Starset’s Dustin Bates talks about debut album “Transmissions”

Dustin Bates is the singer for the Columbus, Ohio based rock band Starset a band whose debut album “Transmissions” spawned the break out hit “My Demons” long before there was ever actually a real band. Media Mikes spoke with Dustin recently about the creation of the album, the formation of the band and the group’s current tour with the recently reformed Breaking Benjamin.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on the band and “The Starset Society”
Dustin Bates: I actually created the “Transmissions” album before there was even a band. We had the song “My Demons” out on the radio before we ever had out first rehearsal. We did that because the record was done based upon the philosophy and the narrative of “The Starset Society”. I sort of incorporated their outlook into the record almost as a marketing device for their society. We are not the only tool being used to promote the society as they are using a variety of other media such as graphic novels and video. It’s cool to be a part of that and to be able to incorporate that into our record.

AL: Was then always the idea to adopt Starset as the band’s name?
DB: Exactly! The actually name itself sort of harkens back to the narrative. Starset is a non-rotating planet that is involved in all of this. The planet does rotate around the sun making a portion of the planet inhabital called the Starset region because there is always an eternal sunset there. The way that this plays into the narrative will be told in the first graphic novel.

AL: Does the band have any hand in writing the graphic novel?
DB: That is something separate. We mention the novel and the other forms of media being used so that people can dig more into what we as a band are a part of. We realize this can all be a bit confusing so we try to inform everyone of how things all go together.

AL: Can you tell us a little more about the album done prior to there actually being a band?
DB: I did the music based on the inspiration of the narrative. There is also another story line that is more of a love story so I tried to give the music a human element that people could relate to as there is a lot of science, technology and future type elements. I was very careful to not go too far. Once I had that done I reached out to various friends to help me record this. I was able to bring on Rob Graves to produce and he really helped me obtain the cinematic level of sound that I wanted to create. I knew early on that Starset needed to have a soundtrack to a sci-fi movie which was created by a rock band. Rob was the perfect guy for that. We sent the song “My Demons” to radio and it started to get really positive reactions. I knew very quickly that I needed a band and a record label. Since getting both of those things we have practically been on the road non-stop ever since. That was about a year and a half ago now.

AL: The album has quite a number of musical layers. Where did you start when you were writing the record?
DB: It was different for each song. Some started out more traditional with the melody and lyrics while some started with the music and after I had the lyrics I threw all the music away and rebuilt it so it had a cinematic vibe. I usually do write the melody of a song before the lyrics. I generally have ideas already for the other layers such as the strings and what not but until we get the actual players in there that’s when things come to life. We had an actual quartet come in and play all the orchestral parts on this record.

AL: Can you tell us about your current tour with Breaking Benjamin and what the band has planned for the rest of the year?
DB: It has been pretty busy for us with touring. We just recently got off of tour with Halestorm and the Pretty Reckless and now we are out with Breaking Benjamin through August. They are one of my favorite bands from when I was younger so it’s really great to be able to be out here with them. After this run wraps up there’s a possibility of going overseas and being out on the road for the rest of the year. Between all of that the Starset novel will be coming out this winter.

“Billy Bates” To Premiere in Kansas City This Friday

“Billy Bates,” which recently played to enthusiastic audiences at the Cannes, Toronto and Tribeca Film Festivals, will make a premiere stop in Kansas City this Friday, November 7 as part of a 10-city tour.

The red carpet event will be held at the Tivoli Cinemas beginning at 7:00 p.m. Following the screening, a Q&A with director-producer Julie Pacino and co-stars James Wirt and Savannah Welch will be held. The film will be on cable-video-on-demand and iTunes beginning November 18 and Netflix in January 2015.

For more information about the event, or to purchase tickets, go to

Vera Farmiga talks about Season 2 of A&E’s “Bates Motel”

Despite a successful career that had started almost a decade earlier, actress Vera Farmiga didn’t become a household name until her appearance as the psychiatrist caught in the middle in Martin Scorsese’s Oscar winning Best Picture “The Departed.” In 2010 she earned Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe Award nominations for her supporting turn opposite George Clooney in “Up in the Air. Since then she has starred in such films as “Source Code” and “The Conjuring.” She is also taking on another iconic role, that of Norma Bates, mother of young Norman, in the A&E series “Bates Motel.” As the second season approaches (it begins on March 3) Farmiga took some time to answer some questions about her preparation for the role, her family’s possible obsession with dark material and the rarity of having a second season while working in episodic television.

