Starset’s Dustin Bates Talks New Album, Graphic Novel, Upcoming Tour with WGRD
Starset frontman Dustin Bates called GRD to chat about their new album,"Vessels", growing up "nerdy", working with Marvel on a graphic novel, and more!
I asked Dustin to explain a little about the Starset Society, part of the band's thematic backstory:
It's a group that's looking at technology and science, and how it's affecting our world presently-- socially, economically, politically, even philosophically-- and how it might affect our lives in the near future, both positively and possibly negatively."
The band's debut album, "Transmissions", came out in 2014. Here Dustin talks about the differences between the first album and their new one, Vessels, out in January:
Both records are soundtracks to narratives that live in the world of Starset, and 'Vessels' is is a different movie, so the soundtrack is different. So there are sonic differences from 'Transmissions', but then there also a lot of similarities. Even though, I guess they could be considered 'concept records', we're very careful to make it... if you just want to passively listen, like you would any other rock album, we try to write it so that it's not over-laden with nerd things. It's hopefully approachable to everyone....
The overarching aspect of Vessels, I see it as a journey. There are a lot of dichotomies built into it, and the various themes, and even in the sonics, where it's very heavy and dark, but then there are also very human and light elements to it. I just wanted to build a large journey. And yeah, it has it's dark dystopian moments."
On where in the journey "Monster" falls:
I guess somewhere in later act two, if there were three acts like a play or a movie. It's sort of post transformation... Just before that in the record, there's sort of an inescapable descent into darkness and Monster is the acknowledgment of that, becoming something you probably didn't want to become and becoming aware of it, and maybe overcoming it."
In talking about the people we become, we talked about Dustin's time with the US Air Force while working on his PhD:
"The Air Force, it was various projects while working on my masters degree then PhD. In fact one of the things I guess, inspired a lot of my work with Starset, working on assisted surveillance. You have a drone in the air in a war zone, flying over an area, taking constant video footage. If something were to happen, you can click on a point of interest and rewind essentially in time... you can then follow that back to its source... You can imagine the implications in warfare and how great that is, but then inevitably there are people that want to bring this domestically, so you can imagine the slippery slope that arises. You can police amazingly with a system like this, but there's also a lot of room for manipulation, and it's pretty, I guess, creepy when you think about it. In the Starset Society, that's just one technology as you extrapolate into the near future with it and you begin to see the double edge side of it, where it's both positive and negative. Our group believes in technology but wants a higher level of public awareness so that we can avoid being manipulated."
We touched on what Dustin was like as a kid, where his passion for these sorts of things began:
My love for things like this started from a more scientific place. I think the real passion began when I was in 5th grade and didn't have a ton of friends and a lot of my time was spent at the library, like a true nerd-to-be would. I read just a ton of biographies from famous scientists and inventors. I decided then that I wanted to try to be a part of something larger than life. I even wanted to be a scientist for a while. I always had a passion for that and space in general, like most kids do, but mine just continued to develop and then in tandem with that, became a huge passion or almost even obsession with rock that happened soon after."
Aside from the new album, Starset is also working on another project, a graphic novel with Marvel, that Dustin says should be out in Fall 2017:
I am super excited about that. It's such an exclusive thing, I mean Marvel doesn't team up with people like this... I love the medium and the ability it allows me and Starset Society to push our narrative and our sort of outreach campaign."
As for what else is happening with Starset, Dustin says some changes will be coming to their website to make it more interactive and they'll also be putting out a bunch of videos soon.
There's also Starset's demonstrations -- the band is going on tour this spring; They have a show May 17 at Ground Zero in Traverse City. Dustin shared with us a feature of the live show,
I just sort of invented this thing called the cube, that is more of a magic trick than anything... The drummer is inside of it and there's a polymer on it that when voltage is applied it because transparent, and otherwise it's totally opaque. So we do projection mapping onto it, so it's more of a crazy video wall when he's not drumming, and when he is drumming, he appears. It's pretty striking. You'd have to see it. "
For more on what's happening with Starset, check out the full interview above!
Get Starset's new album "Vessels" here.