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The Latin Bass Issue – Kilian Duarte

Kilian Duarte, Bringing the Low End from Crazy Prog Rock to Pop and Everything in Between…

BMM Please share with us a little of your personal background… 

KD I was born in Caracas, Venezuela and immigrated to the United States (South Florida) at age 3. I grew up in a house filled with music, everything from Salsa/Traditional Venezuelan music to Progressive Rock and a million things in between. 

My uncle was a classical pianist and composer, and my cousin was a metal drummer, so I felt the urge to play from a young age.  I have been playing for going on 14 years and was fortunate enough to attend Berklee College of Music with scholarship honors and studied with some amazing bassists, such as Jim Stinnett, Matthew Garrison, Janek Gwizdala, Bruce Gertz and Fernando Huergo.

BMM What was your first bass, and how did you come by it?

KD My first bass was an Ibanez starter kit SoundGear bass that was an early birthday present from my amazing aunt. It came with a little 10-watt practice amp and I fell in love with it.

BMM Tell us about that very first day you had a bass in your hands.

KD November, 11th 2000, My bass finally came in the mail and it was one of the happiest days of my life up until then. I knew it was a right fit for me because unlike most beginners my right hand started working right away, and I fell in love with the feeling.

BMM As a bassist born in Latin America, do you find this to be an advantage or disadvantage?

KD It has been really cool working with some Latin artists, and the fact that I am bilingual has helped me communicate with certain bandleaders more effectively. During my tenure with the Felix Martin Trio it helped being able to speak Spanish with the band, as Felix was Venezuelan like myself, and Ray Rojo our drummer was Mexican. That being said, I try not to make my ethnicity a part of my professional identity. Not because I am ashamed in anyway, but I prefer to be represented by my skill and not where I happened to be born.

BMM What are your main musical and bass influences?

KD This is by far the hardest question, but the most honest answer I can give is all the musicians I grew up listening to and many of my peers. I have always been inspired by the bass legends we all know, but also by many of the musicians I have had the honor to personally know, and at times perform with.

BMM How do you define the music style you play?

KD Recently I have been playing with more musicians in the Prog Rock medium, but in that medium alone it has covered everything from Fusion, to World music and Metal. For me personally, on my own time, I try to cover as many different styles of music as possible, and through my solo bass work cover things that resemble the ambient/experimental range of things. I have recently been experimenting with synth sounds and trying to work with some local DJ’s in producing EDM style tracks. It has been really cool moving into that arena and replace what usually has been a job assigned to computers.

BMM How important is reading and studying music theory?

KD Understanding the language of music is absolutely essential to keeping your edge. That being said, you always should follow you ear, forget the “rules” of harmony and just think musically. Reading music is fantastic too because it allows you to share what you are imagining in a practical and effective manner. Also being able to read can greatly increase the number of gigs you can get, so I am all for that!

BMM What do you consider the differences that technology and the Internet have made for you as a musician, compared to the previous generations that didn’t have these tools?

KD They have completely changed the game up and has become the ultimate double-edge sword. On one hand you have the effective end of recorded music being a paid commodity. On the other hand musicians have the opportunity to have their music reach any corner of the world with their own efforts. Mediums like YouTube allow you to reach audiences that were not ever possible in the MTV and pre-MTV eras. Only time will tell what is going to happen in the long run. All anyone in our age group can do is just go with the flow and adapt as best you can.

BMM Tell us about your gear.

KD For basses: Stambaugh custom 6-string, Lakland Skyline 55-60, Fender Duff Mckagan signature P-bass (lovingly called dumpsterbass), Wishbass 4-string fretless, Squier Matt Freeman signature P-Bass, and a Palatino Electric upright.

For amps: Phil Jones Bass Cub 100-watt combo, and for larger gigs a T.C. Electronics BG500 500-watt combo.

For effects: Boss ME-70 guitar multi-effects pedal and a MarkBass SuperSynth pedal.

BMM Who are your favorite Latin American bassists?

KD Two awesome Berklee professors by the name of Fernando Huergo and Oscar Stagnaro. They are two extremely competent and fluid players that just make anything seem super easy. Watching Oscar play salsa is an experience to savor because it’s just nasty.

BMM Please leave some motivational and encouraging words for the next generation of Latin American bassists.

KD Well, I would want to leave inspiration for any bass player, period, regardless of their ethnicity. But one thing I can say is to network your butt off and never, ever give up… and remember to have fun!

Visit online at kilianduarte.com and youtube.com/Kilianduartebass

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