Ahead of the eleventh annual Asylum Steampunk Festival taking place in Lincoln this bank holiday weekend, Lincolnshire Today sat down with successful steampunk YouTuber Joe Slatter (AKA The Dark Power) to chat about this thriving subculture.
Firstly – what exactly is steampunk?
That’s a question that’s very hard to answer actually as everybody in the community has their own certain spin on what steampunk is. The way I like to see it is that steampunk is almost like if the Victorian era hadn’t ended – you’d get the technological gadgetry we have today but it would be powered by steam as opposed to electricity. Steampunk itself is a very visual thing, so although most people don’t know the phrase, they can look at somebody dressed up and go “oh, that’s steampunk!”. Retro science-fiction is a phrase I’ve heard before when people are trying to pin down a definition too.
How did you first start getting involved with steampunk?
I started getting involved with steampunk through my brother Tom, actually. Several of Tom’s albums have a steampunk theme and we wanted to make a music video to accompany one of his songs, so I thought I’d help him out. I always knew what steampunk was, primarily from video games, but after that I really started to get involved with it myself. I’ve been a sculptor and model maker for 20 years and so that DIY element of steampunk really called out to me – it’s now become like a second job!
Your YouTube channel has grown into quite the success – how did you get there?
I first started my YouTube channel as a way to document my own progress with special effects and model making. Then as I got into steampunk it only seemed natural to start uploading YouTube videos about that as well. The more videos I put out the more viewers and subscribers I attracted, so it was really encouraging to watch it grow as I honed my craft. The maker community on YouTube is fantastic – it’s the ideal platform for likeminded people to connect and share their hobbies. The fact that you can post videos at whatever length you wish allows you to go into real depth, which is ideal for my YouTube channel, as many of the builds can be pretty complicated.
You have over 11,000 subscribers now, how did that make you feel personally and for steampunk as a hobby/trend?
I’m amazed I have so many subscribers on my YouTube channel, it’s such a vibrant community and the support on there is amazing. It’s a perfect opportunity to connect with people all over the world and share my passion for steampunk and other creative projects. I also learn a lot about different techniques on YouTube that I can bring into whatever I’m working on at that time. It’s also encouraging to know my YouTube channel can and is used to inspire people to make their own costumes and learn from the techniques I use. It’s an ideal multi-faceted platform for unique interests and hobbies.
How do you go about making those costumes?
I started out learning special effects at university. Although I’ve not worked much in that field professionally, a lot of the techniques I learned and use routinely in my sculpture projects (mould making for example) are useful here. I’ve also learnt a lot of new techniques from fellow steampunks such as metal work and leather work. I usually get an idea for a particular aspect of a costume, often from films, and then expand from there. This year I wanted to include lots of sculptures in my costume, so I’ve been making some ornate armour pieces.
The Asylum Steampunk Festival hits Lincoln this weekend – can you tell us a little bit about the festival and how Lincoln has become the unofficial capital of steampunk?
The Asylum Steampunk Festival is something of a spiritual home for steampunk as it’s the biggest festival of its kind. Think Glastonbury for steampunk! The costumes you see there are fantastic – people spend the whole year thinking about their costume and how they’re going to make it. The quality of costumes you see are second to none, the bar gets set higher and higher every year. A lot of people attending the festival walk through the city centre and the reception is always so positive.
What do you think attracts people to the festival?
I suppose you need to think about what attracts people to steampunk itself. At its heart the community is a group of creative people who love to push themselves and their craft. So much goes into making a steampunk costume – you’ve got to have an eye for detail, engineer the costume and an imagination! It’s a way of expressing yourself which is totally unique. I think that’s why steampunk continues to grow and hook people.
If you’d like to see steampunk firsthand, head up Steep Hill this bank holiday weekend. You won’t be disappointed.