Doctor Steel

Doctor Steel

Doctor Steel with his robot band
Background information
Birth name Unknown
Origin United States Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Genres Steampunk, Industrial, Hip-Hop, Electronic, Jazz, Alternative
Occupations Singer songwriter, Internet Personality
Instruments Singing, Accordion
Years active 1999 - 2011
Labels Self-published

Doctor Steel (full name, Phineas Waldolf Steel), is a self-published American musician located in Southern California, prominent in the Steampunk, Goth, and Rivethead scenes. He has performed on rare occasions with a "backup band", claiming that a fictitious robot band had malfunctioned. Shows have incorporated puppetry, multimedia and performances by female members ("Nurses" and "Scouts") of his street team, The Army of Toy Soldiers. Steel has begun breaking into the mainstream media, having made a brief appearance on the Tonight Show,[1] been interviewed by Suicide Girls[2] as well as numerous genre magazines and podcasts[3][4][5][6][7][8][9] and been the subject of an article in Wired Magazine regarding allegations that Dr. Horrible had copied his style.[10] Steel has frequently been cited as an archetypal example of Steampunk music.[11][12][13][14]


Musical career

Steel began publicly performing in 1999, essentially busking on the streets of Los Angeles. A few years later, he began performing at venues like The Key Club and the CIA. His live shows combine music with puppetry and video projection that reflect the stories and meanings of the songs.[4]

In 2001 and 2002, the albums Dr. Steel (2001),[15] Dr. Steel II: Eclectic Boogaloo (2001),[16] and People of Earth (2002)[17] were released digitally to iTunes, Amazon and other stores. The Dr. Steel Collection (2004)[18] was the first CD release, featuring many tracks which were released on other albums, slightly altered. The Dr. Steel Collection also features the track "Land of the Lost," about the 1970s version of the show by the same name. Some attempts were made to get the song into the soundtrack of 2009 movie version of Land of the Lost, but they were unsuccessful.

Steel's second CD release was The Dr. Steel Read-A-Long album (2006).[19] It was a limited distribution and quickly sold out. The album art included a recreation of the sleeve of read-along records, and the disc design resembled that of a vinyl record. In 2007, Steel re-released the first three albums, once again in digital format.

Steel's music can often be heard on a number of steampunk radio broadcasts that stream worldwide, such as The Clockwork Cabaret.[20] His song "Boogieman Boogie" was also included in a compilation of steampunk music released by Gilded Age Records.[21]

In 2010, Dr. Steel announced plans to begin work on a new album, tentatively entitled "Toymonger."[22] Unfortunately, in July 2011 Doctor Steel announced his retirement from the music industry. The Army of Toy Soldiers, however, have decided to continue on as Dr. Steel wished, switching their focus to the messages the musician promoted, such as creativity and building one's own Utopian Playland.[23]

Musical style

Steel's music is eclectic in genre, often combining the noise and distortion of industrial with aspects of European folk, classical, and even jazz,[24] as well as hip-hop and opera. Many songs feature samples from vintage public service announcements and educational films, such as Duck and Cover. Rue Morgue Magazine described the sound as "Industrial Hip-Hop Opera".[3][8][25]

Doctor Steel's 'mad scientist' persona

Steel cites, as some of his musical influences, Igor Stravinsky, Tom Waits, Pink Floyd, Queen, Mike Patton, Nine Inch Nails, Danny Elfman, Beck, and John Zorn.[26]

Stage persona

On stage, and in all public performances and interviews, Steel maintains the fictitious persona of a mad scientist bent on conquering the world and becoming the future World Emperor. The fictitious Dr. Steel was a former toymaker who, in a fit of rage over being fired for creating drastic designs such as babies with buzzsaws for hands,[27] burned down the factory he worked at and was committed to a psychiatric institution.[28] The back-story relates that Steel escaped the sanitarium and retreated to a deserted island laboratory, where he became bent on world conquest in order to create a "Utopian Playland" where his toy designs could be enjoyed.[5][29] As a mad scientist, Steel is obsessed with conspiracy theories,[30] giant robots,[31] baking cupcakes and "mind control cookies", and experimenting with hamsters.[32]

In appearance, Steel draws on the mad scientist archetype, dressing in a white PVC lab coat[33] (with comically large black buttons), black PVC gloves, black boots, shaved head, sinister goatee,[34] and antique welder's goggles. When not in his "mad scientist" costume, Steel typically dresses in a very aristocratic neo-Victorian steampunk style,[14] while still retaining his goggles. He has never been seen without the goggles.[35]

Promotional videos and web videos

Screencap from Building a Utopian Playland, showing a faux news conference.

