Bassist Kilian Duarte keeps himself extremely busy, playing with Felix Martin, Scale The Summit, as well as a new project called Lattermath. Antihero Magazine had a chat with Kilian about the latest album from Felix Martin, upcoming releases from both Scale The Summit and Lattermath, his work with J Ferro Basses, and the bands, musicians, and musical styles that have inspired him to master the bass.
Scott Martin: Can you tell me about the latest release by Felix Martin, Mechanical Nations? Who produced it, and where it was recorded, and just a little bit about the background of the album?
Kilian Duarte: Mechanical Nations is our first full-length LP since 2012’s The Scenic Album. It was co-produced by Felix and Jamie King. Jamie had worked with Between the Buried And Me and a couple of great acts, Painted In Exile and a bunch of these other bands. Wonderful mixing engineer. And we basically recorded 99 % of the stuff in L.A., and then I did all the bass tracks from here at home in Boston. So, it was kind of nice, I mean, it was still stressful, obviously, just because it’s all new material, and you want to play the best you have, but it was kind of nice having a more relaxed schedule for it, and being able to write all my parts for Mechanical Nations here at home. So, that was kind of great about that.
Scott Martin: How did you become affiliated with J Ferro Basses, and can you tell me a little bit about them?
Kilian Duarte: When I was working at another company doing product management stuff, I got introduced to Jose, who used to be the Vice President of Sales at ESP. So, he was the guy who launched the LTD line, and he was working for another company, and then he told me he was starting his own brand. And I was excited, and he immediately wanted to snag me up as an artist. I had done a review for one of his basses for the magazine I worked for. And it just ended up being one of these things where it was just a wonderful relationship, where he’s actually like a good friend. And what happened was, the artist relations position had opened up, and it’s a little unconventional that an artist would work in this position, but the lead guitar player for Unearth also does artist relations for Fishman pickups, stuff like that.
Just another way to make some side income, but also, it’s just awesome because I’ve always wanted to have a job working in this, where I work expanding on the product stuff. But the basses are fantastic. New, very original designs, they’re very tonally flexible, and they’re well made. I mean, my signature alone is going to be a thousand dollars flat. So, it’s very affordable, but everything’s really sturdy on it. I’ve toured with the 6-string they gave me and the 5-string – several thousand miles, at this point, I’ve put on both instruments, and no real issues whatsoever. I couldn’t be happier being a part of that organization.
Scott Martin: How long have you been employed with J Ferro Basses?
Kilian Duarte: As a full-fledged artist, since November. And then I started with the artist relations thing in February. So, pretty recent, but it’s been wonderful. I talk to Jose probably like every other day.
Scott Martin: Besides playing with Felix Martin, you’re also in Scale The Summit, and then you have a new band, Lattermath. Scale The Summit has a new album coming out, can you tell me a little bit about that?
Kilian Duarte: Yeah, we’re both very excited, Chris and I, along with our drummer Charlie Engen, who is just a fantastic drummer. It’s kind of great, because he had the most time now, after leaving Prosthetic to self-produce and do the album. We got Anup Sastry that mixed everything, who’s a wonderful human being, and this talented guy when it comes to this stuff. And just in general, we’re really happy with it.
It’s got a lot more layers now, a different approach than before. This time it includes stints and a lot of other layers, so I guess the best way I could describe it, it’s probably the most accessible Scale record, but at the same time it’s got some nice over-the-top elements, like Night at the Opera, in terms of production and stuff like that. And we have, I can’t say anything right now publicly, but we have a ton of guest musicians that we’re going to announce very soon for guitar solos and that helped co-write some parts. It’s just amazing what they helped add to that record, because when I was recording it, you know, we only had the basic scratches down, and to hear it finally done, it’s just like, I can say for both Chris and myself that we couldn’t be happier with the final product.
Scott Martin: So, after the album drops, what are the plans for the rest of the year? Are there any shows lined up between now and the end of 2017?
Kilian Duarte: Scale, I know he wants to tour more strategically, so for right now we don’t have any touring plans, but that doesn’t mean that by the end of the year we might not be going on the road. That’s just tentative for now, but we’re going to work mostly on getting the pre-orders up and getting the record out to people hopefully by May, I think is when we’re shooting for. We’re really excited. I could see us going on the road sometime soon, but there’s no definitive plans right now, so we’re playing everything by ear.
Scott Martin: Tell me about Lattermath. When does the debut album drop?
