The Airship “Initiative” Initiative: An Interview With AUTOMATON

Smog chokes the skyline as skyscrapers and smokestacks line the horizon. The budding empire of Ionia in the throes of industrialization digs her talons deep into the adjoining nation of Rekelar. Gaining purchase into the once fertile ground, she claws her way forward on an iron belly. The unfortunate inhabitants of the once proud land devoured by her leaden maw in the name of eminent domain.


Bravely standing in the way of pure  industrial progress, this mechanized manifest destiny, is the metal band AUTOMATON. The leader of the infamous Airship Initiative, is the gruff and gritty guitar player Captain Luther Meade. Behind the drums is the haughty and knowledgeable mechanic James O’Brian. The bass player is the young stowaway Issac Grimwood who just so happened to be a Brewmaster’s Apprentice. He buys his passage and the crew’s silence with bootlegged booze. Also on the guitar is Markus Wolverhampton, a Professor in Anthropology and Abomination Studies put in the position being the proxy between the band and the Rekelarian mutants. Grotesque by-products of the pollution that oozes out of Ionia’s pores. The crew is enlisted for a perilous mission by the vocalist Duncan Batchworth III, heir to Ionia’s premier publication The Azimuth. His cargo is a special edition of the newspaper with which he aims to expose the corruption and cruelty left in the wake in the sake of Ionia’s progress. Amid growing whispers of war, the delivery is wrought with danger. The Airship Initiative forges forth.

Through the course of AUTOMATON’s debut EP “LOOK TO THE SKIES,” the heroic and harrowing tale is told through anapestic lyrics and driving instrumentals producing a sound that only power metal can provide. On stage and thematically speaking the band takes on the Neo-Victorian stylings of the steampunk genre producing an original amalgamation between the two. Borne from the Queen City Cincinnati, Ohio AUTOMATON takes to the skies touring the tri-state as well as national conventions spreading the Airship Initiative’s apodictic word and brazenly blazes forward to “a bold new horizon.”

Jessica Hopsicker: You couldn’t just form a steampunk power metal band but you had throw in two battling nations, a band of brave heroes, and a desperate voyage for truth, justice, and journalistic integrity. What kind of work went into such a concept?


Dr. Markus Wolverhampton

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: This ones a David, Anthony, and Ryan question, haha.

James O’Brian: A history of D&D.

Captain Luther Meade: A lot of lonely nights in the skies…aka role playing D&D.

Duncan Batchworth III: Bingo. We had a “character creation session” with each band member. We wanted to flesh out each crew member to get us in the mindset and keep it playfully believable live.

James O’Brian: Let’s just say I had the best roles of the group.

Captain Luther Meade: We wanted to make a world that was whimsical yet believable, in the struggle of what the people go through in Rekalar. With an immersive and relatable back-story and world building is a must in a good role playing campaign.

Duncan Batchworth III: Bingo, Captain. The rest of our live shtick came from improvisation and rolling with the story on stage. We kept our comic, EP, and story-specifics vague to pique crowd interest.

Jessica Hopsicker: And how did each of you come up with your stage personas and how much do they differ from your every day lives?

Isaac Grimwood

Isaac Grimwood (left)

Isaac Grimwood: I think we all have a lot of our character’s qualities in real life.

Duncan Batchworth III: We keep them somewhat close to ourselves. For sure

Captain Luther Meade: They are characters of us. Real life characteristics over-exaggerated into fiction.

Isaac Grimwood: My character in particular came naturally. We were all aware that I would be seen as the young one so we went with it and now I’m a young stowaway. I can often be seen running around looking worried. So my character is wanted for all these crimes all over our fictional world.

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: Well, talking with David, I said that I wanted to make my character a snooty professor that studied the Rekelarians and could be of use of the ship. He’s very snobby, stuck up, and a down-right jackass- which is the exact opposite of myself. I try to let out cocky grins whenever I can, especially during guitar solos. I’ll also pick on Batchworth and give Meade glares throughout the show.

Duncan Batchworth III: We enjoy our dynamics on and off stage, goof around, booze, and bust each others’ balls, but it’s … embellished a bit live. I see Batchworth as an exaggerated me, if I were a son of Tobias Sammet (He is the singer of Edguy) and Groucho Marx.

 James O’Brian: With me I kind of went for the total opposite of my personality. James is cocky and full of himself and I’m modest.

Jessica Hopsicker: Reading through the Listening Story Guide for your first album “Look to the Skies” I couldn’t help but realize two things- A: What a handy piece of literature this is. And B: Who is the genius behind the lyrics or was it a group effort?

Duncan Batchworth III

Duncan Batchworth III

Duncan Batchworth III: *cough* …

James O’Brian: Totally the drummer not the vocalist.