Mike Smith: Do you know quite a bit of the story line ahead of time? If so, do you like having that knowledge or would you rather be surprised as you go along?
Vera Farmiga: I’m still figuring what it is that is part of my process. You know, I’ve never had the luxury of a second season. I’ve done three series before and they all never had the opportunity to go beyond 13 episodes in the first season. So I know the first season I did feel a little disabled. Not that I couldn’t act… but I remember (writer) Carlton Cuse asking me “do you want some more clues?” And I wanted to sort of take it an episode at a time and not get ahead of myself. For me it was impossible to dig as deep initially with the root of this new character. I just had to – like it was like I felt like Norman Bates was this like huge voluptuous shrub that I just had to trust in this kind of a shallow root system. And sometimes I felt like I was like showing up to fix his toilet and my toolbox has been like packed by the wife. Do you know what I mean? I just reveled in the opportunity of a second season – television is a much slower process to discovering that background history, the personality, the psychology, the characters and their goals. And there were so many unknowns. And also, the cast is so much closer. There’s an intimacy. There’s a level of like sportsmanship now that we can throw harder jabs at each other. It’s the deeper level of trust that has been – and loved. It’s been established between us and the writers and between the actors. But, yes, for the second season I did ask for more clues. And I wantedto – I wanted to have the trajectory of the second season. I wanted to have more answers at the start, which I was provided with. So I think you’re in for a better second season.

MS: What is it that has been attracting you to more intense and scarier roles – “The Conjuring”…obviously the subject matter in “Bates Motel.” Is it in the blood? You’re sister Taissa is now on “American Horror Story.”
VF: Oh my God, you know, it’s like my own beautiful internal logic about why I choose to participate. Or I think actually the projects choose us. But why like there’s this magnetism oftentimes with dark subject matters is like… I don’t know. And actually to be honest with you, I do – I find dark stories uplifting. I think it’s like during the darkest moments of our lives that we see the light, right. There is a lot of darkness in “Bates Motel,” but again, there’s a lot of joy. I always look at things. And I choose to look at it through the lens of positivity. And I think our story is, yes it’s a story about dysfunction. It’s dark. But it’s a story about commitment and love and family and resilience and loyalty. I look at Taissa in “American Horror Story” and I just think, you know – I’m bias – you know, I’m practically her mother. And she’s just like this bright supernova that shines even brighter in the dark. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because our childhoods were so straight and narrow and full of light and love and goodness. I don’t know. Maybe that’s why we veer toward them more. But the object is to send light into the darkness you know, I mean that’s how I always look at it. So I am attracted to the sordid and the wacky, the unorthodox. But I love infusing it with lightness.

MS: When you first took on the role, were you worried before Seasons 1 how it would work setting it in the modern day? And why is it you think it does work so well?
VF: You know, I think – yes. I’d be lying if I didn’t have some reservation about it when I initially was presented with the offer. I thought there were so many things that can go wrong. And where we are being tethered, you know, we’re borrowing these characterizations or these plots points from like the most successful horror film ever. And that’s why that is a tall order but then it became to me simply a story – at the heart of the story it is this relationship between mother and son. But I didn’t feel any sort of pressure because everything that we knew about Norma Bates was through the fractured psyche of Anthony Perkins’ Norman.