Kilian Duarte: Lattermath is this wonderful project that I have with some friends that I’ve known ever since Berkelee, but some of them are new friends. Derek Samson, Eli Cutting on vocals, Ben Cohen on guitar, Anthony Smoley on drums, and just a really wonderful, very original project that’s very unlike what I’m mostly known for. This is very vocal-based heavy music, and it’s kind of awesome because the whole band works more as a unit. You know, Scale The Summit and the Felix stuff, and then for more like the virtuosity aspect of the playing style and that element, this is much more about melody and really nice effective riffs written around song-writing, and I’m really happy to be a part with those guys, because they all have become like my new best friends here.
It’s awesome to be in a band locally, because with Scale and with Felix, you know whenever we meet up, it’s an international band, they’re both international bands at this point, so if we tour or meet up, there’s always a flight involved. So, it’s kind of nice to be in a band where I just take my car and we can meet up and hang out and record and rehearse. And they’re all fantastic musicians too, so there’s no drop in talent level with this band. So yeah, the debut record comes out March 10th, and we will have a music video for the single out very soon, it’s a song called “Trench.”
Scott Martin: What is the songwriting process with Lattermath?
Kilian Duarte: I’m the newest member, so I wasn’t involved in writing this record, but in general it’s a collaboration of all the members. Usually Derek is the main songwriter, but they all are very heavily involved in contributing to everything, and they want me to be involved in the future, for future releases. It’s usually one of them that comes up with an idea, usually Derek with a riff, and then they all kind of go about adding different layers to it. Our drummer is very much involved in a lot of production and orchestration. Our singer is also incredibly involved in the process, so it’s kind of nice. There are no slackers in the band. Everyone really puts 110 percent in. Each person brings an idea, and then it gets elaborated.
Scott Martin: Who does Lattermath sound like?
Kilian Duarte: It’s very original sounding, but if I guess I had to describe it, it’s kind of like if Tesseract tuned down to A flat, so it’s very soaring clean vocals. They’re very heavily influenced by bands like Meshuggah, for a lot of things. How can I describe it? That kind of new wave of modern progressive metal, but at the same time, they also are very involved with a lot of orchestral stuff for production, so the influences are all over the board, but if I had to describe to people in a sentence what we kind of sound like, it’s kind of like a heavier version of Tesseract, if I could put it in the simplest terms that could effectively be communicated.
Scott Martin: What challenges did you face during the recording of the album?
Kilian Duarte: For the Lattermath album, I actually wasn’t on this record yet. The record was finished before I joined.
Scott Martin: So, they did the album with a different bass player?
Kilian Duarte: Yeah, Derek performed the bass on the record, the lead guitarist at the time, because they were in between bass players at the time. Live, I can say that the cool thing about it is, it really allows me to be more aggressive with what I’m doing. So, with Felix and with Scale, I have to do a lot more dynamic work and stuff like that. With Lattermath, it’s kind of awesome because I can just kind of crank it up and play aggressively, and enjoy being this huge wall of sound, and locking in with the drummer and just being this huge aspect to the sound. So, it’s kind of awesome, I play with overdrive in the band, so my bass always sounds like a rhinoceros charging, so it’s great. From a purely tonal standpoint, it’s a lot of fun, I can’t complain.
Scott Martin: What other bands have you played with in the past, besides Scale, Felix, and Lattermath?
Kilian Duarte: Felix has been my main act for a while. I played with my girlfriend’s band Dearest Pinky for a while, and that’s still actually an ongoing thing that we’re going to probably try and release some more material in 2018 that’s like nice, vocally-led rock. Really fun, actually, by the end of that incarnation we had two 7-string guitarists and me playing, and her originals. Then in the New England area I do a lot of more business work, so I do a lot of theater work. That’s one of the main things I work with. I also played for a while with this awesome keyboardist named Varen Boswoon for a while back, and he was a Turkish conductor and keyboardist who works for Dream Theater. We used to play a lot of stuff together. Actually, we were fortunate enough to play with members of Dream Theater at a certain point when I was playing with him. So, that was something I was involved with for a while.
And in my early twenties I did a bunch of different stuff, you know varying projects, but those are the ones that now stand out apart from the main ones that I’m involved with. Felix has kind of been like the main thing, just because I’ve known him since 2009, so that was a lot of investing and growing with that project a lot.
Scott Martin: So, you met Felix at Berklee [College of Music]?
Kilian Duarte: Yeah, it was through a mutual friend. I was kind of, I guess not really dating this girl, and her best friend had found out that I was Venezuelan, and so she was like, oh my friend’s Venezuelan and he was looking for a bass player, and you play progressive rock too, and language-wise and culture-wise, she thought it would be a nice fit for both of us to work together. And as much as he’s a complete goofball, we’ve been together for eight years now. So, it’s worked out.
