An Interview with Not Waving But Drowning

Today I’m here with Not Waving But Drowning, a fantastically unique “junkyard cabaret” band from Brooklyn. They’ve been kind enough to sit down with me for a quick chat before their sets at the Steampunk World’s Fair today and tomorrow. Thanks for coming, guys, let’s get started!

Please introduce yourself and say a bit about your musical background.
Hi, we’re Not Waving But Drowning, and we’re a band from Brookl… wait a second, where are my pants?

Oh, umm…
No, seriously. My pants. Where are they?! I’m certainly not wearing them. I would know.

Well, I’m sure they’ll turn up…
Unless, of course, these things are my pants… they do have legs… they are grey…. let’s see. Ah, no! They are cats, not pants. Sorry guys, I’ll just set you down again.

Well, Trial By Steam is a pants optional zone. Perhaps you’d be alright without them? I’m sure no one would judge.
My dear madame, as you are no doubt aware, Pantslessness is next to Godlessness, which is only two seats down from Ginlessness. And if you think we’re not drinking while answering this question, then you are quite mistaken. In any event, we’ll just do this thing without trousers. Fine. We only ask that the people reading this will have the decency to remove theirs. To put us on equal footing, as it were. What was the first question again?

Oh, ah, yes… *removes trousers* Ahem.. Please introduce yourself and say a bit about your musical background.
(finishes gin)
…ah, yes! Not Waving But Drowning is Pinky Weitzman, Mason Brown, John Frazier, and Jeremy Forbis. Pinky plays rock viola with a heap of projects, including stints with name-droppable artists whose names shall not be dropped. Mason has been singing and playing up a storm since he was a young boy deep in South Carolinny, and his dad sang on our first record. Over the past decade, John has made records and performed both as a solo artist and with his band, the 8 Year Olds, of which Pinky was member and Mason a contributing party. Jeremy has several projects afoot for which he plays, sings, writes, and records, and is the drollest man you will ever meet, bepantsed or otherwise.

How and when was Not Waving But Drowning formed?
Pinky brought us all together – having played with each of us in different projects – after she and Mason had the idea to start the band. We’re now 4 years and 2 records (2008’s “Any Old Iron” and 2011’s “Processional”) in, and we still really like being cooped up in a close-quartered [studio/kitchen/rehearsal space/van] together. (Favorite road-trip past-time: the question game from “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”. We can, and have, played for hours.)

What inspired you to name yourselves after the famous poem by Stevie Smith, “Not Waving But Drowning”?
It’s just perfect. Deeply evocative and sad and beautiful. Something to aspire to as an artist, like full-time pants ownership. (Or leasing with an option to buy.)

You describe yourselves as a junkyard cabaret group. Can you elaborate on what that means, precisely?
It’s tough to come up with a pithy summation of what we do since our sound is consciously varied. So rather than launching into a lengthy discussion about all the instruments we play and genres we touch every time someone inquires about our style, we boil it down to ‘junkyard cabaret’. ‘Junkyard’ since we play everything including the kitchen sink, from bones and scraps of metal to old banjos and musical saws. And ‘cabaret’ as a nod to the co-mingling of other performance elements in our live shows, whether it be burlesque or dance or theater or just dressing to the nines. Also, on a sort of textural level, the phrase nicely defines our aesthetic. We’ve got rust and lace in equal measure.

What would you say is unique about the music you create?
Our ability to share food. It is the template upon which all else is built.

What inspires you to create your music?
Dread of boredom. And James Brown. And a giant pile of instruments crying out to played.

While you never overtly label yourself as a Steampunk band, Not Waving But Drowning has been embraced by the Steampunk subculture. Why do you think this is?
It’s true that we didn’t set out to be label-able as any particular genre – we like being slippery as a buttered eel. As to the warm embrace: Steampunk enthusiasts are an extremely literate group, and tend to be the sort to appreciate allusive lyrics. Sonically, a Stroh violin is an awfully steampunky instrument, and we certainly take no small amount of glee in anachronistically mixing distorted electric guitars with dusty old stringed instruments and objects we found in Mason’s barn. Also, we like fancy hats.

How DIY is Not Waving But Drowning and in what capacities?
Well, the four of us do almost everything ourselves, from designing our album artwork and flyers (you can peruse some examples here) to engineering our own recordings in a home-made studio deep in the woods of upstate New York. It’s not so much a political decision; we’re as DIY as opportunity instructs us to be, and making music and art is what we’d be doing in our free time, anyway. All that said, we also love having help – we are very fortunate to have generous and talented friends and collaborators with an interest in the band, and are always glad to meet more of the same.

