Having just spent an afternoon absorbing the new kung-fu steampunk masterpiece Tai Chi Zero, I got to wondering on what the official gothic position was on the steampunk phenomenon. After all, we share an awful lot in common with the steampunkers, like a love of classic gothic literature, ornamentation, a predilection for dark music.
Should we consider them gothic brethren or not? I decided to ask the Gothic Council.
Joining us the week is Regen Robinson of Space Radio, model Scarlett St. Vitus, Jvstin Whitney of Church of Melkarth, Author of Starblood Carmilla Voiez, blogger at Night's Plutonian Shore Drusilla Grey, Niki Marshall of the Braggart Family Circus, Sara Rockey of the Dark Lantern Society, DJ Martin Oldgoth, and artist Michelle Weissman.
Regen Robinson: Personally I've always liked the steampunk community from what I know of it. The look has this "I just robbed a stagecoach and can't be late" kind of feel and some of the clothing I have seen is gorgeous.
Scarlett St. Vitus: I'm not personally a huge fan of steampunk fashion, and I'm not sure if there is a steampunk music genre, or what that would sound like if there is. Most of the steampunk people I've met listen to goth/deathrock/industrial/EBM.
Since I think music is the most integral and important part of our scene, I think they should be included. I am all for a very inclusive scene that welcomes all facets of our subculture. We get a bad rap (probably accurately) as being exclusive elitists and I really wish that wasn't the case.
You let deathrockers in, so why not? I'm neither for nor against it.
Carmilla Voiez: Unless I'm missing something don't deathrockers listen to '80s-style Goth? Batcave et al. Aren't they the purest form of post-punk style goth still remaining?
Jvstin Whitney: I just fucking hate them, and their haircut.
Carmilla Voiez: Oh that's okay then. For a moment I thought you were being a snob.
Scarlette St. Vitus: ...Because all deathrockers have the same haircut. I listen to deathrock primarily.
Carmilla Voiez: Here, here, Scarlett. I think some goths wear steampunk. There was a massive steampunk contingent at Wave Gotik Treffen, but they probably already identify as goth. So I'm not sure whether this is a worthy debate.
Drusilla Grey: I don't know that it is something different. From what I can tell it is primarily a fashion thing which meshes nicely with goth. I'm ok with letting them in as a sub-genre. They fit nicer than cyber-goth. So, unless someone can more clearly define steampunk other than a fashion statement and show that they don't belong, they can stay.
Carmilla Voiez: Are you sure they want to be under the goth parasol, though? Don't steampunk lovers come from all sorts of backgrounds and musical tastes like vamps? Isn't it more about wanting to return to an idealized romantic and exciting time? If that's what goth is does that also mean rockabillies should be embraced under the genre? Of course I imagine rockabillies would be even less thrilled than steampunkers and vamps by the inclusion.
Niki Marshall: I was completely prepared to hate steampunk because it was so completely mainstream and everyone was making something "steampunk" by slapping some gears on it. After some time, and seeing some of the immense creativity in the costuming, I appreciate the art in it.
Sara Rockey: I believe steampunk does fit into goth for several of the already mentioned reasons, fashion, music and I think aura. If we accept the Bride of Frankenstein on our dance floor, why not the mad doctor himself.
With his machinery, electricity and creating life from found objects. I see no difference between a steampunks clockwork owl and the Doctor's monster.
Martin Oldgoth: I didn't think we'd ever invited anyone in, they just always just turn up and we let them trample on our scene for a while until they get one big enough of their own, a bit like the whole industrial/EBM/futurepop thing. We're just too nice to tell people to sod off!
As for steampunk, I can see the attraction, but the image seems to be more important than the music to me. I like some of it, Abney Park, Valentine Wolfe... those bands that are doing something interesting and I do love a good violin, but in my line of work I get to hear a lot of bands that were quite clearly going nowhere as a dull pub-rock band and have decided that what they really need is to dress in brown and wear a top hat with goggles on it for instant success. That does tend to sour things a bit, and I'm sure steampunks hate it as much as I do.
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Michelle Weissman: I don't know if there is official a genre of steampunk music, but I know that people have taken it upon themselves to make music that would be in that genre if it existed. The Daft Punk song "Steam Machine" is an interesting example of what might be considered steampunk.
It incorporates sounds in the background that sound like steam engines, so that definitely has a steampunk vibe to it. I don't know if steampunk can be considered as part of goth. Just as there are many genres and styles of goth there are also many genre and styles of steampunk. You can be someone like me who enjoys both, and dabbles between the two from time to time.