In Memoriam: Joshua Pfeiffer interviews Paul Roland, Part II (Giveaway Edition)

Today con­cludes our exclu­sive guest inter­view between Joshua Pfeif­fer and Paul Roland. For those of you just join­ing us, you can catch the first part of the inter­view here. In our sec­ond install­ment, Joshua Pfeif­fer ques­tions Roland – who was one of the first to use Edwar­dian themed lyrics in his music – about his obser­va­tions on Steam­punk.

In Memo­ri­am com­piles Roland’s best hits culled from his thir­ty years in music. We will be giv­ing away signed copies of this dou­ble-CD to ten lucky read­ers.

Rock­ing for over 30 plus years, Roland’s music flirts with var­i­ous gen­res like goth, psych-pop, and folk, with a uni­fy­ing theme of explor­ing sci­ence fic­tion and hor­ror tropes, espe­cial­ly those with a Victorian/Edwardian bent. With­in his songs, lis­ten­ers will find tales inspired by H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, H. P. Love­craft, and Edgar Allan Poe, as well as orig­i­nal his­tor­i­cal and roman­tic char­ac­ters like opi­um addicts and Rip­peresque mur­der­ers.

To cel­e­brate this inter­view, Paul Roland has gra­cious­ly donat­ed ten signed copies of In Memo­ri­am, a dou­ble-CD col­lec­tion of his best work over his long career to send to our lucky read­ers.  If you’d rather not par­tic­i­pate, but would like to sam­ple his wares,  he has made sev­er­al tracks avail­able for free down­load (live links are at the end of this inter­view).

Offi­cial Rules: Only open to par­tic­i­pants in the Unit­ed States.  To enter, leave us your thoughts about Steam­punk music.  You may post as many times as you like in the nat­ur­al course of the dis­cus­sion, but deri­sive, troll­ish behav­ior will be dis­qual­i­fied.   A win­ner will be ran­dom­ly select­ed by Mon­day, April 30th at teatime (4 o’clock).  Please check your e-mail Tues­day or Wednes­day fol­low­ing; win­ners who have not respond­ed to us with­in 24 hours shall be elim­i­nat­ed, and a new win­ner select­ed. Offi­cial announce­ments of the win­ner will go live May 4th.

Well, now that we have all the logis­tics out-of-the-way, let’s return to the inter­view.

Joshua Pfeif­fer:  A lot of cur­rent Steam­punks are just dis­cov­er­ing your expan­sive discog­ra­phy, where would you rec­om­mend a new lis­ten­er start?

Paul Roland: I must say I find this immense­ly grat­i­fy­ing as I have been liv­ing alone in this Edwar­dian dream­scape for so long and won­dered if any­one shared my obses­sion with air­ships, eccen­tric inven­tors and gen­tle­man of leisure. The most obvi­ous and acces­si­ble album would be the ‘In Memo­ri­am’ 2 CD set which I com­piled to cel­e­brate my first 30 years of mak­ing music. These are the tracks that I thought rep­re­sent­ed my best and of which I was most proud. It has ‘The Great Edwar­dian Air-Raid’, ‘Wyn­d­ham Hill’ (about a Vic­to­ri­an inven­tor and his maid­en voy­age in a fly­ing machine) and ‘Cap­tain Nemo’ which are obvi­ous steam­punk themes as well as a few unre­leased items (‘Mori­ar­ty’, ‘The Bal­lad of Mary Kel­ly’ who was jack the Ripper’s final vic­tim) so that is a good start­ing point and I delib­er­ate­ly lim­it­ed the choice to two tracks per album so if any­one then decid­ed to check out the orig­i­nal albums they would have heard no more than 2 tracks already.    

JP: Do you have any thoughts on the devel­op­ment of the Steam­punk Sub­cul­ture? I’m sure you’ve seen it go from a small niche crowd in the mid-late 90’s, to the full-blown sub­cul­ture that it is now.