Any upcoming shows, events, upcoming releases, or announcements your fans should know about?
We’ll be whooping it up not once but twice at the Steampunk World’s Fair on May 20th and 21st. Then on May 24th we’re co-hosting a special literary/musical event at Le Poisson Rouge (please join us, NYC denizens!)  Our dear friend (and award-winning author) Emily Rubin will be reading passages from her new novel “Stalina” accompanied by (and intertwining with) songs played by NWBD. We’re also hard at work on new videos and singles which will be unveiled this summer/fall  (c.f. the all-knowing, all-seeing Facebook page).

What is your favorite tale of Not Waving But Drowning adventure?
Most of our favorite Not Waving But Drowning adventures are not fit to print, at least not in any venue where law enforcement might be reading. (The intrepid reader might, against our better advice, find some of them here.)

Which song in the catalog is your favorite and why?
This is a devilishly hard question, and we all of course have our particular favorites. Sleep Before I Wake is a favorite “quintessentially NWBD-y” song, as is Let’s Go Dancing. We had a hilariously protracted debate selecting 3 recommended tracks for our college radio campaign; we eventually went with November 3rd, Thanks a Lot Lancelot, and Tiger Hunting. Did we just pick 5 songs instead of one? We’re not very good at following instructions.

Where can people go to learn more about Not Waving But Drowning and purchase your music?
The internet! We’re told it’s made of cats! Both albums are streamable (for free) and downloadable (for a few American dollars, Icelandic krona, or Bahraini dinars) on Bandcamp. (We also sell via the other large online purveyors, but prefer the cuddly, pro-indie Bandcamp folks.)

Anything else you’d like to add?
We dream of a world without shame. Or a world where we’ve found our pants. Either one would do.

An Interview with Victor Sierra

Steampunk is truly an international subculture, and as it continues its march into the consciousness of retrofuturists all around the world, it produces an amazing array of artists influenced by the aesthetic and lifestyle. Victor Sierra is a Paris-based Steampunk electro rock band that identifies heavily with the Steampunk, Dieselpunk, and overall retrofuturistic subcultures. Their universe is one of airship battles and adventures aboard their ship The Hydrogen Queen.

They recently released their latest EP, “The Secret Page” and have a growing popularity in France and are hoping to tour the United States soon and bring French Steampunk to this side of the Atlantic. I recently had the opportunity to chat with them about their band, and here’s what they had to say:

How and when was Victor Sierra formed?
Bob: The band was born sometime between two centuries. I met Anouk, who is a former actress, and we deciding to join forces to form Victor Sierra. We have had various people being part of the band since then. Many of them left the band because I’m very demanding. Some did not even leave an address or a phone number! But now Mr. Big Machine [Victor Sierra’s keyboardist] seems to be a die-hard long-timer. And that’s a good thing. It’s a relief for Anouk and I to have found somebody we can rely on. I would like to add that Anouk was a singer before we happened we lived together. It wasn’t your typical “band leader pushes his girlfriend to sing”.

Can you say a bit about yourselves and your musical backgrounds?
Bob: I feel like I was a musician before knowing what it actually meant to be one or even played any instrument. I’ve had music and lyrics in my head ever since I was a child. My mother recently told me that I used to dance to the music played on the radio before I was able to walk. Not that I’m a good dancer mind you. I was fascinated by instruments wherever I could find any: the piano at my grandparents’. Or the banjo I once found in the far end of a cupboard at my other grandma’s. I was 10 I think. I still have it. Never been able to play it. It belonged to my grandfather who is my favorite ghost among all those who accompany me.
Now about myself, well I usually say that  I’m a Jew from eastern Europe of Anglo-Saxon culture accidentally born in Paris. I’ve crossed many different musical styles but they’re all part of my (our) universe. I feel like I’ve reached the crossroads of many of my selves by now. I’ve scarcely written  the purest acoustic “roots” song or the dirtiest industrial techno track without mixing something exogenous into it.
Anouk: I don’t have a typical musical background except an Edith Piaf song cover called: “A quoi ça sert l’amour” performed with Steven Brown (Tuxedo Moon). I didn’t know how to sing but I enjoyed it. My real musical story started when I met Bob, with Victor Sierra. I’m a one band singer.