Doctor Steel appears in numerous short videos released on his website and on his YouTube channel. One such is a six minute "propaganda" film called Building a Utopian Playland, which ostensibly outlines his plans for world domination. Another is a series called The Dr. Steel Show, set in his fictitious lab on his fictitious private island. Episode 3, which is the official music video for his song, "Back and Forth", and featured video clips sent in by Toy Soldiers, was showcased on MTV's website as a part of their online video series, Steampunk Infiltrates The Mainstream.[36] Steel also appeared in a video with fellow internet personality Agamemnon Tiberius Vacuum.

Steel also releases what he calls "public service announcements" covering philosophical subjects such as transhumanism, freedom of thought, and subjective reality. (As a transhumanist, Dr. Steel has also been interviewed on his views by the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies,[7] and has even published a paper on the subject.[37][38]) Finally, the Toy Soldiers Unite website features a series of videos called Ask Dr. Steel, in which Steel himself answers questions asked by Toy Soldiers.[39] In May 2010, Doctor Steel's videos were featured in one of Veronique Chevalier's Red Velvet Variety Shows.

In May 2010, Dr. Steel released a music video to his song, "Childhood Don't a-Go-Go", directed by Tony Leonardi III.


Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long-Blog

In 2008, Joss Whedon released a short musical film online entitled Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Fans of Steel, and Steel himself,[40] noted the similarities between Dr. Steel and Dr. Horrible:

  • both featured singing mad scientists who produced web videos;
  • both had an "Ask Dr. ___" segment;
  • the name of the production was eerily similar to the title of one of Steel's albums, Dr. Steel Read-A-Long.

This attracted the attention of national media and was reported in Wired magazine, in which Dr. Horrible co-writer Maurissa Tancharoen responded, "All we have to say on the subject is we've never heard of Dr. Steel before." "There’s room for everyone in this party," she added.[10]

Army of Toy Soldiers

Example of Steel's "propaganda" artwork, resembling WWII recruitment posters (also illustrative of a fan club uniform)

The "Army of Toy Soldiers" is Steel's fan club and street team. The army plays into the Dr. Steel fiction, in that it is allegedly a tool in his plan for global domination. Toy Soldiers have "uniforms" with patches and color schemes, but are encouraged to design their own uniform so long as the required patches and colors are used.

The Toy Soldier Army has three main regiments: Toy Soldiers, Nurses, and Toy Scouts. The Nurse and Scout regiments are reserved for those who are female or identify as female within the Army, whereas people of any gender can be in the Toy Soldier regiment. The Army is further divided into divisions based upon geographical location and on creative interests ("Special Ops"). There are no ranks—all Toy Soldiers are considered equal. However, Toy Soldiers who go "above and beyond" may be awarded the honorary title of "Yellow Jacket" personally by Doctor Steel.

Toy Soldiers promote Dr. Steel individually through "missions", while larger group events are known as "operations" or "invasions".[41] Some Soldiers use their connections and access to the media for promotion, while others may choose to "propagandize" their school or workplace. Toy Soldiers have frequently done charity and volunteer work in uniform or in the name of Dr. Steel, such as starting local clothing or toy drives and even donating to drives such as Toys for Tots and Adopt a Highway. The Toy Soldiers have their own holiday, "Toy Soldier Day,"[42] which is observed every year on March 4 (a play on "march forth"), and simultaneous invasions of Disney theme parks worldwide take place on the nearest Saturday to this day.[43] In 2010, the Toy Soldiers participated in the 33rd Occasional Doo Dah Parade in Pasadena, CA.[44][45]

Promotional material ("Propaganda")

Promotional material for Dr. Steel and the Toy Soldiers is referred to as "propaganda".[41] The decision to use a term with such charged connotations was a deliberate satirical allusion to famous groups in the past who had plans for world domination,[6] in order to spotlight or "hang a lampshade"[46] on the tricks of mass manipulation.[47] Some of the material is designed and created by Steel himself (such as the "propaganda posters", designed to resemble WWII propaganda posters),[48] but Steel encourages his fans to design their own propaganda as well.

