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Interviews : “It doesn’t even start with the band” – An Interview with Dustin Bates (Starset)

By on July 16, 2017

Starset – Dustin Bates

American rock act Starset released one of 2017’s best albums earlier in the year, an epic cinematic rock experience called Vessels. However, they are more than ‘just’ a band. The career and the output of the entity known as ‘Starset’ spans all manner of mediums and concepts, and main man Dustin Bates, himself a qualified electrical engineer and scientist, joins us from his home in Columbus Ohio to tell us all about it.

“It doesn’t even start with the band, it starts higher up than that,” he explains, “it starts with the ‘Starset Society’, which is the group that has the overarching narrative, and it uses multiple styles, multiple media to achieve that. It’s not just one of those.”

“It just makes it all so much more all-encompassing, from the band to the novels to the most recent Marvel deal, and all the various other things that we’re working on.”

In fact, the entertainment side of things, in the form of the band, the books, the movies and so on, is just one part of what Bates and his group are trying to achieve. “That’s just one side of the coin, entertainment,” he says, “our newest website for the Starset Society, which will be coming online in a month or so, really exemplifies that it’s not just the entertainment side, there’s also an educational side. It goes from one extreme, of education, to the other stream, which is entertainment.

“We hope to serve people at various ends of the spectrum, who might be interested, for people who hear us on the radio or who come to a show, at that end all the way over to people who aren’t even really into rock and just want to discuss science. We want to intermingle the two.”

So, there is a very strong concept of technology’s effect on human beings’ everyday lives running through band’s lyrics and imagery, more specifically, what are looking to educate people about? “One thing we’re talking about is that science and technology can be a double-edged sword,” he states, “we’d like to do our part to raise awareness of how science and technology, at an ever-increasing rate, are changing and shaping our lives, threatening our future but also providing for the possibility of improving the future.

“Over the last 100 years, the average person has gone from working to merely survive to having leisure, and longer lives and greater health, greater involvement in the community. There’s been other pitfalls along the way, world wars were enabled by technology, and nuclear weapons and the threat of annihilation are down to technology.

“And currently, we’re seeing social divide and removal of ourselves from real social experiences at the hands of, ironically, social media and so on. Plus we’re seeing jobs replaced by technology and automation, and that is one of the greatest impacts, many many jobs are going to be replaced in the near future by technology that creates utility and products with less and less manpower. If you look at system like that, you see people with less jobs but you also see an ability to create a new life for people. So how do we approach that? It could be very positive or very negative.”

Australian audiences are soon to experience a dose of Starset-style education when the band tour here in August. Bates tells us that the band like to carry that all-encompassing vibe to their live show, and try to make it more than just a rock band playing onstage, and more of an audio-visual experience, and that whilst carting everything they do in a live setting all the way down to Australia is difficult, it’s still going to be pretty out-there.

“We’re bringing our cellist, in addition to the four-piece rock band,” he reveals, “we’re really happy to be able to do that, we didn’t know if we could. We usually have a cellist and a violinist, but it’s hard, logistically. So to bring the cellist is really cool.

“We’re bringing a lot of our video content, to really bring the demonstration, the guise. The spacesuits are fully functional, and Cryo. It’s a touch stripped down but it’s still enough to bring the demonstration for our very first time there.”

Despite his obviously scientific and analytical approach to music, his overarching endeavours and life itself, Bates tends not to plan too far ahead as far as he and the band’s career is concerned, or at least tends not to talk about the plans he makes with people outside his inner circle.

“I prefer to work in the mid-range,” he states, “and keep the longer term stuff at bay. I try not to really plan, in fact I plan for it, but I try not to vocalise it. I feel that it’s got to stay close to me, and just to get nerdy, when we talk about our plans, we get that dopamine or serotonin, almost as if we’ve achieved those things. I try not to talk about that stuff too much.”

Wednesday, 9th August
The Triffid, Brisbane (Licensed / All Ages)
Tickets: Select Touring

Thursday, 10th August
The Factory Theatre, Sydney (Licensed / All Ages)
Tickets: Select Touring

Friday, 11th August
The Basement, Canberra (18+)
Tickets: Select Touring

Saturday, 11th August
Max Watts, Melbourne (18+)
Tickets: Select Touring

Sunday, 13th August
Fowlers Live, Adelaide ((Licensed / All Ages)
Tickets: Select Touring


Rod Whitfield is a Melbourne-based writer and retired musician who has been writing about music since 1995. He has worked for Team Rock, Beat Magazine,, Heavy Mag, Mixdown, The Metal Forge, Metal Obsession and many others. He has written and published his memoirs of his life and times in the music biz, and also writes books, screenplays, short stories, blogs and more.