How do you describe your music to people who have never heard it before?
Bob: This is the question I fear the most. People express so many opposite feelings and sensations about our music.  Like in the Yiddish joke: Two Jews arguing… three different opinions. So I would tell them: “Forget your references and your certainties. Welcome aboard and let’s dance to the sound of the Hydrogen  Queen!”

What would you say is unique about the music you create?
Bob: Definitely our universe where a lot of things and events can occur. Victor Sierra is a universe that makes music.

What inspires you to create your music?
Anouk: Personally I don’t create anything, I sing… although lyrics provide inspiration, their meanings, the poetry. I got  an actress training so I sing a story, a moment of conscience..
Bob: The maelstrom roaring in my head! Most of the time, it’s like some kind of vision where everything can happen. Like a movie scene with characters who are not meant to meet one another. Things happen, protagonists stand for different purposes, they often don’t speak the same language, but they’re all running for their lives. As a songwriter (and I guess all songwriters experience the same phenomenon) I have this very short but huge flash at a precise moment when my sweat  turns cold as I’m working, and I’m telling myself: this is  it! I got it! It’s the moment when you know the song is good and the arrangement totally fits; your heart beats and your feet tap in sync, I already see us performing it on stage…

What does Steampunk mean to you?
Bob: We were somewhat Steampunk and Dieselpunk and retrofuturist before knowing the words. Mr. Big Machine, who is in charge of synths and computers in the band, joined us one year ago. Some months went on and all of a sudden in the middle of a rehearsal he told Anouk and I: “We are a Steampunk band”. I didn’t pay too much attention the first time. But some time after he went on again. So I Googled the word and I told myself: “Wow, holy f. We’re not alone at last!” I was completely stunned watching these images, videos, and also by the outfits and the jewelry. This was exactly what I had been doing for years: the uchronia (mix of periods of time) the paths which could have been taken but hadn’t been.  And more specifically about music, I see the Steampunk community as an open one. Many different styles coexist interact and benefit one another.

How DIY is Victor Sierra and in what capacities?
Bob: Anouk and I decided some years ago to buy a house with a cellar in order to have our own studio at our disposal. We rehearse and I write and compose everything down there. (When we’re not traveling on the Hydrogen Queen!)

Any upcoming shows, events, upcoming releases, or announcements your fans should know about?
Bob: We’re  performing  at the somewhat first SteamCon in France: the Lugdunum Steampunk Imaginarium. It’s taking  place in Lyon on May 21st. We are recording the last sessions for our next album, which is due to be released in June but we’re running a bit late so  we may release it in September.

What is your favorite tale of band adventure?
Bob: A tale… Perhaps it’s more of a wish that can turn into a tale. There is this US tour that we would like to do.
Anouk: The first gig. It was my debut on stage, I had only performed for theater. I felt naked and vulnerable. I couldn’t have been more frightened and I asked Bob whether it was the kind of life he wanted to live. It still makes me laugh today and now I can answer myself. Absolutely yes and
another life would have been like taking the wrong road. I’m really here where I have to be with Victor Sierra.

Which song in the catalogue is your favorite and why?
Anouk: A real shock with “El Topo” which shattered genres boundaries and shows all of our aspects.
Bob: The next one in line will be that one.

Where can people go to learn more about Victor Sierra and purchase your music?
Bob: Here’s a list of links to listen to our tracks, watch our videos, and read our words:

http://www.myspace.com/victorsierra

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Victor-Sierra-officiel/67607747746?v=app_2405167945

http://www.youtube.com/user/victorsierraband?feature=mhum#p/a

http://www.reverbnation.com/victorsierra

http://victorsierra.livejournal.com

-Our Steampunk websites pages:

http://www.thesteampunkempire.com/profile/VictorSierra

http://frenchsteampunk.ning.com/profile/VictorSierra

-Links where you can purchase our songs:

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/victorsierra

http://itunes.apple.com/fr/album/secret-page-ep/id397428465

Anything else you’d like to add?
Anouk: For the first time we worked with another author besides Bob on a song (in Yiddish) and what looked almost unimaginable for Victor Sierra turned out to be an achievement. It was the right person as well: Elsa Drezner.
Bob: We’re always seeking gigs. So feel free to contact us at: management@victorsierra.net
We’re ready and willing to go anywhere so it’s our pleasure to perform for you.

