“To us, this “diesel era” is a time colored by pulp heroes, the Roaring Twenties, flappers, swing kids, and noir detectives. We strive to bring that wonder into today by merging it with our modern world. ”
Meet Tome Wilson the mastermind behind the popular Dieselpunks website. This web developer and photographer from New Jersey had always had a passion for fusing old technology with new. Tome describes that his perfect world takes the best parts of all eras and merges them into one Utopian whole.
Tome what do you do for a living?
I keep a roof over my head by working as a web developer and photographer for a mid-sized advertising firm. It keeps me crazy busy during the day, but It could be worse. I could be stuck in a coal mine or could be shot at like some of my previous jobs.
Describe your perfect job.
That’s a rough question. Everyone wants a job doing something they love, but I’d rather have a job where I’m forced to learn and experiment with new skills on a regular basis. It keeps things interesting and keeps my job safe from the impending robot takeover. Plus, whenever you’re earning a paycheck - and I mean really earning it with your own two hands - you’re usually doing it for a client. Take it from me kids, there’s nothing more soul crushing than pouring your heart into a project only to see it ripped apart following someone else’s vision of what it should look like. I like to say, “do what you like for a living and do what you love at home.” This way, you’ll always have something warm waiting for you after a rough day.
Tell us about your talents, hobbies, or other interests.
Besides being a 20th Century history geek, I’m what you’d call a Jack; good enough at a lot of things to be dangerous, but surprisingly I still have all my fingers. The only thing I’ve really excelled at is martial arts. I’ve earned a black belt in Okinawan Shotokan, a degree in Ninpo, and I’ve taken a few years of Aikido, American Boxing, and Capoeira to stay well rounded. Growing up in a Marine family, it was nice to be able to hold my own when a family member came home on leave. As I got out into the world, my interests spread out quite a bit. These days, I pass the time organizing the Dieselpunks website, painting in Photoshop, studying supernatural folklore, and learning music theory on the violin.
What is Dieselpunk?
Dieselpunk is a subculture and a subgenre of postmodern art that blends the aesthetics of the 1920s - 1940s with today.
To us, this “diesel era” is a time colored by pulp heroes, the Roaring Twenties, flappers, swing kids, and noir detectives. We strive to bring that wonder into today by merging it with our modern world. Going back to its roots, the term dieselpunk is a play on the 1980's sci-fi genre cyberpunk; except, where cyberpunk was set in the near future, dieselpunk draws inspiration from the near past. Since its inception as a marketing buzzword in the ‘90s, it has grown in scope to describe a worldwide movement of artists.
Subjectively, the dieselpunk culture is all about using the past as an inspiration for improving our present lives. Artwork - including visual arts, music, literature, and architecture - created in the dieselpunk style is heavily influenced by elements of the aesthetic movements that were most prevalent in Western culture during the diesel era such as:
Arts - Abstract Expressionism, Art Deco, Bauhaus, Constructivism, Cubism, Dada, De Stijl (Neo-Plasticism), Futurism, International Style, Surrealism.
Music - Blues, Jazz, Ragtime, Cabaret, Swing, and Bluegrass music.
Literature - Symbolism, Stream of consciousness, Modernism, Pulp, and Noir.
As a culture, we hold education in the highest regard and value DIY labor over mass-market consumerism whenever possible. A surprising number of our members are engineers, designers, mechanics, and objectivists, making the culture very “hands on” as a whole. To view a short manifesto explaining the other tenets of the dieselpunk movement, please visit http://www.dieselpunks.org.
What is the difference between Dieselpunk and Steampunk?
Dieselpunk takes its cue from the world immediately following WWI through the end of WWII. Steampunk is a similar movement, but it mainly focuses on the Victorian and Edwardian eras, a time when the steam-powered technology of the Industrial Revolution was king. Due to the “retrofuturistic” similarity between the two, we often end up sharing members.
To explain the difference based on my personal experience, Steampunk contains more fantastical elements than Dieselpunk, but I see this as a lack of preserved source material more so than a consistent design style.
