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This Is How Starset Expanded Their Creative Universe As The World Changed Around Them

Jack Rogers
Jack Rogers 27 October 2021 at 17.11

"You can’t extrapolate the developments from the past to where the future will be because of how quickly it can grow"

Starset have just released their brand new album 'Horizons' via Fearless Records.

Following up 2019's 'Divisions', the record expands on not just the narrative presented by that piece of their journey but also the sonic routes that they wish to take. The result is a dense exploration of heavy music and electronica, brimming with very real and real human emotions but on a planetary scale. It is also a testament to the imagination and innovation of the band to continue to delve into a world that is slowly but surely feeling more like the one we are living in today.

We sat down with vocalist and visionary Dustin Bates to discuss the process of bringing it together and how the world shifting around him affected it...

How does it feel to have this new piece of the Starset saga out in the world?
"It feels really great. This time, probably more than any other time, I didn’t consider what the reception would be like. I was just out here doing it and feeling that it was good for myself. The thing is that we only played around 30 shows in the US around the ‘Divisions’ cycle, and it felt like it was cut way short. We didn’t have the two years we usually would develop the idea around that album. And now I’m taking this other step forward, you’re always worried that it’s not going to come to you. But now we can see where we are taking things, and that feels really exciting."

Despite the cycle being cut short, what do you feel as though ‘Divisions’ gave you and taught you that allowed you to start developing this record?
"In my eyes, these two albums are sisters, partially in sonics but more so in the narrative that the Starset universe has shifted into. ‘Divisions’ was the beginning of that, and ‘Horizons’ wraps it up. Also, I would say that the whole experimentation of ‘Divisions’, not just the shift in the narrative but also the shift in sonics and it becoming a mesh of synths and cinematics, I would say we were able to change Starset into a whole new sort of soundtrack. With this record being the sister to it, some elements are similar, but others are things we built off. So it all comes down to how it all blends, and ‘Divisions’ allowed us to do that."

In many ways, reflection on the path you have read before has also been a bit forced because of the time that you found yourself creating it. So it became a culmination of everything you have done before helping to propel you forwards…
"It started with thinking about how we have a lot of fans who like these three records that we already have. Without super-serving them, how do we make sure that they enjoy this without compromising on any of the bigger plans? How do we blend things in a way that they will grow into something new? But then it came down to doing it, we just went in and did it. That was me and Joe, because Joe was also producing it. We did it in a log cabin in North East Ohio. Then when the finished product emerged, it just all felt right. I feel like with future records, there is a more concise shift in how things will progress. But for this one, there was no specific blend or act of alchemy."

It’s also an album with several different emotional parallels running throughout it that all feel so human in this vast science fiction landscape. How did the circumstances around the record’s creation influence how you expelled those emotions?
"I’m still kind of realising how that happened. I haven’t had that moment yet when I revisit the record and discover how it ended up the way it did. Over time, the mechanics of recording go away, and the analysis of the mix and the lyrics and the chords start to fade away, and you’re able to see it for what it is and hear it with fresher ears.

"But these songs are always a blend of real human things that are then added to. There are science fiction and dystopian tools that we can then use to explain the more human feelings. That’s what is going to make the song something that someone can react to. You want them to feel something beyond the metaphor and story. And then, in terms of the real-world things that were happening around us, whether it’s politics or COVID or just the state of technology and social aspects, those things do very much bubble into what we are doing. Sometimes directly too. This new future look that we are peering into with this narrative is similar to what we are living with now. It gives us a way to see our current condition too."

It’s so fascinating when you start to see those lines blur between the reality before you and the fantasy you try and create with your art…
"I think that good sci-fi is feasible but also understands that humans will still very much be the same no matter how many years that passes. Humans evolve so slowly that general biology will be the same, and our emotions will be the same. The human condition will at least be similar too. When it comes to this band, we have had some elements of what we have created start to show their face in the real world, and I think that will continue as long as I try and extrapolate moments of now into our future. It helps people suspend disbelief and have more fun, and gives them pause on where we are and where we are heading. We already have the phone, and we are already tethered to it, and we are already manipulated by the algorithms that exist within it, so a lot of this story is already weaved into the way that we exist right now. So I want to continue to be entertaining but also enlightening in a way. I just want people to see how tech drives our lives, and we only notice the negatives after we are already connected to it, and it extrapolates our lives. It’s about trying to be that little bit ahead."

When something becomes easier to blend with reality, that’s the moment that you realise just how far things have shifted. And for it to shift alongside the mindsets you have been in across the course of this band, it makes you realise just how quickly it all flashes before us…
"A lot of that is a product of technology being advanced exponentially. It’s a tough thing to put your finger on. From year to the next, things are moving so much faster. You can’t extrapolate the developments from the past to where the future will be because of how quickly it can grow. But it can also grow in directions that you may not anticipate. I will sometimes think of the present and how wildly sci-fi it could feel, similar to someone saying, ‘That will never happen’. That opens the door to how the future can happen and will happen. We just can’t anticipate it."

How does it feel to know that you have such a fanatical group of people waiting with such anticipation through every decision and thought process you go through?
"It’s interesting and amazing to see the things that the people who support us can create and how they can extrapolate on the lore presented. Sometimes they are way off, and sometimes they are right on and sometimes they are different completely. I’m just so fascinated by their creativity and their ability to draw and paint because I can’t do that at all.  I’d love to expand on the sort of fun fan-based things we can do as well, maybe something like a Starset-Con. Everybody can nerd out, and we can have science speakers and sci-fi creators and bands and then have the Starset world come to life within it.

"I love that this band is its insular group, and it’s all positive too. It doesn’t seem like we will ever be the band that is massive, but I would argue that what we have is even better. I would just like to be at a point where the live shows that we put on can be as wild as I intend them to be. That’s my main goal, but otherwise, I would take this rabid fandom and the people that love and cherish this any day."

And what part does Starset play within your life right now? What does it mean to be such a part of your life?
"I had been trying to make it in bands long before this, and to have the opportunity from that angle to do what we do stops you from squandering it and taking it for granted. It’s a lifestyle band for people, but it is for me as well. It is everything. During COVID, which was a moment when I got off the racetrack and had a bit of real life, that was when I realised that I don’t mind that this is everything I do. There are so many aspects to this that make up who I am. It’s not a 9-5, and it doesn’t feel like a 9-5 because there are so many different stimulations that allow me to work and grow. Because they are all part of the fun."

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