Vagabond Opera’s Kickstarter

Kickstarters for worthy Steampunk projects abound as of late, and today I have another outstanding opportunity for you to be a part of supporting Steampunk music. Vagabond Opera is long overdue for a new album and they need your help to make it a reality through an ambitious Kickstarter project that started yesterday.

Unfortunately, WordPress and Kickstarter don’t always get along with regards to embedding videos, so you’re going to have to go to Vagabond Opera’s Kickstarter to see the video and hear their appeals for your help.

And remember, the catch to Kickstarter is that should Vagabond Opera fall short of their goal, even by one dollar, they don’t get any of the money they raised. So if you’d like to see Vagabond Opera put out their new CD, please consider giving to support their efforts. A gift of $25 gets you the CD you’re likely to buy anyway when it comes out, so consider it an investment into Vagabond Opera’s music.

If you happen to not know much about Vagabond Opera, to be sure to check out their website as well as this interview I did with them not too long ago.

Frenchy and the Punk Tour Dates

Fresh off their tour through Europe, Frenchy and the Punk (formerly the Gypsy Nomads) have returned to this side of the Atlantic and are already busy putting on shows throughout the month of May. This month, they are transversing the better part of the eastern and middle United States playing awesome shows as they go.

This weekend, you can find Scott and Samantha at the International Steampunk City in Waltham, Massachusetts before they hit the road to shows in New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky. Check out their event page on Facebook to get the full breakdown of their shows for the month of May.

If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of not knowing much about Frenchy and the Punk, make haste to their website to learn all about this duo and check out the interview I did with them a while back when they were still known as the Gypsy Nomads.

Updates from Abney Park

It’s been a while since I let you, my dear readers, know what Abney Park has been up to as of late, though it’s certainly not for lack of activity! Everyone’s favorite airship pirates have been hard at work creating a new album and preparing for a number of awesome shows that are just on the horizon.

The band has been hard at work in the studio to produce yet another album for your auditory delight. Here’s a small glimpse into the sound for their newest project with the song, Bad Things Coming.

Of course, that’s not all they’ve been up to as of late. There’s a number of shows that the band is gearing up for, including one tomorrow in Oakland at the Oakland Metro Opera House.

Organized by Swing Goth, Blackbeard’s Ball will begin at 8 PM and will feature two sets of Abney Park awesomeness, aerialists, acrobats, and belly dancers in a full-on show of epic proportions. Pick up your tickets here before they sell out.

And if you find yourself outside of the greater Bay Area, fear not! There will be many an opportunity to see them live. Visit their website often for an ever-developing list of upcoming shows. Next up after Oakland:  the World Steam Expo in Dearborn, Michigan.

To get these and many more awesome updates from the band, be sure to sign up for Abney Park’s mailing list to stay up to date on all the latest from them.

Unwoman’s Kickstarter: Uncovered Volume 1

One of the things I love most about Steampunk is the focus it puts on individual artisans and artists to create and the reciprocal support that these makers receive from the community itself. Another Steampunk musician has thrown a potential project to the financiers of Kickstarter, Unwoman. Her latest project proposal is an album entitled Uncovered Volume 1, a covers album of songs circa 1980-1995. Here’s what she has to say about why she’s asking for your support for Uncovered, via her Kickstarter.

I have been talking for years about a covers album. After 4 original full-length albums I think it’s time, but there are so many covers I want to do and so many different styles I play, it makes sense to do several collections.

This one is close to my heart: all of these songs are songs that were written between the year I was born and the year I turned 15. They all recall a specific juvenile or teenage moment of musical connection and identification. Recording them now that I’m a grown-up is particularly special.

And here is her video, explaining the project in further detail:

If you’d like to see Uncovered Volume 1 go from concept to reality, please consider pitching in to Unwoman’s Kickstarter.

And, as an important reminder, Kickstarter works on a pledge based system that only comes through for the artist if the baseline goal for the project is met. It takes many people to make something financed through Kickstarter a success, so do be sure to support it if this project piques your interest and share it with your friends!

An Interview with Alexandra Hamer

One of my favorite things about writing Trial By Steam is the opportunity to meet and engage with people who are actively creating things.  Whether it be a story, a garment, or a piece of music, Steampunks tend to always be in the midst of some new and wonderful creation. One such person I recently had the chance to chat with was Alexandra Hamer, a retrofuturistic musician who released her album Anachronique back in February. Her music and her DIY spirit is sure to appeal to Steampunks across the board, and thus it became obvious I needed to introduce you to her!

