Captain Robert is the principal song writer for Abney Park; the singer, lyricist, producer, and arranger. He sings, plays several exotic instruments, writes novels and create the aesthetic of Abney Park’s electric instruments.
Robert Brown spent his childhood discovering the world with his mother, the anthropologist Dr. Carolyn Heinz, and spends the vast majority of his adulthood traveling, which explains the eclectic mix of world music styles mixed into the Abney Park’s unique sound. He was one of the principle founding members of Steampunk as a subculture, and as a musical genre. Abney Park has been called everything from the quintessential Steampunk Punk Band, to “The Spokesman of the Steampunk Movement”. They’ve been featured on MTV, G4TV, The New York Times, LA Times, Evening Magazine, in the sound track of HBO’s True Blood and countless other magazines, and TV shows around the world.
“Steampunk Revolution” has over 1.1 million views on YouTube.
In addition to writing, Robert also creates an unending supply of Steampunk instruments for the band, from Guitars, to Keyboards, to “hornpipes”. He plays a pile of odd instruments, like Bouzouki, Darbuka, and Diatonic Turkish Accordions.
Captain Robert and the History of Steampunk Music
Abney Park has been touring and releasing albums since the early 1990’s. After releasing music for over a decade, and not really finding a fitting genera for their sound, in 2005 Abney Park decided to try a new descriptor for their music. It was a genre not yet claimed or defined by any notable artists. The genre was “Steampunk”, which was a form of literary fiction based around the era of steam. At this time, Steampunk had no subculture, and no events. It was nothing more then a very obscure literary style.
But Gothic music and industrial music had both emerged from literary genres, and design styles, so creating a new genera of music based on a literary and design style was not unfounded. Abney Park took the name, created a fashion look for themselves based on this style, released a photo shoot, and starting releasing some of the first intentionally Steampunk songs, in order to build a new sub culture around this new music style.
At first they were mocked for this effort. Online communities posted threads saying, “Who does Robert think he is? You can’t just make up a new subculture, and expect people to show up!” But the move proved incredibly successful. Abney Park’s popularity shot up, and soon fans around the world showed up to Abney Park concerts dressed as Sky Pirates, or Wasteland Gypsies (Neobedouin), or Neovictorians as described in Abney Parks songs and books.
But now, Captain Robert has grown far beyond just being a songwriter and performer. There is a substantial media empire he has built, including albums, books, videos, RPGs and board games. (Yes, in true Steampunk Victorian fashion, he has created a modern Empire!)
Accompanying the music performed by Abney Park is a series of science fiction novels that tie together the songs into a grand epic. This epic takes place in a world set after the fall of modern technology, and is populated by many different groups of people. Each group has a culture, and each culture has a different style of music, that can be heard in the songs of Abney Park.
Is he really a captain?
Well, he has flown small planes, he owns a boat, and he has in fact spent more time in an airship then anyone you likely know (but that’s not really saying much, is it?) Yes, he drinks rum, and he knows how to fight with a sword. He does in fact own a chainsaw, and he rides a motorcycle, owns a shot gun, and grew up equally comfortable in tropic jungles of Asia and chilly rain forests of the northwest. At the moment, he is sitting in his leather wing-back, under an Edison-bulb chandelier, smoking a pipe and thinking about putting on a pot of tea.
Have a look at their latest music video, which pays serious homage to Georges Méliès:
Let’s give Captain Robert a proper welcome to Aethertopia on July 7th and 8th, as he serves as one of our Guest Judges in the Steampunk Maker Contest. With your help, we can make this the biggest Steampunk event in North America! Get your tickets here.