Since settling into a sprawling ranch in the high desert of Southern California, Scott Reeder might spend the typical day as such: get up, feed the horses, mend a fence or two, shoot video for Sun & Sail Club—his new outfit with Fu Manchu’s guitarist Bob Balch and drummer Scott Reeder—and then head into his studio to lay down bass tracks for buddies like Dave Grohl or Jake E. Lee. Not a bad way to do it.
Reeder first left his mark on the sludgy, stony metal scene so apropos of the desert with the Obsessed and Kyuss back in the ’90s, and was one of eight players auditioned to replace Jason Newsted in Metallica. Scott may not have gotten that gig, but no matter—his status as a badass free agent has lead to work with Sun & Sail Club and Red Dragon Cartel, and on Dave Grohl’s GRAMMY Award-winning Sound City soundtrack. Most recently, Scott was asked to join Fireball Ministry as they set sail on Motörhead’s MotorBoat cruise, which will bring a shipload of rock & roll to the high seas this Fall.
How did the Fireball Ministry gig come your way?
I did a recording with them maybe a year or so ago, and we talked about doing some shows in the future. So we’re doing on the cruise in September, and a couple other things. I’m really excited about that.
What do you like about the band from a bass perspective?
It’s very Sabbath-y, which is right up my alley. And there’s plenty of room for improvisation on the bass parts. It should be perfect for me.
You play left-handed basses strung with the higher strings on top. How did you come to play that way?
That’s from picking up my dad’s guitars when I was a kid and just flipping them over to play lefty.
How has your technique developed over time?
I played drums and trombone as a kid. When I started bass at 16, my style was pretty aggressive, taking the percussive part of drumming and the melodic sense I was learning on trombone. Drums and trombone both play a huge part in why I play the way I do, tapping the strings like piano hammers, etc. And all the slides I do—trombone damage, for sure!
You have a fondness for old Ampeg SVTs. What are some of your go-to heads?
I bought a 1970 SVT back in 1985 and played it for years. In the Kyuss days I had a slightly newer SVT—I think it was a 1971. That was the one I used from Welcome to Sky Valley [Elektra, 1994] on. Tone wise, I’d just crank the bass, mid, and treble controls all the way up, and put the volume around 3. That’s pretty loud, but if you turn past 3 or 4, it gets real ugly.
When I did a tour with Attika7 a couple years ago, I needed a sound I could control a little more, so I got a Hartke. It’s plenty loud, and it’s clean enough so I can play with all kinds of pedals. I’ve been comfortable with my SVT sound for my whole life, but switching to the Hartke has opened up a whole new world of tones. It’s kind of daunting.
How did you get involved with Sun & Sail Club?
They came to the Sanctuary without a bass player—I think they had ulterior motives! [Laughs.] The first track was mind-bogglingly insane. I asked Bob who was going to play bass, and he said he didn’t know yet. I asked if I could take a stab at it, and they were cool with that. I’m really glad. This is my first full-length record in ages.
Actually, one of the bass lines on Mannequin was directly influenced by Bass Player LIVE! in 2012. I was working on “I’m Not Upside Down,” and I was getting frustrated trying to think of something clever to play. I had just seen “Family Man” Barrett play at Bass Player LIVE!, so I thought, What would Family Man do? I took a shot at a reggae kind of thing, and it became my favorite song on the record.
You have a guest spot on “War Machine,” a track from the new Red Dragon Cartel album. How did that come about?
I’ve known [Red Dragon Cartel drummer] Jonas Fairley for years, and when he asked if I’d be interested in playing, I said, “Hell yeah!” They sent me stems, but no explicit direction. I talked to the engineer, and he just said, “Do what you do.” I figured they meant for me to do what I did 20 years ago. I don’t get stoned very often, but I did for that one and went just went crazy!
What tunings do you tend to use?
It’s all over the place.
How did that start?
Kyuss didn’t own tuners. I remember my first show with them was the record release for Blues for the Red Sun [Dali, 1992]. They got up on stage and tuned at full volume. I was like, Man, this can’t happen again…. The tuning on that record hovered around B standard [BEAD]. Back then I was playing a Rickenbacker with medium gauge strings, which got pretty floppy.
Do you use many drop tunings, or are they mostly standard?
Drop tunings throw me off. Fireball alternates between Eb standard (EbAbDbGb) and drop Db tunings, but I’ve tried to do it all with my Warwick Katana in standard tuning.
Do you have a string preference?
I’ve been using Dean Markley Blue Steels for at least 20 years. They just sent some of their newer stuff, and I’m liking their NickelSteel Bass strings. They’re staying brighter longer. I’ve been beating the hell out of them for a couple weeks, and they’re staying in tune. So I might switch.
How did the session for the Sound City song “From Can to Can’t” come together?
Dave sent me a demo, and I had about a week to chew on it. I walked into the session and there were [producer /engineers] Butch Vig and James Brown at the console. It was high stress, but totally cool.
The session was filmed, as well.
Yes. At first I didn’t realize there were cameras hidden in the corners of the room. When I was tracking, they had handheld cameras in front of my face. There’s a point it the song when I pluck an octave—a nod to Cheap Trick—and you can see my hand trembling! We were recording to tape, so it was high pressure, but good pressure. Butch was really good about pushing me: “Man, I think you could play that part just a little better. Mix it up. Make it a little different from the chorus before that.” I learned a lot that day. It was a blast. And then what came after that was even crazier. That song went to No. 1 on the rock charts in the States, and then the album won a GRAMMY for Best Soundtrack. It was amazing to be part of that.
Sun & Sail Club, Mannequin [Satin Records, 2013]
Basses Warwick Thumb Bolt-on, Warwick Katana
Rig 1971 Ampeg SVT, Hartke Kilo and 8x10 cabinets
Strings Dean Markley Blue Steels
Effects Zoom B3, Hovercraft Ionostrofear fuzz, Pigronix Disnortion, Pigtronix Envelope Phaser