Please tell me a bit about yourself and your musical background.

I had a somewhat limited formal education, having been “asked to leave” school at the age of 16 and having done almost no work at all there in the preceding years – well, I’m a defiant little soul and neither my parent nor my teachers ever managed to convince me that their desire to see me in a certain place at a certain time performing a task of their choosing superseded my desire to be doing something completely different somewhere else!

I don’t regret any lack of formal education because I have always been an insatiable autodidact. As such, my music “career” began when I taught myself drums at the age of 14 with a pair of home-made sticks whittled from the back of an old sofa and a drum kit made of cushions and books – now doesn’t that sound romantic! Being of a somewhat obsessive disposition, I played them for 2 or 3 hours a day for 2 or 3 years and became really quite adept. Eventually my mother bowed to my determination and bought me a tiny second-hand drum kit – it was unaccountably covered in brown hessian but underneath it was a little sparkly silver relic of the 1960’s and I loved it!

It so happened that I lived in a house full of reggae so that was the genre I played and when I progressed to guitar, bass and keyboards I always played reggae on them first. Consequently, I am inescapably a reggae musician and you will always find the feel of it somewhere in my music.

But, there are many other musics that have written their little sonograms into my heart. Harmonically and melodically I love the Tin Pan Alley composers like Cole Porter and particularly Richard Rodgers but also the music of the First World War and the late Victorian music hall. Added to those I have a passion for the French chanson style of Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel and I love the exotica style of the 50’s and 60’s as exemplified by the likes of Arthur Lyman. There are many others too, ranging from Chopin to Noël Coward to Björk.

My singing style probably has hints of Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Al Bowlly, Björk, Billy Holiday and perhaps some of the Britpop singers of the 1990’s. I do not, of course, claim to sing as well as the illustrious performers mentioned, I only note their influence on my modest abilities!


How did you decide to create music with such a distinctively antiquated tone?

That is not something I was aiming for but it naturally arises from my influences and tastes and my willingness to indulge them. I have a particular tendency to write in waltz time which is a very Vicwardian thing to do and I often use certain chord changes common to the period so these, combined with some of my instrument choices, may explain the antiquated quality to some of my tunes.

How do you go about writing a song?

I always start with the music. I usually noodle about on the keyboard with an interesting sound for a while and with luck and perseverance, a little tune will start to make itself known to me. Once I have the basic chord structure and melody I start to build up the orchestration until I have a good draft of the piece. At this point I sit back to consider what sort of an atmosphere the music is implying – what is it the music to? And what scene might be played out to this theme?

When I have the theme, I start on the lyrics – sometimes they come cooperatively but at other times I have to wrestle them on to the paper one letter at a time! I try to steer away from the “Ooh Baby, you hurt me so bad” school of song-writing and aim for themes and settings you don’t usually encounter in popular music. An example might be “The Birds, The Trees and You”: I felt it had the atmosphere of a deep, tropical forest and that image immediately conjured the idea of a pair of Edwardian plant hunters, high in the canopy of the Siamese rainforest experiencing what would turn out to be the most perfect afternoon of their lives, blissfully in love in the most extraordinarily beautiful and secret place.

Tell me more about your album “Anachronique”.

I haven’t particularly tried to create a unified whole but themes emerge of their own volition. For example, during any given period in your musical life you find yourself drawn to a particular set of instruments and some of the defining sounds on Anachronique are glass harmonica, music box, tuned gongs, Hammond organ, flutes and a big fat dubby bass sound. These inevitably lend a certain overall flavour to the album.

Lyrical themes also emerge in a similar way from the various fears, hopes  and preoccupations you have when you are writing but also from your broader interests and you can derive some of my passions from a listen to the album: for example, I am a xenophile and love anything exotic so I have songs set in places like Madagascar, Siam, Bulgaria and Japan. And whilst some are exotic by virtue of location, others are exotic by virtue of being set in the Vicwardian period (I always think of other times as if they were foreign places that you can dream of visiting). I was originally going to call the album “Tramp Steamer” as fantasising about such a vessel, plying its trade in the darkest corners of the Vicwardian globe helped inspire several of the songs like “One More Circumnavigation” and “Madagascan Boat Repairs”.