PR: I still find it the most unlike­ly of move­ments and am amazed that oth­er peo­ple have the same taste as I do, to some degree. But then, with so much con­tem­po­rary rock being so deriv­a­tive and con­trived and pop being lit­tle more than processed baby food music gen­er­at­ed by machines and dig­i­tal soft­ware, per­haps it was inevitable that a sec­tion of the more dis­cern­ing music lovers would look to the past and the future rather than the present. I hope it leads to a resur­gence of inter­est in lit­er­ary fig­ures such as Wells, Arthur Machen, William Hope Hodg­son, M.R. James and the like, even if they have lit­tle or no direct influ­ence on the cul­ture. And I would hope that I can cre­ate a Steam­punk spe­cif­ic project before it mutates into some­thing else. But then, if I had made music to fit a spe­cif­ic genre before I had estab­lished my own per­son­al world I would have found it too restric­tive. I have always lived in my own fan­ta­sy world and plucked char­ac­ters from that which is what made my music unique, if I may say so. It has meant that I was not embraced by any sin­gle com­mu­ni­ty but had a broad­er base which I think is health­i­er. But now that I have writ­ten every­thing I have want­ed to write, I can con­cen­trate on ‘con­cept’ projects and enjoy get­ting into some­thing more demand­ing. It’s com­pa­ra­ble to a writer of short sto­ries gain­ing the appetite to tack­le a nov­el. I did this first with ‘Re-Ani­ma­tor’ which drew on the sto­ries of H.P.Lovecraft and with ‘Grimm’ which was inspired by the dark fairy tales of the Broth­ers Grimm. But I would like to cre­ate a spe­cif­ic Steam­punk project per­haps with con­tri­bu­tions from lead­ing fig­ures in that field whose col­lab­o­ra­tion would serve to acknowl­edge my part in its evo­lu­tion. That would be the high­est form of trib­ute any­one could pay me, to col­lab­o­rate with me on some­thing new.
JP: First, as an artist who has been releas­ing your own mate­r­i­al (large­ly self-pub­lished), how has it been adapt­ing to the new forms of media dis­tri­b­u­tion? I mean you obvi­ous­ly start­ed out in a DIY fash­ion, but as the new mil­len­ni­um has rolled on, did you find it easy to adapt to the new media options such as Face­book, Kick­starter, Band­camp, etc. Or are you still work­ing on get­ting hooked up with more of those sources?

PR: I have been very for­tu­nate in recent years in find­ing peo­ple who have offered to cre­ate art­work for my albums, post video clips on YouTube and cre­ate social media net­work­ing sites because they like my music and want to help me to reach a wider audi­ence. And I make sure that they have all the mate­r­i­al they need which includes writ­ing blogs and typ­ing in lyrics etc so that they have new mate­r­i­al to feed these sites and keep vis­i­tors inter­est­ed and com­ing back for more. It was my idea to cre­ate the themed ‘traf­fic dri­vers’ offer­ing free down­loads of my songs to the Steam­punk, Poe, Love­craft and Bolan com­mu­ni­ties and because I have the rights to all my albums I don’t have to ask a label or publisher’s per­mis­sion to do that. That is the great advan­tage to being inde­pen­dent. I’m also going to be mak­ing some of my fan­ta­sy nov­els and short sto­ries avail­able as ebooks but I don’t under­stand the tech­ni­cal aspect of for­mat­ting and set­ting up web pages. These things take time to learn and to cre­ate and my pri­or­i­ty has to be mak­ing new music.

Grimm is one of Roland’s lat­est CDs, inspired by the Broth­ers Grimm fairy tales.

JP: Have you noticed any renewed inter­est in your project with the recent rise of the Steam­punk Sub­cul­ture? Have any of the cur­rent musi­cians work­ing in that scene con­tact­ed you at all?

PR: You are the first! Actu­al­ly I had a steam­punk nov­el­ist con­tact me some months ago ask­ing for per­mis­sion to include a quote from one of my lyrics and that was the first indi­ca­tion I had that my music had fil­tered across the pond and that my audi­ence might have found me at last! I haven’t touredAmer­i­caand hadn’t released any albums over there so I didn’t think I had made an impres­sion, although my albums are avail­able on CDba­by and I have always received mail from the States. I haven’t made any con­scious effort to cul­ti­vate inter­est because I want­ed like-mind­ed peo­ple to grav­i­tate towards me, but I now realise that is a bit naive in this mul­ti­me­dia age and you have to net­work. So, I will be mak­ing sev­er­al of my tracks avail­able as free down­loads for the steam­punk com­mu­ni­ty through my Face­book page as soon as this inter­view is post­ed and then those who think they like the sound of my songs can down­load the tracks and maybe they will want to hear more. My hope is that I can find a label in the States to reis­sue my albums and pro­mote them so that those who are look­ing for baroque Edwar­dian cham­ber psych(!) can find them. I have spent the last cou­ple of years retouch­ing those albums and com­bin­ing two albums on one CD where pos­si­ble for a small Ger­man label and pre­sent­ing them with new art­work so that I final­ly have them the way I want­ed which wasn’t pos­si­ble when I record­ed for Bam Caru­so (UK) and New Rose (France). And as I have the copy­right in all my record­ings and also the pub­lish­ing, I don’t have to ask anyone’s per­mis­sion to license them to a new label. That is why I have remained an inde­pen­dent. I couldn’t bear the idea of a label own­ing my albums and pre­vent­ing their re-release or refus­ing to licence them to a for­eign label if there was inter­est. As an inde­pen­dent I could give any label that want­ed to release my records per­mis­sion to do so and that meant that I had 4 labels at one point in Ger­many, France, Italy and Greece who organ­ised tours and made sure the albums were in the shops. I am also hop­ing that I might get the oppor­tu­ni­ty to pro­duce some Steam­punk bands as the pro­duc­tion side is as impor­tant to me as writ­ing the songs. A band isn’t always the best judge of how their record should sound, they’re too close to it and I think I have a good ear for recon­struct­ing oth­er artist’s songs and embell­ish­ing them to get the best out of them.