Scott Martin: You definitely have great chemistry together.
Kilian Duarte: It’s kind of like after a while, it’s been a wonderful … The best thing about Felix is that it’s, working with someone that has that different of an approach to music, anything else seems really easy. You know what I mean? And I think that’s one of the things I’ve been very fortunate in, is that the main gigs I get, whether it’s Scale The Summit or Felix, they’re very original acts with very unique approaches to how to go about playing bass for them. A lot of people wouldn’t just be able to sit in with Felix, because they wouldn’t know where to sit in with this 14-string guitar, with Scale that’s got all these layers, so because of that, whenever I play “normal music,” I’m always able to go back to it without a problem.
Scott Martin: Who influenced you to play bass?
Kilian Duarte: Bass growing up was a lot of stereotypical things like Vic Wooten, Marcus Miller, Jaco Pastorius. My favorite rock bass player was like Martin Mendez from Opeth, but I was always really influenced by just music in general. I grew up with prog in the house, and with a lot of South American music and classical music and stuff like that. I kind of fell in love with the instrument more than specific players that influenced me, because I can be happy in any gig, as long as the musicians are good. And that’s kind of one of the things why I want to think that I get work outside of just the progressive circles, because whether I’m playing in a rock cover band to pay the bills, or it’s theater work, or anything like that, I always enjoy just the role of it. I’m also in a gypsy jazz trio as well, so really, my biggest love has generally just been bass itself. But you know, growing up those were the main influences I guess you could say that affect my playing style.
I thought we could give a big shout out to players like Martin Mendez from Opeth, for his style and the way he approaches his fills, and then Jaco Pastorius for a lot of things, and then people like Chris Squire and John Entwistle for their tone. I like aggressive rock bass players like Justin Chancellor from Tool – also a great influence, even though I don’t necessarily sound like him – for thinking outside of the box and trying to be creative with the instrument. A lot of different things, in a nutshell.
Scott Martin: Have you had the opportunity to watch the Jaco movie?
Kilian Duarte: Yeah, I did. I’m actually from Broward County too. I grew up in Deerfield Beach. I was born in Venezuela, but I grew up in Deerfield Beach, so that’s where I spent my childhood and everything. There’s something kind of interesting because Jaco even lived in Deerfield, the Pastorius family lived in Deerfield, I still think his son Julius, still lives in Deerfield. So, he was kind of like, it was weird in a cool way, growing up down there, learning bass and approaching that because it’s almost like his energy was in the air there. But yeah, it’s very interesting. Especially growing up down there and knowing some musicians because you actually meet people that met him and worked with him down there, just from the proximity of living in that area.
Scott Martin: I always knew the name Jaco, but never really knew the music until I watched that movie. It just totally opened my eyes.
Kilian Duarte: Definitely extremely influential. A lot of things, my approach to harmonics, a lot of these other things are very heavily influenced by that person, and just in general, I try and just absorb as many things as possible. But yeah, I’ve seen the movie and I really enjoy it, even though it’s got a melancholy ending, obviously.
Scott Martin: Of the modern day prog bands, who do you favor, which bands do you like a lot?
Kilian Duarte: I’m a fan of a lot of people on the scene, to be completely honest with you. I just respect a lot of the people that I work with, and there’s just a lot of great stuff happening out right now, and just in general. A lot of the UK tech fest scene people, like Tesseract and Gojira, and all these guys are just fantastic. And on the instrumental front, there’s just a lot of great stuff happening too. I think people like Plini and a bunch of those guys also help with the revival of instrumental guitar music and all that stuff. Animals As Leaders, obviously. Which is kind of cool now that the bands that I’m in have kind of grown up, these guys are more my peers and people that you almost view as co-workers at this point. In general, I think everyone in the modern scene right now is bringing a lot to the table. I’d say I like almost all of it.
Scott Martin: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Kilian Duarte: Thank you for your time, and thank you for supporting, especially the new Felix record. That took a bunch of time and a bunch of sweat and blood to get to this point to do, so I can speak for both Felix and I, we appreciate it. Definitely look out for the new Scale The Summit record because we’re both incredibly proud of it. Chris Letchford, Charlie Engen and I think it’s going to be a real surprise hit, especially for the hardcore Scale fans and for even people that want something even more accessible, because this record’s drenched in melody, apart from just technical things. And then, if anyone would want to check out Lattermath, I promise you won’t be disappointed. We’re very excited about that release, and I think that you guys will be pleasantly surprised with what you hear.