Kilian Duarte is a professional bassist from Caracas, Venezuela based out of Boston Massachusetts USA known best for playing with Abiotic, Felix Martin, Lattermath, Scale The Summit and others.
#1 – Being part of very different projects requires a musician with an open mind, who are some of the players that helped to form your interest in such a wide range of playing styles?
Thank you so much! My influences are super varied and are not limited to just bass, but for the sake of being concise here are a few I always looked up to growing up: Victor Wooten, Abraham Laboriel, Matthew Garrison, Edgar Meyer, Steve Bailey, John Myung, Martin Mendez, Les Claypool, Justin Chancellor, Jaco Pastorius, Ray Riendeau, Dirk Lance and P-Nut. Those players really sculpted a ton of my approach to bass playing in my adolescent and formative years. I am also super heavily influenced by my peers and fellow bassists, especially those I went to music school with.
#2 – Sometimes it’s hard for young players to relate to experienced pros so to create some common ground, what was the first beginner bass and amp you owned as a young player?
My wonderful and loving Aunt Dania bought me an Ibanez Soundgear 4 string starter kit with the little 15 watt practice amp when I was 12. It was an alder body/rosewood fingerboard 4 string with PJ pickups and chrome hardware. Loved that bass. Sold it to my bass teacher a few years later, wish I still had it!
#3 – Fast forward to today, your Kiesel bass collection all seems packed with fun instruments to play. Do you experiment with different specs, pickups etc or do you have fairly strict needs in your instruments?
I am super fortunate and grateful to get called for gigs as varied as musical theater, gypsy jazz, wedding bands, technical death metal, prog and a lot more. So the fact that all my basses have different pickup and electronic configurations is no coincidence.
I love all the Kiesel pickups, but my heart really loves their take on the classic Leo Fender P/J/ and MM pickups. Also, their preamps are so damn well voiced and they track so easily. I find that whether passive or active, they just sit in a mix wonderfully. I never have an issue blending in with bands these days tonally, and I am super grateful for that.
#4 – Do you alter your gear and approach to your tones much between your projects being that they are all fairly different?
Absolutely, I take every gig as a case by case basis. The great thing about playing only Kiesels though (unless its an upright gig) is that I know how all my basses respond to my rigs and where to get a great starting point. Funny thing though is that most of the time I never have crazy settings or radical frequency boosts or cuts. My amp usually stays “flatish” and I control most of my individual sounds on the basses, with my hands, and pedals.
The “craziest” one maybe would be Abiotic, but even then I just am adding a touch more overdrive than usual, slightly boosting the highs and mids, and adding a touch more of compression. Compression is like spice on a good dish, too much and it will kill it.
#5 – As someone that has a lot of experience with both the Darkglass Electronics hardware and the Neural DSP Darkglass software, how close does the plugin get for you?
It’s dead-on. Ive thankfully known Douglas Castro for several years now, and have been with them in some capacity since almost the beginning. The dude is the diametrically-opposed definition of lazy hahah. All his products are fantastic and they make my life as a non-engineer infinitely easier.
#6 – Can you take us on a detailed walk through your live and studio gear?
(Takes deep breath)
Basses: All Kiesels
- ZBM6 (Black Limba body, 7 piece neck, flamed maple top and fb with double MM hum buckers, special unique face finish) aka Thanos I (main Scale The Summit Bass)
- JBM5 (Alder body, 5 piece neck, Ebony Fingerboard, Single coil J pups, color shift finish) aka Thanos II
- VM59K (Mahogany Body, 7 piece neck, Ebony Fingerboard, MM and single J pups,
flamed maple top, Gold and Black finish.) aka Corgi Bass *the corgi on the pickup is laser etched on 😉 (Main bass for Mimesis and Lattermath)
- x 2 VB6’s (Swamp Ash Body, 5 piece neck, Birdseye Maple Fingerboard, Radius, Humbuckers, Antique Ash with Red finish) aka Captain Scarlett (Main Bass for Abiotic) & (Swamp Ash Body, 5 Piece Neck, Birdseye Maple Fingerboard, P Spilt Coil/Radius
Pickups, Sparkle Pink Finish) aka Sparkle Pony
- JB5 (Black Limba Body, 5-piece Neck, Birdseye Maple Fingerboard, J Style Stacked Humbuckers, Emerald Green With Blackburst finish) aka Cpt. Don Juan
- PB4 (Alder Body, 1/4 Sawn Maple Neck, Ebony Fingerboard, P Split-Humbucker, Sunburst Finish) aka R.O.D
- ZB4 ( Swamp Ash Body, 3-Piece Neck, Maple Fingerboard, P Split/Radius Humbucker, Walnut Top)
- JBM5 ( Alder Body, Roasted Maple Neck, Roasted Maple Fingerboard, Single Coil J Pups, Black Finish)
- 5AB Fretless ( Alder Body, Maple Neck, Ebony Fretless Fingerboard with Epoxy Finish, Single Coil J Pups, Hand Painted by Sarah Longfield)
- NS NXT Electric Upright ( Maple Body, Maple Neck, Ebony Fingerboard, Polar Pickup System, Black Finish )
Amp: Darkglass Microtubes 900 and DG410 cabinet
Pedals: Darkglass X7, Darkglass Alpha/Omega Ultra, Darkglass Super Symmetry Compressor, Electro-Harmonix Canyon Delay, MXR Bass Octave Deluxe, Korg Pitchblack Tuner
#7 – Being a full time member of Scale The Summit, Abiotic and other projects in addition to session work seems like a ton of commitment. I’d ask how many hours a day you play but it seems it would be better to ask how many hours a day don’t have a bass in your hand?