Many of the songs deal with isolation so many of my protagonists are essentially alone like Lizzie Green or the homeless Parisian girl in “Cats and Starlings”. There are also 2 suicides on the album but there are happy songs too and, I hope, enough comedy to parry the darkness.

I also have a great passion for Victorian actuality film and photography and this expresses itself in the videos. I have no means to make elaborate videos but I do have books full of early photography from which I can take appropriate static images for the songs. My hobby of repairing and colourising old photos also shows.

Tell me how you get your particular sound.

I like to mix the music so that it sounds as if the musicians are in a little cosy room with me – it’s a small and intimate sound and a production style you might use for a jazz quartet or small folk band. I love unusual instruments that sound organic and slightly broken and I often push them a little out of tune to instil some humanity. Musically, do I have to work with computers as I have no band nor any pets that might be trained to play but I don’t like the robotic sound of sequenced music so I play (almost) all the parts manually and leave most of the imperfections in. I do cheat when I have written a piece too cunning for my limited keyboard skills by, for example, recording it at half speed or doing the right and left hands separately but it is at least a recording of a performance rather than a programmed sequence.

What is your favourite track on the album and why?

Ooh, tricky – I can’t pin it down. I am proud of “The illusion of Free Will” and “Madagascan Boat Repairs” because they are essentially reggae in 3/4 time which is technically impossible – in fact, I think I might have invented it! I like “The Birds, The Trees and You” which I think might be the best song I’ve written, though I don’t get the impression that listeners agree!

I do have some favourite moments on the album, for example, the second half of “The Great War” because the string section counter-melodies make me slightly tingly. Then there’s the way the rhythm section pulses gently in under a long glass-harmonica note, 55 seconds into “You’ll Never Be Too Close” and the bass line to “The Illusion of Free Will” which appears 1 minute and 35 seconds into the song and is placed within the bar in a way that only a reggae musician would consider plausible. Oh dear, that’s too much detail isn’t it! That’s the insanity of making music – you easily become obsessed by tiny, tiny details that no-one else hears or cares about!


How do you describe your music to people who have never heard it before?

Dismissively usually – I might typically say “It’s a bit odd, I doubt you’ll like it” but I am used to people frowning at my tunes and as I have only sold 7 copies of the album, I think there is good reason to suspect that it’s not the most approachable or easily likeable music in the world! I think some people are disconcerted by my odd and androgynous voice and if they are not used to reggae, some of the note placements can sound somewhat back to front.

Personally, I love my music so I take refuge in the van Gogh hypothesis and will just have to wait for the world to catch up with my genius!! Then again, maybe 7 copies is actually really good in mp3 world – I have no frame of reference but I have just halved the price of the album!

Generally there is nothing new in music, there are only new combinations of musics that already exist – that is where the originality and innovation can be found and out of my fairly broad set of musical interests emerges a genre all of it’s own – perhaps I should call it “Alexandrian”! A big question for a musician or composer is whether you try to steer your music towards a preconceived sound or genre or whether you simply indulge yourself and let it find it’s own course and I prefer the latter approach. That may sound like arrogance but I feel that the more you compromise by pandering to an audience, the further the music gets from something you could call art. And now I’ve gone and called my music “art” which is very pretentious of me but I didn’t say it was good art! Of course, secretly I do think it’s good art but I would never say that in an interview!

What does steampunk mean to you?

I could not call myself a steampunk as I don’t have the look and am probably more Dickens than Verne. Nor are my interests confined to the Vicwardian period. I do love Victorian clothes but I don’t actually have any and as I don’t really socialise, I have little reason to get a good look together.

I do think the steampunk tag is appropriate for some of my music though as it combines Vicwardian musical structures and styles with more modern technology than they would have had access to and that combination of Vicwardian and modern seems to me the very essence of steampunk. For example “You’ll Never Be Too Close” is a Victorian tinted melody in waltz time set to a music box but I have extended the music box beyond it’s natural range by use of sampling technology. I also have a tendency to a Victorian turn of phrase which rather fits the genre.

How DIY is your music?

Entirely – I compose the music, write the lyrics, perform it, record it, mix it, create the videos and artwork. I also like to tweak and create instruments, even if it is only in a virtual sense. For example, on “Olga, Soft Upon Me” there is a solo instrument that sounds somewhat like a harpsichord but is actually a set of hair clippers that I have sampled. And on “The Great War, the main melody is played on a sampled Armenian reed instrument called a Duduk but I have managed to upset it with the computer and caused it to slide in and out of tune slightly and growl at itself.

