Yes, you did read the headline right — I have an interview for you, with the previously mentioned, and heavily emphasized Clockwork Quartet, or specifically, its producer: Edward Saperia, who’s also a part-time magician.
The Clockwork Quartet is a band which… no, that’s wrong, they are more than just a band. You could tell it by the unusual structure: 14 musicians, playing everything from strings, banjos, musical saws, accordions to bass banjos, all of whom also take turns doing vocals — 4 are constant in each song, thus ‘quartet’. Not to mention a lot of people behind their lyrics, costumes and decorations. Their genre is steampunk, and their musical form is extraordinary: They tell stories, reviving the word ‘bardic’ that one could have thought was lost forever.
Generally, we would have begun with their take on describing their music, but why should we all bother reading text if the actual music is just two clicks away? And so, we move on to the first question:
Q: Currently your songs are free, will that be the case in the future too?
A: Of course! We’re going to be selling merchandise, but everything that’s just information — like music, videos, art — we’ll be releasing under the creative-commons license.
Q: Have you experimented with other genres before going steampunk?
A: Lots of us are in other bands which are definitely not steampunk. For example, Jason (The Scientist), Ash (The Engineer) and I are in the House of Strange; Emma (General’s Wife) is in the Irrepressibles.
Q: How did you discover steampunk for yourself then?
A: Well, it’s my fault really. I was into the look, clothes, and style and stuff — I was into it before I knew what it was called. But the music was not great. In fact, awful. So I thought — start a band! And dragged all the others along for the ride.
Q: What influenced your music?
A: Danny Elfman, Stephen Sondheim, Decemberists, Portishead… I mean, check our Facebook, it has a big list of influences there. Also, we are just trying to evoke this generic historical period, make it sound ‘classy’ and acoustic, not electronic.
Q: Why did you choose this uncommon storytelling style?
A: Because it’s awesome! Not enough music has stories in. Everyone loves stories, but of course, they’re hard to write. I think there are two sorts of music: music that just conveys an emotion, and music that tells a story. They’re like films — you don’t just put a film on in the background, like you do a song, but story songs, you sit down and listen to. Songs are experiences. But people seem to just not make those anymore.
Q: How did you find each other, the whole band?
A: I used to run parties called The Acid Jam, a big jam session thing. So I met a few through that. Also, I moved to this block, and Ash (The Engineer) lived downstairs, and he is a professional music producer. So he knew a bunch of people. And then, a few friends from the university. When you have a project like this, which is going somewhere, you know, has legs, it’s easy to find people.
Q: What musical education did you go through?
A: I did grade 8 piano when I was young, I was in a few choirs while I was at school, and I spent a lot of time playing djembe when I was a teenager. I was a bit of a hippie. But I am by far the worst musician in the band — we’ve got some really amazing musicians! The Conductor is an incredible musician, and the Fugitive, who taught himself to play the accordion for the part. Emma (General’s Wife) teaches Suzuki cello and obviously Ash (The Engineer) runs a studio! The Doctor taught himself the musical saw, plays oboe.
Q: Are you planning on releasing a physical CD?
A: Well, it turns out the press and stuff like physical CDs, so we pressed a single, and I guess we’ll press the other music too. But really, I’m not a big fan of physical CDs. The book we’ll release is the CD somehow, it’s got all the songs, with lyrics and melodies written out, and over 80 original illustrations.
Q: Will it be available to people from other countries too?
A: Probably. E-Commerce is something we’ll figure out as we go along. But that’s definitely the plan anyway — most of our fans are overseas!
Q: What is the merchandise you mentioned going to be?
A: We’ll be selling the book, and jewelry, and other stuff. A card game! It’s still being designed, but it’s fun. It’s called ‘clockwise’ — a gameplay we invented. It’s going to consist of 16 cards; quick to understand but with infinite strategic possibilities. Well, not really infinite. But there’s nothing like it.
Q: Aren’t you worried by that the steampunk niche isn’t quite as popular as others, like pop or rock?
A: Not really. We are doing this to make nice art, and because we dig steampunk. Being popular is just a bonus. I mean, hey, it’s nice, but what’s really great about it is that you can work with lots of cool people, and you get to meet a lot of nice people too.
Q: Just because this is an anime blog, do you have any rela tions to anime?
A: Steamboy was cool, Laputa was cool. I heart Howl’s Moving Castle. Ponyo was mental. Ash (The Engineer) is really into anime, but I don’t get much time because my job is long hours, but I like it. I’d love to do some Clockwork Quartet anime style art/animations. Ash (The Engineer) and Jason (The Scientist) have been watching Karas; I like Yakitate Japan; Emma (General’s Wife) likes Megatokyo and Battle Royale.
I want to thank the Clockwork Quartet for the interview; it was more than just a chat — it was entertaining. Sometimes it’s amazing to realise that artists are living people too, sympathetic and friendly.
I don’t want to imply that they are the all and everything of the musical part of steampunk: Variety is the key to everything in everything. But in contrast to other artists whom you can loop through while you are working, what they do is art. Wherewith they become a must experience.