I said this in the Music for Steampunk s Facebook page and I’ll say it again; One thing I love about this culture is that you can join a thousand FB pages and still discover new ones with exciting things happening every day. Most recently, the exciting thing to happen was a clash between Robert Brown – the lead singer of Abney Park who are a recognised steampunk band with typically post apocalyptic stylings – and what seems like the rest of the page membership as he was laid into from various angles.
In order to get a broader view of what went on in order to decide who is right and who is wrong, we need to see about how it started. Actually it was all very innocent. A newcomer to steampunk asked a question about steampunk music. From what I can make out, Steven Davis raised the point that steampunk music as such isn’t a genre. There’s some weight to that because there’s so many different styles of music available under the term “steampunk” that it should be classed as an umbrella term and not an actual style of music, right?
Not according to Robert Brown. He’s the Lead Singer of Abney Park (who are a recognised steampunk band) and he stepped in to say that steampunk is a music style and not a description of a variation of the genre. In a long first post of many, he said that steampunk is a music genera (before you all go onto Google, I did it already; it’s a pluralisation of genus). He goes on to explain that while there are a couple of exceptions to the rule all steampunk bands play to a common theme and I think with that part I understand where the misunderstanding comes from.
I think Robert is saying that steampunk music is a genre with variations of style such as country from Steam Powered Giraffe (SPG) and Hip Hop from Professor Elemental while the argument is approaching it from a different angle; that SPG play country with steampunk elements and Professor Elemental plays Hip Hop with steampunk elements. Therefore Robert says there is steampunk music and Steven says there’s music with steampunk.
Who you believe in this is entirely up to you, but sadly the debate escalated into an argument as Robert began to – at first – attack other artists in a passive aggressive manner before he called into question a post that respectfully disagreed with him.
Arguably the place where Robert fell upon his sword was with this post:
It comes across as extremely elitist and that’s exactly what he was called. Not to mention the fact that he insulted many British steampunks by saying that our beloved BB Blackdog isn’t steampunk. As time went on it got worse and turned into a slanging match of who is best. The most arrogant of all the posts made was this one:
It comes across that Abney Park – or at least their leader – has an idea on what steampunk music is and should sound like. That’s ok in itself until that opinion starts getting pushed onto other people. It’s what we call at the Journal the Falksen Effect. Falling into the unfortunate trap of trying to tell people what is and isn’t steampunk is known as “Doing a Falksen” which alludes to the American author GD Falksen who has tried to convince people that he’s not just a steampunk supremo but his partner also tends to promote him unfairly such as butchering the steampunk lists on goodreads to get him to the top, creating endless memes that list him with great steampunk authors while missing out Jeter, Blaylock and Powers – the founders of the modern steampunk literary movement – and banning people from the Steampunk Facebook page that she stole because they disagree with her view on steampunk. It’s led to a lengthy project by Steampunk Journal to counteract the effects of doing this and it’s made Falksen become widely disliked in the community.
What Robert is doing is extremely narrow minded and selfish as it blocks out hundreds, if not thousands, of other artists and bands that consider themselves as steampunk but may change their mind because the big band at the top have said it’s not. That’s not right and doesn’t fit into the steampunk way of being inclusive and all-welcoming. It could be that as with any successful artist, Abney Park band members have been surrounded by “yes” people. People who only ever agree with them and let them think and say what they want. It can have a profound effect on the mind but can lead to turning fans away.
I’ve emailed Abney Park for a comment on what happened in the name of fairness because it could just be a case of getting wires crossed and if tempers flare up things can be said that aren’t meant. Sadly, Robert has been banned from the Music for Steampunks page now. I will update this page when I get a reply from the band.