Earlier last month, I checked out the newest music video from PROPS!, a hip-hop artist based in Seattle and enjoyed his use of the steampunk aesthetic. More than “insert gears here,” it told an engaging storyline, featured local talent, and the song itself — about romantic longing and loss — seems more appropriate for a steampunk music video than, say, an autotuned command to “turn me on.” I had the opportunity to interview both PROPS! and the director of the music video Paul Maupoux, both relative newcomers to the scene, about the experience filming “The Taste of Heaven.”
Hi-hi and welcome to Beyond Victoriana! First, PROPS! tell me a little about yourself, your background in music and the primary inspirations for your sound.
PROPS!: I’m originally from Indianapolis, IN. I moved to Seattle a little under four years ago from Miami and started this music company called The Planet Of MARz, Inc. with my partner Chidike. My musical background mostly came from being a roadie for my father, he’s a bass guitarist and has been playing for over 30 years. Art, words, and life Are the primary inspiration for my sound.
You’ve traveled extensively across the United States and lived in many different cities: Indianapolis, Atlanta, Miami, and now Seattle. How did the music scene from each scene impact your musical evolution?
PROPS!: I would have to say that it was the differences in every scene that had the most impact on my musical evolution. The different lifestyles, cultures, and experiences opened my mind a lot.
One of your current projects is the MARz trilogy, with the final installment coming this spring. Care to speak more about it?
PROPS!: The final installment to the MARz trilogy is titled “High As The Stars: The Planet Of MARz”. This is a big project for me. I collaborated with some very talented people locally and nationally to cook up this album. It’s a fun project with videos that were fun to make but even more fun to watch.
How was the storyline for “The Taste of Heaven” first conceived? Did you always envision it as steampunk?
PROPS!: ”The Taste of Heaven” was inspired by the passing of a dear friend of mine. The original idea I had in mind was a stop motion animated short about regret and lost love. I never envisioned it as steampunk but Paul introduced the steampunk theme and the robot dying of a broken heart to me a couple days after hearing the song. I loved it! I think I loved how different it was more than anything.
Paul: I started thinking of steampunk imagery pretty much right away upon listening to the song. There was something about the industrial rhythmic quality of the accompaniment track that brought to mind the image of a mechanical heart beating in time. Listening to the lyrics, it seemed that the song was about the regret and nostalgia of lost love. Putting those themes together with the image of the mechanical heart, the story of a robot dying of a broken heart came pretty naturally.
How familiar were you with steampunk before the video? How does the aesthetic appeal to you?
PROPS!: I had never heard of steampunk before filming this project. I must say, I think it’s a very intriguing and unique world full of imagination and creativity which, in my opinion is a great combination.
Paul: I was actually just introduced to steampunk a couple months before we started working on the video when I went to Steamcon inSeattle. I was really drawn to the DIY aspect of steampunk culture. It’s really fun to see the love and time that people put into crafting their own costumes and accessories. As a filmmaker, my favorite part is always making things, such as the mechanical heart, the zeppelin miniature, and the actually functioning typewriter/computer keyboard Props types on in the music video. So that love of creating physical objects was something I could really connect to.
Are you familiar with the Steamfunk musical movement? A common definition of this is, basically, “A person who seeks to bring together elements of different periods in this case particularly blaxploitation films and comedy and merge it with that of Steampunk fiction.” Did this influence the creative process for this video for you?
PROPS!: No, I’m not familiar With the steamfunk movement.
Paul: I’d actually never heard of Steamfunk before this question, so no, it didn’t really influence the creative process.
How did you get your creative team together for “The Taste of Heaven?”
PROPS!: I came across Paul through some mutual friends of ours and he pretty much put the team together.
Paul: I was lucky to have some very talented friends who had the availability and interest to work on the video. My friend Julia Bruk, who I knew from the DXARTS program at the University of Washington, did our cinematography. I knew Cammi Upton (make-up/prosthetics effects) and Holly Williams (wardrobe) from a commercial animation project I’d worked on the year before. Mark Igama, a friend from my day-job at a hospital, drew the storyboards and also helped out on set. Ben Harris, my film-making partner at Cro-Magnon Pictures, also helped out as an acting coach for Props and Tahirah.
What was the most exciting part of the filming process for this video? What was the most challenging part?
PROPS!: The most exciting part of the filming process to me was getting into character and seeing everyone’s costumes. The most challenging part was the dancing HANDS DOWN. I was born with two left feet I’m not much of a dancer at all.
Paul: It was exciting to shoot the dance sequence. The Century Ballroom was a beautiful place to film in, and it was my first time having a large group of extras on a set. Everyone was extremely pleasant and patient as we worked through our shot list. Shooting the thumb and cheek scenes was also very exciting. We had a lot of people on set that day and it was really fun to feel the reaction in the room when the fake thumb came off.
The most challenging part for me was probably putting together the zeppelin miniature. It was a great learning experience that taught me some new skills and tools, but it took quite a bit longer than I expected. Here’s link to a webpage I made a couple weeks ago about how I made the zeppelin, the typewriter and the heart.
How has the reception of your music video been since its been launched? Have you gotten different reactions from the hip-hop community and the steampunk community?
PROPS!: I can honestly say I was scared to put it out at first because it’s so different but the response has been great.
Paul: I’ve mainly been hearing a lot of positive feedback. People from both communities seem to be excited to see something a little different.
What other projects are you looking forward to working on in the future?
PROPS!: I’m also working on an E.P. it’s still in its development stages but expect it to be hot if not even hotter than the high as the stars project.
Thanks for stopping by the blog! Readers can check out other music videos featuring PROPS! on his YouTube channel. You can also see more of his work on his official website, on SoundCloud, and on BandCamp. More of Paul Maupoux’s work is available on his production company website Cro-Magnon Pictures.