 Are there any upcoming events in the near future you’d like to mention?

I have not done any gigs for a long time and have none planned but I might do one at some point in the future. I’m quite at home on stage but gigs always involve social interaction both before and after playing the music and I’m not very good at that. I am making videos for more of the songs from the album and once those are completed I will probably work on some new tunes. I think I might do a smaller collection next – perhaps of 3 or 4 tracks as a mini album or EP and I’d like to work some of my other interests like philosophy and palaeontology into it somehow – I feel quite sure that my weird voice, singing a waltz about the philosophical connotations of the extinction of the Indricotherium will be the very thing that finally propels me to international stardom!

Where can people find your music?

My music can be found in various places. You can listen to it and download it at:

http://alexandrahamer.bandcamp.com/

but it can also be found accompanied with videos on Youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/user/Alexandrasaurus

Or with better sound quality videos at Vimeo:

http://vimeo.com/user5568224/videos/sort:newest/format:detail

And in various other quarters like my Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Alexandra-Hamer/121564887896176

Or on Myspace:
http://www.myspace.com/alexandrahamer

Veronique Chevalier’s Music to be Broadcast in Argentina Tonight

This evening, Steampunk continues its march into the international consciousness in Argentina. Veronique Chevalier’s music played on Argentina’s “Volver de la Magia” Radio Station tonight Friday, April 22, 9 pm PST.

Tonight’s show is dedicated to the 122nd anniversary of the birth of “The Little Tramp”- beloved iconic actor/director/composer Charlie Chaplin and so this is is definitely a show not to miss. In addition to the lovely Veronique, other Steampunk musicians featured on today’s playlist include Vagabond Opera, Frenchy and the Punk (formerly the Gypsy Nomads), and other talented musicians with a retrofuturistic flair. Check out the full list here.

To listen to tonight’s show, visit  Volver de la Magia’s site and click on the logo of your listening platform of choice next to the phonograph (you’ll need to scroll down a bit to see it).

Enjoy the show!

Professor Elemental and Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer in the Wall Street Journal

Last year, I posted an article about Professor Elemental and his then recently released album The Indifference Engine and the emergence of hip-hop into the Steampunk musical scene. One of the songs on the album was Fighting Trousers, a musical challenge to his rival, Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer. Here’s the video if you missed it from my last post:

It seems as though the chap-hop rivalry between Professor Elemental and Mr. B have attracted the attentions of one Wall Street Journal. In an article entitled In ‘Chap-Hop,’ Gentlemen Rappers Bust Rhymes About Tea, Cricket- Just Like in Hip-Hop, British MCs Feud Over Styles: Waistcoat vs. Pith Helmet, Frances Robinson recounts how hip-hop and British high society melded into “Chap-Hop.”

The article does a respectable job of illuminating the feud between the two rappers to newcomers and comparing the two artists to the larger hip-hop scene at large while simultaneously juxtaposing American rap and British chap-hop.

Plans for a show-down between Professor Elemental and Mr. B are underway, to likely take place in Brighton. No date or venue has yet been announced, giving you plenty of time to choose sides between the two rhymers. Be sure to visit Professor Elemental’s and Mr. B’s websites to learn more about each!

The Victorian Dead Kickstarter

Eli August and Clockwork Cabaret have decided to put together a CD compilation of songs written about famous people who lived in the Victorian era, and they need your help to make it a reality. The Kickstarter for The Victorian Dead started yesterday and has 44 days to reach its baseline goal of $2,500 to begin work on the project. Check out the link to the project here.

For those of you unfamiliar with Kickstarter, it is a website that allows you to become a patron for creative works that would otherwise go unfunded and as a possible result, uncreated. Kickstarter gives you the power to support the arts in ways that used to only be viable to foundations, corporations, and wealthy families by pooling your contributions with the support of others who love the arts and giving the artists the means to create.

Here’s the catch about Kickstarter, though. If the project you have backed does not reach its minimum goal, the project flops. The pledges don’t come through and the artist doesn’t get any of the money that was promised. So, its very important that if you are interested in seeing a concept become reality, that you consider contributing. Every dollar counts towards meeting the goal and the project going underway.

Here’s a video from Eli August explaining the project in detail:

I’m very happy to say that I’ve contributed to this project. I’d love to see it go through.