References in popular culture

Eilfie Music in the Paranormal State episode, "Darkness Falls"

Other than the instances noted above, Dr. Steel, his likeness and members of his fan club occasionally noticeably appear in popular media:

  • In the 2007 cult mocumentary, American Zombie, by director Grace Lee,[49] one of the zombies (Ivan, played by Austin Basis) has several of Dr. Steel's propaganda posters hung in his bedroom. Screencap 1Screencap 2
  • During ACTFur On-Air's video coverage of MiDFur 2009, "2, The Ranting Gryphon" was asked if he was related in some way to Dr. Steel, since he bore a resemblance to the Doctor, to which he replied promptly, 'I'm not saying anything'.[50]
  • In the film Battle, by director LaRon Austin,[51] one of the supporting actresses is shown to be one of Dr. Steel's Toy Scouts (as seen midway through the trailer).
  • In the January 12 episode of the hit television show Paranormal State, entitled Darkness Falls, paranormal researcher Eilfie Music is seen wearing a Dr. Steel pin.[52][53][54]
  • In several episodes of Current TV's Viral Video Film School, a Dr. Steel propaganda poster can be seen on the wall just to the left of the speaker.[55][56]
  • Dr. Steel's logo appears in strip 198 (August 18, 2010) of the webcomic Peter Is The Wolf.[57]
  • On June 14, on what they called, "Titanic Takeover Tuesday", hacker group LulzSec launched DDoS attacks on multiple gamer websites.[58] In response to "butthurt gamers", they cryptically posted a link on their Twitter page the next day to a YouTube recording of Dr. Steel's "Lullabye-Bye."[59] (Note: Neither Dr. Steel nor the Toy Soldiers condone hacking attacks, and it is against the Terms of Service for the official Toy Soldier fan club website, "Toy Soldiers Unite.")[60]


Digital releases

  • Dr. Steel (2001) (Self-Published) Re-release: 2007 (reapandsow, inc.)
  • Dr. Steel II: Eclectic Boogaloo (2001) (Self-Published) Re-release: 2007 (reapandsow, inc.)
  • People of Earth (2002) (Self-Published) Re-release: 2007 (reapandsow, inc.)

CD releases

  • The Dr. Steel Collection (2004) (World Domination Records)
  • Dr. Steel Read-A-Long (2006) (World Domination Records)

