Artist Spotlight: Kyle Konkiel (Vimic)

Former Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison has been a busy guy since his exit from the band in 2013. Forming a number of projects since then, one of the most dynamic and exciting is Vimic, which includes ESP guitar player Jed Simon and bassist Kyle Konkiel, the subject of this ESP Artist Spotlight. The band has already put out two tracks from the album Open Your Omen, which is scheduled for release later this year.

Do you recall when you first discovered ESP?
I was at the tail end, or maybe fresh out of high school. It was all about guys like Jeff Hanneman. Nergal from Behemoth. Alexi Laiho from Bodom. All my favorite bands growing up in the pivotal, important part, played ESP guitars.

Some people think that bass players are taking the easy road, but most experienced musicians know that playing bass at a high level requires every bit of the talent of great guitar players. What led you to bass?
I started playing bass in high school because there were no bass players. Guitar players were a dime a dozen. They were everywhere. I wanted to play in the bands too, so I took up bass. It had nothing to do with it being the easier route. I just wanted to play too.

For those people who say its easier, they should take a look at bassists like Les Claypool and Geddy Lee.

Beginning bass players sometimes don’t know exactly what they need to do to create cool, original-sounding bass lines. How did you go about that?
For me, when I first started, I was just following the guitar riffs. As I grew as a player, I’ve come to see that along with the drums, bass is the backbone off modern rock and metal. Even radio rock bands, pop bands, also have a good bass.

What’s a quick tip for making progress as a bass player?
I read something that Les Claypool said, which was, “To make yourself a better musician, you have got to not stick yourself into one genre. Play with anyone and everyone you can play with.” That’s good stuff.

What about the musical relationship with the drummer to establish a kick-ass rhythm section?
It’s all about tightness. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing Jaco Pastorius riffs or just following the root. You and drummer have to be locked in. One thing I pride myself on is that I’m a solid pocket player. I’ve gotten myself into this band and stayed there. Joey has played with all of the best of the best. When you get to play with that caliber of a musician, it’s been an awesome thing for me. Playing with Joey has definitely helped my playing.

Which ESP basses are you playing?
Due to the fact that we have multiple tunings on the new Vimic record, I play three different basses. My current main bass is the new LTD B-1005SE Multi-Scale. I was fortunate enough to be able to work with Todd (Binder, ESP VP of product development) and Chris (Cannella, ESP artist relations manager) to give my input on the design of that bass.

It’s a strange thing how, when you look at the different fret angles of a multi-scale instrument, it seems like it would be really weird to play, but when you’re actually holding the bass, it feels really natural.
Before I was able to work on the B-1005SE Multi-Scale, I already had experience playing a multi-scale bass. At first, there was a mild learning curve, especially toward the higher frets, past the 12th fret. But if you’re playing in the range of the first through twelfth frets, where most bass lines are played, it’s really no learning curve, and is really comfortable. I do a couple of scale-style bass riffs, and it’s actually more comfortable than a standard bass.

Do you use that bass in standard tuning for Vimic?
Because we tune so low, as much as possible, I like to keep the octave relationship between bass and guitar. On the B-1005SE MS, I tune to F# standard. It’s tuned down 2-1/2 steps. It’s the same thinking as a piano: the bass strings are longer, the treble strings are higher. It makes perfect sense.

What about your other basses?
They are used frequently as well. I have the LTD F-5E and LTD F-415. I like the F-5E a lot. The F-415 is bare-bones stock. Those I tune to G#, in double-drop tuning.

For the Vimic album, what was the general way you went about writing the bass parts?
Going into the studio, we had about 40 songs. From those 40, we picked we picked 21 to record. We narrowed it down and ended up with 13 musical tracks for the album. I had a decent amount of freedom going into the studio. There were times I got excited and had to avoid overwriting. But in all cases, I was given the freedom to make these songs my own.

What makes a bass line that stands out from the average without overplaying?
It all depends on the song. I could have easily had crazy bass parts with really busy lines. It always comes back to the song. It’s been said that the notes you don’t play are more important than those you do. So, you don’t want to be going on a 16th-note run when your drummer is doing quarter notes.

What if you feel limited as a player in that situation?
If that is something you want to do, then do your own band, start your own thing. Go for it. In music, there are no rules. But in a band, it’s a democracy. You can’t expect to show up to the studio and play arpeggio sweeps on the bass for every song. Everything you’re writing should be focused on what makes the song better.

When you’re looking at a new bass, what are the important qualities?
It needs to feel like it’s my bass. I’ve picked up plenty of super high-end basses that just weren’t for me. I need to be comfortable with the instrument. Right when I pick it up, I like to play it acoustically first. If it sounds good unplugged, it sounds good plugged in.

As a professional touring musician, we assume reliability is also important to you.
Since I’m fortunate enough to pick the bass I want, reliability and consistency are the two most important factors in touring. I know for a fact when I pick up my F-415 or ESP Surveyor, those basses are going to play exactly the same every night.

You’re obviously known as a rock and metal bass guy. Have you ever attempted other genres just to see if you can get some fresh ideas?
It depends on the song, or on the vibe of the record. There are different techniques and different styles, and you might go, “Oh, okay, I can do a mute jazz-type line instead of open full notes.

A lot of players take up a guitar or bass, and they’ve been playing for a few years, and then hit a plateau where they don’t seem to be advancing any further. Any advice for them?
What I found — and it’s not always a choice — is to try to find people who are better than you. Find another bass player who’s better than you, and jam with them. If you do that, you will always continue to progress. I also like to learn other people’s songs. “Why did this guy write this line this way?” Last, try learning songs that might be out of your league. You might be surprised what you can do.

Photo of Kyle Konkiel by Travis Shinn.