MS: You’ve noted that what the audience “knows” about Norma came through the eyes of Anthony Perkins. Of course, that also means that the audience knows how Norma ends up. I know you are, in parts, trying to be faithful to the original film but, that being said, could you have another potential outcome for her? And if so, does this affect the way the character is written or how you portray her?
VF: The writers have always seen this as a strange love story between this mother and a son. And I don’t mean, you know, incest love. But it’s intense. And it’s…I mean it has to go in a certain direction. The relationship you see in the film, she’s very much portrayed as one type of person. And you don’t ever get to know that in her workings of how it got there, which is really fun in the film. I mean it’s great. And it’s a big surprise when you find out in the film. But here you get the luxury of taking that mess and putting it under a microscope and examining it and wondering how it got there and what the permutations were. And was there anything in at that wasn’t just ugliness because in the film, you know, she’s portrayed as a very abusive, harsh kind of ugly parent and it’s like, okay, well everyone gets mad at their parents sometimes. I mean everyone – every teenager in the world says I hate you. And they don’t hate them. It’s like the parent is such a complex thing to a kid. So it really was just, you know, it’s the love story of those two people and how they get to that place. And what it means and what that looks like. And it’s going to be amazing.

Richard Harmon talks about roles in “Bates Motel” & The CW’s “The Hundred”

Richard Harmon is known best for his roles in television shows like “The Killing” and “Continuum”. He also starred in the horror movie “Grave Encounters 2” last year. This year Richard is co-starring in shows like “Bates Motel”, “DirecTV’s “Rogue” and recently shot a pilot for The CW’s “The Hundred”.  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Richard about his role on “Bates Motel” and his upcoming roles.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your role of Richard Slymore in “Bates Motel”?
Richard Harmon: Playing Richard is a nice change of pace for me. He is pretty much just a normal guy, which is one of the coolest things for me. It is rare that I get a chance to play someone who is just a regular human being. He is a nice person, even though he can come off as a bit aggressive with Norman. But I feel that is due to his protection over his girlfriend. But he is just a normal high school guy.

MG: What drew you to the role?
RH: This was just one of those special projects that you walk on the set and you know how good the show is going to be. I felt very lucky to be apart of it in just any way shape or form.

MG: How was it working with Freddie Highmore & Vera Farmiga?
RH: I unfortunately never got to work with Vera. I really wanted too because I am a big fan and she is just terrific. Even now watching the show, I am an even better fan than I used to be. Freddie though, if he was any representation of both of our leads…oh my God! He is such a pro and just such a nice human being. He works the correct way that I feel that actors should work. He is so focused yet at the same time he is incredibly nice and poliet. I cannot say enough good things.

MG: You are no stranger to TV, how does this show differ than your other television work?
RH: I think they are all different. I don’t just mean because they are different stories. Each set offers its unique vibe. On “Bates Motel” everyone is so experienced and they know what they are doing. They each have a job to do and do it incredibly well. I have been very lucky in that sense since it also applies to the other shows I have worked on. I think with “Bates”, it really has this very unique vibe.

MG: After this show and “The Killing”, what do you enjoy the most about playing the bad guy?
RH: [laughs] I don’t know. It’s what they seem to like casting me for. I do not think I am quite that mean in real life. I would like to think I am a relatively nice person. For a while, I was wondering why I only got bad guy roles. Now I am just I relish in it. They are just so much fun to play. There is so much you can do with them and change all the time.

MG: Tell us about the other TV show you are involved with “Rogue”?
RH:It was a great show to work on. I only got to do two episodes on it in the beginning of the series. It premieres on Wednesday, April 3. The two scripts I got to read were terrific. Plus how could you not love Thandie Newton. I actually didn’t get to work with her either, so there is another one after Vera Farmiga. I really wanted to work with her too. A ton of my friends from Vancouver are also regulars on it like Jarod Joseph. He is just someone that I really respect. I think they hired the actors very well on that show.

MG: What else do you have in the cards for this year?
RH: I just finished filming a pilot. It is called “The Hundred” and it is for The CW. The scripts are insanely good. The summary of the show is set 97 years after a nuclear war has destroyed civilization. A spaceship housing the lone human survivors sends 100 juvenile delinquents back to Earth to investigate the possibility of re-colonizing the planet. So it about us trying to survive down there. It is a really fun show.

Interview with Tyler Bates

Tyler Bates is one of the most well known composers. Some of the projects he has worked on has been 2004’s “Dawn of the Dead”, “The Devil’s Rejects”, “Rob Zombie’s Halloween”, “Halloween II”, Zack Snyder’s “300” and “Watchmen”. Movie Mikes had the chance to ask Tyler about his career and how he got started in the music business.

