Abney Park’s brand of steampunk with a nautical twist is currently visiting the UK, with a set at the Whitby Gothic Festival this coming Friday (November 4) as part of the band’s itineary. Captain Robert from the band took time to speak to us of tales of Abney Park in various worlds.
“Whitby, our second show location, is such a gorgeous town.”
S] Tell us about how you are feeling about doing the UK dates…
R] “We love to come to the UK and play. From our perspective, this is the most aesthetically appropriate and pleasing place for a steampunk event, since much of steampunk literature takes place in Victorian England. In addition to that, the crowds here are always so excited to see, partly because we aren’t here often and partly because they are growing so excited about steampunk.”
S] Steampunk as a scene has grown over here, particularly in the last few years – have you been monitoring this at all?
R] “We have. When we first started booking shows in the UK, our British concert promoters kept telling us there are no steampunk fans here… ‘We can only pay a small amount, and put you in tiny venues’. However, if you count these up coming shows, then four fifths of all the shows we’ve played in the UK have sold out weeks before showtime. I think steampunk is big here, much bigger than they guess.”
S] Is there anywhere particularly that you are most looking forward to visiting over here?
R] “I have to say there is no one place that is more exciting to us then the others. We are madly in love with London, and would live here if it made sense with our touring schedules. Meanwhile, Whitby, our second show location, is such a gorgeous town. So ancient, and so lovely, and the Whitby Goth Weekend is just a fantastic event. Our final stop is Oswestry, and there in that tiny town we are playing a tiny show that’s been sold out for weeks. The thought of doing a tiny sold out show in a tiny town is just so charming to us.”
S] What would you say some of your biggest challenges are as a steampunk band?
R] “I think the most challenging thing is also the most fun: constantly reinventing ourselves while staying true to ourselves and steampunk. We can’t just write ‘Airship Pirates’ over and over again, so our goal is to constantly be exploring what we can do with the very broad definition of ‘steampunk’. Anyone who thinks steampunk is, or should be a narrowly defined has a very limited imagination, and so we have a very big world to explore.”
S] Do you think there are any pre-conceptions that face you as a steampunk act – what do you think those are?
R] “‘Whats your character?’ ‘You have an awesome costume!’ – peopling assuming that what we are doing is somehow play-acting, or role playing. I suppose it didn’t help when we released a role-playing game based on the world of Abney Park, but this is not us pretending to be people other then ourselves. There is a difference between ‘stage clothes’ and ‘costume’. I am not pretending to be some one else, I am being myself.”
S] Talk to us about the Abney Park ‘Airship Pirates’ RPG concept, how did that come about?
R] “It was actually fairly modest beginnings, to be honest. I was drawing pictures of airships one day, prior to a band practice. This happened to be the practice that we the band were decided to take a new direction musically, and attempt ‘steampunk’ music, a previously unheard of style. I remember fantasising touring in an airship as a steampunk band, and as the day dream progressed, it lead to the ‘Airship Pirates’ song.”
S] How do you feel that you yourself have changed and evolved both personally as a musician since your debut release in 1998 to now?
R] “I think with each consecutive album, I care less about matching someone’s expectations for what my music should be, and more matching what I would like my music to be. In early days, I, like many young musicians, modeled myself after other artists I loved. The more skilled I get, the more I am able to write music that is ‘me’, not someone else. This really should be the goal of all musicians: to be oneself as much as possible, not to model someone else. This is perhaps why I’m so aggravated by people trying to define and enforce their pre-conceived notion about what steampunk music should be. If it had a definition we were all trying to follow, wouldn’t that diminish it as an art form? The original blues artists didn’t sit around and say, ‘The Blues should be exactly this…’ Everybody do exactly that, or it ain’t the blues!'”
S] Is there a song from the new album, ‘Off The Grid’ that you feel perfectly defines where you are at as a band right now?
R] “Huh. ‘Not really’, and ‘all of them!’. We meant the album to be a ‘one time only’ experiment in acoustic-only music, but the band has just fallen in love with this sound. So I guess we are going to see what the fans think – if they love it, we’ll do a lot of this sound. At the very least, we will borrow heavily from the new sound and techniques we learned creating a completely unplugged, ‘Off The Grid’ album.”
S] On ‘Off The Grid’ you pleased the fans by fulfilling their requests of what they wanted from the band – how challenging was that?
R] “Completely. Everything we did for that album was new too us, because basically we were doing ‘everything fans asked for… that we weren’t already doing’. So we needed to learn to work in a whole new way, and the results were amazing.”
S] How do you see the Abney Park concept/story evolving in 2012?
R] “The first novel of this continuing story will be released by then. I’ll be working on the sequel at that point (and I have some great ideas for that).”
You can follow the adventures of Abney Park on their website.