Starset have started their highly anticipated tour of Australia which promises to win a legion of new fans around the country. STARSET’S musical vision is only understood by entering the psyche of founding member and multi instrumental vocalist, Dustin Bates. Bates – a graduate with a Masters degree in electrical engineering, who taught at the international space university in France and conducted research for the US Air Force – has combined his passion of science and music to create a musical beast.
Armed with two albums Transmissions and Vessels fans have plenty to look forward to. Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles spoke to Ron DeChant about the band and heading on tour to Australia for the first time.
First Australian tour ever starting now and a new album out must be exciting times for Starset?
Oh yeah, absolutely! We’re super pumped, we’ve been to many different parts of the world but to be heading to Australia we are very excited. What is funny is when Transmissions first came out and even before the record came out there was always an Australian presence on social media, Facebook, Twitter. There had been a lot of feedback on it and it always had been there. We have regretted not being able to get over there sooner but the opportunity has presented itself this time.
Does the power of the internet continually surprise you?
We’re grateful for it and we’re not surprised so much because we definitely saw it from the beginning but we are really grateful for the amount of feedback now and the support. Already the buzz for this tour has been great and we’re looking forward to that for sure.
Did the ideas after your previous band Downplay came together for what is now Starset?
Well, what is interesting, I did Downplay for a bit with Dustin as I was friends with him beforehand, the process that started Starset was completely different and more of a surprise that something that was in the realm of what we had and what Dustin was working with naturally the progression of song writing for his side of things was very positive and easy for him to transition in to. This is more in line with his thinking with his background in engineering, space and all that technology and he brought that to us giving me the opportunity to be in the band and help with this project. Certainly it is a whole lot different to Downplay and there is a lot more to his thinking. He’s proud of this one that’s for sure.
The whole story behind Starset is an intriguing one but was the end of Downplay hard to take at the time?
What was funny when it changed over, it wasn’t an A to B changeover, the projects were completely separate and there was a time period where Dustin was doing things on his own and was approached by The Starset Society. Where this all started to begin was not the complete devolution of Downplay by any means as it had its own track record and origins of its own and had been around for a quite a long time but Starset in this space was a cause for a much bigger demographic to be looked at, for individuals not to just hear things but also be educated in a way in science, space and technology and being aware of many things we were putting out through the media, content for social media, YouTube videos as well the accompanying book The Prox Transmission and that is a big component of what Starset truly is.
Are you a bit more cautious now and protective of everything that Starset is?
Oh yeah, there is no doubt about that in terms of being a band member, in terms of being someone who helps out on the road, absolutely! Anyone who is in this business knows that you need to learn from mistakes or prior knowledge of things from the touring or business side, absolutely! One thing in the background and behind the scenes is that we are hyper efficient and there are a lot of things we put together. We don’t generally outsource, we are very DIY, very in-house and try and keep it close to ourselves because we know we can trust ourselves.
Was that writing period for Vessels and the rehearsals a really exciting time for the band creatively?
It was pretty interesting, the band itself has some very talented players from our local area Columbus, Ohio. Dustin collaborates with many, many talented writers, musicians, players and that was a very good collaboration that put together Transmissions as well as Vessels and coordination with our producer Rob Graves and mixer Ben Gross and some of team with who he writes with all over the US it is an exciting time period.
The actual laying down of vocals, I was privileged enough to go and sing a lot of the background stuff in a studio in the middle of nowhere, there was no one around, literally no one for miles, there was only one restaurant open and we just bunkered down to work on this completely in the middle of nowhere. It was really cool experience and it was great to be able to have that focus on things.
It must be fun coming up with the themes and imagery to go along with the album with the possibilities being endless?
Certainly a lot of avenues, one thing that is cool about our show is that we have live video content which is a big portion of what the show means. The shows are dynamic and there is video content that goes along with most of our songs that is entirely meant to be the story line. It’s not just science and space but there’s many different technologies, futurism and the failure of technology which is a part of our themes. It is exciting to be able to draw up such a large palette of ideas that’s for sure.
Are you bringing the Mach III space suits?
Yeah, the Mach II’s, there might be version III. We had the initial ones that were black and we updated those ones a little bit. The new suits will be with us in Australia, we don’t play a show without those.
When in tourist mode do you head for the science and space exhibits in the cities you visit?
You’ve nailed that one! That was pretty much our first two years of touring, non-stop and any chance we got we would be at every meteor crater site, space expos even going to all the historical sites in Italy, Germany and interested in seeing what’s in Australia. We’ve researched, talked about and tried to find as many things to see in Australia.
Interview by Rob Lyon
Catch Starset on the following dates…