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: I would say that David writes most of the lyrics, and once in a while we chime in. Neal Peart wrote Rush’s lyrics…..why can’t you be him, James?

James O’Brian: I cant afford a kit like that. I think that’s where all of his skill comes from….That’s how drums work right?

Duncan Batchworth III: I draw inspiration from bouncing ideas off the guys, perpetually.

Captain Luther Meade: Mostly Batchworth, but we all helped with story development…and when he produced bad alliteration…(skyscraperssuphisssasshole)

Duncan Batchworth III: Ryan in particular won’t hesitate to shake his head if lyrics get a bit out there, and I love the guys for it. Hahaha!

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: Yeah, usually how it works is one of us comes up with a riff, it sticks, and Batchy Boy starts thinking of words.

Isaac Grimwood: Geezer Butler wrote Black Sabbath’s lyrics. So, you know, hypothetically maybe I’ve been writing ours this whole time. Even before I joined.

Duncan Batchworth III: I write all of the lyrical rhythms around riffs. As for our lore, and story itself, we are always talking about it. Car rides, hookah bars, and backstage.

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: Yeah writing our new song “Hot off the Press” with him was essentially repeating riffs over and over and over and over again while he wrote lyrics. We’ll even call each other if we get a good enough idea and need to tell it right away.

Duncan Batchworth III: I couldn’t be happier with how we derp-face over wild story curves for our future adventures.

Captain Luther Meade: We do kind of fanboy over our own stuff don’t we?

Duncan Batchworth III: I do.

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: ……….yeah we do

Duncan Batchworth III: We are ‘those guys.’

James O’Brian: I do all the time. I’m in the band that I want to see live.

Isaac Grimwood: I have to admit, I haven’t really contributed to any lyrics or plot points so far but I am excited to participate more actively in all future endeavors.

Captain Luther Meade: It makes sense. It is what we love to do

Isaac Grimwood: Yes I love AUTOMATON

Jessica Hopsicker: So, the story ends with a great betrayal and murder most foul. When and what can we expect from your next release?

James O'Brian

Luther Meade

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: Can we tell it? Can we?

Duncan Batchworth III: Silly, dastardly boozy sleuthing… then revenge trickery?!

Isaac Grimwood: More plot! More intrigue! More newspaper printing!

Duncan Batchworth III: More airship wrecks! Hahahah

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: I will say that the story will get darker. We have that situation to deal with – and there will be more song collaboration with Mike and I. We’re looking forward to being able to make an album that the whole lineup was around for from start to finish.

Isaac Grimwood: Let’s just say AUTOMATON is going to be more than just the name of the band.

[intrigue intensifies]

James O’Brian: More Nerf guns!

Duncan Batchworth III: For sure. Our full-length album “A Bold New Horizon” is out in November, will expand on whispers of a war machine ‘Construct’ as it retells the story from the EP “Look to the Skies.”

Captain Luther Meade: 6 new songs plus the 4 that were on the EP, re-recorded with the full line up.

Jessica Hopsicker: With war machines… nice.


James O’Brian

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: Thre is nothing more metal than war machines

Duncan Batchworth III: We aim for both badass and downright foppish when we toss around just what our AUTOMATON is going to look like, haha!

James O’Brian: Sabaton made a career out of it!

Duncan Batchworth III: Tanks, tanks a lot for the Sabaton mention. Sabaton is a 20th century war themed power metal band and one of our inspirations.

Jessica Hopsicker: So how much of your lives are devoted to metal?

Captain Luther Meade: Dave…that’s your cue.

James O’Brian: I’d say all of it for me. I don’t do anything without having some kind of metal involved.

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: A good portion of mine is. I really find that the genre of heavy metal is still really young and there’s so much you can do with it. I do listen to other genres of music, though, because I always like getting new influences from good musicians in general to help create my own unique ideas.

Duncan Batchworth III: Haha! they can’t stop us, let ’em try… for heavy metal we would die.. or something.

James O’Brian: …I think I just heard you pound your chest, Dave.

Duncan Batchworth III: It’s truly a devotion. Haha! When people are passionate about metal in the way they talk, I instinctively pound my chest. The guys make fun of me. Haha

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: Like no other.

Duncan Batchworth III: But we are so devoted to a metal sound.

Captain Luther Meade: For me it’s not just metal. It’s music in general. I don’t go through one day without being inspired or touched by a song. Be it Heavy metal, jazz, or something else.

Isaac Grimwood: You really have to live and breathe metal, I think, to do what a metal band does.

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: Dude, I’m totally jamming to some jazz right now.

Isaac Grimwood: I’m listening to Curtis Mayfield. Superfly, anyone?

