1.- The interviewees
In their own words, ‘Strange Artifact is a “Steampunk Rock” unit created by vocalist MaRy and bassist 130JET. Strange Artifact is from a technical Victorian civilization of adventurers. With his music, 130JET draws a decadent and fantastic world that awakens memories of a future that could have been. Vocalist MaRy narrates this world, accompanied by an ever-spinning chorus of cogwheels’.
2.- Japan, Rock and Steampunk
We are delighted to welcome Strange Artifact to our brief interviews series! MaRy (vocals, lyrics, chorus) and 130JET (composition, arrangement, bass, guitar, design) are the members of this Tokyo-based Steampunk band.
Q.- Adventure, science fiction, technology, future-past… Talk to us about your fascination for Steampunk and how it inspires you, please.
MaRy.- Steampunk is appealing to me because it breaks down walls like age, gender, nationality. We get a lot of inspiration from foreign steampunk artists such as the League of S.T.E.A.M.!
130JET.- Before steampunk there hasn’t been a genre that you can connect with so many things before. Inspiration doesn’t only come from physical objects but also art, film, and games.
Q.- We know that you are involved in the development of the Japanese Steampunk scene. Would you tell us a bit about it?
MaRy.- Steampunk isn’t very well known in Japan, and in some scenes people are just starting to ask “what’s steampunk?” It’s our mission to help give them an idea of what steampunk is. There’s a lot of interest coming from the goth, cybergoth, goth lolita, and classic lolita communities.
130JET.- The scene has truly started from zero in Japan. We want to contribute carefully to a scene that will be loved for many years to come.
Q.- Which historical events and social trends would you emphasize as basements for a Japanese Steampunk?
MaRy.- Most people interested in steampunk usually learn about it from Hayao Miyazaki’s animations, or games like Monster Hunter. The scene isn’t big enough to have formed a consensus on the kind of historical events that are the basis for Japanese steampunk, and we’ll have to see what opinions develop.
130JET.- Japan’s experiencing a boom when it comes to handmade crafts, so the sort of people who are into that are starting to develop an interest in steampunk.
Q.- The Steampunk Lolita scene, with its Goth influence, seems to be growing fast in your country. Do you think that Steamgoth may have an opportunity too?
MaRy.- The VK and goth music scenes are firmly established in Japan, and ‘steamgoth’ will probably develop quickly as a result of that. Derivative genres like deco-lolita and classical lolita should also be interesting to see.
Q.- Strange Artifact art is resonating outside Japan. In fact, your debut album ‘Antikythera Mechanism’ is getting very positive reviews and you have attended big events such as the Steampunk World’s Fair 2012. What are your expectations for the second half of this year?
MaRy.- If we’re invited to any event, we’d love to participate if at all possible. I really want to study more English and meet our overseas fans again so I hope our fans are looking forward to that too!
130JET.- Right now we’re working on creating music. Our new songs are turning out really interestingly so I hope people will enjoy them.
Q.- Does Strange Artifact considers the possibility of collaborating with other artists in the near future?
MaRy.- There are many artists who are interested in steampunk but just finding out about it or don’t know where to start; we’d love to work with them.
130JET.- Of course! It helps us grow as artists too, and we’re always looking for that sort of challenge.
Q.- Resulting of a vast array of inspiration sources, your music is not easy to classify: J-Rock, goth, rhythmic electronics, avant-garde… What kind of music do you listen to habitually, which are your favourite musicians?
MaRy.- Lately I’ve been listening to the Japanese band Anshin Chitai. I like listening to rock played in minor key. From Japan I also listen to Tsubakiyashi Jusou and Watanabe Kazuhiro. As for foreign artists, I like Muse, 30 Seconds to Mars, Trapt, and Rihanna.
130JET.- I listen to everything from jazz to enka. In particular I enjoy Papa Roach, Dream Theater, Panic At The Disco, and Nuno Bettencourt’s bands such as Extreme. From Japan I like well-produced bands such as Anzen Chitai and SIAM SHADE. I’m not prejudiced against pop idols and will listen to them too. The professionals making that music are the best of the best, so it’s interesting to listen to the songs and see what you can hear from them in terms of technique.
Q.- Video games are one of your sources of inspiration.If you had the chance, which video game saga would Strange Artifact choose to compose its soundtrack?
MaRy.- Actually, one of the songs in our first album was produced with the intention of putting it into a game. Unfortunately I don’t play very many games, but it’d be an honor to be included in that sort of project.