Where a dieselpunk can experience full-length movies, clear photographs, and high-fidelity audio records from his favored era, steampunks content themselves with relics from the birth of these technologies (cinematographs, silver plates, and wax cylinders respectively). This lack of audio/visual source material is married with the “adventure!” spirit of the steam age, and the result is a lot more fantasy than historical crunch. That’s not to say that dieselpunk isn’t crunchy, it just has a lot more real world inspirational roots to draw from.
What movie or book best describe the Dieselpunk and Steampunk culture?
The definitive dieselpunk movies of our generation are Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, the anime series Big O, Disney’s The Rocketeer, and pulp hero Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Along with the modern classics, there are many others from the past we love such as HG Well’s Things to Come, Just Imagine, and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. The best part is, since a lot of our favorite classic movies are falling out of copyright, you can watch them online for free. We keep a video library on Dieselpunks.org with a ton of the best flicks from today and yesterday http://www.dieselpunks.org/video.
Steampunk is best represented in literature, especially the works of William Gibson (The Difference Engine), Jules Verne (all of his early fiction), Scott Westerfeld (Leviathan), and GD Falksen (The Strange Case of Mr. Salad Monday).
When and how did your passion for Dieselpunk and Steampunk culture started?
I’ve always had a passion for fusing old technology with new, whether that is merging electronics with classical instruments or using noir themes in my horror stories, it’s always been an underlying theme in my work. When steampunk hit the internet in a big way a few years ago, it really did a lot to motivate me as an artist and be more public with my work.
What do you like the best about the Dieselpunk and Steampunk?
I like dieselpunk and steampunk for the same reasons you like retro living. It acts as a motivator for self improvement by proving that everything in life doesn’t have to come in a pre-packaged beige box. It says, “I can still live in today’s world without being a slave to it,” and isn’t that what we all want; a little freedom?
What made you decide to start your Dieselpunk network?
This one’s simple. I looked around the ‘net for other people whom I’d love to meet and I started setting the gears in motion to do so. Thankfully, I’m a computer geek and we live in an age where social networking is ubiquitous, so the tools were pretty easy to come by.
In the beginning, when the site was brand new, I spent weeks pumping it nonstop with content. I figured I needed to give the world something really fun in order to gain some staying power, so to me this meant writing well researched articles, uploading interesting music, and building a visual library of thousands of pictures to help inspire others.
My goal is to meet and inspire others to do something similar for themselves. Our website gives those people an outlet and the tools to make their voice heard. Whether they sink, swim, or build a monkey powered ski-boat is up to them. Thanks to our hard work, we’ve become the central hub on the ‘net for all things dieselpunk.
Tell us about your Dieselpunk network. What do you feature in your website?
The website features a ton of eclectic history pieces from the jazz age up until the end of World War II. For example, in the Photo area, we have a storehouse of old propaganda posters, pin-ups, WPA artwork, and hundreds of images from Golden Age Hollywood. On the homepage jukebox, we stream a mix of classic Big Band and Jazz artists - any Duke Ellington fans here? – combined with modern day dieselpunk and steampunk bands like Dr. Steel, Abney Park, VNV Nation, and Vernian Process.
Thanks to our members, we’re directly in touch with a lot of these living icons, so we also have a lot of interviews that explain what kind of madness it takes to be a musician/artist in our modern age. Those big articles are reinforced by weekly series, like: Camera Monday (a look at photography and camera tech in the diesel age), Two Fisted Tuesdays (a weekly focus on noir), Wednesdays with Sherlock Holmes, and Lord K’s Garage (a look back at diesel era sports cars and weird vehicles). Once in a while, we’ll even run a serial spread out over the course of several days like the 20 part Harry Houdini: The Master Mystery.
You see, before TV was popular, people would flood into movie theatres to watch short “cliff hanger” serials that were the precursors to today’s TV series. Each one would usually end with the hero in some kind of life-or-death peril, which kept the audience coming back for each new reel. We keep the suspense going on Dieselpunks by hiding each episode on the site until it’s time to reveal it. This keeps the excitement fresh, and keeps people talking about what will happen next on our forums.
