Steampunk Interview: Commander Bob
Q: Thanks for joining me again! Today, I’m interviewing another fabulous member of the steampunk community. Commander Bob is a steampunk musician and a member of Victor Sierra. He’s a composer and multi-talented musician on guitar, bass, harmonica, clarinet, and more. Victor Sierra is a popular rock band from the Parisian area who uses a lot of steampunk and dieselpunk elements in their music. Thank you very much for joining me today, Bob.
A: Glad to be here, Stephanie.
Q: Why did you become fascinated with steampunk?
A: When Big Machine joined the band a few years ago, he told us about Steampunk. We had never heard of it before. So we googled it and everything seemed so familiar to us… The dystopia, the ‘uchronical’ visions, the outfits and contraptions, the mix of genres… The encounter of romance and technology. Victor Sierra has been a steampunk band from the beginning without us being actually aware. But let me go a bit further to expose our universe. I would rather use the expression: 'retro-futurism' that comprises more facets of uchronicity and alternate history and facts. I don't want to be locked in a specified period of time. This leads me to mention Dieselpunk which plays a big part in our music, lyrics and imagery. That's how we came to create the Airship Hydrogen Queen -of which I'm the Commander! It's yesterday's tomorrow. Personally, I was involved in many musical and aesthetic trends before meeting steampunk. I never encountered such richness in any of these but the latter, and it doesn't look like a finite field of research and invention.
Q: What kind of background do you have in music?
A: It's an evolving background, an evolving world that can absorb interesting ideas that will fit our global vision of art or any alien concept able to push us out of our comfort zone. As I suggested in my previous answer, I felt very limited in the musical communities I was part of in the past, be it alternative rock or electronic music. I was banging my head on the big walls of conventions. We want our musical style to be totally free and Victor Sierra is definitely an open-minded trio. We sing in several different languages and I hope you noticed that it brings musical differences too. The same applies when it comes to musical instruments: 'what ifs' and 'why nots' rule my day. The Legendary Converted Princess enjoys her 'film noir's 'chanteuse' facet and inhabits it on stage while Big Machine raises hell with the industrial racket propelling our music. There's no such thing as 'classicism' opposing 'modernity' in our vision of art. Therefore, our background is multidimensional and 360° at least.
Q: When did you create your band called Victor Sierra?
A: Sometime between two centuries. I like to say (and imagine!) that Steampunk is a place where no one ever dies. Then how could I give you precise details about Victor Sierra's birth certificate? We released our first EP in the fall of 2010, this date can be seen as a milestone in our biography.
Q: Would you mind explaining some details about your steampunk persona named Commander Bob?
A: When we realized Victor Sierra was a steampunk band and, after the creation of the Hydrogen Queen, I naturally came up with the idea of this persona that quite clearly suits me. Everyone in Victor Sierra (and outside) knows I'm a commanding type of guy (laughs). Every circle has its center and if you're in a circle and can't be the center, then you must create your own circle. Pseudo military costumes are important in the steampunk community, but I see it more as providing a flavor of adventure than anything else. This aspect can be used even more creatively. I'm Commander Bob in everyday life even if I'm wearing civilian clothes. You think I'm talking to you, but in my head I'm piloting the Hydrogen Queen!
Q: Who are the other members of your band and what role do they play?
A: The Legendary Converted Princess sings and inspires me. She gives a voice to my lyrics and life to our universe with her skills. All our costumes are designed by her and it brings a very distinctive aspect to our stage performances, music videos and photos. She is the light in our night flight. She often mentions that she sings in English or other languages in an inter-war French singer way. Big Machine is in charge of the engine room. He is known as a powerful man-machine, a self-made cyborg and a transhumanist of sort. Never unnoticed on stage, he gives a hard time to the sound machines propelling our music. He is on the dark side of Victor Sierra and sheds black light ahead of the Hydrogen Queen.
Q: Which bands or styles influenced Victor Sierra’s music?
A: Talking about our multiple influences is not an easy task. Even more difficult if you consider that cinema and other arts are inspirations for us. I have personally crossed many different musical environments and they all left a trace in my mind. The same no-boundaries state of mind plays its part here and the same goes for the three of us. As Aristotle says: 'The whole is greater than the sum of its parts'.
Q: All of your songs tell a story. Is it easy or difficult to fit these elaborate tales in your music?
A: They reflect my alternate universe. Music and words come naturally to my mind. I think the music I compose can't be separated from the stories I write. They're visions of my universe. To answer your question more precisely, I would say that there are good songs and bad songs for any songwriter, whatever her or his style. Whatever elaborate are my stories, it's not this characteristic that makes a difference. Sometimes it sounds right, sometimes it doesn't.
