Starset | Dustin Bates

There is no rest for the wicked, let alone Dustin Bates and his three band mates in Starset. After returning home from some massive U.S. dates, the Starset frontman began moving right out of his apartment to another new place; one where he’ll also begin writing new material for Starset’s third record even with the band releasing their second conceptual album, ‘Vessels, earlier this year. Following this bout of new writing, the Ohio cinematic rock band will be coming down to Australia in August for their first ever headline tour on our shores, performing songs from both the epic ‘Vessels’ and their debut album, ‘Transmissions’. Recently, back on July 4th, the vocalist spoke with me over the phone – amid preparations for the Independence Day celebrations – to chat about their forthcoming Australian “demonstrations” in August, the expanding sci-fi concept and narrative behind the band’s music, working with Marvel Comics, what Starset’s music could be like in 5.1, and more. Suss it below, cadets. 

So Dustin, as this is the first day off you’ve had in a while, what have you been up to, man?

Well, I’m just walking downtown as we talk and the test fireworks are being setup all over town for the fourth of July party tonight.

Oh right! See, that day never means anything to me as I’m Australian.

Yeah! [Laughs]. I guess there is no official “independence day” with Australia is there?

Well, there is a day – January 26th. But we don’t go all out on the fireworks like you guys. Plus, the day isn’t really about our independence so much as it is just getting shitfaced and partying.

Oh! Well, there’s a little less fan fare over there I suppose.

In some ways! Now – the Australian tour. With playing live, the other three members wear the space suits and I’m just wondering if anything else will be brought along or set up – visuals, lights, or whatever – to take these live shows to the next level?

We do as much as we can wherever we can. As this is the first time that we’ve been to Australia, it’ll be lower key. In America, we do mid-range shows right up to the insane levels, as we just did with the Planetarium shows in Colorado. We are bringing video content down, though, but we won’t be bringing “The Cube” which is a crazy production that goes around the drums. The other guys will be in the space suits and there’ll be props. It won’t be the full thing, but it will still be a demonstration, for sure.

Right on. Now, with the concept behind Starset’s music, I’m wondering if future releases will dive deeper into the conceptual realm? Is that a balance you aim to keep in mind as you write new material?

Well, with each new record, the narrative shifts. And with every shifting narrative, the product of our music changes. I’m not entirely sure which direction the third record will go in, but the only thing that will be certain is that it’ll be cinematic, and sci-fi themed.

I’d expect nothing less! But whereas ‘Vessels’ was this microcosm of four wider stories, could the third record may be about the people who sent the “message” that your band delivers; from those in the Ophiuchus Constellation? Just an idea…

Sure! I think that with the next novel that’s coming out, a lot more will be understood in the overarching narrative about the Starset Society and things will be further expanded upon. And from that, some of the various ways forward will be seen.

Cool, I look forward to seeing how that all comes together. With the novel that’s coming out, the follow-up to The Prox Transmissions, is that the release that will be coming out through your partnership with Marvel?

Actually, the first release that’s coming out with this cooperation between us and Marvel is a full-length graphic novel of our first book, and that comes out in September. After that, the second full novel will come out and then the graphic novels will follow that. We’re hoping that there’s enough success behind this first graphic novel that it becomes serialised, coming out in a bi-monthly fashion.

Rad, hope it does well, Dustin. Probably a stupid question, as of course, this is a big deal, but were you a fan of comic books growing up?

It’s super incredible! Marvel is just such a huge name and it’s wild that we’ve been able to partner up with them. I was actually more of a… pedestrian fan of them as a kid. I had a few comics, sure, but it’s only now in the past few years that the format of graphic novels that I’ve really explored. This has been something we set forward to achieve in the past couple years and we’ve done that now, it’s just monumental.]

Genuinely, when I first heard about it, I was stoked on that for you and the band.

Oh, thank you!

Another thing with Starset and the scope of your music, especially with ‘Vessels’, is would the band ever be open to releasing a 5.1 mix of your records? I mean, for me, that would be such an experience with your band’s music.

Honestly, I would love that. I wish that that format would have taken off to a far greater degree. The issue I have when we mix these records down is that I think there’s just not enough stereo space with the instruments and their frequencies. I always feel like I’m burying these ideas, these melodies and counter-melodies, and so on. I had an idea to take our music one step further with VR, and I’ll just say that at some point, we will explore that to give our fans the best experience.

A 5.1 VR setup would be so cool for a band like yourselves. Hopefully, that does come to fruition! To wrap up here Dustin, last year Avenged Sevenfold put out what I think is one of their best records – ‘The Stage’. The last song on that sci-fi album is called ‘Exist’ and Neil deGrasse Tyson provides a monologue for that track which he himself penned for it. Would you guys, if given the chance, be open to having Tyson or a figure like him guesting on one of your songs in some way? Cause if there was one rock band who could do that, it’d be Starset!

Oh, dude, yes! In fact, we’re all very big on spoken word moments and monologues in musical pieces. You know, we actually tried to get permission from Carl Sagan’s estate, for an idea we had. But we couldn’t pull it off. Hopefully, as the band becomes bigger, we can pull such things off. I firmly believe that Mr Sagan would have been very much behind our idea and mission, but sometimes money is the driving force behind such ideas going ahead.

Aw, that sucks. So, what of Sagan’s work were you going to use – the Pale Blue Dot speech or some other niche interview piece?

Yeah, we planned to use some more obscure interviews and messages, and we had a few sound bites from Cosmos we wanted to use. I really hope that we can go deeper into the world of science and get personalities like Neil deGrasse Tyson onboard. Then we can do our part to put such people into a demographic that isn’t usually aware of the scientific communities. And that’s really the goal of this band.

Yes – the merging of various worlds. With that Dustin, we’ll leave our chat there so you can get onto the next one. Keen to catch you guys when you roll through Melbourne.

No worries man, thank you. And great, see you there!

Photo credit: Steve Gullick. 

‘Vessels’ is out now and you can read my write-up on it here. Starset will be touring Australia this August. Tickets here, dates below, fellow space travellers!






Starset tour 2017

Leave a Reply

You must be registered and logged in to comment on this post.