James O’Brian: Sabaton

Duncan Batchworth III: So much so that when we discussed making metal, we tossed around ideas as to how to make it ‘steampunk.’ Bells? Whistles? Electro – swing samples? Naaaaaaaaaa. It’s just the metal we like.

Captain Luther Meade: EPIC FUCKING MUSIC!

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: Just good ole-fashioned metal, the kind that makes your mother proud.

Duncan Batchworth III: And mosh proudly.  But this has metal for everyone.

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: I love our new mosh disclaimer….

James O’Brian: We have a new one.

 Jessica Hopsicker: Whats that?

AUTOMATON 9Duncan Batchworth III: Our standard.

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: To be mindful of other people’s steampunk gear because there’s going to be a mosh pit.

Isaac Grimwood: Yep, that gear can get expensive and some of it is very sharp. *looks at Markus*

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: I have no idea what you’re talking about

Duncan Batchworth III: *protects shoulder* His pauldron piece has spikeys.

Isaac Grimwood: His spiked shoulder pads are going to either poke Dave’s, Ryan’s, or my eye out some day.

Duncan Batchworth III: As will my microphone stand spinning.

Isaac Grimwood: But having an eye patch or a glass/wooden eye would be pretty steampunk…

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: A good Captain has an eye patch. Ready to take one for the team, Meade?

James O’Brian: Heh, I’m safe in my cozy drum cave

Duncan Batchworth III: Heeey, I need you all with your eyes. So you can better see me make goofy faces at ya. But our metal backgrounds are diverse.

Jessica Hopsicker: How diverse is your backgrounds?

AUTOMATON 8Captain Luther Meade: Yeah me personally, I’m onto quite a broad spectrum, Metal, jazz, folk, even some really down to earth hip-hop. If it hits me, inspires me, or helps me through something, I’m not ashamed to say I like it.

Markus Wolverhampton: Well my dad got me into metal and rock when I was 4. I started on Metallica, Rush, Dio, Sabbath, and even had Offspring in there. In high school I got more into progressive and power metal and really started honing my music skills there. I quickly got into Dream Theater, Helloween, Kamelot, Opeth, Symphony X, and a hell of a lot more. I don’t limit my influences to just metal and rock, though. I love a lot of blues, jazz, funk, and works music as well. And even have some guilty pleasures. I love listening to a wide variety of genres to find unique ways I can make metal. Some of our songs have come from a lot of ideas we got listening to non-metal artists.

Isaac Grimwood: I like progressive metal, doom, death, sludge and selected bands from most metal genres. I have started listening to more melodic stuff like power metal (Helloween) since joining the band. I am also really into assorted Scandinavian folk musicians like Hedningarna, Gjallarhorn, and Trio Mediaeval. Lately I have been venturing into Irish folk, bluegrass and jazz fusion. And I am always listening to great, innovative bassists like Evan Brewer, Forrest Lapointe (Teramobil, Beyond Creation) , Dan Briggs (BTBAM, Trioscapes), Victor Wooten, Chaoth (Unexpect), Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse), Dixie Collins (Weed eater), Curtis Mayfield, and Renaud Garcia-Fons

Captain Luther Meade: *clears throat* -hooks- *clears throat*

Markus Wolverhampton: Meade’s is the hook master of the band. If we come up with a few riffs when were jamming out new ideas, he’ll already have hooks ready and waiting. But it’s safe to say all of us add a little of our backgrounds into every song we make.

Captain Luther Meade: Very safe to say indeed. the collaboration of this group is out of this world. Everyone has a voice, and everyone uses it.

James O’Brian: Playing style, probably Falconer and Iron Maiden. As for me as a person, Rhapsody of Fire and Alestorm. It makes me feel like I can overcome everything.

Duncan Batchworth III: My tastes stem from discovering Dream Theater and Iron Maiden at age 15. I played bass for a prog band out of Dayton for almost a decade, and would sing along and mimic the vocalists of my mix CDS before trying karaoke in college and discovering my knack for it. I also melt over Gothenburg melo-death.

Markus Wolverhampton: John Petrucci of Dream Theater is God. My biggest guitar influence for sure.

Isaac Grimwood: My guitar Jesus is Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth

Duncan Batchworth III: Dio is my vocal hero.

Markus Wolverhampton: Oh, he is Jesus and Michael Romeo for Symphony X is Buddha.

Isaac Grimwood: Matt Pike is Allah. Even though I don’t believe Markus is a fan. Hey like him or not without him there is no Mastodon and no Baroness.

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: Agreed

Jessica Hopsicker: You play for more than just the steampunk crowd, was it hard to convey to those that don’t really know what steampunk is?