I want to approach this more as a point to talk about injury prevention. While I practice all the time, I take breaks all the time to let my tendons relax and to keep my mind from burnout. This is crucial, especially when learning more technical music.
I am fortunate enough to have loved ones, friends and pets to keep me occupied and happy as well. I highly suggest practicing in chunks of time rather than some antiquated “binge” practice sessions which lead to disillusion, burnout and injuries. You should never, under any circumstances, be playing bass for 7 hours straight. That’s horrible for your body and you will not absorb progress in a correct manner.
#8 – How does your role differ over your full time projects as far as the songwriting and arrangements go?
I usually have a ton of control in my bass parts and I definitely have a super fun time with my band mates in the writing and production process. I haven’t contributed any full blown compositions though, as I enjoy doing the session guy thing with all the bands and just being responsible for the bass.
I plan on picking up composition again soon and if I feel a song is right for an individual project I could easily suggest it. But with all the bands I contribute most with business decisions, organization and promotion. But I like taking Chris Letchfords, Matt Emm/John Matos, Will Lundens work and adding my unique flare to their compositions.
#9 – Bass amp sims were pretty scarce for a while but the last couple years, the game has really changed. Which plugins have really stood out to you that you really enjoyed?
The Darkglass stuff works for me. I usually try and experiment with different sims with my engineers in the room to get a real feel for them in mixes. One enormous thing that helps me professionally is delegating expertise. I like tracking with engineers. They know about Impulse responses better than I, and I am the one holding the bass. We both learn by sharing information, rather than assuming expertise of the others field.
#10 – Is it difficult to maintain the balance between extreme technical wizardry and holding down the low end and the feel in a song when playing tech-death in Abiotic?
Not specifically to be perfectly honest. I don’t approach parts in terms of notes or difficulty anymore, just energy and making the songs sound as best as they can be. If a part is two notes or two hundred is irrelevant to me, just that it fits and makes things more musical. Those guys are some riff monsters, so I like the mental space working with them puts me. I think for metal, the best thing you can do is to really listen to how the drummer is interacting with the guitars, and then fill in those gaps like mortar.
#11 – Do you think metal is getting to a point where the physical limitations of the human are starting to max out as far as speed and precision go?
The bar is absolutely raised. You take a generation of kids raised on the internet, make them struggle through a recession, and drop the bottom out from the music industry and you’re left with an insanely high base level for elite metal players forged out of sheer strength of will. I don’t know about any more technical than now, but the bare minimum has been raised substantially.
The average metal bassist now has to be more on top of their game than 20 years ago by a wide margin. And drummers, fucking forget about it, everyone in the prog/tech scene is a mutant. Who knows what the ultimate end will be. As long as its musical I am down to push for whatever.
#12 – On the spot, three of your all-time favorite recorded bass tones in any genre or style..
Jaco Pastorius (everything), Justin Chancellor/Doug Pinnick on almost anything, and a tie for Jamerson and Dirk Lance during the Make Yourself days. Sorry, more than 3 haha.
#13 – As we discussed earlier, you are a busy guy, what does the next year or so have in store for your projects, fans and beyond?
Four new albums. New Scale The Summit, which is by far the proudest thing I have ever put my name on. New Abiotic, with a much more melodic and groove based direction. My band Mimesis releasing its debut, all music videos are shot and final edits happening. There’s also new Lattermath LP, which is another giant leap forward for that band.
I can safely say these are the records I hoped to make when I was a kid, and I am hoping by delivering so much new music that I can elevate both the bands and my personal career to new levels. Each one of these took its sweet damn time to make and I am happy to say nothing is rushed or compromised by any of the bands. Ive been tracking bass for all these things since 2018 so its surreal to finally see them come to light starting with the Scale The Summit announcement in early September. After that hopefully touring a bunch and working more and more!
We had a blast talking to one of the most awe-inspiring bass players in music today. His name is being mentioned in all of the “top bass player” conversations and debates but he’s about as humble as it gets. To watch how free and easy he makes even the most difficult stuff look is both inspiring and motivating to someone like myself that’s trying to elevate his bass game. To go between the genres he performs in most so effortlessly is something not a lot of players can do. He’s a rare talent without question!