1.- The interviewee
As per The Steampunk Museum, “Captain” Robert Brown is a Steampunk songwriter, novelist, community organizer, blogger, game designer, craftsman, and fashion designer. He’s been interviewed by several TV shows and Magazines, like MTV, and the New York Times.
He is the founding member of Abney Park. In addition to writing all of Abney Park’s songs, he also creates an unending supply of Steampunk instruments for the band, from Guitars, to Keyboards, to “hornpipes”.
Robert is an avid blogger and is an outspoken inclusionist for Steampunk culture, fighting for the right for anyone’s daydream in the community. He regularly posts articles on Steampunk, including definitive pieces designed to direct the culture in positive and friendly directions, as well as videos posts of “how-to’s” on Steampunk mods and fashion.
He has released an Airship Pirate RPG, and written a novel, “The Wrath of Fate”, both of which tie together all the stories, characters, and settings from all of the songs of Abney Park.
2.- The interview
Dear Robert, we feel privileged for having this opportunity to share our thoughts with you, thank you so much for your kind attention. Abney Park is one of the most popular bands within the Steampunk scene and you have been directly involved in its growth and development for many years, so this is a great satisfaction for us.
Q.- As per your lengthy career and your contact with Steampunkers all over the world, what do you expect about the future of Steampunk? Which trends do you identify? May there be a ’Steampunk Revolution’ coming?
A.- I think we are seeing the Steampunk Revolution now. The level of global enthusiasm is so great I could spend days just listing all the amazing things happening.
I had originally hoped steampunk could save the world from what I deem a horrible fate. The thesis of all product designs these days is “Profit is the only important outcome of any product design, so design for profit, not art.” This has jaded the aesthetic of modern design. For example, I recently purchased what I consider to be the most beautiful laptop sold today: the Macbook Pro Retina. Its not plastic, taky, covered with stickers…all the flaws seen in so many other laptops. But the Apple design philosophy is, however, to make a product with no design at all. As plain as possible, they call it “simple” or “clean”, whereas I call it a cop out. Its like guys who can’t think of how they like their hair to be, so instead they wear a hat or shave there head. Maybe thats what looks best on you, but don’t call yourself a hair stylist. “Clean and simple” is the default state BEFORE an artist begins: it shouldn’t be the final design.
My hope is that steampunk can return beauty to design. Museums are filled with the undeniably beautiful creations of mankind, but some how modern man has decided to give all that up. instead of striving for beauty, we strive for profit, and in doing so we create cheap to manufacture disposable garbage. My dream is that Steampunk will show the corporate CEOs that we all still want beautiful things. I’m sure its a pipe dream, but I’m good at day dreams.
Q.- From your point of view, which challenges is Steampunk going to face in the next years?
A.- Becoming a joke. There is a lot of comedy in steampunk, which I love, but their is also a serious fire, and some amazingly cool and talented people, the likes of which the world has never seen before. My fear is that mainstream culture will turn this into a gag, based on the weakest parts of our scene, and that will scare away the real talent.
Q.- Robert, you sing and play several instruments, which musical influences would you emphasize? Which kind of music do you listen to at present?
A.- I mostly listen to historical music, and ethnic musics. I really love stuff from the east coast of Eruope an the middle east. Russian pop, bulkian, gypsey, bellydance, etc. I have a huge love of Flamenco. I also really love old vintage recordings. I have a Victrola, and a stack of records from a time long gone by. To hear that old machine recreate a world long gone is an amazing experience.
Q.- In any case you are not only a multi-instrumentist frontman, but also a writer. ‘The Wrath of Fate’, published in 2011, explores the fictional backstory of Abney Park’s members as airship pirates. Writing a complete book may be quite different from writing lyrics, are you happy with the experience of this first publication?
A.- Yes. The book has been selling amazingly well. In fact, at least from our online store, it outsells our music. Its a lot of work, and a part of me is not suited for that work, as I’m horrifically dyslexic, but its very rewarding an I plan to continue it.
Q.- So… may we expect new books in the future?