AUTOMATON 6Isaac Grimwood: Yes. Yes and no.

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: Usually only before they hear us. We get weird looks at metal shows looking the way we do, but people’s minds seem to change when they hear that we’re a metal band, just like them.

Duncan Batchworth III: While Steampunk is known as a cultural phenomenon, people usually don’t associate it with metal, and we always get surprised faces

James O’Brian: I’ve never had an issue, once people hear gimmicky power metal they’re usually pretty interested.

Isaac Grimwood: Yes, because people often have no clue what steampunk is and it’s a very hard thing to explain. No, because it’s a very fun, lighthearted deal and generally people just go with it, even if they don’t understand.

Duncan Batchworth III: And we’ve been told that what we do works in conveying what they love about metal and what they love about steampunk.

Captain Luther Meade: And the opposite is true with steampunk crowds who hear that we play metal.

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: Yup

Duncan Batchworth III: People are nervous

Jessica Hopsicker: But you win them over in the end.

AUTOMATON MaverickIsaac Grimwood: Exactly.

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: yes

Duncan Batchworth III: While we do have that aggressive and wild side, steampunks sometimes need to be reassured that we’re not singing about gore all the time. A misconception about metal. Though I do love me some gore songs it’s not a fit for this project. We keep our style so that we beckon and invite the crowd. I feel that a number of metal bands on local levels forget to smile.

 Jessica Hopsicker: I’d love to hear a couple really gorey songs.

Captain Luther Meade: Oh you will. We have a couple gorey ones planned. Battle and war and all.

Duncan Batchworth III: Challenge accepted.

Jessica Hopsicker: Excellent, and this will all be included in the comic book etc.

Duncan Batchworth III: Ooooh ooooh yes.

Isaac Grimwood: Tensions are getting high at this point in the story. It’s only a matter of time before all hell breaks loose.

Duncan Batchworth III: Bubbling metal fury… and tea. One lump or two?

James O’Brian: 3

Duncan Batchworth III: Always got to one-up me?!

Jessica Hopsicker: And how did you come up with the accompanying comic book idea anyhow?

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: Gwar. Just kidding. lol

Duncan Batchworth III: The Captain’s sister was sketching us at our second practice. Kind of seemed like a logical step and an extra bit of ‘oomph’ for our debut as a band. Our comic image in color became a symbol on all our branding, flyers, and EP art for the whole first year.

Isaac Grimwood: Our universe has limitless potential for storytelling. Kind of like how there’s a lot more to the Star Wars universe than just the movies, there is more the AUTOMATON universe than the songs. I think we all hope to see more of an “expanded universe” in the future.

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: AUTOMATON: The Movie

Isaac Grimwood: I was hoping for AUTOMATON: the Anime Series.

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: Grimwood-san

Duncan Batchworth III: Absolutely! Consider us the next trans-media band experience. Not to be confused with KISS and super-merchandising.

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: The sky’s the limit.

Isaac Grimwood: There are no immediate plans for animation, but it’s a neat thing to think about. The more we are able to get ourselves out there the more opportunities will arise to expand our universe through various platforms.

Duncan Batchworth III: That’s the goal. And down the road, a bigger and more robust production live.


Jessica Hopsicker: When and where can we expect to see AUTOMATON next?

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: The Backstage Cafe on Thursday August 14th in Covington, KY. We’ll be playing with Gomorrah, Schallkrieg, Dethlehem, and Urizen.

Duncan Batchworth III: Yes! A geeky metal bash. So much so — that the local metal community is hosting a Magic the Gathering night before doors open.

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: So geeky, we’re all playing Magic before the show.

Duncan Batchworth III: Beat you to it, Doc Whiz.

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: Shaddup Duncan Donuts.

Captain Luther Meade: And more shows are being posted on our website

Duncan Batchworth III: Shut up, Markus Yammer-Hampton

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: Backdoor Batchworth

Duncan Batchworth III: including Cincy Comic Expo

Captain Luther Meade: And also a show in Lexington with our favorite Ford Theater Reunion.

Duncan Batchworth III: Yep! Our brothers and sister in arms.

James O’Brian: We are also in the midst of setting up our annual metal festival Cincy Powerfest!

Duncan Batchworth III: Yes!

Dr. Markus Wolverhampton: Which will be the best one yet!

James O’Brian: Oh yes it will

Duncan Batchworth III: This time we aim for a national act, local vendors, and support.

Jessica Hopsicker: Excellent,  I’m excited to hear that things are taking off. By the way, I really enjoy what you guys are doing here… not just the interview but the whole thing.

Duncan Batchworth III: Thankee!

AUTOMATON will be performing at the Time Travelers’ Ball on September 20th.




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