JP: It seems that you are under the impres­sion that the Steam­punk scene is large­ly an Amer­i­can phe­nom­e­non. But in fact the UK scene seems to have just as big, if not a big­ger amount of new tal­ent, includ­ing musi­cians, artists, crafters, etc. Have you not been able to get in touch with any of your local Steam­punk acts?

PR: I just write what­ev­er I like and trust that it will find an audi­ence. I have always writ­ten for my own plea­sure and only in ret­ro­spect have these tracks been described as steam­punk, Goth and psy­ch­pop. I would love to be embraced by the steam­punk com­mu­ni­ty and play con­ven­tions and fes­ti­vals, but I have nev­er had an agent or man­ag­er to arrange these appear­ances. My labels have always dealt with orga­niz­ing tours. I’m just wait­ing to be asked!

JP: Any cur­rent plans to release new mate­r­i­al? If so do you plan on reach­ing out to the larg­er Steam­punk fan­base?

PR: My next album will draw on the songs I wrote for mem­bers of the Vel­vet Under­ground who had agreed to work with me around the time of their ‘VU’ album, but sad­ly Nico and Ster­ling Mor­ris­son died before we could make that record. Then I’ll be writ­ing anoth­er creepy acoustic album based around the sto­ries ofEngland’s great­est teller of ghost sto­ries, M.R.James. After that I have plans for an album based on Poe’s ‘Fall of the House of Ush­er’ and then per­haps the Steam­punk project? But the only way I’m real­ly going to con­nect with the SP com­mu­ni­ty is if I can come over and play some con­certs or con­ven­tions.

 If you’d like to know more about Mr. Roland, check out these url sun­dries:

Free down­loads are avail­able for our read­ers at the fol­low­ing links:

You can also find more info about Mr. Roland at the fol­low­ing venues:


Offi­cial web­site

Online discog­ra­phy (with sam­ples)



Twit­ter: @paulrolandmusic

“In Memoriam: Joshua Pfeiffer interviews Paul Roland, Part II (Giveaway Edition)” was published in 2.0 exclusive material, Giveaway, Guest Post, Interviews, Music, performance art.

3 Responses to In Memoriam: Joshua Pfeiffer interviews Paul Roland, Part II (Giveaway Edition)

  1. Pingback: - Music now for a past that never was

  2. I’m a late­com­er to Paul Roland’s music, but have enjoyed it immense­ly for the past sev­er­al months. What I’ve dis­cov­ered is that Mr Roland’s music is much more the voice of steam­punk than most of the groups that claim the man­tle. Steam­punk is not about wear­ing gog­gles, car­ry­ing Dr Grordbort’s Infal­li­ble Aether Oscil­la­tors or using musi­cal instru­ments with clock­works glued all over them; it’s about the spir­it of the past spilling into the future, not the avo­ca­tion of a lifestyle but the adop­tion of a phi­los­o­phy. Mr Roland’s music, pri­mar­i­ly the lyrics but also the melodies con­vey­ing the lyrics, embod­ies that phi­los­o­phy of the past as future, the idea that human adven­ture and explo­ration can be based in a mech­a­nis­tic tech­nol­o­gy as under­stand­able as it is mal­leable. Per­son­al­ly, I like to lis­ten to Mr Roland’s music while I write and paint, and the most recent results have been a sto­ry about Pro­fes­sor Chal­lenger on Venus, and a draw­ing of a Mar­t­ian mer­chant ship set­ting out from Port Cydo­nia; and I look for­ward to oth­er such “col­lab­o­ra­tions” in the future. As you might gath­er, I’ve gone from being total­ly igno­rant to being quite a fan in very short order…less time than it took me to lis­ten to “The Great Edwar­dian Air-Raid.” Thanks for post­ing this very insight­ful inter­view.

  3. Chris Ahrendt says:

    I don’t know if there is exact­ly one rea­son why I am drawn to the music of the vic­to­ri­an era.. and steam­punk… it could be my love of his­to­ry… or my back­ground in doing reen­act­ing and the music of the civ­il war era.. but all of these things led me to find bands such as Abney Park.. or Car­a­van Palace..
    I lis­ten to these while I work and while I tin­ker… I need to find and lis­ten to Mr Roland’s music but I would imag­ine its along the same lines of what I already lis­ten to… thank you for intro­duc­ing me to this and for the inter­view…