Steam Powered Music: The music of Steampunk


Calliope, the wonderful operonicon or steam car of the muses, advertising poster, 1874.jpg
By Gibson & Co - This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID pga.01335.



What is Steampunk Music?

There is no specific sound that could be considered to be the archetype of the Steampunk music genre. Rather Steampunk music is made up of a broad range of influences including; industrial, world music, folk rock, cabaret, punk, hip-hop, darkwave,  progressive rock, and many more. But what makes them Steampunk you may ask?  Well, Robert Brown (Abney Park) has defined it as "mixing Victorian elements and modern elements".  However, it is the opinion of this author that Steampunk music is largely, though not exclusively, about the subject of the music rather than the actual sound of the music itself.

The music of Steampunk, where did it begin?

In the beginning there was Paul Roland, a singer-songwriter, author, journalist and paranormal researcher. Since 1979 Roland has been spinning tales set against a backdrop of gothic rock, psychedelic pop, and folk.  He is a teller of stories through music, using a range of characters that have included a Regency magistrate, various 19th Century murderers, a retired executioner, an opium addict, and an entire court of medieval grotesques.  His song titles have included; "Werewolves of London", 'Dr. Strange", "Aleister Crowley", "Demon in a Glass Case", "Ghost Ships" and " Great Edwardian Air-raid".  Joshua Pfeiffer (Vernian Process) is quoted as saying, "As for Paul Roland, if anyone deserves credit for spearheading Steampunk music, it is him. He was one of the inspirations I had in starting my project. He was writing songs about the first attempt at manned flight, and an Edwardian airship raid in the mid-80s long before almost anyone else...."

Not far behind Roland, there was Thomas Dolby, who is also considered an early pioneer of retro-futurist music.  Amanda Palmer (Dresden Dolls) is quoted as having said that "Thomas Dolby is to Steampunk what Iggy Pop was to Punk!".  Dolby is known for song like "She Blinded Me with Science" and "Hyperactive!".

So where does that leave us?

Steampunk music is not an easy genre to define.  As such, it is probably better to experience and make up your own mind.  So, what follows is a comprehensive, but by no means complete, list of artists and bands that have been associated with the Steampunk genre;

Abney Park

Origin: Seattle, United States
Genres: Steampunk, World music, Industrial dance
Years active: 1997–present
Website: www.abneypark.com

Abneypark2011.jpg

Chevalier, Veronique

Birth name: Berenice Chloe Sztuczka
Also known as: MADemoiselle Veronique, the "Weird Val" of Dark Cabaret, Mad V, Cyphyre
Origin: Fontainebleau, France
Genres: Steampunk, dark cabaret, parody, comedy, polka, burlesque
Instruments: Vocals
Years active: 2005 - Present
Website: www.weirdval.com


The Cog is Dead

Origin: Daytona Beach, Florida, U.S.
Genres: Steampunk, Rock, Folk, Ecclectic
Years active: 2006–present
Website: www.thecogisdead.com

Source: Official Website (www.thecogisdead.com)


Doctor Steel

Birth name: Rion Vernon
Origin: Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Genres: Steampunk, industrial, hip hop, electronic, jazz, alternative rock, heavy metal
Occupation(s): Singer songwriter, Internet personality
Instruments: Singing, Accordion
Years active: 1999–2011


Dr. Steel Robot Band.jpg
By Publicity shot owned by Dr. Steel - photosubmission@wikimedia.org, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link


Dolby, Thomas

Birth name: Thomas Morgan Robertson
Born: 14 October 1958
Origin: London, England
Genres: New wave, synthpop
Occupation(s): Singer-songwriter, musician, record producer, entrepreneur
Instruments: Keyboards, guitar, vocals
Years active: 1979–present
Website: thomasdolby.com


Thomas Dolby 2016.jpg
By Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

The Dresden Dolls

Origin: Boston, Massachusetts, US
Genres: Dark cabaret, piano rock, alternative rock, Indie rock
Years active: 2000–2008, 2010–present
Website: www.dresdendolls.com


Dresden Dolls2.jpg

Emilie Autumn

Also known as: Emilie Autumn Liddell
Born: September 22, 1979
Origin: Los Angeles, California, United States
Genres: Classical dark cabaret electronica industrial new-age folk
Occupation(s): Singer, songwriter, musician, writer, poet, actress
Instruments: Vocals, violin, harpsichord, piano, viola
Years active: 1997–present
Website: www.emilieautumn.com


A red haired woman wearing heavy makeup plays a black and white striped violin.


Frenchy and the Punk

Origin: New York City, United States
Genres: Folk Punk, Punk cabaret, Steampunk
Years active: 2005–present
Website: www.frenchyandthepunk.com

Source: "Hey Hey Cabaret" album/CD cover image.

H.U.M.A.N.W.I.N.E.

