Dustin Bookatz – Big Dreams To The Big Apple

WIM bassist and journeyman, Dustin Bookatz, talks to Music Feeds about life abroad, branching out beyond WIM and an in-the-works solo-project.

Music Feeds: So WIM’s living in New York these days…

Dustin Bookatz: I and we moved over to the US around January 2012 so it’s coming close to two years over here. Initially I was touring and writing with WIM, and now the dust has settled we find ourselves in New York making steps for the future and basing our lives out of the Big Apple. It was an unconscious move in many ways…It’s a city of hope and serendipity and also frustration…it changes daily.

MF: How has the music scene in the US treated you?

DB: I have seen a lot and my scope of the intricacies of the ‘music industry’, as you might put it, has broadened greatly. We played some crazy shows such as Sundance Film Festival, as well as South By South West and the Bowery Ballroom. I spent time in Electric Lady Studios and sat at Jimi Hendrix’s piano. I’ve worked with some top UK and US producers and players alike. I’ve jammed with soul players who have worked with Kanye West, The Roots and others. So on an experiential level it has been rewarding.

At the same time I have seen an industry that is confused and trying to readjust. In this free download age and with the saturation of artists going on at the moment, it is a strange time for many. I’ve met Grammy-winning producers who can barely pay rent. I’ve seen trust fund kids get their parents to bankroll support tours and help them through. Justice and talent doesn’t really seem to matter sometimes. Though I think the best way to navigate it all is to be true to yourself and take pride in your work.

It’s difficult to sum it all up so quickly. I would say that the idea of speciality needs to be upheld, as does music from the heart. The scene here is treating me kindly, but I’m aware of all the others who have been jaded by it. It’s a turbulent scene and life. Only the strong survive is the expression I believe.

I will be glad to visit Australia again to remind myself of the benefits of naivety. Though the professional benefits might not be as apparent, if you look at Gotye or Lorde, it does show that in this day and age one can be based anywhere and have a song permeate the mainstream if you indeed want to be a part of that mainstream.

MF: WIM has been in the studio lately. How is the process going?

DB: We have been getting into the studio a decent amount lately. Forming our next recordings. We are working with a brilliant producer called Hector Castillo who has worked with the likes of Bjork and Phillip Glass. Most importantly, I think he has great ears…as in a great sensibility for sounds and textures. It is one of those fortuitous encounters one can make in New York. I am also hoping to have Hector’s input as my solo work grows. He is a bass player too. I feel he understands how I hear music.

As to when the music will come from the lab and reach the ears of the public, well time will tell. We have a timeline in mind, but we’re also balancing our lives and futures and expectations with our people in order to do this in the right way.

MF: I understand you have also been collaborating with one-time Australian Hero Fisher. Can you tell us more about that project?

DB: Hero is an old friend and musical collaborator. She and Saul [Wodak, WIM guitarist] and I have made music for years. She is now about to do big things in the UK. I am proud and happy to be involved very much still and look forward to the next steps. We did some recordings about a year ago and recently finished them up in a studio in Brooklyn. It will sound big and beautiful and unlike anything she has done in the past.

It was an interesting experience for me in that we were taking songs that I have been playing and hearing for years and bulking them up, adding on some serious playing and sounds, and seeing what comes of it. Experimentation meets professional studio musicians. An interesting mix. It gave me a lot to take back into my own music-making…

For the rest of the picture you’ll have to wait ’til early 2014.

MF: What is this solo project then?

When you spend over six years devoted to one project and one band, you start to accumulate ideas beyond that focus. I think it is important to internal and band harmony to have a space for these ideas to ferment without all the usual pressures and filters. I have spent the last several months getting away from the bass – though I still play it often – and focusing more on piano, guitar and vocals. All the lessons and colours I have absorbed in the last 16 years of making music I am trying to apply to a total spectrum. I used to tell my story through the notes on a bass, now I’m taking the same personality and making rooms out of it.

Truth be told, I’ve always made my own sounds. This next solo step is more about realising the sounds into fully-fledged songs, complete works that I’m proud to call my own. It is an exciting step! Though, to be honest, the personality was always there in the bass lines. It might be that I’ve finally realised that I might need to make a little more noise in other frequencies for people to realise what I’m on about.

It is the interesting thing when you realise it. In this business, so much emphasis is placed on the singer. I never quite got it. I was blissing out with the audience on whatever frequencies were bouncing around the room. But as far as maintaining control and building on oneself, it is the logical step. Bring the people to how you hear things first. Once they’re on the ride you can take them where you started from. That’s what I want to do with my music. That’s the way I think music should be, to be relevant, not just part of the endless streams of noise. This next step is about saying hello through a more totalistic language.

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