But perhaps I'm one in the end! I was an actress, and I became a vocalist when I met Bob. Since then I've had a child and I became a fashion designer… In Victor Sierra I'm all of these at the same time. I could say I put myself together… So I must be a Princess after all.
I would like to mention Victor Sierra‘s lyrics. They are not only sounds but ideas. Stories to listen to. A journey everyone can make. You should have a look to “La carte des mondes perdus” (the map of lost worlds) in our last video (Yesterday’s Tomorrow).
Big Machine: I’m a self-made cyborg constructed from parts of unknown origin and a long time trans-humanist member of the Difference Engine League. The master of interpreting future and past in existing time anomalies. I enjoy analogical lullabies, coffee black as night.
I love new wave, cold wave, no wave, 60’s garage punk, blues, electro, ambient, dark ambient and Krautrock. Victor Sierra was created before I came in but their sound pleased me…
Victor Sierra is when future comes knockin'at your door...
—What are your influences? How is your sound?
BB Black Dog (Dale Rowles): As I write the songs, I suppose it my influences coming out, Grew up with Glam, T rex Bowie etc, and moved into Rock, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Cream etc, but quite diverse in My tastes after that, so Shades of many things get into the Mix, but always my rock Psychedelic roots come out, we just make music we like, so its quite diverse in style and genre, but always our sound thanks to the 2 bass line-up.
Poison Garden: We are obviously influenced by the Music we like when composing. We are all rock/metal fans ;)
Commander Bob: Very difficult to answer. I won't say that nobody influenced me. I can tell you what artists I love in the steampunk community but whether it is out of friendship or out of a real artistic influence I could not say… Vernian Process, Clockwork Dolls, Escape the Clouds… As I already mentioned I would rather speak of retro-futurism. That includes steampunk, dieselpunk. About the industrial aspect we not only love machine sounds but industrial archaeology as well.
The Legendary Converted Princess: Let me briefly explain where I come from, musically speaking. My musical culture dates back to my childhood: "La Chanson Française". I have a true tenderness for the realistic song "à la Piaf". Perhaps a bit cliché but totally sincere. Then I experienced the big blow of the new wave, along with Eastern tunes and central Europe songs that have a highly emotional impact on me.
Big Machine: Gary Numan’s my hero! And also Bowie, Bauhaus, Eno, Virgin Prunes, Tuxedo moon, Thomas Dolby and all the Krautrock movement.
- POISON GARDEN
—Your mission is to mix modern rock/metal with Steampunk elements. Do you really think that is possible to do it in your sound, in your music?
Well, we always keep in mind, when composing, that our music should sound like the music that a gramophone would have played if rock was born in an "alternative" 19th century where future had arrived earlier...
We translate this in music by mixing the most modern tendencies in rock (scream vocals, downtuned instruments for example) with classical instruments and soundscapes that auditorily recreate specific settings.
—Why Steampunk? Why is it important for you?
We are under the spell of steampunk aesthetic since years ago. Our interest started years ago when we started to notice steampunk hints in mainstream movies as for example Back to the future 3, Wild Wild West, Steamboy or Hellboy.
We then deepened our interest in the following years and this lead us to found a steampunk band.
- BB BLACK DOG
—Talking about Steam/Diesel, is it important for your music? How do you feel it as a group?
Never set out to be a Steampunk Band, just kind of got adopted, I used to wear a tuxedo a lot on stage, and when Stefan left, John who took over wears tweeds, and often a leather Cap, with Axel in Pink cowboy Hat, people started calling us Steampunks, I’m mad on Sci-Fi, and we knew Steampunks but didn’t realize it at the time, just thought they were Goths into Victorian outfits, but once we learned more, we really found a place that we belong , so added to the outfits etc, embraced it fully, and never looked back, doing all we can to promote steampunk, we don’t really play Songs about steampunk a lot though, plenty of Bands doing that, just play songs about life, love and always with a Joke and a smile, so I suppose we’re Steampunks playing music rather than people playing steampunk music, whatever that is.
- VICTOR SIERRA
—The most important part of Victor Sierra, I think, is that you’re very interested on multicultural. You sing in Spanish, English, German, Yiddish… why is it so important for you?
We have been using multilingual lyrics way before finding out about steampunk. Each language has its own particular way to express things. Now, about aiming at the international market it's definitely deliberate. France is not a country with big musical traditions. Meaning, there is obviously musical creation but you can't bump into a bar round every corner with a band mounting its gear at 5 pm. Our albums get a lot more reviews in the UK, the US, Canada and South America. Victor Sierra is more famous abroad than here.
- DEFINE STEAMPUNK MUSIC
—Trying to define Steampunk music is complicated. Some people even say that there’s no Steampunk music. Some people say that it’s just aesthetic. What do you think about it?
BB Black Dog (Dale Rowles): There’s purists that go on about only Victorian instruments, and those that say the lyrics must be about steampunk, but the beauty of Steampunk is there are very few rules really, so If Steampunks play music, and Steampunks Like it, then its steampunk music
Poison Garden: We believe that wearing a top-hat or a brown corset cannot be the only way of expressing steampunk for a Band.
Of course aesthetic is important but a Band aiming to be considered as Steampunk should also try to find its personal way of translating it into something you can also "hear" not only "see".