Click here to purchase Tyler’s scores

Mike Gencarelli: How did you get into the music industry?
Tyler Bates: I have played music my entire life. I began on saxophone, and once my cousins turned me on to KISS and Led Zeppelin I dropped concert band for a Les Paul copy. I spent much of my life in rock bands, and when I moved back to Los Angeles many years ago, my band, Pet, was signed to Atlantic Records. I have always had an appreciation for a broad scope of music – studying arrangements and production of music from every genre imaginable. I was offered the opportunity to work on a very low-budget film in 1992, and began picking up small scoring jobs to pay my rent while my band developed. One day I realized that I was actually in the film business, and I shifted my focus to scoring movies more than pursuing life as a touring musician.

Mike Gencarelli: Do you have any other passions?
Tyler Bates: NFL, NBA, and of course my family. I do like to experiment with instruments and musical gadgets not directly related to my work.

Mike Gencarelli: What is the process for you when you develop a score? How do you start?
Tyler Bates: After watching the film, I begin by discussing it with the director. I find it important to develop an understanding of the director’s taste and sensibilities – generally via conversation not directly related to the film at hand. If the time line permits, I will let the feeling of the movie build inside of me until I can’t stave off writing any longer. I am not procrastinating per se, it is just a way of approaching a project with a sense of intensity or urgency towards the creative process, regardless of the overall timbre and style of the film.

MG: After doing over 60 scores, have you ever thought that they sound alike?
TB: Of course! Some of this is intentional, some is by request of director’s I work with but mostly, it is the stark reminder that I need to consistently challenge myself to grow and add new techniques and dimension to my approach to film music. I think a distinctive style is essential as an artist, but overall you’re touching on the artists “love/hate” relationship with his or her work. It can be painful! Lol.

MG: You worked on all of Rob Zombie’s films, how did you come to get that arrangement?
TB: I did not work on “House of a Thousand Corpses,” but I have worked on all of Rob’s subsequent films. Rob and I were introduced through a close mutual friend many years ago. I heard Rob liked my score for “Dawn of the Dead,” so I offered to help out with the score for “The Devil’s Rejects.” I didn’t know that Rob wasn’t terribly interested in scoring his own films until he asked me to do “Rejects.” It was a rewarding experience despite the brutal nature of the film. We bonded through that movie, and have become good friends over the years. I really respect Rob as an artist, so it for me, it is a great collaboration.

MG: Do you always interact with the filmmakers or do you have creative control over your projects?
TB: The concept of “creative control” in its purest conceptual form does not exist in film scoring, especially the higher the budget. That said; once you earn the trust of your director and the producers, you then have much more support to approach the score from your sensibilities, and in your distinct style. This process requires a bit of “show and tell.” They key is to get it right the first time as much as possible, which means beyond the idea of creating a good piece of music, you have to show that you are thinking about the film as a whole, and the specific function of the score throughout.

MG: Do you have a favorite score that you have created?
TB: Hmm. There are things I like about some of them. The great personal experiences I have had along the way are typically what make me fond of any work I have done in particular. Maybe “The Devil’s Rejects,” and “300?” I don’t know. I just completed the score for Emilio Estevez’s new film called “The Way.” It’s very personal, acoustic, organic music. It was definitely a welcome departure from much of the violent material I have done over the last several years.

MG: Which other composers do you get your inspiration from?
TB: I love Bernard Herrmann and Penderecki. Henry Mancini. I also like Don Ellis’ work on “The French Connection” movies. Great stuff!

MG: In the last six you’ve scored basically sci-fi/horror films? Is that your favorite genre?
TB: I appreciate the opportunity to work with good people and to grow as a composer/artist. The genre doesn’t quite matter, but there is no doubt that Sci-Fi/horror offer the greatest opportunities to implement odd ideas…

MG: Any exciting projects you have planned for the future?
TB: “The Way.” The “Transformers Origins” video game is released soon. Season four of “Californication” begins soon. And of course, Zack Snyder’s new film.

Click here to purchase Tyler’s scores