Q: There seems to be a lot of post-apocalyptic elements in your lyrics and album covers. Why do you frequently choose post-apocalyptic settings?
A: Post-apocalyptic atmospheres appeal a lot to us. We are safely - or almost- flying over burning bridges and drowning cities. One of the many advantages of traveling aboard the Hydrogen Queen! Basically, I find post-apo images very attractive because flavors of adventure and romanticism come at first glance and we only think of death and destruction afterwards. I love this aesthetic in lyrics for the same reason so that our characters are always on a mission or flying away from catastrophes. I feel the cinematic aspect is important in my writing. One could call that some kind of 'Noah's Ark' syndrome. We take charge of our destiny, we're not discouraged and of course we're alive.
Q: Does Victor Sierra tour frequently?
A: We try to tour as much as possible. We'll be back at the Steampunk World's Fair 2018 in the US in may and to Anno 1900 in Luxemburg in September. We love to perform abroad, and thanks to social medias and the international aspect of Steampunk, it is easy to communicate. We have many projects in the UK, Belgium, Netherlands, and other places. Anyone having a good idea is welcome to drop me a note. We would certainly like to tour all around the world.
Q: It seems like airships play an important role in your music. Do airships have a symbolic purpose for Victor Sierra?
A: These gigantic flying cigars suggest a sense of real adventure. This is a very important aspect of Steampunk. Without adventure, no heroes, no outfits, no goggles, no top hats, no airships. They're slow but tenacious, poorly maneuverable, but so elegant. An airship isn't a machine, but a piece of art. An airplane acrobatic number in an air show can leave you speechless, but an airship awkwardly passing over your head triggers a dream that will remain in your mind all your life. This is what I call 'industrial poetry'. I'm quite sure airships will have a very important place amongst flying machines in the future. Yesterday will enter tomorrow's world.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about being a steampunk musician?
A: First thing first: As I said before, we were steampunk without us even knowing the word. We stumbled on it on our way and it was like perfectly adjusted shoes waiting for us to wear them. I always enjoy dramatic depth and dark atmospheres and even 'grandiose' in music whatever style that may be. I may not live the visible lifestyle everyday, but I definitely live the dream and imagination at all times. Retro-futurism is a prism through which I can create with no limits. I inhabit this world in my mind. Perhaps, one could think I live in two worlds at a time... I'm sure several realities can cross themselves… I love this quote from a scientist: 'I try to explain the impossible with improbable theories'
The DIY part is important to me. I've always been used to doing everything myself, steampunk or not steampunk. Making contraptions for our stage decor is a great source of inspiration.
Q: I would like to ask a couple more steampunk questions. Do you have a favorite steampunk author or book series?
A: There are two songs on our second album: 'Yesterday's Tomorrow' that were written after the work of two writers friends of mine. J.M Frey, a Canadian writer who asked me to write a song after her novel: 'Skylark's Song'. And the same happened with Josué Ramos from Spain who released: 'Ecos de Voces Lejanas'. I did enjoy this work, even if I had to follow a creatively linear path, which is unusual.
Q: What are some of the popular trends you're noticing in the steampunk culture today?
A: There is lot going on in the world. But I wouldn't qualify them of 'trends' per se. Because so much is happening and because Steampunk is a true 'free world,' everyone feels free to invent his persona, produce music, videos, theater, fashion, and crazy things.
Q: Is Victor Sierra working on any exciting projects?
A: We're working on our fourth album. We hope to release it to coincide with our performance at the Steampunk World's Fair 2018. We have many show opportunities to work on, perhaps some new contraptions for our decor on stage. You know, we never stop. We are always on something exciting and if nothing happens, we create it!
Q: That was a really interesting and cool interview. Thanks for telling me so much information about steampunk music and your views on the overall subculture. I’ve already listened to quite a bit of your music and I’m looking forward to more releases in the future. Best wishes for your career and artistic endeavors.
A: Thank you for this interview Stephanie. It was a pleasure.
I hope you guys enjoyed this interview. Here's a list of important links for Commander Bob and Victor Sierra. Please support them in a way that works for you. Victor Sierra is a very unique band with awesome steampunk elements. Bob is also a friendly guy and I enjoyed talking to him. He's one of the most fascinating people I interviewed this year. Leave a comment if you have anything to say about this interview. You can also become a subscriber for free by filling out the contact section on my website.
I promise to post more interviews in the near future. You'll also see more writing posts and photo galleries from conventions. Next week's post will probably be my review for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I need to spend some time thinking about the film. It was surprisingly complex. Have a safe holiday and I'll see you guys soon.
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