See also


  1. ^ "Dr. Steel on Jay Leno — clip from the commercial announcing the segment". Retrieved 2009-08-28. 
  2. ^ Fractal Suicide. "Doctor Steel". Suicide Girls. Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
  3. ^ a b "Audio Drome Review: Dr. Steel" (back issue). Rue Morgue Magazine, issue 42. November/December 2004. 
  4. ^ a b "VMU Interview with Doctor Steel". Retrieved 2009-08-13. 
  5. ^ a b Grin, Cheshire S. (2007). "The Utopian Playground of Dr. Steel". Steampunk Magazine #3: pp. 50–51. Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
  6. ^ a b Cricket. "The Mad Musician – Doctor Steel". NERDSociety. Retrieved 2009-08-29. 
  7. ^ a b Michael Anissimov. "Interview with Dr. Steel". Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Retrieved 2009-08-29. 
  8. ^ a b Tyler Davidson (2009-03-13). "Words with Dr. Steel, a mad mad mad mad scientist". University of California Riverside Highlander (University of California Riverside). Retrieved 2009-08-13. 
  9. ^ Other interviews with Dr. Steel:
  10. ^ a b Jenna Wortham (July 21, 2008). "Fans of Mad Scientist Dr. Steel Plan Attack on Dr. Horrible". Wired Magazine. Retrieved 2009-08-28. 
  11. ^ Andrew Ross Rowe (September 29, 2008). "What Is Steampunk? A Subculture Infiltrating Films, Music, Fashion, More". MTV News (MTV). Retrieved 2009-08-18. "Another great example [of steampunk music] is Dr. Steel, a hip-hop steampunker." 
  12. ^ "MTV News video: 'It's Airships, Pirates And Goggles'". MTV. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  13. ^ theladyofshalott (Jan 03 2009). "Myspace Steampunk resource connections". Steampunk Underground. Retrieved 2009-09-17. "For the foremost of the musical assets of our steampunk realm, there [is]... Dr. Steel with a rather strongly dominant tone..." [dead link]
  14. ^ a b Charlie Amter (January 29, 2009). "Creators of the Edwardian Ball bring the annual San Francisco event to L.A., corsets and all.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  15. ^ "Dr. Steel — Dr. Steel". Discogs. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  16. ^ "Dr. Steel — Dr. Steel II: Eclectic Boogaloo". Discogs. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  17. ^ "Dr. Steel — People of Earth". Discogs. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  18. ^ "Dr. Steel — The Dr. Steel Collection". Discogs. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  19. ^ "Dr. Steel — Dr. Steel Read-A-Long". Discogs. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  20. ^ "Clockwork Cabaret podcast archive". Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  21. ^ DJ FACT.50 (2007). "An Age Remembered — A Steampunk / Neo-Victorian Old World Mix". Discogs. Gilded Age Records. Retrieved 2009-09-30. 
  22. ^ "Message To The Toy Soldiers". Toy Soldiers Unite Forums. 10-01-2010. 
  23. ^ "A message to my fellow Toy Soldiers!". Toy Soldiers Unite Forums. 7-23-2011. 
  24. ^ Tome Wilson (March 3, 2010). "For Dr. Steel fans - Paul Howard's Quality Serenaders". Retrieved 2010-03-20. 
  25. ^ Tomb Dragomir (Nov-Dec 2004). "Read-Along Records Presents Dr. Steel". World Domination Toys (Rue Morgue Magazine). Retrieved 2010-04-16. 
  26. ^ "Dr. Steel's MySpace page". Retrieved 8 September 2009. 
  27. ^ "Nightmare Fuel". TV Tropes. Retrieved 2009-09-11. 
  28. ^ "Lament for a Toy Factory (lyrics)". Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  29. ^ "Dr. Steel (lyrics)". Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  30. ^ "Dr. Steel PSA - "Alien Illuminati"". Retrieved 2009-09-11. 
  31. ^ "Build the Robots (lyrics)". Retrieved 2009-09-11. 
  32. ^ "The Dr.Steel Show: Episode 2". Retrieved 2009-09-11. 
  33. ^ "Badass Labcoat". TV Tropes. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  34. ^ "Beard Of Evil". TV Tropes. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  35. ^ "Cool Shades". TV Tropes. Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
  36. ^ "MTV News video: 'The Dr.Steel Show: Episode 3'". MTV. Retrieved 2009-09-15. 
  37. ^ Dr. Steel (Spring 2005). "Multi-Media Symbiosis and the Evolution of Electronic Life". Paranoia: The Conspiracy Reader, Issue 38 (back issue). Retrieved 2010-04-16. 
  38. ^ Dr. Steel (Spring 2005). "Multi-Media Symbiosis and the Evolution of Electronic Life". World Domination Toys (clipping from Paranoia: The Conspiracy Reader). Retrieved 2010-04-16. 
  39. ^ "Video Propaganda". Toy Soldiers Unite. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  40. ^ "The Horrible Situation (entry from Steel's MySpace blog)". Retrieved 2009-08-29. 
  41. ^ a b Rachael Johnson (September 15, 2009). "Steely deeds: Meet Dr. Steel (One man's mission: Make the world a happier place)". The Herald-Mail. Retrieved 2010-04-24. 
  42. ^ "Toy Soldier Day". Retrieved 2010-03-20. 
  43. ^ "Disneyland Invasion 2010 - Dr. Steel's address". Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  44. ^ Lina Lecaro. "Doo-Dah Parade 2010 photo gallery". LA Weekly. Retrieved 2010-05-04. 
  45. ^ Eric Reed (5/1/2010). "The 34th Occasional Pasadena Doo Dah Parade photo gallery". San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Retrieved 2010-05-04. 
  46. ^ "Lampshade Hanging". TV Tropes. Retrieved 2011-07-05. 
  47. ^ "Ask Dr. Steel: "Why call your message 'propaganda'?"". Retrieved 2010-04-22. 
  48. ^ "A Gallery of Propaganda made by Doctor Steel". Retrieved 2007-02-13. 
  49. ^ Lee, Grace (2007). American Zombie (film mocumentary). USA, South Korea: Lee Lee Films. 
  50. ^ HuskyPause (May 30, 2010). "ACTFur On-Air at MiDFur 2009 - Part 10 of 9: Out-Takes and Mis-Takes". YouTube. Retrieved 2010-06-08. 
  51. ^ Austin, LaRon (2010). Battle (drama). Atlanta, Georgia, USA: Reel One Entertainment. 
  52. ^ "Kanaal van ParanormalShows". YouTube. 2009-12-27. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  53. ^ "Kanaal van ParanormalShows". YouTube. 2009-12-27. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  54. ^ "ParanormalShows's Channel". YouTube. 2009-12-27. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  55. ^ Erlich, Brett (June 2, 2010). "Best of Viral Video Film School: Growing Up On YouTube (at 18:36)". Viral Video Film School. YouTube. Retrieved 2010-06-09. 
  56. ^ Erlich, Brett (May 12, 2010). "Best Of Viral Video Film School: Crazy Online Communities". Viral Video Film School. YouTube. Retrieved 2010-06-09. 
  57. ^ Benjamin Rodriguez (August 18, 2010). "Peter Is The Wolf". Retrieved 2010-08-30. 
  58. ^ Robert McMillan (Jun 14, 2011). "LulzSec Attacks Gaming Sites ... Just for Laughs". PCWorld. Retrieved June 16, 2011. 
  59. ^ LulzSec (June 15, 2011). "Check out the butthurt gamers". Twitter.!/LulzSec/status/80996367169892352. Retrieved June 16, 2011. 
  60. ^ "Terms, Conditions and Release of Liability". Toy Soldiers Unite. Retrieved June 16, 2011. 

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