Commander Bob: Well… when Big Machine joined the band two years ago, he told us about Steampunk. We had never heard of it before. So we goggled it and all of a sudden we found out that we were not alone, at last… Everything seemed so familiar to us… The dystopia, the "uchronical" visions, the outfits ands contraptions, the mix of genres… The encounter of romance and technology. Victor Sierra has been a steampunk band from the beginning without us being actually aware. But you already mentioned that Dieselpunk does attract me, as well. That's how we came to create the Airship Hydrogen Queen -of which I'm the Commander! I would rather speak of retro-futurism. It's yesterday's tomorrow.
The Legendary Converted Princess: Let me talk about the beginning… All at once was there, clothes, music, jewellery, the universe… At one point we were suggested we were steampunk, a click on Google to understand what it was about and we realized we were at the right place, home…
Big Machine: We had been playing for a while when I realized: Victor Sierra is a retro-futuristic band. We are Steamers but we don’t know it yet! It really changed my life… I've known Steampunk culture for 25 years… I was kinda cyberpunk in the early 90’s. Very much into technology and computers but Steam culture definitely brought a little bit of aesthetic into it!
- TALKING ABOUT COMMUNITY
- BB BLACK DOG
—In what way(s) do you participate in the Steampunk Genre/fandom?
We’ve played at or helped out at about every steampunk event there is in Europe at some point, helped to get a lot of them going, as well as running 3 events a year (4 this year with the Steampunk Experience) at Alt Fest, made a lot of friends and go out on Fun days as often as we can when we’re not playing, it’s a great community and very supportive of each other on the whole, people at our “Normal “ Gigs often think the Steampunks there are just dressing like us, as Fans, but nowadays there’s a lot more coverage so people get it more, can’t count how many converts we’ve made like that, once people see us the fun we have and the outfits people come in, there’s always a fairly good splattering of people in full dress at out gigs now, playing the Mainstream festivals, has spread the word a lot, Always getting asked how people can get involved/join groups, and for more information.
- POISON GARDEN
—You’re from Italy; so, how is the Steampunk community there?
Steampunk community in Italy is growing these days. We have many small groups of steampunk lovers spread all over our country; they are especially focused on role-playing games and they meet in occasion of live games or comics fairs.
We really hope that the opportunities of meeting each other will increase in the following years.
—Do you think community is important? What does it means for you?
BB Black Dog (Dale Rowles): The DIY make it yourself, and recycling element, is defiantly a positive thing, as is the Be Nice to people ethos that surrounds steampunk,, it provides a release and fantasy for some people and a creative vehicle for others, I suppose for me it’s a little of all those, plus an accepting Community for our Music, that doesn’t fit into the normal Box’s.
Poison Garden: In our view community is really important. The closer we are the bigger we grow and the more attention we catch. That's why we decided to take part to Steampunk Hands Around The Word.
We have always supported steampunk in every form of expression because we think it's time to inform the word about our passion and to spread it.
Becoming a community it's the best way to do it.
Let's bring steampunk on the streets!!!
Victor Sierra: Steampunk has an aesthetic function and a philosophical one. Steampunk - and above it retro-futurism – should remain clear of these bad habits of such superficiality. I have attended events – as myself or as Commander Bob performing with Victor Sierra – and I regularly notice that people are keener to photograph one another than discover the richness of what we’re talking about. We all know that Steampunkers are meticulous about costume and appearance but particularly in Europe, appearance can sometimes be of more import than the philosophy behind it. Speaking more specifically of community I would say that the sense of it and the behaviour attached to it isn’t that frequent in Europe. It’s more of a clannish, clique-like way of living here. In the UK it seems that having an important community spirit is as it can be seen in the US. It is rather ironic that Steampunk’s imaginative roots are European but it blooms mostly on the other side of the pond.
—What do you think about your time spent in the group… what do you love most of it? What was your best moment?
BB Black Dog (Dale Rowles): Ups and Downs, Stefan leaving was a big Downer for me, as we started the journey together, also had all our equipment stolen just before Xmas 2012, really knocked us back, but carried on, thanks to fans and friends donations, with over 600 gigs in the 7 years, there’s been a lot of great times too, the 2 US tours, and the Big Festivals are some of the best moments, but I love it all.
Poison Garden: We lived a lot of different important moments together. It's not easy to pick one!
In this first year of activity we participated to festivals, we have been asked for autographs, we received drawings representing ourselves, we heard foreign radio channels playing our songs, we composed and rehearsed for hours and hours and we saw people head-banging during our live shows but, maybe, the best moment remains Steampact - First Italian Steampunk Festival - where we met the first people that believed in our project and that later also became friends of ours.
Victor Sierra: Without any doubt Steampunk World’s Fair in the US. We did it in less time that it takes to say it. In a big week end. Taking off from Paris, landing in JFK, New-York, speeding by night on an American highway, performing there several gigs and back here wanting nothing more than go back and start it all over… Such a dream man!
BB Black Dog:www.facebook.com/bbblackdog/www.youtube.com/bbblackdog/www.bbblackdog.eu/
- MORE INFO
Victor Sierra:We want to announce that we will open a new website soon. In the meantime, you can “like us” on Facebook:
Next day: Jewellery