Origin: Vermont, United States
Genres: Electronic punk rock vaudeville folk
Years active: 2002–present
Website: humanwine.org


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Insomniac Folklore

Origin: Portland, Oregon, U.S.
Genres: Gothic rock, gypsy punk, folk punk, dark cabaret, steampunk
Years active: 2001–present
Website: insomniacfolklore.com


Insomniacfolkloreuseless.jpg


Johnny Hollow

Origin: Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Genres: Electronic, Darkwave, dark cabaret
Years active: 2001–present
Website: johnnyhollow.com

Source: last.fm - Uploaded by ayuxx on 3 Nov 2010

The Men That Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing

Origin: London, England
Genres: Steampunk, Punk rock, Oi!, Grindcore, crossover thrash
Years active: 2008–present
Website www.blamedfornothing.com


The Men That Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing.jpg


Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer

Birth name: Jim Burke
Origin: United Kingdom
Genres: Hip hop, chap hop
Occupation(s): Singer, songwriter
Website: www.gentlemanrhymer.com


Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer.jpg
By Amphalon (talk) - I (amphalon) created this work entirely by myself., CC BY-SA 3.0, Link


Professor Elemental

Origin: Norwich, England
Genres: Hip hop, chap hop
Occupation(s): Singer, songwriter
Years active: 2005–present
Website: ProfessorElemental.com


Professor elemental.jpg


Rapskallion

Origin: Melbourne, Australia
Genres: Cabaret, vaudeville
Years active: 2007–
Website: www.rapskallion.com.au

Source: Official Website (www.rapskallion.com.au)

Rasputina

Origin: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Genres: Cello rock, dark cabaret, indie rock, folk rock
Years active: 1992–present
Website: www.rasputina.com


Rasputina2015.jpg
By Cephlica - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Roland, Paul

Birth name: Paul Roland
Origin:  Kent, England
Genres:  Gothic Rock, Psychedelic Pop, Folk
Occupation(s): Singer, songwriter, author, journalist


PAUL ROLAND WIKI.jpg

Steam Powered Giraffe

Origin: San Diego, California, United States
Genres: Steampunk, folk rock, vaudeville
Years active: 2008-present
Website: www.steampoweredgiraffe.com


Steam Powered Giraffe Members in 2017.jpg
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, Link

Sunday Driver

Origin: London, UK
Genres: Folk, Carnatic, Steampunk
Years active: 2000–present
Website: www.sundaydriver.co.uk


Chandrika Nath, Sunday Driver, Lincoln 2011.jpg
By Andy Dingley - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The Synthetic Dream Foundation

Origin: Tampa, Florida, U.S.
Genres: Industrial, Witch House, Steampunk
Years active: 2006-present
Website: www.tsdf.net/

This Way to the Egress

Origin: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Genres: Unruly vaudeville, Ebullient world beat band, Three ring circus music
Years active: 2008–present
Website: www.thiswaytotheegress.com

Source: (www.lehighvalleylive.com - courtesy of This Way to the Egress)


Truax, Thomas

Origin: New York City
Genres: Steampunk, Outsider music
Years active: 2000-


ThomasTruax at Innocent Aug 07.JPG
By Hosullivan (talk)Helen O'Sullivan - I created this work entirely by myself., Public Domain, Link

Unextraordinary Gentlemen

Origin: Los Angeles, California, United States
Genres: Art rock, experimental rock, neo-Victorian, post-punk, Steampunk, electropunk, gothic rock
Years active: 2007-current
Website: www.unextraordinarygentlemen.com


Unextraordinary Gentlemen.jpg
By Darren "Penance" Spinelli - sent to me personally, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link


Unwoman

Birth name: Erica Mulkey
Origin: San Franscisco, U.S.
Genres Doom pop, Steamnpunk, Gothic, Classical
Instruments: Cello, vocals
Years active: 2000–present
Website: www.unwoman.com

IMG_4573
Source: (Flickr) Photos form the 2016 Edwardian Ball. Credit: Russ Young

Vermillion Lies

Origin: Oakland, California, USA
Genres: Indie folk, folk pop, dark cabaret
Years active: 2006–present (hiatus)
Website: www.vermillionlies.com


Vermillion Lies (promo shot).jpg


Vernian Process

Origin: San Francisco, California, United States
Genres: Steampunk, neoclassical dark wave, industrial, gothic rock, avant-garde
Years active: 2003–present
Website: www.vernianprocess.com


Vernian process steamstock2012.jpg

Victor and the Bully

Origin: London, United Kingdom
Genres: Steampunk, swing, mariachi, classical, electron-swing, punk
Years active: ?–present
Website: www.victorandthebully.com

Source: Official website (www.victorandthebully.com)


Voltaire

Birth name: Aurelio Voltaire Hernández
Also known as: Voltaire
Born: January 25, 1967
Origin: Havana, Cuba
Genres: Dark cabaret
Occupation(s): singer-songwriter, musician, writer, cartoonist, animator, television, director, teacher
Instruments: vocals, guitar
Years active: 1998–present
Website: www.voltaire.net


Aurelio Voltaire.jpg
By Aurelio Voltaire, Alas Vera - www.voltaire.net, Attribution, Link

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