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. Starset will be touring in Australia for the first time ever in August so we caught up Dustin to discuss the tour as well as his involvement with Marvel Comics and his interest in science.
Andrew: Hey how’s it going?
Dustin: Not too bad, just back home for a few days enjoying some time off.
Andrew: Obviously you have been on the road touring, how has it been so far?
Dustin: It’s been great! Things just keep growing, the reception for a lot of our new material has been super awesome. We’ve been headlining to rooms full of people singing along to every word, it’s been kind of surreal.
Andrew: That’s good to hear! A couple of our reviewers over in the US caught you at the Rocklahoma and the Rock On The Range festivals which seemed to be a really big event this year, how was it for you guys?
Dustin: Oh great! Those festivals are always fun, always a new challenge where we are used to playing indoors or at night and those shows were in the day and just to the general public that not all of them are aware of you. Maybe some of them were looking forward to catching you for the very first time, it’s a great opportunity and challenge to try and win over such a large, massive amount of people and turn them into super fans all in the span of 30 or 40 minutes.
Andrew: Well speaking of first times you are coming to Australia for the first time, in August so it’s good to see you coming to this part of the world!
Dustin: Yeah we’re super excited. It’s been cool to see how much interest there is and we’ve had a few friends down there hitting us up to make a tour happen so it’s exciting to finally being able to do it.
Andrew: What can the fans expect? What kind of a show do you normally put on for a club setting because all these shows in Australia are in all these intimate venues so what will be the kinds of things you will be bringing down to us?
Dustin: Well we call the shows ‘Demonstrations’ and the reason is we try our best in any setting or scenario to make them immersive, give the viewer a sort of escape from their own lives and go enter our world. In a club with your very first tour in a place it’s harder, there’s less room, there’s less budget, we’re thousands of miles from home. We’ll scale back in some regards but we’ve invested as much as possible to do as much as possible, in fact we’re not going to make any money off this tour. We’re spending everything to make it profitable so we’re still bringing a live cellist, usually we have a cellist and a violinist. The guys are in full space suits and we have our video component as well as a lot of the stage production will still be there so even though it’s low key, we’re excited about it.
Andrew: Yeah you have quite a stage production going on that’s quite theatrical so that’s really, aside from the music, a big part of your live show.
Dustin: Yeah the marriage of bringing as much live audio as we can as much of our own production world as we can, we do that on every show so it’s exciting. We’re definitely going to make it work even though we’re so far from home.
Andrew: Yeah being so far away from home would be like being on another planet I guess, a bit different to where you normally play!
Dustin: Yeah! And even like flying, that’s going to be an extra. I can’t wait for that flight!
Andrew: [laughs] Yeah it is a big flight, I’ve done that myself a few times. Are you normally good at flying on long hauls like that?
Dustin: Yeah I mean I’ve had to do it quite a few times. In fact I’ve flown to Australia before to attend the international space university where I was in Adelaide, so yeah not a fun flight!
Andrew: [laughs] No I’d imagine not! Well obviously in your history you have studied space engineering and things like that so you have obviously combined that part of it into your music. Was there a point in your life where you decided where you had to choose one or the other? Was music something that you always wanted to do?
Dustin: Yeah I was always in a rock band while doing my studies. In fact there was a point where I had to choose one or the other and it was when I got a record deal with Epic Records when I stopped my graduate program to focus on music and then that record deal went away a year in before we got to release our first record. So that was when Starset came around and it was sort of the opposite, it was realizing that those two didn’t have to be mutually exclusive and I think that’s how one of the reasons Starset encompasses both sides of my brain and interests.
Andrew: How did you get interested in the whole universe and space stuff? Was that something you were always passionate about as well?
Dustin: Yeah I think most kids have an inherent affinity towards this stuff and for me it just sort of continued into adulthood. I suppose when I was in elementary school I would read some of these novels about space and scientists and it grew out of that and continued as I went into engineering and then the space studies.
Andrew: This collaboration with Marvel comics is a pretty cool idea as well, ‘The Prox Transmission’. Can you tell me a little about that and how that came about?
Dustin: So the first graphic novel is going to come out in September and it’s an extrapolation of the first novel that was released last year which was this Dystopian story of the Starset Society. We had meetings with Marvel over the course of a few months where we explained to them the mission of the Starset Society in the general overall narrative and themes and their interest continued to build until finally they offered a partnership which was just insane. I mean it’s such an iconic brand so we’re really excited to launch this and hopefully move forward in an ever increasing partnership.
Andrew: Obviously that’s a very cool thing to have a partnership with, Marvel Comics has a legendary status in that whole world. Was that something you ever dreamed about as a kid that maybe one day you would be involved in the comic world?
Dustin: No I think my dream as a kid was a little more in the practical world. I wanted to be a famous scientist or inventor, sort of look to scientists and text books and biographies in the same way that other kids might look to a Marvel character. So sort of the opposite way as most kids trajectory.
Andrew: [laughs] I’m a big fan of that whole world myself, in fact there’s a guy coming to Australia named Neil Degrasse Tyson who I’m a huge fan of. Do you enjoy watching and listening to guys like him talk about the universe?
Dustin: Absolutley! I mean Neil Degrasse’s counterpart or who could be considered mentor, Carl Sagan – I have Carl Sagan as a Terminator tattooed on me and I have a t-shirt with Neil Degrasse Tyson drawn on it depicted as Mike Tyson so I’m a huge fan! I’m a big fan of Cosmos and reading and watching shows on all of that stuff and I’m actively trying to get on Neil’s podcast show Startalk as well.
Andrew: Oh yeah I listen to that as well! Neil is a great guy and Carl I’m a huge fan of as well and every time I think of him I always think of that little pale blue dot that he talked about all those years ago.
Dustin: Yeah it’s still very relevant, just brilliant and amazing.
Andrew: Well before you come down to Australia next month do you have any final last words or a message for the Australian fans?
Dustin: Thanks for all the early support of this band and I can’t wait to come down and give it our all, we’re incredible excited.
STARSET TOUR DATES:
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 9- THE TRIFFID, BRISBANE (Licensed All Ages)
THURSDAY AUGUST 10 – THE FACTORY THEATRE, SYDNEY(Licensed /All Ages)
FRIDAY AUGUST 11– THE BASEMENT CANBERRA (18+)
SATURDAY AUGUST 12 –MAX WATTS, MELBOURNE (18+)
SUNDAY AUGUST 13–FOWLERS LIVE , ADELAIDE (Licensed All Ages )
Tickets: Select Touring