130JET.- Before I decided to work in musicI had offers to work as a graphic designer in the game industry! It’d be ironic if I got to compose a videogame soundtrack in the future!
Q.- Do you have formal education as musicians and performers or, in the opposite, are you self-taught artists?
MaRy.- I went to a music school for the basics and after that I received training from a well-known vocal instructor. I’ve studied lyric-writing and staging on my own.
130JET.- I had a very strict jazz guitar teacher, and I self-studied in bass and production.
3.- Craftmanship, jewelry, art
Q.- You are not only musicians, but also makers… it is obvious that 130JET is an expert in leatherwork. Japanese culture values craftmanship (let’s remember disciplines like origami or shippo) and jewelry is not an exception. Do you have any piece of advice for other artisans of the Steampunk scene, like jewelers?
MaRy.- More than the design of an accessory itself, it’s important to consider how it can fit into what someone usually wears in terms of both practicality and style. The best steampunk accessories end up that way; they aren’t necessarily planned as ‘steampunk’ from the start. If you emphasize labelling your items as ‘steampunk’, it can have an opposite effect of limiting their appeal, so that’s something worth thinking about.
130JET.- I think about how steampunk can fit into one’s everyday life. It’s important to find a bit of fun and whimsy when you least expect it.
Q.- In any case, how would you describe Steampunk jewelry?
MaRy.- It’s the kind of gear you’d wear when you go on an adventure.
130JET.- I agree!
Q.- Would you dare to synthesize Steampunk jewelry with a single word?
MaRy.- I don’t consider it to be ‘jewelry’ or ‘accessories’, it’s ‘equipment’.
130JET.- I agree with that, too!
Q.- Japanese traditional jewelry is quite different from the western, both in pieces and techniques. As far as we know, until 19th century gold rings and hair combs would constitute the only traditional forms of adornment a Westerner would recognize when visiting Japan; wrist jewelry and necklaces for women were not common and, on the contrary, hair ornaments (kanshazi) had a preponderant role. Regarding techniques, mokume-gane is a very characteristic one, using materials such as shakudō or shibuichi. Do you think that Japanese Steampunks will make the most of their roots in order to design distinctive Steampunk jewelry?
MaRy.- Japanese techniques are high-quality but didn’t quite ‘blossom’, if you understand what I mean. A lot of the techniques that are highly valued today weren’t continued because no one inherited them to pass them on, and it’s important to consider those examples when developing Japanese steampunk. It’s a great idea to use Japanese fashion styles like kimono or tobi-inspired designs when developing steampunk fashion.
130JET.- First you have to figure out how to integrate the world view of ‘steampunk’ into Japanese fashion. Technique doesn’t exist in a bubble, it comes when you reach the production phase of creation. If you can combine the best of Japanese fashion and the best of Steampunk into something united, the technique will follow.
Q.- Where and how can your fans purchase your creations?
MaRy.- Right now we’re working on revamping our website www.strangeartifact.jp, and our fans will be able to purchase from there.
130JET.- You can also check out our accessories at various exhibitions in Japan such as Creator’s Market and Tokyo Design Festa.
Q.- MaRy and 130 Jet, thank you so much for your time and kindness. Just a last question to finish this interview: is there anything else you would like to add?
MaRy.- We’re really thankful that you’ve shown such an interest in our work! Japan’s scene wouldn’t be able to exist without the global steampunk scene, so I hope we can show more Japanese the appeal of steampunk and help to bring our cultures together.
We’ve also got an announcement to make; Strange Artifact will be appearing at AnomalyCon in Colorado next March! We look forward to meeting our US friends again and making new ones as well!
130JET.- I’m usually working in the background so I’m really happy to have been interviewed! Thank you!
Image Credits: All photos by Strange Artifact. Special thanks to Dan Orlowitz, Manager of Strange Artifact, for his support!
Disclaimer.- The opinions or statements expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of Decimononic.
4.- Next interviewee!
On the 15th of August we are publishing the interview for Bruno Accioly. Born in 1971, Bruno Accioly is a Brazilian author, lecturer and public speaker. Editor in Chief of SteamPunk.com.br since 2007, co-founder of the Conselho Steampunk in 2008 and of the Sociedade Retrofuturista (‘Retrofuturistic Society’) in 2010, he is one of the main promoters and developers of the Steampunk movement in his country.
Remember that all the published interviews are available for your delight: ‘Steampunk jewelry tonight with…’ the brief interviews series by Decimononic.