Other than that, we’re always on the move! We’re partnered with a bunch of other retrofuturist websites and podcasts that use Dieselpunks as a news hub. These websites help spread the word on what’s happening on their sites so people can stop into Dieselpunks and always find out what’s new with the movement regardless of where it was originally posted.
What kind of Dieselpunk & Steampunk event are out there that you recommend?
I recommend any place where you’re with friends and you’ll have a good time. If you’re looking for something new to try, then I highly recommend:
The Makers Faire in San Francisco (www.makerfaire.com).
A live Abney Park show in Seattle (abneypark.com).
The Steampunk World’s Fair in New Jersey (www.steampunkworldsfair.com).
New Year’s Eve at The Edison in Los Angeles (www.edisondowntown.com).
The Dances of Vice in New York City (www.dancesofvice.com).
Describe the kind of clothes that Dieselpunks and Steampunks wear at their special events?
There’s a fine line between high fashion and cosplay (costume play) at ‘punk outings.
As the culture is super artistic, people will attend our parties in some pretty wild clothes, ranging from modded military uniforms to elaborate fantasy creations of their own design. Personally, I prefer a mix of functional retro clothing that I can wear day-to-day, but steampunk and dieselpunk “club wear” can be insanely creative and intricate. The band Abney Park and the costume creations of Kit Stølen are prime examples of this.
If you’re looking for pictures, there are a few good ones on Flickr SteampunkFashion and a great steampunk fashion gallery over on the Clockwork Quartet’s website Clockworkquartet.com.
What are your favorites Dieselpunk and Steampunk designs?
My favorite pieces of ‘punk art are those that truly blend the past with today. For example, the band Diablo Swing Orchestra opens their latest album with a song titled A Tap Dancer's Dilemma. If you listen it (on our jukebox for example), you’ll hear that it’s a mix of modern rock with Big Band & Swing rhythms and horns accompanied by Andrews Sisters-esque backing vocals. It’s a wonderful track that blends everything I like about dieselpunk into one tight package.
As for the steampunk movement, I can’t get over the artistic genius of The Clockwork Quartet. They’re a collection of steampunk artists in England who are building a complete world around their artwork. Not only have they created theatre level character designs and professional costumes for each of their members to draw inspiration from, but they’ve even gone so far as to build their own custom steampunk instruments to create music with. Best of all, they’ve decided that their music - including MP3s, lyrics, and sheet music – is to be given away for free to help spread the word.
What do you like and don't like about the modern world?
I love our freedoms and technology. Before the modern age, the world was a much larger place. These days, keeping in touch with people around the world is as easy as pressing a button. Without that technology and the freedom to use it, I doubt steampunk and dieselpunk would have ever ignited they way they have. The retro lifestyle isn’t very popular, so it’s good to know that there are others in the world that share similar interests.
Sadly, that same technology makes people lazy; so lazy in fact that they forget their freedoms. I’m not happy being content, because I know two big things.
1. The biggest library in the world is at my fingertips.
2. There is nothing between me and that knowledge except the motivation to learn.
It’s not enough to be spoon fed. As a free human being, you have the ability to change your world into something you can be proud of, and there’s nothing stopping you but yourself.
Describe your take of a perfect world?
My perfect world takes the best parts of all eras and merges them into one utopian whole.
If you had a chance to go back in time, what year would that be and why?
I wouldn’t go back. I’m having too much fun here! Plus, knowing my luck, I’d probably sit on a butterfly and end up causing a pandemic plague in the 70’s. I’d come back to a time filled with Mad Max cars and mullets.
What inspires you in life?
The knowledge that I have the resources to change it for the better.
Copyright © 2010 Time Warp Wives
Tome Wilson of Dieselpunks
Websites & Contact Information
Dieselpunk website address: (www.Dieselpunks.org).
All of our latest events and newsfeeds are posted on the Dieselpunks homepage.
You can reach our news archive at: (www.Dieselpunks.org/profiles).
You can reach our events page at: (www.Dieselpunks.org/events).